Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

Tim Schafer had a lot to talk to me about, a lot to clarify, when we met in his offices in San Francisco. It’s been a wild couple of months for Schafer and Double Fine productions.

Back in July, Schafer sent an update to backers of his record-breakingly successful Kickstarter adventure game Broken Age, telling them that due to the game’s increased scope, they were going to split the launch into two, and use sales from the first half to help finish the game. Fairly or unfairly, public response got heated.

In the time since that announcement, a number of things have become clear: Schafer and company are not asking backers for more money, the game is going to get finished one way or another, and backers won’t have to pay any extra for the finished game. But plenty of confusion remains.

That’s doubtless due in part to the fact that the entire process of crowdfunding a video game is new and untested. Double Fine’s record-breaking Kickstarter success — they overshot their initial goal $US400,000 goal and ended on $US3.3 million — was unprecedented, and opened the door for dozens of video-game Kickstarters that followed. But they were and remain the highest-profile video-game Kickstarter success story.

A lot of things have happened in the time since the Kickstarter’s success. The game now has a name, Broken Age, and was revealed earlier this year with this lovely teaser trailer:

Double Fine has also put forth another successful Kickstarter campaign, this one for a tactics game called Massive Chalice, headed up by Double Fine’s Brad Muir. The second campaign raised $US1.2 million, and Massive Chalice is also currently in development.

Meanwhile, Broken Age development has carried on alongside Massive Chalice, with one crucial difference: Broken Age‘s Kickstarter terms give backers exclusive first dibs on information about the game, while Massive Chalice made no such promises and makes all of its updates publicly.

With Broken Age backers privy to updates on the process of the game, information on Broken Age has taken on a fragmented quality. Backers know things before the press and the general public do, but not all of its 87,142 backers keep things to themselves, and some members of the press are also backers of the project. That hasn’t been an issue in the past, but when Schafer’s update about the new launch plans hit Reddit and other message boards, it was immediately newsworthy. The public got the news, without the context and transparency that had been provided to backers.

After Kotaku and a number of other sites reported on the change in plans and budget, Double Fine reached out to see if I’d be interested in doing an interview with Schafer and Broken Age producer Greg Rice about the state of the game, and how things are going. I agreed to come by and check out the game and chat with them. (I should say that I’m friends with a couple of Double Fine employees; they’re all such nice people that if you live in San Francisco and write about video games, it’s hard not to get to know them. I don’t think that really colours my take on what they’re doing, but it’s worth putting it out there.)

Last week I headed over to Double Fine to take a look at the game and chat with Schafer and Rice. Since their entire development process is being documented by 2 Player Productions, our interview itself was recorded, which was a funny experience for me. At some point, backers who watch the documentary might see bits and pieces of this interview, which is a funny sort of journalism-ception that I’m not used to.

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

[Schafer on the left, Rice on the right. Rice photo via Game Informer.]

I’ll save my impressions of Broken Age for a separate post, but the short version is that the game is fascinating. It plays almost exactly like a classic Lucasarts-era adventure game (The dialogue text is even in the same font), but it looks like something else entirely. 2D mixed with 3D, with an otherworldly, gorgeous art style. But anyway! More on that soon.

Here’s my full interview with Tim Schafer and Greg Rice about all things Broken Age:

Kotaku: What is the most important thing you want the public, backers and non-backers, to know about the state of Broken Age?

Tim Schafer: Most important thing: I would love it to be clear in everyone’s mind that we didn’t ask anyone for any more money, we’re not out of money. The game’s looking great and is gonna get done. That’s the main thing, there were a lot of misunderstandings about what we were saying, that we were like, “Welp, we’ve run out of money,” or, “We need the backers to give us more money,” and those just weren’t true. And I think that for some reason that was clear to the backers but not clear outside of that.

Why do you think that was?

Schafer: I think a lot of people didn’t get the whole story, they just heard a little snippet. And the cynical part of me thinks it was a snippet of a story that they were waiting for, a lot of people were waiting for that other shoe to drop. Like, “Oh there’s this great, great, happy event! …When is the catch gonna come?” And they’re like, ‘Oh, I think I heard something about Broken Age needing more money.’ That must be this pre-conceived narrative that was not [actually] the case. If you actually watched the documentary and read the whole thing, the whole thing that I wrote, I hope that was clear.

