Double Fine Adventure

Out of all the kickstarter projects I've backed and "invested" in, Double Fine Adventure has been the most rewarding and unique experience out of them all.

Tim Schafer and his pals at Double Fine launched the Double Fine Adventure kickstarter on February 8th this year, and asked for $400,000 dollars to make a game that they've always wanted to make. And not only that, they planned on filming an episodic documentary about their entire process. And open up their creative process to the backers of the project for suggestions and ideas on what they might want in the game.

Here's a link to their Kickstarter campaign:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/doublefine/double-fine-adventure

33 days after their kickstarter, it ended at $3,336,372 with an additional couple hundred thousand dollars donated outside of kickstarter. It was the most successful campaign that kickstarter had seen to date. The whole games industry took note. And plenty of other classic game developers took note, and started their own campaigns, too.

Psychonauts and Brutal Legend

I've been a big fan of Tim Schafer and Double Fine ever since I played Psychonauts. Psychonauts was the first game I played that Tim Schafer worked on, and playing through that game was an absolute delight (until the final stage). The comedic dialogue, and funny characters worked themselves perfectly into the story, the game mechanics, and the overall world everything took place in.

It was one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences I've had with a game in quite a while. And then they did it all again with Brutal Legend in 2009. A perfect cohesive experience that carried its vision from start to finish with comedic tones guiding most of the mechanics of the world.

Not to say that these game aren't flawless. But when the core concept of a game has a heart behind it, you can see past its flaws.

I wrote about both these games almost 3 years ago after finishing Brutal Legend
http://www.theschlock.com/blog/?p=673

Also, I got my copy of Brutal Legend signed by Tim Schafer!

Double Fine Afterwards

Unfortunately, Brutal Legend sold terribly, and Double Fine really scaled back their games production. Since Brutal Legend, I think Double Fine Adventure is the first game that Tim Schafer is actually directing himself. They've made 5 games since then, and they have been rather small in scope, and mostly championed by other people on the Double Fine staff.

Tasha Harris, lead animator, directed Costume Quest, which was a cute downloadable game for XBLA, PSN, and Steam. It featured a brother and a sister trying to save each other (depending on who you play as) from goblins during Halloween. It was a turn-based RPG, and during the battles the kids would turn into the things they were costumed as for Halloween.

Lee Petty, art director, wrote and directed Stacking. Stacking is about a kid trying to find his kidnapped family. All the characters in the game are Russian Stacking dolls, and since you're the smallest, you can go inside other stacking dolls and use their character specific powers to solve puzzles and eventually rescue your family.

The Double Fine store sold a bunch of replicas of some of the characters in the game.

Then they did Trenched which was renamed to Iron Brigade. Lead Designer, Brad Muir, headed up Iron Brigade. This game is essential tower defense, but with a player playing a role on the field. Your character pilots a mech and sets up missiles turrets to defend against evil broadcasting monsters.

The fourth game in this series is Once upon a Monster headed by lead programmer Nathan Martz. Once upon a Monster stars all the monsters from Sesame Street in a learning game for kids using the Kinect. According to Wikipedia, this initially wasn't intended to be a licensed game, but everything seemed to fit after working on it for a while.

All the mistakes and lessons learned from working with the Kinect spawned an unintended fifth game in the series entitled, Double Fine Happy Action Theater. This Kinect title isn't so much a game, as it is a whole lot of random visualizations and interactions made possible with the Kinect.

Double Fine Adventure

They're currently in the process of working on a game headed by Ron Gilbert, the creator of Monkey Island.  But Tim wanted to work on a game, too.  He hadn't been directly in charge of a game since Brutal Legend, and wanted to do something again. And rather than shop an idea around from publisher to publisher to publisher getting rejected, he decided to do a kickstarter campaign and see what would happen.

And success happened.

And now we're 5 months after the Kickstarter has ended, and they've released 4 episodes of their documentary so far. The first episode dealt with the creation of the kickstarter and its success. The second episode dealt with Tim's creation process, and a few ideas he had come up with. He also went over these ideas with Ron Gilbert, and they talked a little bit about what adventure games meant, and how they should be designed.

The third episode was Tim bringing his ideas to his team, getting feedback, and working through the feedback. They also introduced Anna Kipnis as the lead developer, and her team setting up the animation and game engine. They also came up with the codename for the project, "Reds", as they did the Double Fine pub crawl.

The fourth episode, released today, was an extended double length episode that focused on the concept artists for the project, and their process. They introduced Peter Chan, and Scott Campbell, visited their work spaces, and their lives. They also introduced Nathan "Bagel" Stapley as the lead artist for the project, and showed him off too.

Each episode has been about a month apart, and has really shown the project taking shape. From the small ideas that Tim had in episode two, into some fleshed out stories, and concept art in episode four. Each episode has done a fantastic job focusing on the passion of everyone involved, and especially with Tim himself. With all the money they raised, he's able to hire all the people he really loves and inspires him to create great things.

The whole idea with this project has been to create something that was completely outside of publishers. For his process, publishers tend to stifle and warp his ideas into something that sells, rather than something that comes from the heart. And even though I feel like Psychonauts and Brutal Legend had plenty of heart, I wonder just how toned down they were from the original idea.

It's great to see a creative team have all the freedom they want, and have them explain what inspires them, and ultimately what makes them happy. And given that I've loved almost all of their games, it's really fulfilling and inspiring to me to see it build and come together.

It's pretty great.

Double Fine Adventure Swag

And additionally, they've actually fulfilled all of their upfront physical goods too. I pledged $100, which awards a physical copy of the Game and the Documentary in a classic over-sized PC box. Those will obviously only be available upon completion of the game and documentary, but the upfront goods I got are a Poster, and a T-shirt!

It includes a sticker, and a button too!

Future

I'm certainly looking forward to all the rest of the episodes. But! In the immediate future, Double Fine is going to have a bit of a presence at PAX this year. They plan on having a booth in the exhibition hall, they are having a panel specifically on Double Fine Adventure, and they are taking part of two other panels.

Friday @ 1pm : Double Fine Adventure Panel w/ Tim Schafer (Double Fine), Greg Rice (Double Fine), Paul Levering (Player 2 Productions), and Cindy Au (Kickstarer). They are showing some clips from the documentary and then answering a bunch of questions.

Saturday @ 7:30pm : Canceled & Prototyped Games w/ Brad Muir (Double Fine), Amir Rao (Supergiant), Dan Teasdale (Twisted Pixel), and Sylvain Dubrofsky (Popcap).

Sunday @ Noon : Plot v. Play - Duality of Modern Game Design w/ Ben Gilbert (Joystiq), Jason Schreier (Kotaku), Tim Schafer (Double Fine), and Erik Wolpaw (Valve).

I plan on attending each of one of these, but I especially plan on attending the Double Fine Adventure one.

Additionally, The Cave is going to be in the Exhibition Hall at SEGA's booth.




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