Today on Kotaku Splitscreen, Double Fine CEO Tim Schafer joins us to talk about his piles and piles of money. Plus: how Day of the Tentacle holds up today, what it’s like inside the LucasArts barn and some Real Talk about the relationships between journalists and game developers.
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We even have an excerpt from the podcast for your reading pleasure:
Jason: I watched the Double Fine documentary, I’ve watched it twice now, and I think – to those of you listening to this who have not watched it, go watch it cause it’s one of the most insightful, transparent looks at game development I’ve ever seen… but Tim, as I’m watching it, all I can think is ‘How the f**k does Tim run a studio and lead design and writing on a game?’ Because it feels like that has caused so many pipeline problems where people are waiting on you to finish your writing, finish your design. And it seems like such a tough challenge that can maybe be mitigated if you had some help or someone else to run the company…
Tim: Are you applying for a job right now? Are you trying to get a job right now?
Jason: Yeah, can I run Double Fine?
Kirk: You need like a really organised person, maybe from New York?
Tim: ‘It can maybe be mitigated if you had a really smart guy who came in…’
Jason: A Kotaku reporter who came in… actually I would really love to do that. Can I run Double Fine for a month and then write about it, gonzo-style?
Tim: See, you’d be distracted by writing, just like me. No I mean it’s a very obvious problem when you’re watching the documentary, that everyone’s waiting for me to write. And it happens a lot at this company cause of all the things I delegate, I delegate the writing the least. I shared some with Erik Wolpaw on Psychonauts, and on Costume Quest 2 Gabe did it and Lee did it on Headlander, but mostly on my own games I’m just like ‘I’ve gotta write everything.’ That can be a problem because I am supposed to be running the company, but I get help from guys like Greg over there, who is business, and Matt’s our COO he actually keeps the company running in terms of — we have multiple projects, too, so my day is not taken up by Headlander at all, cause Lee has that under control, and if he needed help Matt would get him the help he needs.
So it is a challenge, but I feel like it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t want to change cause I think every company is set by who founded it and who’s in charge. The flavour of the company is set. When you have a programmer-founded company it often gets really techy, if you have a producer or a business-person, it all really sets the flavour of the company, just the priorities and the way you deal with everything. So I think having a designer-founded company is still important and unique, so I think it’s still important that I’m a big part of the decisions that get made about that stuff.
That being said, I do leave a lot of those decisions to other people. So it’s mostly just me locked in a room writing dialogue all day long.
Jason: Is the solution — to avoid the sort of complications you guys ran into — is the solution to set a schedule where you have twice as much time as you think you have, and everyone tells you ‘Oh, Tim, you only have two weeks to do this’ but you actually have four weeks?
Tim: Oh man, I’ve had that exact same thought process of let’s just pretend we have half the money that we do. And that’s been the official line for a while. But then, I dunno, it’s a weird thing when you look at that documentary and you think about oh this can easily be mitigated, I think if you change a lot of the way we do things, another part of it would fall apart. Some other thing would break, and so it’s not necessarily true that you could just make a couple tweaks and make things easier for everybody. In some ways the chaos and challenges we had on [Broken Age] were all part of making it.
Jason: I’m sure it’s fun for you having armchair observers be like ‘Well I watched this documentary so I know how to do things at Double Fine.’
Tim: Yeah, you’re like one of those Twitter kids who’s like ‘Why don’t you get someone to count the money for you? Jesus.’
Kirk: Friggin’ lazy devs!
Listen to the full episode right here.