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Flying With Four Engines: Tim Schafer On Double Fine's New Mission
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Flying With Four Engines: Tim Schafer On Double Fine's New Mission


October 15, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

When are you going to know like if this is a good strategy for your studio?

TS: I already know. I already love it. I already love my position of being, instead of the bottleneck that everyone was waiting for, like "Tim, when are you going to come up with that character design?" Or story, or whatever, I am now being a helper. Everyone's working. I'm not stopping it from working.

I'm just showing up to be like, "This project needs a lot of dialogue so I can help and write a bunch of dialogue for them," or "This project needs design brainstorming," and "This project needs just some relationship thing with the publisher I can help with." So basically I'm just adding positive things to each project instead of holding them up.

I mean, I think I added positive things to Brütal.

So, I like that. I like already the stability it brings us of having four revenue streams from different companies, instead of one. Just from a business sense, it's more calming to know that if one hose shuts off, there's other... It's like having an airplane with four engines, one of them can blow up and you can still stay in the air.

It seems to make logical sense, but then you think about just how hard it is to keep the plane flying in general -- for everyone's that trying to fly planes. Do you think it's going to work as a strategy?

TS: Yeah. I mean, I think the test will be, I guess, when we do a second round... I mean, it's already tested that we managed it, we did the big jump -- which is from one project to many, which is a big production infrastructure challenge. Like, how do you manage multiple teams? Your accounting department has to do stuff it's never done before. There are all these different things that have to happen. So, we made that jump.

For the culture and stuff, it's already proven to be a good fit. Because there are tons of creative people that are dying... People like Lee [Petty] and Tasha who have these game ideas get to show that they have great ideas that are really good games, so that's already worked. That's already proven to be true.

And now we just have to prove from a business point of view that we can make it work by doing a second round of them, because then the wheel is really spinning. The real upside to doing many projects instead of fewer, bigger projects and doing multiple smaller projects is that you have more chances for a hit game.

Despite what everybody says, you never know. No one knows, and no one knows anything. That's William Goldman. He wrote Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, the screenplay. He's mainly a screenwriter, and one of his books was called Nobody Knows Anything, which is an important thing to remember -- because so many people are always pontificating about what makes a hit.

"Oh, here, you've got to have this, this, and this." "Oh, I knew that." And they're always there to explain that this summer's hot hit, they totally saw it coming, right?

Right.

TS: It's a lot more random than people are willing to admit. So anyway, you can risk 30 million dollars and just hope that you get a payoff, or you can just take, instead of one project every four years, take four projects a year. There's more of a chance that one of them will be more of a breakout, something you can invest in more, and do a sequel, or something like that.

There's a lot of talk about the migration to digital. Do you feel like you kind of got here in time to be at the front, from a studio standpoint? A lot of studios are still concentrating on big games.

TS: It felt like I had jumped the tracks, in a way, if I wanted to do creative stuff. Because at these meetings, you know, we were pitching 25 million dollar games or whatever... You go through this process of sanding off all the rough edges, you know. People wanted to take the heavy metal out of the game. "It sounds cool, but let's take the heavy metal out." I'm like, "No. It's totally..."

Right. That's the point.

TS: Like, I understand going for a broader audience, but you can't cut the heart out of something. And so it gets to be frustrating, the risk management.

I don't think they're evil. If I had 30 million dollars and I wanted to invest it, I would go for a pretty safe bet. I don't think I would go for someone unproven, on something like that, so I understand that point of view. And I just realized that, yeah, when you ask for that much of someone else's money, you've got to do something that's pretty safe.

And we don't want to do things that are that safe. We never have. We want to do something that's unproven, something that's fun and a little risky, and doing things that are more like 1 million or 2 million dollar budgets.


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