Timothy John Schafer is an American computer game designer. He founded Double Fine Productions in July of 2000, after having spent over a decade at LucasArts. Schafer is best known as the designer of critically acclaimed games Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and Broken Age and co-designer of the early classics The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Day of the Tentacle. He is well known in the video game industry for his storytelling and comedic writing style.
• Jane Jensen (Jane Jensen is the game designer of the popular and critically acclaimed Gabriel Knight adventure...)
• Warren Spector (Warren Spector is an American role-playing game designer and a video game designer. He is known f...)
• Noah Falstein (Noah Falstein is a game designer and producer who has been in the video game industry since 1980....)» All Game designer Interviews
Hi! I'm here to answer all you questions, which I expect to mainly be about my beard. But any questions are welcome!
EDIT: Since some of these questions involve details about Fig, I'll let Fig's CEO /u/Fig_JUSTIN_BAILEY answer some of those.
Hey Tim. Many people have lost trust in your company due to the mishandling of several past games resources, such as the space base debacle. What would you say to ease the fears of those worried psychonauts 2 may suffer a similar fate?
Hey, John. When you say “mishandling of several past games resources” I assume you’re talking about two things: games going over budget, and then Spacebase.
Regarding games going over budget: Many times in the past I have made the choice to invest more in a game than the original budget specified. That is because in the end, my highest priority is the quality of the game. Most of the games you play (not all of them, but more than you think) went over budget and extended their schedules at some point. Double Fine is just more honest and transparent about it. There are many things that lower the risk of Psychonauts 2 going over budget. It’s a sequel, so the gameplay and IP of the game are already known. We are using the Unreal Engine, so we don’t have to write an engine from scratch. And our team is much more experienced than when we made the first game. But if even after that, if the game has any overages, Double Fine is committed to paying for them ourselves, as we have done in the past.
We have successfully completed and shipped both of the games we crowdfunded (Broken Age and Massive Chalice) and are very proud of them. The majority of our fans and critics enjoyed them as well. We have put three games through early access--Hack ‘n’ Slash, Massive Chalice, and Spacebase. Two of these worked out great, and one of those was a disappointment to many people. We have shipped 17 titles over the last 15 years and overall we have a great track record of shipping great games and being extremely transparent and honest with our community. That is the more lasting reputation of Double Fine, and the reason people can feel confident about Psychonauts 2!
How does it feel having an all-time great voice acting legend, James Willems, audition to be in Psychonauts 2?
I don't want to make any comments here that might affect the outcome of his audition. Official review will be tomorrow during our livestream. :)
I know the Broken Age Kickstarter started with essentially no design docs other than a vague idea in your minds eye. How much pre planning has already gone into Psychonauts 2?
The story for Psychonauts 2 is something I wanted to do back when Psychonauts was released. In the intervening years I've been keeping a document of ideas going, with new mental worlds and story ideas going in as I think of them. So I'm starting this game with the rough story figured out, ideas for brains and mechanics, and an engine (Unreal).
In Psychonauts 2, Raz will finally get to go to Psychonauts headquarters--his lifelong dream. There he can see Sasha and Milla in their natural environment--international espionage. But he finds several things strange about the organization. While Truman Zanotto was missing, several changes to the direction of the organization were made by his second in command. Funding was cut from traditional psychic research and peacekeeping, and redirected to unorthodox, fringe endeavors, including the discredited practice of necromancy. Raz soon uncovers sinister things at work in the shadows of Psychonauts headquarters, including double agents and evils of the past. Raz’s own family history plays a pivotal part in the story, and Raz must confront the roots of the curse placed on his family once and for all. And also deal with this whole “girlfriend” term and what it really means. :)
Hi Tim, my daughter and I both played the original Psychonauts and loved it so we both backed Psychonauts 2 so we can have our name in the credits. And we were wondering, is there any chance we can get our names next to each other in the credits?
Also, keep up the good work, we love Double Fine!! =D
I don't suppose your names are next to each other in alphabetical order? :)
Here's another solution:
Luke Skywalker's Father Darth Vader
(oh sorry, spoiler alert)
One of the big things a lot of people talk about is the idea that if someone big enough gets a lot of money and doesn't have restraints, they end up making things that are often lesser in quality than when they were under constraints. Peter Molyneux is a prime example of this, as well as George Lucas.
How do you feel about this? I know it's a designer's dream to have complete control over a project like you do, but do you ever feel like perhaps some of your decisions should have been reigned in a bit? Not trying to be insulting, I'm genuinely curious about how you feel about the creative process and restrictions.
