Tim Schafer (the god of fun point and click adventure games) talked with Shacknews about his new game Brutal Legend
Lessons Learned from Psychonauts
Psychonauts was kinda developed like an adventure game was, where we built a lot of assets and we built a lot of worlds, we built a lot of environments, we built a lot of different characters and stuff, and then at the last minute tried to pull it all together and make it work and it didn't work and we were out of time and we had to start over on some stuff.
We really took a more character-centered approach with Brutal Legend, where we started with Eddie. We just built Eddie, and then we said, "What is the essential thing for Eddie to do? It's for him to walk around while playing heavy metal music and swinging his axe around." So we got that working.
So, we immediately had Eddie and his axe fighting, we made some enemies for him to play, and just that really basic visceral feeling of being in a heavy metal world doing axe combat was--right off the bat, we had our game playable and kinda fun in that way.
Then we had the car, and you could drive your car over dudes and swing your axe around, and that's when we knew we had something that was gonna be cool. And then we just expanded outwards from that, which made it a much more--we know the whole entire time that we could play the game and have it fun. It was kind of a different methodology towards approaching the game.
Designing Multiplayer First in Brutal Legend
The reason we started with multiplayer is because we knew that we knew we wanted to have it.
We're going into production, and you first have to do the scariest, most out-of-control thing--you should always tackle the hardest problem first, because you don't want to be doing those when you're right up against your deadline. We're like, "what do we know the least about? Well, we've never done multiplayer, so let's do that first."
So that was the very first thing we worked on until we felt good enough about it to--we felt like, as a team and as a company, we've done singleplayer games, we've done story, we know characters and dialog and so we're like, we don't need to prove that right off the bat. let's prove we can make a good multiplayer game. So that's what we worked on, four years ago now.
On Avoiding Publisher Problems
If you you can get a game made in a year and a half, I think you can avoid these things. That's my new goal, to try and make games quicker, because stuff happens at publishers. They merge, people change jobs, and if your new game takes three or four years to make, you're going to encounter some instability out there. So get them done quicker, I guess, that's my goal.
But also, I mean, there were things that we did that helped us weather the storm that I don't know how to recommend. Our team really cared about the game and they were really dedicated and they kept on working and no one really freaked out or lost faith in the project. I think that's just the strength of having a game that everyone believes in and everyone on the team is invested in.