Double Fine's Tim Schafer On Openness And His New Game Project With Humble Bundle

from the you-fight-like-a-dairy-farmer dept

Today, the always innovative Humble Bundle launched yet another great new project. This time they’ve teamed up with Tim Schafer, whom some may remember as the founder of Double Fine and the creator of their insanely successful Kickstarter campaign (and others may remember him as the creator of several classic adventure games). The project is a twist on the standard Humble Bundle system: instead of paying what you want for a collection of existing games, contributors get to vote on various game ideas from the Double Fine team to decide which ones get prototyped. The whole development process will then be live-streamed, and contributors will be able to download the prototypes at the end. The ideas themselves come from a feverous internal brainstorming process called the Amnesia Fortnight, the secrets of which are being revealed to the public, as best (and most entertainingly) explained in the video:

It’s rare, maybe unprecedented, to see gamers brought into the development process on such a wide scale and at such an intimate level. Though participation takes the form of an single vote, you can bet that people who get involved will have lots of feedback and questions, and probably a few demands, as the process continues — which, in addition to forging a strong connection with fans, could actually be kind of scary. Today I spoke briefly with Tim Schafer to ask more about the thinking behind the project and his expectations for where it might go. For him, the key revelation from the Kickstarter campaign was less about identifying demand for a new adventure game, and more about discovering that a more transparent development process can be a really positive experience:

We’re building off of one of the things we learned from that project, which is that it’s okay to open the doors. We’ve had this Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory thing for many years, and the Kickstarter changed all that.

We let people see the making of the game and realized it’s okay. You think people will laugh at us or they’ll judge us for the work or they’ll get mad when we cut something from the game. … We realized that the players are smarter than people are giving them credit for.

He expressed some slight anxiety at the idea of handing the choice of games over to the public, but it was far outweighed by curiosity:

It’s really interesting. Usually I pick, usually I deal with the deciding. I think I just wanted to try a different way to see. I like getting my way some of the time, but not all of the time. If you don’t have any sort of agent of chaos or wild card then you never have any sort of evolution of ideas, and fresh blood. … I really want to see what the people at large have to say, to see if it’s different.

Similarly, he noted that live-streaming the development process would be a real dose of reality for some gamers, and he’s interested to see how they react. While there’s plenty of fun stuff to show, like the Art Jams where they flesh out a game’s visuals, there’s also the painful side, like the budget meetings where exciting ideas get reluctantly cut. But such things are necessary, and as he notes, displaying them helps to humanize the process — which is something we talk about a lot when it comes to connecting with fans and being open, human and awesome.

It’s going to be great to see the results of this team-up. Schafer started his career at Lucasfilm Games when secrecy and control were the orders of the day, and developers tried all sorts of wacky schemes to prevent piracy — that’s what he was used to, and he credits the Humble Bundle with helping to inspire a different outlook:

Besides the fact that they bring a lot of smaller, lesser known games to light, a lot of what’s inspiring is the business model.

Keeping things secret, hoarding information, protecting your copyright. That’s just what I was used to, and Humble Bundle says let it go, open it up, let people have it for a penny or a dollar, let people pay what they want and give all the money to charity if they want.

You can’t have this 100% watertight, airtight grip on that stuff. You have to make other people not want to pirate, make it easy for them, and respect them enough to let them choose. People respond to not being treated like criminals.

If you want to get in on the project and cast your vote for which games get developed, you can do so over at the Humble Bundle site — there are also two existing prototypes of other games for contributors to download right away.

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Companies: double fine, humble bundle

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