PSY­CHO­NAUTS 2

We’re on the couch with Dou­ble Fine’s Tim Schafer and Zak McClen­don

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTEN -

We poke in­side the game-cre­at­ing brains of Dou­ble Fine’s Tim Schafer and Zak McClen­don.

It’s been three long, quiet years since Tim Schafer and Dou­ble Fine an­nounced work had be­gun on Psy­cho­nauts 2, but ear­lier this month the stu­dio broke its si­lence and de­buted the first game­play trailer. This was a wispy rein­tro­duc­tion to Raz and the play­ful world of the Psy­cho­nauts – psy­chic spies who save the day by hop­ping into peo­ple’s brains and solv­ing their deep­est [high] anx­i­eties.

“We’re not jok­ing around,” laughs Schafer as we sit down to dis­cuss the new game, “we’re mak­ing Psy­cho­nauts 2.”

The vet­eran de­signer, who has The Se­cret Of Mon­key Is­land, Grim Fan­dango, and Bro­ken Age on his im­pres­sive CV, is in good spir­its.

“I’m get­ting the band back to­gether,” he jokes, ex­plain­ing how many of the orig­i­nal team from Psy­cho­nauts are work­ing on this se­quel, 15 years later.

These re­turn­ing team mem­bers in­clude artists Peter Chan and Scott Campbell, who de­signed char­ac­ters and en­vi­ron­ments for the orig­i­nal game, as well as en­vi­ron­ment artist Ge­off Soulis, pro­gram­mer Kee Chi, mod­eller Dave Rus­sell, and com­poser Peter McCon­nell. With the fam­ily back it’s easy to see why Psy­cho­nauts 2 looks like it’ll be a fault­less fol­low-up.

NEXT DAY TRIPPER

The trailer is crammed with teases of what we can ex­pect from the new game, in­clud­ing new psy­chic pow­ers, re­turn­ing char­ac­ters, and a new evil.

The se­quel’s plot fol­lows straight on from Rhom­bus Of Ruin on PS VR, which in turn be­gan di­rectly af­ter the orig­i­nal game had ended. “It’s later that day,” says Schafer, ex­plain­ing how it’s been 15 years for us, the play­ers, but only hours for the game’s char­ac­ters. There’s a pre­tence that noth­ing has moved on in the game’s world, and we’re still cha-cha slid­ing like it’s 2005.

“Ever since that first game ended, be­fore it even ended, I kept a doc of

ideas for more brains […] so we’ve talked about what we’d do if we’d make a se­quel for years. Also we have story el­e­ments lightly seeded in the first game that we wanted to do, sto­ries we wanted to tell the full ad­ven­ture of,” says Schafer.

It’s clear this se­quel will be a larger es­capade, one which will ex­plore the broader world of psy­chic spies. But like the first game this will be a “key­hole view of the world,” says project leader Zak McClen­don, ex­plain­ing the ap­peal of Raz, for him, is ex­plor­ing an adult world from a child’s per­spec­tive. The se­quel goes fur­ther, he ex­plains: “It just im­plies a larger world, even those char­ac­ters like Sasha and Milla, and spies that you meet, you’re meet­ing them in a dif­fer­ent con­text.”

CIRQUE DU PSY­CHO

The universe is be­ing fleshed out for this se­quel. The ‘real world’ ar­eas are more open, with side quests, chal­lenges, and goals to com­plete. In the trailer we see Raz’s cir­cus, the fam­ily he ran away from to join the Psy­cho­nauts. Will this form a story arc? Schafer teases: “Raz def­i­nitely goes on a roller­coaster of emo­tions.”

By con­trast the men­tal worlds, the brains Raz dives into, are more fo­cused excuses for clas­sic plat­form puz­zling. “You go in and ex­pe­ri­ence the arc, the story, and there’s less ex­plo­ration,” says McClen­don.

That’s not to say these have been easy to de­sign. McClen­don ex­plains how each men­tal world is a be­spoke, “open-ended prob­lem that [needs] new visuals, a prob­lem, a story, new char­ac­ters, game­play – it’s been the big­gest challenge, [it’s] so dif­fer­ent to how you make a stan­dard game.”

We see snip­pets of these worlds. There’s a morgue scene in which Raz has to run around a float­ing cube. When you’re in­side a brain it doesn’t fol­low nor­mal phys­i­cal rules.

McClen­don ex­plains: “Grav­ity may go up and around, you can walk on the sur­face of some­thing and things may not con­nect in a nor­mal way; you may shrink or grow while in a brain. There are lots of things in­side the men­tal world that break the rules of physics and re­al­ity but plays in a way that you can un­der­stand.”

Schafer says in­spi­ra­tion for the game’s men­tal worlds springs from any­where, even peo­ple he meets on the street. Of­ten they come from puns; “The life pre­servers in the ocean of joke writ­ing,” he laughs.

That’s not to say the se­quel won’t touch on se­ri­ous is­sues. In the

WE’RE DEAL­ING WITH SE­RI­OUS IS­SUES. THIS GAME GOES INTO SOME RE­ALLY DARK PLACES.

trailer we see The Judge, a metaphor­i­cal em­bod­i­ment of your self-crit­i­cism. He’s one of the many new Cen­sors, men­tal con­structs that keep you from think­ing thoughts you shouldn’t – by whack­ing Raz with a gi­ant gavel.

BRAIN FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“It’s im­por­tant be­cause we’re deal­ing with se­ri­ous is­sues,” says Schafer. “This game goes into some re­ally dark places of the hu­man mind, and so I think it’s im­por­tant to have a lot of lev­ity in there to bal­ance that out, in some ways to make those safe places to go to.”

That bal­ance is what makes Psy­cho­nauts and this se­quel so en­gag­ing. It’s a quirky, colour­ful 3D plat­form ad­ven­ture of the kind we used to love in 2005. But it’s not afraid to carry a mes­sage and touch on com­plex is­sues.

“Psy­cho­nauts 2 is a game about learn­ing about peo­ple from the in­side out and hu­man­is­ing ev­ery­one. Tak­ing that into the core of the de­sign, like op­ti­mism, even if we do ex­plore those dark places there’s still al­ways this op­ti­mism be­hind it, which I think is re­ally im­por­tant in games,” says McClen­don earnestly.

“It’s not afraid of re­ally dumb jokes [ei­ther],” adds a grin­ning Schafer. What do you think of Pyscho­nauts 2? Let us know on Twit­ter, @OPM_UK.

Many of the orig­i­nal team are work­ing on the new Psy­cho­nauts – that’s fan­tas­tic news.

It looks like we’ll be vis­it­ing Raz’s fam­ily at the cir­cus. This’ll get emo­tional.

In­side Ford Cruller’s mind, a rather un­tidy place. Are we headed in here?

The ag­ing agent has mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ties. Have we met them all?

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