Tim Schafer is a funny guy. He makes funny games like Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. And the idea for his newest game comes from an unlikely place.
During the production hell that was the metal-inspired Brutal Legend, Schafer took a cue from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai on how to break up post-production monotony. In the early 1990s, Wong Kar-Wai was editing the martial arts epic Ashes of Time. During a break from cutting Ashes of Time, Wong knocked out Chungking Express in a couple of weeks. The film was much smaller in scale and helped the director find his footing when he returned to Ashes of Time.
Likewise, Schafer decides that his team needed a break, and put his developers to work, coming up with small scale games as an exercise, reports The Guardian. But after Brutal Legend failed to come to fruition, Schafer and his staff went back through the ideas they came up with, mining for gaming gold. The first of those was Halloween-theme role-playing game Costume Quest, released last year. The second is the Russian-doll-inspired Stacking.
While Wong Kar-Wai's general approach of taking a break to work on something smaller worked for Schafer and his team, the rest of what Wong Kar-Wai does in the director's chair probably would not work at all.
Like his hero Jean-Luc Godard, Wong Kar-Wai takes a free, loose approach to filmmaking, often without written scripts and working from basic scenarios. Unlike Godard, Wong's films don't come off nearly as cold and tend to be sentimental. Many of Wong's films are found in the editing suite, hence the heavy reliance on voice overs. Also, some of the costly and time consuming tricks Wong Kar-Wai manages with movies might not be possible with game development.
During the filming of Happy Together, Wong Kar-Wai wasn't happy with one of the actor's performances. During the middle of shooting, he told the actor that the character was actually a boxer, then had the actor train as a boxer and filmed a few fight scenes, which never made it in the film. Later Wong said the actor's performance was "much more energetic". Wong's style mean that film production can drag on and on.
Chungking Express took Best Picture at the 1995 Hong Kong Film Awards - not bad for a movie that was originally intended as a break. Time will tell if a similar fate awaits Tim Schafer's Stacking.