Schafer: “I would love it to be clear in everyone’s mind that we didn’t ask anyone for any more money, we’re not out of money.”

Greg Rice: I think the other thing too was [making clear] that we’re not selling two games now. That we’re not changing what we promised.

Schafer: Yeah, if you are a backer who is entitled to get the game, you’re still getting the entire game. You’re not gonna get just the first half.

When we ran the story, some of our readers remarked that it’s not in the spirit of Kickstarter to shift the responsibility for the game’s completion from backers to non-backers. [Not that backers would need to pay any more, but that the game’s completion was no longer a sure thing, since the public will have to buy the early access half of the game to get it funded.] Is that a fair assessment?

Schafer: For one thing, the early-access thing isn’t completely funding half the game. We’re putting a lot of our own money into the game. Money we’ve made… when we first launched this Kickstarter we were 100% with publishers. Since we launched the Kickstarter we’ve done things like our Humble Bundles or our Brutal Legend self-publishing deal, and we actually managed to make money through self-publishing.

That money that we could’ve put towards employee bonuses or making another game, we’re putting into Broken Age. So that’s where most of the extra funding comes from. And then, that gets us to January, where it’s not like we run out of money that week, or we run out of money at all. The early release helps fund it, but a lot of the funding comes from our own profits.

So the perception that the second half will be contingent on the first half selling well on early access is off.

Rice: It’s just supplementing, and it’ll mean less money of our own that we need to put up.

Schafer: Also, ‘shifting the responsibility’ is kind of a funny way to put it – because the money we make by selling the game, whether it’s early release or not, that’s still our money. That’s still money we made by publishing our game. And we could choose to give that out or bonuses, or I could take it all home, and buy something with it. [Laughs]

So you’re going to get money from selling the game one way or another…

Schafer: We’re choosing to, instead of taking that money home as a bonus, to put it back into the game, to release a bigger game.

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

What did the initial $US400,000 version of Broken Age look like?

Schafer: Well, it essentially looked like a documentary. With an example game, you know, a small… it would’ve looked like… have you ever seen the Flash games on our website?


Schafer: Some of those games were done by Nathan Stapely, the artist who did the surfing video game in there… And it would’ve been a game that looked a lot like those games, maybe even in Flash. The point of doing it would be just enough game so that we could’ve made a fun documentary about how we make games. The original project was like, [2 Player Productions said], ‘We want to make a documentary about you guys, making the game,’ and we added on the game as an afterthought. Well, we should probably have a game funded by this Kickstarter too, so that we can be totally free to tell the whole story.

So then it became, “Oh, well, now we have enough to make an actual game…”

Schafer: That was an interesting change, and that was a conscious choice. That’s what a lot of this “event” has been about, a conscious choice to make the game that would stand up alongside of Brutal Legend, not in scope but in terms of like, where I think of the games I’ve made, that it’s on par with Brutal and Psychonauts and Grim Fandango and all those games. It’s no longer just a little example just to make a documentary about.

So it’s closer in terms of scale to those games than to the amnesia fortnight games you guys did?

Schafer: The original budget, after you take out rewards and the documentary and a lot of things, came to about two million dollars for the game itself. And that’s about the size of Stacking or Costume Quest. In terms of budget. I mean Grim [Fandango] was about three million dollars in 1998. The eventual budget [of Broken Age] might be comparable to Grim Fandango, adjusted for inflation.

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

How far ahead of time did you see this kind of thing coming?

Schafer: It’s almost from… I don’t want to say the first episode of the documentary, but at least three or four episodes back from now, in the documentary, we’ve been talking about how, “Wow, the schedule is looking like it’s not going to be done…” we thought at first it was going to be done that April [of 2013], then we said that September, and now the following April [of 2014]. So, we’ve kind of been watching the scope of the game evolve in the documentary. But not in the public, and I think that’s a lot of the lessons learned here about the discrepancy between what the backers knew, and the people paying attention and watching the documentary knew, and what the general public knew.

