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Double Fine's next projects: four 'smaller' games

Kyle Orland

After releasing only two games over its first ten years of existence, Tim Schafer's Double Fine Productions is heading in a slightly different direction and working on four smaller projects, each with a different producer.

Speaking at a keynote presentation at the Develop Conference this morning, Schafer didn't reveal many details about the new game projects. He did, however, mention who was heading up each one. They are:
  • Lee Petty, art director on Brütal Legend, is leading a game Schafer described as "sort of retro but also really new."
  • Nathan Martz, lead programmer on Brütal Legend, is working on a game that's "quite cutting edge."
  • Brad Muir, who designed a lot of the combat and multiplayer on Brütal Legend, is working on a game that "focuses on gameplay mechanics."
  • Tasha Harris, lead animator on Brütal Legend (and former senior animator at Pixar) is heading up a fourth game.
Schafer didn't say what systems or formats the games would target, but did mention that some would be available as downloads while others would be retail products. He off-handedly mentioned that the quick development process meant some of these projects would be coming out this year, but quickly caught himself. "I didn't announce that," he said. "I see you writing that down. ... That was not a ship date."

Schafer said the transition to multiple smaller projects happened in the wake of the unexpected cancellation of a planned Brütal Legend sequel. "Apparently when they said it was a done deal, they meant there was no deal, and we're done," he said.

Luckily, Double Fine was sitting on a set of eight high-quality, miniature game demos it had created as part of an "Amnesia Fortnight Project," a two-week experimental development challenge that Schafer described as "sort of an internal Independent Games Festival." Schafer took the best four of these demos on a tour of various publishers, and said he was quite surprised when they all found publishing deals.

Schafer took the best four of these demos on a tour of various publishers, and said he was quite surprised when they all found publishing deals.

Moving to multiple projects with smaller budgets has been quite freeing, he explained, because the publisher demands fewer compromises when there is less money at stake. It also provides a chance to branch out and not risk the entire company on a single, massive idea. "When you only make one game at once, everything about that game defines you ... you are the company that makes that game," Schafer said. Spreading out the development also means employees can gravitate to the projects they enjoy, whereas the Brütal Legend development process involved immersion in four and a half years of heavy metal, even for employees who don't like the stuff. "They were fired," Schafer joked.

Divvying out more responsibility to project leaders also means the Grim Fandango designer himself is "no longer a bottleneck" on development. That said, he mentioned that many of his team leaders still consult him when it comes time to add the writing and dialogue to their projects. That's certainly good news for fans of Tim Schafer's unique sense of humor.

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