I think it's a very interesting topic. Who is really responsible for a collaborative work? The auteur associated by name? I think it can be largely that, but also the context in which they made the art. Not just the budget, but also the collaborators. I recommend reading this book. Great stories about how Lucas and Bogdonovitch collaborated with their wifes, etc, in the early days and then stopped. http://www.amazon.com/Riders-Raging-Bulls-Sex-Drugs---Rock/dp/0684857081/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452545371&sr=8-1&keywords=easy+riders+raging+bulls
I think the only way to test this theory, however, is to give Double Fine tons and tons of money and let us have that problem! :)
Is Raz going to have all of his previous powers and will we see any new powers? Also, will we ever see an older Raz?
A mix of old and new powers. Raz will be a few hours older than in the first game, because it takes place soon after the events of Psychonauts.
Why the move to Unreal? Is the Buddha engine just showing its age after all of these years?
We just want to focus on the design side of the game, and not about competing, engine wise, with much larger developers. The Buddha engine is still alive and looking great in Headlander though!
Why was there no Dio music in Brutal Legend? I know having him as a voice actor kinda fell through; is that why none of his music was included?
I wish I could tell that story. Maybe some day. :(
Did you actually write the script for his audition as is claimed in his video description?
Yes. Unless you didn't like it. Kind of a Hitchhiker's Guide rip-off, but I was in a hurry. :)
Erik Wolpaw is credited as co-writing Psychonauts with you, how did you split the writing duties? Who was responsible for what? Is he co-writing Psychonauts 2 in the same capacity?
He will help with the writing like he did on the first game, but he's also coming on the project earlier in its production so we'll be able to get even more of his ideas into it.
Hi Tim! Did you watch James Willems' audition for the toilet? What'd you think?
So what's your big takeaway from doing the DoubleFine Adventure doc? Did all the transparency gain you more trust or suspicion from your supporters?
Edit: Link to the full 20 episodes on YouTube - WARNING: YOU WILL WANT TO BINGE WATCH THEM ALL.
Well, we definitely learned a lot. The encouraging thing was how many people loved the documentary and found it enlightening and inspiring. The negative side was finding out that some people take only some of the facts you are offering, and creating an inaccurate narrative out of it. Not sure what to do about that.
Hi Tim! Casey Malone here. Where are my keys? Thank you in advance.
They're in the last place you left them, young man.
j/k they fell out of your pocket at the opium den.
Hi Mr. Schafer, what was your inspiration for the Milkman on Psychonauts?
The Manchurian Candidate, MKULTRA, Telefon, and maybe that Mel Gibson movie about conspiracies. Conspiracy Theory?
Will you be documenting the development of Psychonauts 2? Those documentaries are amazing.
Not sure, but 2 Player Productions is still lurking around the halls, filming stuff...
Hey Tim! I'm a big Psychonauts fan, and I've actually had a few questions for you for quite some time about the original Psychonauts: in the game, on the hill near Janitor Cruller's trailer, there are three dilapidated graves that have obviously been there for some time. I was wondering who was buried there and if we could know anything about them, or if the graves are only there for aesthetic. Also, in regard to the inmates, how did they get there? Edgar Teglee, as the best example, looks in perhaps his thirties, yet is implied to have been at the asylum for at least the 50 years or so between Lake Oblongata's creation and the events of the game. If it's something that may end up being discussed in Psychonauts 2, you don't have to answer for any spoilers. But I just think that there are a few loose ends especially regarding the inmates (including their fates after the asylum's collapse) that need to be tied up.
Hi! Those are mysterious, unmarked graves whose owners are unknown. Came out of a brainstorming meeting where we talked about the fun of exploring when you're a kid, and asking ourselves what are the coolest things to find. Old truck, gravestones, etc. But you never know--their identities could be revealed some day! (or not) The inmates in the asylum are all different ages, and just happened to be the final inmates who remained after the place was just down. They weren't necessarily there when the asylum was founded. Some of them might have even shown up after it closed. We don't say what happened to them after that last scene where they all agree to share a cab out of there, but the important thing is that they all felt they finally had the power to leave.
As I watched the DoubleFine adventure doc, I was really fascinated with your leadership style. You've got a big responsibility with an awesome group of talented folks.
What approaches in your leadership of the team do you think help get the most out of them?
How do you balance the desire to give them total creative/technical freedom with actually having to push a product that makes money?
Any ways that you feel like you can still improve as a leader?
Edit: let me just add that as someone in a leadership position, I really loved seeing how completely genuine and comfortable you are in your own skin. Not sure how you've felt about it over the years, but it really seemed that you had never felt any need to compromise your true personality in order to be "in charge." I can tell why people love working for/with you.
Well, I think my management style, for better or worse, is to hire people smarter than me, and then get out of their way. Whenever they are doing something I wouldn't do, before I butt in I ask myself, "Do I really need to control this?" Because even if their way is different, it's probably six-of-one-half-dozen-of the-other and not worth me overruling them. Then I just try to do my best work and work hard to make great stuff myself and basically earn the right to be on the great team I've assembled.