Schafer: “The eventual budget [of Broken Age] might be comparable to Grim Fandango, adjusted for inflation.”

Some people hadn’t heard about the game since the initial Kickstarter. So they heard “Oh, the Kickstarter launched,” then they heard this thing. So that’s why there’s such a discrepancy between the reaction from the backers and the reaction from the non-backers.

There’s a sense that I get from you guys of that, like what you’re saying: “Well, the backers have been in the loop on this whole thing, they know what’s going on,” but the public doesn’t. It’s almost like the backers are getting internal emails from you guys, like they’re your publisher. And then when you send out something that feels newsy like this, you know, you’re changing the way you’re releasing the game, that of course gets posted on Reddit immediately, it winds up on a bunch of news sites. And people read it out of the context of being a backer. What are your thoughts on that, and handling that in the future — having a group of people know what’s going on, but not everybody, and the actual press doesn’t know, really. It’s a weird line.

Schafer: I think this whole experience has shown the hazards of that. That message being us getting kind of comfortable with this relationship and with the transparency we have with our backers, because they know the whole story, and the context for every piece of news. Versus people getting the news without the context, there’s a dissonance there.

And you can see that we’re doing it differently now. I don’t wanna say that we regret it, but with Massive Chalice you can see that everything is public on Massive Chalice. And I still like the idea of there being a place that backers can talk in a private forum, because there’s a difference between people who are emotionally invested in the project, the backers, and they want to talk amongst themselves. And have some access to us that’s different.

Schafer: “And our project’s been, I think it’s more transparent than any game ever made, if you’re a backer.”

But I think, what we’ve seen since this whole thing started, is a one-way progress towards more, greater transparency the whole way. And our project’s been, I think it’s more transparent than any game ever made, if you’re a backer. And I think that transparency is growing even with Massive Chalice. You can see it’s moving more and more that way.

With Broken Age, are you guys locked into the promises you made to backers during the Kickstarter?

I feel like we made the promise to backers to have an exclusive backers’ forum, and we can’t go back on that.

But in terms of just giving more information to the public at large, do the backers feel entitled to that information?

There was an incident where I mentioned to someone in the press that Peter McConnell is going to be the composer and there were some angry backers who were like, “Why didn’t we hear about this first?” So there definitely are people who feel that way, so I want to be mindful of that. But going forward, we’re going to start to see the effects of just a normal news cycle for a game. Now is when you start to show it.

Like if you tell backers, Peter McConnell is doing the music, someone’s going to say to someone, “Hey, Peter McConnell is doing the music for this game, it’s really cool,” and then someone’s gonna post it.

Schafer: We’ve always been really good about, whatever’s gonna be public, we always try to sneak it to the backers somewhat in advance. Like what we promised them. And as we get closer, backers universally want what’s best for the project. Otherwise they probably wouldn’t have been backers. There’s very few people who backed the project who are against the project. [Laughs]

One would hope!

Schafer: But not totally! [laughs again] Anyway. They, I think, they might see the benefit of some of that stuff being public later on.

Rice: I think we’ve also talked about how there would be a more traditional PR campaign at some point for the game, and that we would start talking directly to the press and doing things that are more typical like trailers and screenshots and preview events, and stuff like that.

Having people come to your office to do interviews…

Rice [Totally not getting my joke]: Yeah, I think that it’s been difficult to get there and balance the excitement of, we’re talking so much privately, and as you saw that [announcement] got out and kinda jumped the gun a bit on what we were planning to do with our more public speaking.

But I think the other interesting point about what Tim was getting at is just this notion that we’re trying to educate our backers and show them the behind the scenes. What it’s like at a game dev studio. So that has been happening over the course of the last year, and it seemed like [backers] learned really early on that things are always moving and changing, that our schedules are kind of fluid, and that ideas of what the game is are always kind of taking shape over the course of this process. And that’s kind of the reason why people don’t talk about their games until later on.

