Cheese talks to: Lee Petty (as a part of the Double Fine Game Club)

Last month, for the Double Fine Game Club (a community run weekly event where we play through and discuss what we do and don't like about a game - sort of like a book club, but for games), we began our playthrough/discussion of Stacking.

As a part of this, I had the pleasure of conducting a live interview with Lee Petty on behalf of Game Club, relaying questions from listeners in IRC about the game and Lee's history (much as I did with the previous Double Fine games we've played)

For anybody who finds the stream archive (part 1, part 2) of the interview less accessible/searchable/quoteable, I've made this transcript (complete with time indexes). Enjoy!

00:47 Hi, and Welcome to the Double Fine Game Club's first session of Stacking!

My name is Cheese, and this week we're opening with something a little special, a live chat with Stacking's lead developer Lee Petty!

Lee, how're you going?

Hello! Hi! Thanks for having me.

Thanks for joining us.

Yeah. And you know what? I love talking to people with an Australian accents, because I like to imagine that I'm on the set of Road Warrior at this point.


So just, yeah. I just thought I'd open with that. In my mind, you're sort of like dressed like Lord Humungus right now.

I am.


01:27 So, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit of background?

Sure. Let's see, what's interesting. I guess I've been in games for about eighteen years, which means I'm quite old.


Before getting in games, I was working a little bit in the comic book industry and I actually used to do compositing editing for film and video. And then I got into games and... Let's see, where did I start in games? I started at a company called Accolade back in the mid 90s

Oh, nice.

And worked on some games in the Star Control franchise, worked on a game called S -

[At this point, we had a technical malfunction causing the call to be dropped. Lee speaks to himself until we get things back up]

03:20 Okay, real quick, I don't remember where I left off. I worked on a whole bunch of stuff at Accolade. I think my first 7 years in the game industry I shipped a game every year, which meant that every single summer, I was crunching, which was awesome and great for meeting the ladies as you can imagine.


And then I actually co-founded a studio back in gee, when was it? 1999, 2000 called Circus Freak Studios.


And we didn't last very long, just a couple years, but we actually shipped a Superman game, believe it or not. Superman: Man of Steel on the Xbox. A whole bunch of cutscene cinematics for other games, and we had an original game I was developing called Evil Genius that nearly signed with Microsoft, and we didn't sign it. And then we went out of business, so. And then from there I went and worked at Crystal Dynamics for five and a half years or so, and worked on a number of different things. And I've been at Double Fine now for about seven years, so there's my brief history.


04:26 So, when you started at Double Fine, was Brütal Legend your first project?

Yes. That is correct.

And you were art director on that.

Yes. And now, that project had started before I joined, but like a lot of - like Psychonauts and before Brütal Legend was like a five year project, maybe four years. And basically the first good chunk of that project's development was primarily tech development and a lot of concept art, so by the time I joined they had some prototypes of multiplayer working, and hadn't really started the single player game yet. So, yeah.

05:06 And then during Brütal Legend's development, the Amnesia Fortnight thing started happening, and that's how we got to Stacking.

Yeah. Yeah, so we were... we were still working on Brütal Legend, and it must've been pretty close to the end though. This was the second Amnesia Fortnight that Double Fine had ever done. They'd done one before that, right before I started, so I just barely missed it. And I'd been talking to Tim[1] about a game idea I had, although it had nothing to do with Russian dolls at that time - stacking dolls, and I got the chance to lead a project, and that was also the time that Costume Quest was being done by Tasha[2], during the same Amnesia Fortnight.

And we finished the Amnesia Fortnight and we thought we were going to be working on Brütal Legend 2. We'd actually already started some preproduction on it and we went away for I think it was Thanksgiving break, and when we came back, Tim was like, "Well Brütal Legend 2 got canceled. How would you like to pitch Stacking the day after tomorrow?"


So I had to immediately put together a presentation, and then you know, you fly around, drive around, talk to a bunch of publishers. Try and convince them to give you money. I had to sell the idea that adult men playing with dolls was a good thing, but it was actually a really cool experience.

That's great.

06:27 I see Taekon in chat is asking how Stacking changed from that early pre-Amnesia Fortnight pitch that you mentioned, before it had dolls involved.

