So what happens now?
PF: I'm becoming more and more useless, and it's kind of scary actually. All my friends who have shipped their big indie game all warn me of the most severe depression of my life coming.
The post-natal depression?
PF: Yeah. The first day that I wake up and the game is locked, and I'm not allowed to do anything, is terrifying. Which is scary, because I've actually been pretty depressed the last couple of years. [laughs] It was kind of hard making this game. And I'm super looking forward to release. I want it to be out and I want to move on and do something else with my life.
But everybody tells me: "No, you're not going to be happy. It's not going to be like, [sigh of relief] Done! It's going to be like, What do I do now?" I have been in this intense routine for five years of Fez, all day, everyday. And then [snaps fingers] one day it's going to be: No more Fez! It's done! What do you do with yourself at that point? I don't know.
Are you going to take a holiday?
PF: Well, we're already working on another game. We had this game that we made a while ago called Super Hypercube. It's like a head-tracking puzzle game that was also stereoscopic. It used the Wiimote, head-tracking, which was kind of messy, so nobody ever played that game. But it was a proven concept that worked that we wanted to push further and we never did. That was like four years ago.
Then when Kinect came along we saw it would be a perfect fit, so we got that working. It was a finalist at IndieCade a couple weeks ago, and Microsoft seemed interested, and we might actually do something. So I already have something else that's starting to get interesting.
Fez has been in development for so long. How did funding the game for such a prolonged period of time work?
PF: The first thing we had when we got started was a big loan from a government fund. So there's an agency that funds you in three parts for: prototyping, production, and post-production.
So we applied for a prototyping loan. That's like weeks of paperwork, and it's really messy. And it's a lottery basically and months later you get a letter that says, "You've been approved! Here's a bunch of money!" It's a conditionally repayable loan. If the game's a failure and never comes out, we owe them nothing, but if it comes out and makes money we have to pay them back full; it's a great deal. Not as great as free money, but the next best thing.
It's like the record industry.
PF: Yeah. Back when I started, we got our first office finally, because working from home was driving all of us just insane. And for reasons we still don't quite understand, the agency dropped us for that second amount of funding. And when that happens, you're not working on a game at all at that point, because finding money becomes your only priority.
Because it's not a problem you can just put in the back of your mind and keep working. It's like, "Well, I need to pay the rent in two weeks; what the fuck do I do?" So there was like a horrible three-month period that I always had to borrow a lot of money from friends, and family, and things like that just to stay afloat. And then have you heard of the Indie Fund?
PF: We were the prototype to the Indie Fund. Those guys funded us for about a year and a half before the whole thing just kind of fell apart. They had a lot of tension internally on their side, because, like, there were 17 of them, and then the seven of them left and did the real Indie Fund. Our business guy at Polytron ended up leaving us, and they were just panicked about that. And the whole thing, yeah, it lost attention, just kind of exploded, lost our funding. And so the second time we lose our funding is like a month or two of just panic and nothing.
And then finally this company in Montreal, another studio called Trapdoor, with 15 employees or so -- a lot more serious than we are -- came to us. It's the guy who used to run Gameloft in Montreal. After eight years or so he got really sick of making just clones and terrible iPhone games, and started his own company.
So these guys came along and they said: "Hey, you need some help? You lost your business guy? You need some money? You need some support. You need people helping you out. Here's what we can offer you: We'll bankroll you; we'll pay you like a salary as if you were working for us. We'll give you access to our accountants, our lawyers, all of that; we'll take you to conventions, we'll pay for your flight, all these things. And in exchange we'll take a cut of the revenue, but Polytron owns the IP."
And that's been almost a year now, and it's been really, really nice. They're helping us out in a lot of ways. Like, they assigned one of their producers to us at one point to just help us keep on schedule, because I'm incapable of scheduling and I'm just really disorganized and messy.
Well, you've got a lot on your plate.
PF: Yeah, I'm just not good at being organized, and being focused, so the producer really helps. After the second time we lost our funding and there was the whole divorce with my business partner, and all sorts of horrible things going in my life, I was seriously considering just giving up. Actually it became like this weird like suicide fantasy that I was going to cancel Fez out of spite, like, "You're NEVER gonna get it! Fuck you all!"
And like I was just in such a horrible place for a while that like yeah, it really did seem like the game was actually not going to happen. It felt like every force in the world was conspiring to make sure that it was never coming out, and I was getting so burnt out and so depressed that when Trapdoor came along they saved the project. I don't think there would be a Fez if they didn't help us out.