GAME 260, Week 13

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Epilogue

“Is there a way to make great video games without that sort of sacrifice? Is it possible to develop a game without putting in endless hours? Will there ever be a reliable formula for making games that allows for more predictable schedules?” (273)

“‘Making a game… it attracts a certain type of workaholic personality,’ said Obsidian’s audio director, Justin Bell. ‘It just requires a certain kind of person who’s willing to put in more time…. Crunch sucks. It fucks your life up. You emerge from crunch and I’ve got kids. I’ll see my kids, and I’ll look at them, and I’ll [think], ‘Wow, six months have passed, and you are a different person now. And I wasn’t there’” (274)

Commentator’s Note: Saying that games attracts this personality naturalizes workaholism. It doesn’t have to be this way.

“when I wonder how a bad video game turned out the way it did, that’s the image that comes to mind: a room full of developers, setting themselves on fire. Maybe that’s how video games are made” (275)

PsychOdyssey, eps. 30-32

Episode 30: Time Away

The team adjusts to working from home during the pandemic, pushing the release date out even further. —Episode Description

“You think it’s going to get better. And then you read the news, and then you get really sad, because it’s not. And it feels like just nothing really is going to change” —Kee Chi

“When we had our one year out meeting, one of the risks was not worldwide global pandemic. That wasn’t actually on our risk list. We didn’t really have any mitigation steps for that one” —Caryl Shaw

“For scheduling purposes, realized that Hollis is two or three levels. But we’ve just been calling it one level … that realization, I think, made the whole team feel like: ‘Well, we can’t get this done by the milestone. We can get this part of it done.’ And I think it’s recovered from that, in that we’ve made the schedule more honestly reflect the work to be done in that level” —Tim Schafer

About Seth Marinello’s promotion to Lead Designer: “The project has been through so many conflicts, and some ugly times. And Seth has always been just very positive and pushing forward solutions. Like: ‘Oh, here is a design doc! Here, I designed this thing that’s not designed yet. Here it is!’ I’ve always appreciated his ability to just focus on what’s the work that we need to do and get it done” —Schafer

Episode 31: Making the Best of It

Intense political happenings, raging wildfires and general unrest cast a dark shadow over the studio as they struggle to finish Psychonauts 2. —Episode Description

“This December is a really special month for the project, because it’s our last chance to put anything new in the game” —Schafer

“I don’t want to lie to people and say we are at Alpha, when we are not. But I also don’t want people to feel that it’s possible to add features next milestone. I like that we’ve totally broken the production process so much, we can’t even use the language of it anymore” —Schafer

Episode 32: The Journey They’ve Been On

The team pushes on towards the game’s imminent release as they fight to stay true to the heart of Double Fine. —Episode Description

“The progress is great. We are making tons of progress. But there is still a lot to do. And today they showed the date for a candidate for submission. And I’m not sure. I’m not sure. My gut is like: ‘That’s… pretty early… for what we have left’” —Ray Crook

“If they don’t want people crunching, I’m not really sure how are we going to make it. I think people’s health, it’s definitely very, very important to keep that in mind. You know, with Psychonauts 1, disregard for health was kind of… We were younger too, but still… we weren’t thinking about that, you know? And that was kind of actually quite dangerous” —Crook

“Especially when things get really stressful. The communication overhead is incredibly tiring. And obviously it’s hard for everyone, but it’s even harder on leads. Making sure that that communication happens has definitely been a challenge” —Chi

“I mean, when Lisette mentioned people being checked out and stuff, it’s like: ‘Of course there is going to be, on a five-year project there is going to be a lot of fatigue. And in quarantine there is going to be a lot of fatigue. And when the world falls apart there is a lot of fatigue’” —Schafer

“You just get this weird sinking feeling when you look at Jira every morning. Being like: ‘Uh… I feel like we are just falling further and further behind’” —Seth Marinello

“The truth of the matter is we have to cut down the work. If he is not doing that… I have had conversations with him… recently where I’ve said things like: ‘I know that you asked for that two years ago. I know there were notes for it. And here are the many reasons why we can’t do it now’” —Shaw

“You know, a very close parallel is how things went on Psychonauts 1. When we just knew we didn’t have enough time. And then we just crunched. It was just crunch, crunch, crunched. I think there is always going to be a temptation to want to do that just to get things done, especially when things seem impossible” —Chi

“There is the, like: ‘Oh, you’ve never worked on a Tim Schafer game. This is what working on a Tim Schafer game is like.’ And I’m like: ‘By this, what do we mean?’ Because in some ways it’s funny. But at this point, when we have three months left, I’m like: ‘It’s kind of not funny anymore.’ So I kind of blame that mindset on why we are here now. Which is like: ‘It’s okay if we don’t have stuff done yet, because it’s a Tim Schafer game. Everything comes together at the last minute.’ I’m like: ‘But there is a lot of everything’” —Naoko Takamoto

“If you have a project that is primarily creatively driven, it is really hard to do schedules. Like with a Tim game where he is doing a lot of the writing right up till the end, using cutscenes and adding new content in to smooth out areas that aren’t necessarily smooth, that is a really hard way to do production” —Shaw

“I think at this point in the process we are trying to choose what we are willing to live with. I always say… ‘Games are never finished, they are just abandoned.’ And it’s just like: ‘What are we willing to abandon? And what do we have to finish?’” —Lisette Titre-Montgomery

“The thing I’d want to tell myself is: ‘Hey, let everyone know that we have three years left. Not, like… eight months.’Because the hardest thing about this project has been the fact that we thought we had four months left for three years” —James Marion

“I only applied for one job in the industry, and it was working at Double Fine. It was a dream job. And this has not been a dream project. But I guess the bright side is there is nothing about my experience in the last four years that made me less excited to work with any of my coworkers” —Marion

“I think, overall, if you are coming to Double Fine for a fantasy land, you are just going to be disappointed. It’s still a place of business. It’s still a company. We still make games. And all the drama and tension that comes with making games comes with making games no matter where you are at. And I think a lot of the people who left were expecting Double Fine to be a utopia. And it’s not” —Titre-Montgomery

“I watched the Broken Age documentary between getting hired and showing up for work. I probably watched that documentary three times. And that was probably the reason the project has been just so difficult. There was such a cognitive dissonance between, like: ‘I love Double Fine. And here is what I think I know about Double Fine. And this is not the way my job is. This is not the way I am interacting with people, or the way the project is going’” —Marion

Jira goes down, Perforce goes down, then actual server infrastructure melts down.

“It wouldn’t be a major milestone day, if there wasn’t some sort of horrible, catastrophic failure. It’s the way the universe works” —Aaron Jacobs

“Product-wise, consumer-wise, it is a thing that you play for a little bit, and then you have memories of it, but then you move on. But this is the product of the last five years of our lives! Of all our collective shared experiences together. And knowing that those five years culminated in this thing, it’s more about the making of it than what we’ve created. And I think it is just a bonus that what we created is something that we feel is great” —Chi

“A little while back we started out trying to make a game about a young boy who is an acrobat and also psychic. And we had a lot of great ideas. And it was really hard. You know, took some time to find the fun of the game. We had some turmoil. Some people left. And then we lost our publisher. And then it was a big struggle. But then! We found a new partner. And through the heroic efforts of the team that game got finished, and people liked it. In 2005. I’m talking about Psychonauts 1. And in the ten years before the start of Psychonauts 2 we learned so much, and we got so smart that none of those challenges faced us again. And it was perfect, and it was simple, and it was easy” —Schafer

“There is a bunch of people, you just made their favorite game. Of all time. And that’s going to matter to them. It’s going to matter to you for a long time” —Schafer

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