Because it’s like, there comes a point where things are firm, and you can see what the game is, and there’s a plan towards the end that happens towards the middle of your development cycle. And that’s like, when you’re at alpha and you start going to these public events. But since we had to start talking about the game super early on with the documentary and with the backers, before we even had started pre-production or had any idea what the game is. There were just a lot of assumptions that get made, and that happens on every project. As we learned more about what the game is, those kind of solidify and take shape, and more of a plan takes place. And that’s what the backers got to see there.

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

Which is kind of an uncomfortable process, I’d imagine.

Schafer: And I think that’s why we got so much support from other developers in public blogs. Other developers like American McGee, or Brian Fargo or the Banner Saga guys, a lot of it was just like, “You guys, this is what happens on every single project.” Almost every single project has a point where they adjust the scope of the game, or they adjust the budget of the game. I don’t know if there’s ever been a game of any significant scale that started and ended on the date they they thought, on day one, when they knew nothing about the game, it was going to. So, a lot of people have been through this are seeing that this is just happening because people have not been aware of this information. Like Greg was saying, you would hear about this long after these things were all over. We’d be announcing the game right now.

That makes sense – that we’ll get used to seeing more and more of this kind of thing… or people will never show it to the public again.

Schafer: Yeah.

Rice: We talked a bit with Massive Chalice with how we decided to keep things more open and transparent, where it’s also all public, so we won’t have this weird barrier between what the public knows and what our backers know. And I think that’s really great for that game, because it’s so systemic, there’s not anything that’s gonna get spoiled so we can kind of just talk about everything. You can sit in on the meeting and you can still play the game later and not worry about it.

Schafer: You can watch someone play to the end and still want to play it.

That makes sense — and it’s sort of a challenge with story-based games, right?

Rice: Where [Broken Age] is a very narrative-focused game, so any meeting that we have, every minute, something’s gonna come up that you wouldn’t want a player to know before they play the game. So it feels like the documentary’s the perfect way to keep in communication with our fans because we can make sure none of that stuff makes its way in, but you still get a really good, open look at what’s happening day to day. So really the only advice to give to those people who might want to know more is to check out the documentary. It’s the best way to get a snapshot of what we’re trying to do here.

Yeah, that’s a real challenge. That you would have to keep spoilers out of general discussion, while trying to be transparent.

Schafer: It’s hard. It’s hard because we have some important plot-points. Like I was saying, you could show a playthrough from beginning to end of Massive Chalice to somebody and they’d still say “I wanna play that game!” If you showed a playthrough of our game, people would be like, “Well, I think I got it.”

You’d have a meeting about the big twist at the end, and everybody now knows the big twist at the end.

Schafer: And every puzzle — we’d show you play the game. We’d show you the game, and it’d be like, “Well, there’s one puzzle someone’s not going to experience, because they’re gonna get told.”

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

How have backers themselves reacted to the shift in distribution?

Schafer: In our forums when we announced it and I put up that post, it was really positive. “Oh, so I get a bigger game than originally, and I get to see it early.” Some people had concerns and questions, like, “Wait, do I have to pay for this update, or..” Once we clarified that you don’t have to pay for it, most people were really supportive of it. They knew that we were making a decision for what’s best for the game.”

Schafer: “I felt in touch with the backers enough to know that they would not have been happy with that game. Even though that was all the game they paid for… they would’ve been disappointed with it.

There was this moment where I was like, “I could cut this game down to fit,” and it would be, essentially, the scope of it would be about half of what it is now. But I felt in touch with the backers enough to know that they would not have been happy with that game. Even though that was all the game they paid for. They’d be getting the game they paid for, in the timeframe that they expected, but they would’ve been disappointed with it. Maybe that’s me projecting my own disappointment onto them, but I really think I know what would make a dense enough adventure game to feel satisfying. I think they’ll be happy with this version.

You and I have talked before about your history frustrating publishers (and their history frustrating you). I remember you told me once that one of the biggest things you’d learned from working with publishers was “don’t be late.” Are your backers finding out what it means to be Tim Schafer’s publisher? Are backers your publisher now? How are they different?

