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Double Fine developers learn to love a lack of control

Double Fine developers learn to love a lack of control Exclusive

January 4, 2013 | By Staff

Double Fine lead designer JP LeBreton had what many developers would consider a comfortable career. He was the lead level designer at 2K Marin on BioShock 2, one of the big publisher's biggest properties.

But he left the company to work at independent studio Double Fine when he saw its head, Tim Schafer, move away from major console games and onto smaller projects -- and give up creative control of them to those who worked under him.

"It's just awesome. It's a completely different kind of thing," says LeBreton, as part of an extensive new Gamasutra interview.

"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."

Now, the studio head is giving up even more control -- and letting the fans pick which game concepts the developers will pursue by opening up its prototyping process to the public.

LeBreton was among the five developers whose pitches were selected by the fans to be turned into prototypes during its latest Amnesia Fortnight, which the studio live-streamed from its offices in San Francisco -- a process LeBreton describes as "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'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," LeBreton says. "It's more interesting than publisher hegemony, that's for sure."

"Ask me after Double Fine Adventure has come out, and all that, what the final verdict on that will be. But it seems cool."

In the full feature, LeBreton and colleague Chris Remo discuss the Amnesia Fortnight process, explaining how total transparency has affected the studio. It's live now on Gamasutra.

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