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Double Fine's Schafer: Expressive Games Come From Individual Vision
Double Fine's Schafer: Expressive Games Come From Individual Vision
February 11, 2011 | By Staff

February 11, 2011 | By Staff
More: Console/PC

Double Fine's just-launched adventure-puzzle game Stacking is already receiving a warm fan reception after just a couple of days on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, in part because it's so unusual -- Russian nesting matryoshka dolls exploring a 1930s world isn't exactly a "been-done" idea.

Like Halloween's Costume Quest, Stacking came out of the studio's Amnesia Fortnight brainstorming session, the second in a series of four smaller downloadable projects to be published by THQ.

Each bears the creative imprint of an individual visionary -- Tasha Harris led Costume Quest, and Stacking was Lee Petty's brainchild -- and according to Double Fine head Tim Schafer, allowing for that vision is key to creating distinctive, memorable games.

"You can definitely see the mark of Lee or Tasha on their games, and I think that's one of the cool things," Schafer tells us in today's in-depth Gamasutra feature interview on Stacking and Double Fine's current philosophy.

"Because if you're going to make this argument about games as art, then I think they have to be an expression of the people who make them," Schafer adds. "Not just the person in charge, but the whole team, and the company who made them."

"I think with games, you should always look at them and be like, 'There's no one else who could have made that game, except for the person who made it,'" he continues. "As opposed to a lot of games where they could've been farmed out to any work-for-hire developer. Which is fine -- but you know, the thing our company is going to do is to try and make games that are more expressive."

Petty says Double Fine would like to extend the appeal of trick-or-treating game Costume Quest beyond Halloween through more DLC, if possible: "And cross our fingers, maybe we'll continue on... I'm always torn, because it would be fun to keep going with DLC and have like Valentine's Quest and Easter Quest," Petty mulls. "Well, maybe not Easter Quest."

"But then there's also like, 'What else could that team come up with? Something fun, that's new?' too, so that's always kind of the question," he adds. "The great thing about games that are this inexpensive is that they don't have to sell a ton to make money, or to break even."

You can read further on how Double Fine's found a zone of creative latitude and self-expression in the downloadable space, the tones Stacking inherits from Double Fine's adventure game affinities, and more in today's Gamasutra feature.

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Daniel Martinez
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Collaborative interdisciplinary art. If not an art, they would be a science.

Joe McGinn
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Good post Diego, good analysis, but I disagree with the proposed solution ... making a great two hour game costs 90% of making a great 5-hour game. Especially now, with outsourcing, content becomes cheaper and cheaper. But the game is as much work as ever.

Where I do see hope is in tools like Unity, not just being great tools/middleware, but starting the business of selling game components. Not just content but functional components, like an "FPS camera" you can buy or "3rd person camera" or "reticule aiming system". THAT'S the future of game dev ... because 90% of the game is not unique, a game is mostly made up of the same pieces that have been programmed a thousand times over for every games. Camera systems, for example, are a solved problem - yet almost every game made today still implements it from scratch. Madness!