Schafer: [Backers] are totally different than working with a publisher. [Laughs] It’s so totally different. What the backers want is purely a great game. And they want to make that game happen. They’re purely interested and happy to make this great creative thing come into the world. And publishers are purely interested in the bottom line and risk mitigation.

Before a project is approved they’ll worry about, what is the return on investment? And after it’s approved going forward, how do we avoid all possible risk that this thing might not return on this investment. And that’s the only discussion you’re having with a publisher. So if I mentioned, “Hey, you guys, I want to make this game bigger than the original budget, and I would like for it to come out in April instead of this fall. Doing that will allow the game to have this many puzzles, and it’ll be this much better.”

Schafer: “What the backers want is purely a great game… They’re purely interested and happy to make this great creative thing come into the world. And publishers are purely interested in the bottom line and risk mitigation.”

And they would say, “Well, would that mean that it would also sell twice as much?” And I’d be like, “I can’t prove that on paper, that it’d sell twice as much.” And they’d be like “OK, well no. You can’t do it.”

In this case we feel like… “Will it sell twice as much?” [Laughs] “Heck yeah it’ll sell twice as much! Yeah, let’s just say that!” [laughs] No, but definitely there’s a feeling where we’re in charge of what’s right for the game. I know I know what’s right for the game, what will make this the “correct” game, a fun game, and we’re having that conversation instead of, “What’s the way to minimize risk?” and, “Can I guarantee twice as much sales if we spend twice as much?”

Rice: I think it’s also like, with a publisher we have to go to them and present the argument of why they should be giving us more money to make the game as we see it. And if they say no then we have to decide, are we going to invest our own money and time into making it happen anyway, when we know that the publisher’s gonna be the one making money off of this game? Whereas here, we’re the ones that are gonna be making money off of the game, so we could easily decide: Is this going to make the game better, and to a degree that’s gonna be worth it in the long run, because the game will be better, our fans are going to like it, and eventually, it’ll probably sell more copies.

It’s really this kind of utopian thing, where the people invested in the game only want it to be a fun, good game. They aren’t trying to make money off of it. Which is such a cool idea. But also… you guys kind of ushered in this Kickstarter age, for video game Kickstarters…

Schafer: I thought of Kickstarter.

Ah, yes, you had the idea for Kickstarter.

Schafer: I mean, there was this company in New York that had something to do with it, but mostly, yeah.

When I go to Kickstarter and I see these “normal” projects, someone wants to make a painting and they’re raising a thousand dollars for it, it’s kind of refreshing! But a lot of these big projects fall through, or are half-assed… I think the bloom is off the rose with Kickstarter a little bit. But it’s such a great idea on its surface. Where is the Kickstarter movement at right now, in terms of game development?

Schafer: It’s always been a self-correcting thing, that’s another thing that’s great about it. People might get upset about different projects being on Kickstarter that they don’t think should be on Kickstarter, and those projects will often fail. It’ll be corrected by the system itself.

I think it’s awesome that there’s projects of all different scopes, just, someone trying to do a comic book, someone trying to do an art project. And that’s an amazing thing about the Kickstarter community, everyone can find the things that they’re interested in. And if people never want to hear about video games, they never have to hear about video games on Kickstarter, right. But I don’t think the “bloom is off the rose” except for people who thought Kickstarter was something different than it was. If someone thought it was an unending pot of money that you could just reach in and any project would work.

I think a lot of backers of various projects were thinking of it as a pre-order thing, and I think it was being sold that way, “You’re basically just preordering the game, and you’ll get this sweet boxed copy” … if they ever finish the game.

Schafer: I think Kickstarter tried to correct that early on, making clear it wasn’t that, it wasn’t just a preorder thing. This is risk, you’re backing a project because you want to help them bring a creative thing into the world. And I think, like I said, it’s self-correcting, and it’s doing really well. Last year’s games… when you say a lot of them have fallen off the map, I guess I haven’t been tracking every games project that’s been on Kickstarter.

Yeah, it’s a mixed thing — John Walker at Rock, Paper Shotgun made a great list last year tracking game Kickstarters, and a lot of them weren’t where they were supposed to be. There are enough failed projects that it no longer feels like a sure thing. There are a few obvious, notable success stories, like FTL, but that rarely happens. A lot of these games are still in development, they’re still figuring it out.