Balancing teams creative freedom with making money: Letting the team make its own creative decisions builds their capacity to do even bigger stuff in the future, so I think giving them freedom makes for a more skilled team which makes for a better product and means more money, hopefully.
Ways to improve: Get my writing done faster so I can leave my door open more. :)
First of all THANK YOU, seriously, for making some of the best and creative games ever, you truely help to shape my childhood.
Ok so just to gush a bit- I am a huge fan of Psychonauts, the humor, the art style, the characters, the gameplay- all fantastic. Still to this day one of my all time favorite games. I am still surprised to this day that so many people haven't played it. A true underrated classic. So I am SOOO excited for Psychonauts 2, when I saw this I almost had a heart attack. I put in a good bit for this and I'm very glad to be a backer for this because this is like a dream come true!
Ok sorry about that onto the questions:
1. How did you guys come up with the art style for Psychonauts? Any specific things that you guys looked to for inspiration?
2. Who is your favorite character in all of Psychonauts? Enemy, camper, counselor or otherwise.
3. What are some of your favorite games? Anything in particular that made you want to start making video games?
Thanks again for making such wonderful games! Love ya Tim & DoubleFine!
Awesome! Thanks man!
1. The art style was created by Scott C. We really wanted to come up with something that felt fresh and new to games. We were inspired movies like by Nightmare Before Christmas and artists like Joe Sorren and Mark Ryden.
2. The G-men! Okay, they aren't the deepest character, but they were the most fun to write. :)
3. Mario 64, Ico, Hohokum, Fez, Journey, Katamari. That's some!
Thanks yourself! :)
What's the worst part about designing games?
Any notable stories about the biggest fans of DoubleFine games?
Would you rather be a lung fish or an agent of the milkman?
worst part: Creative block
Biggest fans: Finding out Elijah Wood and Jack Black were fans is how we got them in our games!
Lungfish, definitely. Because she exists in the real world!
Do you slice your sandwiches across or diagonally?
Diagonally! I had a boss at a summer job once and I had to go out for sandwhiches, and when I brought his back and it was cut diagonally he groaned and said, "Did a girl cut this?" So I guess I cut like a girl.
Erik Wolpaw is one of the funniest video game writers I know of. Also very keen to know this answer.
Hey, congrats on funding Psychonauts 2! My question is from the Psychonauts Wild Mass Guessing page on TV Tropes:
> The whole game takes place inside someone's mind
> Pfft. I thought it was obvious. We are inside Tim Schafer's mind!
> There's something to this - the tagline of the game is "A psychic adventure from the mind of Tim Schafer.
So does Psychonauts literally take place inside your mind? Confirmed? Or Jossed?
I think the game takes place inside of YOUR mind. :)
Hi Tim! I just wanted to say thank you so much for making one of my favorite games of all time, Grim Fandango! The amount of memories I have with that game are staggering. I loved the visual aesthetic, the atmosphere, the characters... it was such a classy game. And of course, thank you for the endlessly fun Psychonauts and I wish you good luck on Psychonauts 2! And congrats on the funding (I am a backer, so I hope it turns out good!).
My question for you is how was it like working on the first 2 Monkey Island games? Did you know it was going to be so massively influential in adventure game history, and how did it influence your later game and puzzle design?
Thanks! Working on the first MI games was a super fun time. Part of it was spent on Skywalker Ranch, which is like paradise. Everybody on that project was hilarious, and we all just had fun together. No idea anybody was going to play it. The influence on our later games is that I learned to go for crazy ideas like the 3 headed monkey, and also, I've used "the three trials" structure many times since.
What do you think about all the misinformation spread about Double Fine crowdsourcing efforts? (like people saying DFA was split in two with backers having to pay twice, which didn't actually happen, of course)
Many of those created the idea that "Tim doesn't know how to budget". What's your opinion on that?
Thanks for the awesome games.
That's why we're here, doing this ama. Lots of misinformation out there. But our fans and backers do a great job of straightening out the record for us, which is incredibly touching and inspiring. :)
On the second question: If I was really that bad with money, I don't think DF would have lasted 15 years like it has.
What gave you the idea to make Meat Circus? All of the levels in Psychonauts are so inspired and interesting, so I could ask the same thing about any of them, but Meat Circus seems so different from the rest in terms of its concept.
Originally, the game had two final levels. One in Raz's mind that was his memories of the circus. One was in Oleander's mind, in his father's butcher shop. Our publisher was pushing us to cut one level, so we combined the last two! :)
Ok, serious one: Why do you think so many people continue labour under the incorrect idea that backers of BROKEN AGE (like myself) were ripped off somehow? (No matter how many times we tell them we weren't, they don't seem to want to listen!)
I think I've become a symbol to some really angry people who feel wronged by the world. Also, here's an interesting article about how people don't respond well to facts: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/
Also, how long until these burgers are ready?
wippersnapper! I'll flip YOU!