Interview: Tim Schafer

Interview: Tim Schafer
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

June 14th 2010 at 8:30AM

We talk with the development legend about his upcoming trip to Brighton

What better way for Tim Schafer to prepare for his speech at this summer’s Develop Conference in Brighton than to chat with Will Freeman?

What motivated you to head to Brighton for the Develop Conference? What do hope to take from the event?
The people running the Develop Conference made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. And they said UK audiences are so polite that they will laugh at my jokes even if they are not funny. Also, they said there was good taffy at the Brighton Pier. So I hope to take some of that away from the event.

And what topics do you plan to tackle when you speak at the Develop Conference?
Hopefully I can pull an insight or two from the last 20 years of making games that will be helpful to people. Otherwise, I’ll just look like a complete idiot up there. But that could be good, too, because people will be inspired – “If that idiot can make it in the games industry, then so can I!” If all else fails, I know some yo-yo tricks.

Brütal Legend’s game world was a fantastically rich one, with an interesting collision between the genre of fantasy and metal LP covers. Could you shed some light on the kind of design process gives birth to such a depth of detail?
Start with an idea that really inspires you personally – for me that was Heavy Metal. The music, the personalities, the clothes, and the album covers – it’s a rich source of material and I love it all. So that motivated me and gave me most of my ideas for the game. It’s important to start from a place of personal inspiration, because games are hard to make, and when the going gets tough you’ll want something you can hang on to and say, “Oh yeah. That’s why I’m making this game.”

What do you think about dynamic storytelling’s possible renaissance as a result of Heavy Rain? Do you see it as applicable to the kind of games that Double Fine make?
I never thought dynamic storytelling ever went away. Heavy Rain is definitely an interesting game. It’s nice to see a game try out something new like that. I think we’ll be trying out new ways to tell stories for as long as we have a games industry.

Can you see yourself getting involved with the ongoing boom in small-scale iPhone and browser-based games?
Some of the recent downloadable games have managed to retain their big-game production values, and I think that is really interesting. Just because you want to play a short game, doesn’t mean you want to play a cheap-looking game. I think there is a big future in small, beautiful, well crafted games. I can see Double Fine making all kinds of games. Give us enough time and we’ll try everything.

How do current technological developments in games design inform your creative decisions? Does this side of the industry still excite you?
I am usually more excited by creative ideas on the design side, and when it comes to tech like new controllers I take more of a ‘wait and see’ approach. Except I am very excited about Natal. I think if Natal is a success, it could open video games up to a whole new market. And possibly cause me to lose 30 pounds.

Most of your work is famed for being funny. Why do you think it is that the majority of game developers seem to shy away from comedy?
Risk aversion is a big part of games production now, and adding comedy to a game is always risky. Whenever you write a joke there is always the risk that people won’t laugh, and that’s scary. Or maybe they just know something I don’t.

Do any areas of the games industry or games design right now make you despair, or are you still optimistic about the sector?

I think it is still the case that if you work hard enough you can get any game made you want, or make any game you’re working on a great game. And because of that I am still optimistic about the games industry. As long as there are new people entering the industry every year who are willing to challenge people’s expectations about what a game can be, then games have a bright future.

---

Recently the finalists for the Develop Awards were confirmed.

To book your place at the event contact Kathryn.Humphrey@intentmedia.co.uk, or download the booking form here.
 


There are a number of promotional possibilities at the event that include category and award sponsorship. Contact Katie.Rawlings@intentmedia.co.uk for more information on how you can get involved.