Schafer: Hopefully it’ll start to be the case where a lot of those games [Wasteland, Brian Fargo’s game] start to come out.

I do like the idea that it’s self-correcting.

Schafer: And hopefully the backlash thing will be self-correcting, too. I don’t really know what’s in it for people, there are people who are angry about Kickstarter.

There are people who are just kind of angry about video games in general.

Schafer: Yeah, but, pro-video game people who are mad that I got a bunch of money for free. It really irritates them. It drives them crazy and they hate me for it. And I didn’t really see much of that hate until this gave them permission to send me the nastiest tweets I’ve ever seen.

When I think about what the decision was for me, like, “Should I make this game bigger, or should I fit it in the original scope? Do I care more about being proud of myself for making the deadline, or do I feel better about making an awesome game?” I made the choice to make the awesome game. And to get tweets about, “hashtag #prick,” “you’re a piece of shit,” just, trying to reconcile that. Why would someone get that angry about that decision?

Rice: Especially when it meant that [we] were putting an investment of [our] own money into a project.

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

Where do you think that kind of anger comes from?

Schafer: I… Um… [Long pause] I know it’s… I don’t know. Some sort of anger. There’s an anger that I didn’t deserve to get all that money for free, through Kickstarter.

There is a misconception that I’ve noticed, about Kickstarter: The money sounds like a lot more than it is.

Schafer: People thought that I got three million dollars. And that I totally spent it on my house. Which, part of me feels like I should have, because it definitely would have made my home life better. [Laughing] I could’ve gotten a second bathroom, which would have made my marriage better… there’s definitely a lot of things I would have done differently. Next time. Definitely buy a second bathroom.

It does seem like people have learned a lot about what it costs to make a video game. Like when Skullgirls raised $US150,000 to make a new character, and people thought it was too much, but then they broke it down for everyone how much it actually costs to make a character in a fighting game… that kind of thing is useful.

Schafer: I hope that’s a real lesson that really sticks. It remains to be seen whether people are really learning. But that was our whole, or at least my personal goal, why I was into 2 Player [Productions] making a documentary, I thought this was a great opportunity to show people what’s behind the curtain.

What advice would you give to people who are getting onto Kickstarter?

Schafer: I definitely would caution against just seeing it as easy money, or a sure thing that you’re entitled to. I think you have to really think about: Are you telling an interesting story by having a Kickstarter? Because I think that all those pitches on Kickstarter have to be: This is an incredible story. Like, bringing adventure games back. That was a good, compelling story.

Because if you’re just like, “Hey, we’re gonna make a game, we don’t know what it is yet, give us some money.” That wouldn’t be very inspiring to people. But this was something that I want to do, and I knew there was some mysterious number of fans out there who wanted me to do it and wanted to be a part of it. So that was a good story.

But it doesn’t have to be about an old-timer reviving an old genre. It could be, “I have this unique perspective on the world, and I want to do a game about it.” You know, “I was held hostage in a Turkish prison and now I want to make a game about it.” I don’t know why I picked that example…

That would be an interesting game!

Schafer: Yeah, I would back that project! Like, “I was in there nine years and I want to make a game about it.” I would totally back that. But whatever unique person doing a unique game in a unique way, I think that’s a great story for a pitch. You want to make sure you have a good story before you just launch your like, “Hey, I’ve got a generic game, but you’ll get a bunch of great rewards if you back it!” I think that’s the wrong way to go about it.

Rice: You’ve got to be detail-oriented, too, in your thinking, when you’re trying to set this thing up. And really think hard not about how you would pitch it to somebody who you want to ask for money, but thinking about pitching for a fan. What kind of things would fans want to know about your project?

What kind of things do fans want to know about a project?

