Double Fine's Tim Schafer has further outlines some on his thoughts on the nature of working with large publishers as part of an independent studio making smaller marketplace releases rather than attempting huge triple-A games. In a recent interview, he suggested that the smaller development cycle involve, married to the reduced risk in terms of time and money, means he's having a lot more fun.
"It’s very hard to convince a publisher to give a lot of money for a new IP, a risky IP, especially when there are some really big, safe bets they can make," Schafer says, talking to VG247's Pat Garratt.The more money you take from a publisher the less autonomy you have. We have a great relationship with Microsoft on this project; they let us make the game exactly like we wanted to make it. But we were asking for a small enough amount of money."
Of course, Double Fine weren't always in that position, and the move came relatively soon after Schafer's paean to heavy metal: the open world, action-strategy title Brütal Legend. Known for he grand visions and spectacular creativity, Schafer's big games have always been instantly recognisable, but not necessarily commercially successful.
"You know, Brütal Legend was a big expensive game, and I don’t know if we could sell something like that right now. Well, I can tell you, we probably can’t – it’s really hard to. It’s the end of the console cycle and people are being less and less experimental with new IP. There are a lot of pressures that make it more advantageous to an indie developer to do smaller games because the less money you’re spending the more autonomy and control you have."
It's not just the bottom line, though; the new development model means that creatively Double Fine get to try out plenty of different things and explore more ideas than they would have been able ot previously.
"In our first ten years we only made two games, and [following Brütal Legend] we’ve shipped four," he continues. "February 1 we’re shipping – in the States – Happy Action Theater and a DLC pack for Iron Brigade. That’s the first time we’re shipping two things on the same day. It’s fun, because we get to try a lot of different things. Instead of taking a huge bet on one game every four years, we’re a lot better off to take smaller bets on a couple of games a year."
Double Fine's new Kinect title - Happy Action Theater - is out tomorrow in the US for 800 Microsoft Points.