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Amnesia Fortnight: How Double Fine Embraces the Future
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Amnesia Fortnight: How Double Fine Embraces the Future

January 4, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

I think the commercial failure of Brütal Legend was a blessing in disguise for the company.

CR: I totally agree with you.

JPL: Because that's what led to the first Amnesia Fortnight.

Look at what happened to other companies. Eurocom, which has been around since the NES, shut down after just having shipped a 007 game for Activision. When they signed that game, I don't think they were thinking, "This was a terrible idea, for us to sign this game with Activision!" But in the end --

JPL: They thought they were getting a great deal. This was a really solid property. It's just a good solid work-for-hire project, but, yeah, it ends up being your epitaph. "Keeping the lights on" has been the epitaph of so many independent studios, and, Double Fine is partly where we are, I like to think, because we haven't been content to do that.

A lot of it is to Tim's credit, because he's been the right combination of conservative, but also willing to take risks and stuff. Part of that is after Brütal Legend, he was absolutely the creative godhead. And he still is; he's the face of the company and he's pretty much one of the most charismatic people in games. But even with all of that, he was willing to step aside and give some of the limelight to the people who led Costume Quest and Stacking and The Cave, where Ron is coming in. And Brad [Muir] is another super-charismatic dude. Being such a big famous game dude, but also being willing to spread some of that around -- it shows the company doesn't just have a single direction that's one man's vision. It's a plurality of things.

And honestly, that's another huge reason that coming from where I did and ending up where I did, that this seemed like such an attractive option to me. It's been awesome working with Ron, and I'd love to start working with Tim on the Double Fine Adventure thing. I don't know. It's just awesome. It's a completely different kind of thing.

CR: On the notion of Tim and the "keeping the lights on" thing, there's something that I think is really important. Obviously, if you're in a position where, "Okay, we need to take this 007 game, because that's how we keep our company afloat," you gotta do it. But I think there's something really valuable in Tim sticking to his guns in the sense that the only licensed game that Double Fine has ever made was a Sesame Street game. That's cool. That's an awesome way to take that first step into that world, is to do it with something like Sesame Street. I think that's awesome.

JPL: And the people who were really hardcore Double Fine fans who loved Costume Quest and Stacking, but also who loved Brütal Legend, heard we were doing Once Upon a Monster and just got it.

Yeah, who doesn't like Sesame Street?

CR: Exactly.

JPL: I'm glad that nerds' hearts are not as icy as we always assume. They're not so icy that they can't admit things that are more lighthearted.

I can't think of how to say this and not sound completely facile, but we all lamented the fact that we couldn't have these kinds of lighthearted adventure games anymore. But now we can -- just, we just have to find a way to do it. It's the flipside of the studio doing what it wants; now you've got to connect with audiences the way that you can.

JPL: It's still a weird question. Being on-camera for most of the last two weeks is weird. It's like, "Okay, this is the new world where, yeah, you're not as reliant on publishers, or you're just making things that publishers aren't as interested in. But now your fans are your publishers, kind of, and you have think about your relationship with them a lot more carefully, or in a much more intricate way than before."

I don't know. I'm sure that will prove in the long run to have its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but it also just feels like a much more honest living, where you're not dealing with a middleman in some ways. That's interesting. Ask me after Double Fine Adventure has come out, and all that, what the final verdict on that will be. But it seems cool. And certainly Kickstarter is also a Wild West of interesting -- but also kind of scary -- ideas and stuff. It's more interesting than publisher hegemony, that's for sure.

CR: Amnesia Fortnight was even weirder because it wasn't even a matter of  "This is a thing that we know there's an audience for. Help us make it." It was just, "Here's 23 game ideas. Which ones do you guys want us to make?"

It is super weird, especially because the one that JP and I worked on, Spacebase, is like a weird management simulation thing, and that's a kind of game that even within the brief you give it -- "build a base in space and watch aliens live interesting lives on it" -- even that, you could theoretically take and make 800 different ways.

So not only do you have these thousands of people voting for that idea, you have thousands of people voting for their mental conception of that specific idea. But then you've gotta make one specific version of it.

To tie this back to The Cave, you originally asked this with respect to adventure games specifically, and there's definitely something interesting about adventure games with respect to The Cave. Because Double Fine is working on two adventure games right now; we're about to ship one and we're working on another one. Double Fine Adventure is very overtly and self-consciously a classic point-and-click adventure game in every respect.

Yeah, that's the pitch.

CR: It's not intended to feel archaic, but it's definitely intended to be traditional in a general sense. The Cave kind of is too, but almost deceptively so, in a certain way. You look at it and it's like, "Oh, it's like a side-scrolling platformer." But actually all the things you're doing in it are solving adventure game puzzles and combining items and figuring things out and --

JPL: It's in the clothing of a platformer, but really it's an adventure game.

CR: Right. So The Cave is almost this weird other route to a similar goal. We like what the things an adventure game achieves are, but what's another way we can get there? You're still basically doing the same things. But it strips away -- there's no list of verbs, there's no real inventory. You pick up one item at a time. You've got the multiple characters, which is kind of almost a Maniac Mansion callback. So there's weird little things that are different but the soul of the thing is still essentially a straight-up adventure game. It was coincidental that those two games ended up in development at the same time. That wasn't a plan to exploit adventure games in these two different ways. That's just how the dice fell.

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Michiel Hendriks
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I'm not much of a reader, I usually scan articles, you will rarely see me with a book. But sometimes there is stuff to read that really captivates me. This article is an example of this. You've picked two people who are great in talking in depth about the things they are invested in. And the subject itself, I think is one of the most signification (game industry) events from last year.
War. War never changes. But DF is clearly on a game changer roll (pun intended). Sadly I didn't have the time to follow the DFAF streams so I just saw the 2Player shorts, but there is so much game dev insight going on. It's pure creativity, and none of the industrial game creation. I'm glad I sponsored DFA and Amnesia Fortnight. And in the words of IGN, I was blown away by the quality of the prototypes.

ps, if this was 2012 for DF, I'm looking forward to 2013 (no pressure ;))

Carlo Delallana
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All these DF articles are really recruitment tools ... DF should do a Child's Play auction where game devs, designers, artists, etc. bid to be on the next Amnesia Fortnite :)

... meh, on second thought, this is a bad idea. AF is part of DF's core culture, someone coming in from the outside might kill the vibe ...

Jason Drysdale
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Great read--thanks!

Josh Foreman
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Great interview! Good job, Christian.