Rice: Why is this game cool, why is it exciting, why is it something I want to play? Not like, “Why is this something that could be successful?” Which is kind of how you normally think when you’re pitching to a publisher, for instance. But I think that ultimately, my biggest thing would be trusting yourself. The Internet can be a rocky place, and there’s ups and downs, and everyone has an opinion. The nice thing about Kickstarter is that you get to hear all those opinions, to figure out what’s something you should listen to and maybe what’s something that you shouldn’t. But I think it’s important to take a step back at times and trust that you know what’s right for what your project is.

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

What advice would you have for people who have already found success on Kickstarter and are now making their games, how best to communicate with people?

Schafer: We’ve moved toward more transparency, that’s definitely a good direction to go for us. Part of that is that because we’re 100% committed to that idea, that there’s something good about being transparent. To me it feels like the only way to go. Because otherwise you’ll get into this murky, half-truth situation where you’re still managing your message so much that it’s not really teaching anybody anything. Because you’re only telling the good side of the story, which I think makes it harder for everybody else.

[To Rice] Do you think everybody should be transparent? It’s just what we want to do. I don’t know if it works for everybody. I kinda wish everyone would [be transparent].

Well, tell me about it. We feel the same way; every time we talk to someone about a game and they say, “We’re not talking about the rocket launcher yet,” and they’ll say things like that and it’s really frustrating, like, “Really? Can you just talk about the rocket launcher?” And they say, “We’re not talking about that yet.” That’s a very common refrain that the press hears.

Schafer: But imagine if you put a rocket launcher in, and then you ran out of money and you needed to take the rocket launcher out, and then everyone’s sending you hate mail.

Right, ha, that’s true. And that would be the Kotaku post, “There’s No Longer A Rocket Launcher In This Game!”

Schafer: The Kotaku post would be: “SOMEHOW, there’s no longer a rocket launcher in this game.” Because that’s what Kotaku likes to say. [Schafer was taking a jab at our headline about Broken Age‘s new launch plans.]

Oh yeah? [Laughing] OK, sometimes. Sometimes.

Schafer: Of course, the most important piece of [Kickstarter] advice: Make sure your video is under four minutes long. My personal pet peeve. Just come on.

Rice:Massive Chalice

Schafer: [Massive Chalice] was four minutes and three seconds, wasn’t it?

Rice: It was seven minutes.

Schafer: Seven minutes, really? That wasn’t seven minutes!

Brad [Muir] likes to talk, I guess.

Schafer: Oh, that’s just because Brad likes to talk. If you cut all the Brad stuff…

Tim Schafer’s Great Video Game Experiment

So, any final thoughts?

Schafer: The ending of [this] is that I feel like I stopped getting the hate; maybe after this comes out I’ll stop getting the hate tweets. I feel like it died down really quickly. In one way [the fallout from the split launch] was like a really terrible event but it also made us closer to our backers.

Because we saw in some ways a lot of the fruits of a lot of that transparency with our backers. You would see an article that would come out that would have a misleading headline like, “Double Fine is out of money,” or they’re asking backers for more money, or something like that. And for the first time the comments were easier to read than the articles. Because the comments were from backers correcting mistakes in the articles.

Saying, “No, they’re not asking for more money, they’re doing this…” and “We have actually known about the schedule for months now,” and all this. We found this wave of correcting information coming from backers. So we had this truth army coming out in our defence, and that was really touching to us to see that they felt so close to the project that they wanted to defend it instead of just backing away from it. Having a lot of people who had our backs was really touching, and a nice reward for all the openness we were showing.

I would imagine you’re kind of a hard guy to stay angry at.

Schafer: There were some people… someone sent a tweet that said, “Tim’s like the Alan Moore of games, where I really like his products but I wish he’d get beat up.” I was like… “Wow! What did I do to this guy?” [Rice starts laughing] And also in the end, the other reason we don’t have any regrets is that we had some people ask for refunds. And we had to refund about six hundred bucks, of people’s money who were mad. So obviously some backers were mad.

But in that same period we made about $4000 of people coming and backing the project who hadn’t heard of it before, and other backers putting in more money. So, in the end it was more positive than negative. Even financially.

And that’s that for my chat with Schafer and Rice. We covered a few more side-topics, which I’ll have up in separate articles in the near future on Kotaku, and I’ll also have my impressions of Broken Age itself early next week.


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