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Postmortem: Double Fine's Brutal Legend

March 25, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6
 

5. Double Fine gets served

In June 2009, Activision Entertainment Holdings, Inc. filed suit against Double Fine, claiming breach of contract and seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the release of the game by Electronic Arts on Rocktober 13. Less than 2 months later, the case settled out of court. I can't talk about any of that in this article, or any article really. I bring up getting sued as something that went wrong because of the impact the transition between publishers and subsequent lawsuit had on the development of Brütal Legend.

Let's go back a little bit. We had been working collaboratively and successfully with various groups at Vivendi for two years until Vivendi merged with Activision and we lost touch with both publishers while a lawsuit percolated.

The merger announcement and subsequent diminution in publisher contact with Vivendi personnel, especially after such a previously harmonious relationship, caused internal unrest and morale dips among the team.

Company meetings often included frustrating discussions about what little we knew about the current situation at our publisher, and what the various possible outcomes would mean for Double Fine.

This demoralizing uncertainty lingered for months, during which time the leads continued to motivate the team to hit their scheduled milestones while watching our coffers run dry in the absence of any publisher payments.

We learned Activision was not going to be publishing Brütal Legend through an official press announcement issued by Activision that listed the games they would be shipping, with ours conspicuously absent. Again, the team was abuzz with anxiety -- and the official hunt for a new publisher began, distracting Tim, myself, and various team leads during an already intense development period.

Even after the game was re-signed with Electronic Arts, we enjoyed only a brief reprieve before the legal communications began among Double Fine and Activision and Electronic Arts. Most of the team was shielded from the drama that unfolded between December 2008 when Electronic Arts announced that they had picked up the game for publication and July 2009 when the lawsuit settled. But Double Fine's leadership was not, and the distraction and stress took its toll on individuals and on our deliverables.

The lawsuit was filed just as the game went Alpha, with a stipulation that it be heard prior to Gold Master being submitted -- relegating Tim and myself and a cadre of team leaders to the unenviable job of information gathering, declaration writing, lawsuit reading, witness interviewing and all around non-game-making during the crunchiest, most critical time of development. The lawsuit took its toll on the team, on the company, on our product and on our optimism. Wrong, any way you slice it.

Double Fine, for Metal

Everything in the game -- from the lore, to the locations, to the life, to the linguistics -- has been individually handcrafted by a Double Finer. 107 licensed heavy metal tracks from 75 different bands and countless heavy metal album covers inspire the game's creative direction.

The voices of celebrities Jack Black, Rob Halford, Lemmy Kilmister, Lita Ford, Ozzy Osbourne, Tim Curry, Kyle Gass, David Cross, Brian Posehn, and Wil Wheaton alongside the stellar voice acting work of veteran video game actors such as Kath Soucie, Zach Hanks, and Jennifer Hale bring the more than 150 original characters to life through 40,000 lines of dialog that were written, recorded, edited, and hand-integrated into the game.

Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing personally wrote and recorded Eddie's, Ophelia's, and Doviculus' original guitar riffs. It takes the following words -- third-person melee, single player, multiplayer, open world, driving, RTS, adventure -- to describe how Eddie uses one axe, one guitar, and one hot rod to harness the power of metal to command armies and defeat evil.

In the end, 83 developers, propped up by the patience and tolerance of their families and friends as well as by the profound support of Electronic Arts, exemplified the utmost devotion to their craft and a fierce tenacity in the face of uncertainty and disappointment -- surmounting publisher plate-shifting, turbulent contract negotiations, lawsuits, misdirection and redirection, focus test surprises, and extreme excesses of ambition.

Armed now with a proprietary game engine, a robust tools pipeline, a talented and experienced staff, and the creative freedom and corporate mandate to innovate, Double Fine is well positioned to set forth on its next epic journey.

Game Data

Developer: Double Fine Productions, Inc.

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Release Date: Rocktober 13, 2009

Number of In-House Developers: 74

Number of External Contractors: 9

Budget: $24 million

Development Time: 4.5 Years

Typical Workstation: Dell Quad Core Xeon, 4GB RAM, 150GB, NVidia GeForce7800, Windows XP

Software Used: MS Visual Studio 2005, Autodesk Maya 2008, ZBrush, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, ProTools, Sound Forge, Perforce, Microsoft Xbox360 XDK, Sony PlayStation 3 SDK, Internal suite of development tools

Total Lines of Code:
Game (C++, excluding middleware): 554,736
Game (Lua): 42,745
Tools (C++ & C#): 52,263
Tools (MEL): 85,294
Tools (Python): 34,079

Total Number of Perforce Checkins: 164,863


Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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