Double Fine has seen a slew of developmental issues since their first original IP Psychonauts and their most recent title Brutal Legends, which has seen a cancelation for it’s sequel. During the recent Develop keynote Double Fine founder Tim Schafer explained the importance of avoiding long development cycles.
“[They were] really big budget, took many years to do and caused a lot of strain,” claimed Schafer, who felt that asking for too much money in development creates the risk of losing your brainchild. “Anything that’s a risk you have to take out. That takes sense, it’s reasonable, but what if you want to try new things?”
During Double Fine’s development of Brutal Legend the studio faced the risk of completely losing their IP to Activision, a studio who would rather release their fifth rendition of Guitar Hero than try something new like Brutal Legend. Luckily the publishing rights were sold to EA who allowed the studio to pursue the creative endeavors.
Schafer went onto describe the effect Brutal Legend’s development cycle had on the whole team stating, “Having a long development cycle is hard for people. Not everyone is a large metal head.” Schafer went onto tell the importance of having multiple projects that allows for flexibility within the studio and decrease risk of staff getting bored and extend their creativity into multiple ideas. “Make one [game] at a time and you’re the studio that makes that game. With more projects, we can try different genres and demographics.”
Now with having pitched four new ideas to Schafer feels more confident in the way their development cycles will run in the future. “Instead of a cockroach that’s hard to kill, we became a flatworm that splits into many. We were in a better negotiating position – asking for less, more likely to keep the IP. We already had the money from the first deal, so didn’t have to take the first offer on the third or fourth deals.”
Schafer went onto conclude with the importance in trusting your team saying, “The other thing I learned at Lucasarts is that you make bets on people – trust them to come up with good ideas. We have good people at Double Fine.”