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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 3 of 4 Next

To go back to something you said earlier -- with the new Amnesia Fortnight, I remember when they collated all the votes and they announced the games, Tim started a forum thread saying, "If you didn't vote for a game, tell me why you didn't vote for it." I thought that in a certain way, that was actually one of the more interesting things to come out of it.

JPL: Incredibly fascinating.

CR: Especially for Tim, because in the past, Tim always the guy who would pick all the games. So I could imagine from his perspective, this must've been even weirder than it was for us. He's like, "Oh man, here's this thing that we've done multiple times in the past, and I was the sole arbiter of what got made."

JPL: And I'm sure he had his picks.

CR: And now he has to relinquish. That must've been weird for him.

JPL: But that's another thing. Even though he's a big personality creatively, and the things that he works on he's going to be the game director kind of guy who calls all the shots, he was still willing to abdicate some of that control in the interest of broadening the concept of what the company did, and all that kind of stuff.

And even beyond that, get to the root of not just why people like things, but why they didn't like things. I think that's actually an important, and often unasked, question.

CR: Because presumably a lot of those games that were there, maybe you tweak one little thing about the pitch, and suddenly that becomes one of the most voted games. Who's to say? It's interesting to try and pursue those thought experiments and be like, "All right. This one ended up kinda in the middle of the pack. But are there key things we can identify about it that, once you read all the reasons people didn't vote for it, you realize a few degrees away, this might've been something that really resonated with people, but for whatever reason, the specific way it was pitched it didn't."

JPL: Like, someone was saying that Milgrim would have won if it were called Mario Defense.

CR: Which is probably true.

JPL: But it's weird thinking about pitching games, and the process of getting people interested in them, as a process that's as iterative as game development itself. Because game development, the rhetoric is now, definitely, "Well, you try something, and then you see what's successful and not about it, and then you change it," and slowly just steer it over time based on ongoing feedback.

But doing that for games you haven't actually started working on yet, or games that you're just starting to work on? It's a potentially dangerous thing, because if you don't have a strong creative identity, you'll let your fans just drive the car off the road.

But if you do have that identity, then hopefully you just get input, but then they also trust you to do [it.] I think Kickstarter done right is probably like, your fans are trusting you to make the thing that you said you were going to make, and you have a clear idea of how you're going to get there, and you don't promise anything too specific.

The Spacebase DF-9 prototype distributed as part of Amnesia Fortnight

I can only speak for myself, but I backed Double Fine Adventure not because I wanted to make Double Fine Adventure. It's because I wanted Double Fine to make Double Fine Adventure.

CR: I think that was what was so smart about calling it Double Fine Adventure and not calling it The Tale of the Kid Who Lives in a Spaceship. It's specifically just "an adventure game from Double Fine" and hopefully you think that is conceptually cool in the broadest possible strokes. We'll try to make a thing that is awesome as we can within that framework, but that's a very loose boundary. That can be a lot of different games.

I guess if you're a developer that is specifically making a re-imagining or a sequel to a classic thing you've done, then that makes sense. You can probably assume a certain known quantity. But Double Fine had actually never actually made an adventure game before The Cave. You don't want to get too specific about that, because who's to say nine months in development, what might happen. I don't know. It's been weird.

The other thing that's weird about that game is that people who are not backers have seen none of it. We haven't actually done any PR on that game. But people who are backers, have seen just reams of concept art, and hours of documentary footage, and all this stuff. They're able to, if they want to.

You're talking about the fact that it's departing from the normal PR cycle as well -- everything about this is different.

CR: Yeah, it really is. Amnesia Fortnight was even more extreme in that respect. Amnesia Fortnight was bizarre. It was weird. Every single day we had eight hours of live stream straight from the office. People were watching Double Fine artists just screen-share their work for, like, three hours at a time. Thousands of people across the world were just watching an effects artist literally type things in.

People watch Notch code on  

CR: Exactly. So I guess it's actually not even that crazy for us. It felt super crazy.

JPL: Hardly anybody's done it.

CR: Watching talented people do things is actually interesting. I hope that a lot of those people watching are game development students, or people who legitimately want to. Because Lydia Choy, Jane Ng and Brad Muir, when they were streaming stuff, they were actually engaging in direct Q&A with the audience and people would be like, "So, why are you doing this?" And they'd be like, "That's because this is useful for this and this and this. I'm debugging this code here, and this is how our effects editor works, and this is how much of it is done via straight text, and this is how much of it is done via sliders." Even for me, someone who's a co-worker of these people, I still found it really inspiring and surprising.

Did the teams form naturally? How does that work?

CR: People filled out a survey listing the games they wanted to work on, in order.

Did everyone who was coming up with a concept that was going to be in Amnesia Fortnight pitch it internally? How does it work?

CR: Technically internally, but also still live on the internet!

JPL: It worked really differently. In years past, we would talk to Tim about it and then we would pitch. This year, we basically just did the video pitches, and those went up. And so we saw everybody's video pitches. Also, there were 23 of them, which is twice as many as we've had in previous Amnesia Fortnights. I guess everyone was jumping at the opportunity to do this crazy thing.

Well, your game could be a game! I have friends who've been working as developers for 10 years, and they've never had their idea become a game.

CR: It's actually incredibly rare. In the games industry, it's really hard to be the guy who works his way up from the mailbag to be the CEO of the company.

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