Yeah, so originally, and this was probably a year before Amnesia Fortnight, I had this idea for wanting to do something that was more German expressionistic influenced, so it was actually black and white, and it was more mask influenced. And I think for some reason it was more a little more abstract and maybe a little darker, and I think Limbo came out during that time period and I was like, "Oh! Someone else already did a black and white expressionistic influenced game," although the gameplay was quite different. And then, I just randomly one night I drew a set of dolls that told the story of Little Red Riding Hood through dolls, through Stacking dolls. So, it was like... I don't remember what the centre doll was, but it was like, each of the dolls, each of the main characters of the story gets stacked in one another and like the final doll was like Grandmother's house or something.


And I just showed that to Tim, and I was like, "I'm thinking about this now." And he was like, "Oh, that's really cool." And then I just sort of pitched people on this idea for Amnesia Fortnight. I still have that presentation around somewhere about... stacking dolls. But I didn't really pitch it on - I wasn't sure mechanically where it was going to go. I didn't really sort of frame it in an adventure game context, and then that just sort of came out during the Amnesia Fortnight actual production.

Yeah, nice.

08:07 I see Flesk has asked, what are the secrets, or rather how many are there so that they don't get spoiled.


In Stacking.

Let's see. Man. Well, it depends what you mean by secrets. There are some bad puns in there that refer to other games that you can find where you would see, I guess trying to spoil, where you might see written, the written word, where you might see text in the game. And then there are some characters from some of the other games hidden in there. Maybe the ending area maybe has three, I want to say.

Three. Cool.

08:56 Taekon is also asking, did you sneak any references to real life people in the game? We all know somebody hid a photo of their partner in Psychonauts.


I don't - let's see, I don't generally do that, but I did have a couple random things that were in. So, umm... one of the characters are these two sort of hillbilly characters on the steam ship named Billy and Bobby Webb. Those are actually the names of some of my great uncles, who I've never met. So my Mom's family are a bunch of hillbillies from like, West Virginia. They're all, like, when she was young, they were, I don't know, coal miners and such. And so, I haven't actually met - I've met a small fraction of my family from that part of the world, but I always heard about these two guys named Billy and Bobby Webb which apparently were wealthy hillbillies. And they were twins, so for some reason I put them in the game. [laugh] I don't know why.

But I don't generally... I don't think I've put any actual like, real people I know in games. I don't usually wind up doing that. I usually just sort of like, pluck little elements or names from maybe people I've known or things that I've done.

Yeah, OK.

10:08 Permafry is asking whether the game had always been named Stacking and how you feel about that.

Yeah, I know, it's funny. It was, like when I pitched it, I pitched it as "Stacking", and Tim said, "You know that name sucks?" And I said, "Well, yes. Okay."


And I still think to this day it was probably a mistake to call it that, because I think it really leads people - like maybe it's more of a match 3 game or something. But I asked, including Tim, for like, for name ideas, and we spent a lot of time on it and no one ever really came up with anything they liked. I think at one point I had come up with the idea that it was going to be called The Stacking Adventures of Little Charlie Blackmore, just as a longer name. But then right around that time somebody came out with a game called The Misadventures of P. T. Winterbottom, so then we sort of abandoned that idea. So, you know, I don't think I was really happy with the name. It's accurate in some ways [laugh] but it's not very exciting. It doesn't really spark the imagination in any way.

11:14 We have... Taekon's asking which ability in Stacking is your favourite, or which are your top three.

Well, flatulate is definitely my favourite. [laugh] It's actually funny how the origin of that ability was that, we were working on the product - working on the game, and basically I was the one who was sort of placing the locations of all the dolls and scripting their basic behaviour for moving through the levels. And it was a new system so I was working with Chad, our lead programmer to sort of ask for different things they could do like while on patrols and stuff, so I said, "Well what if I could go to, what if I could tell a doll that when you reach this waypoint, just use your ability randomly," and he said, "Why would you want to do that?" and I was like, "Well, for example, if I wanted you know, him to kind of walk through a crowd of people and crop dust them, just fart on a group of people and walk away, that'd be a really awesome thing to see, and you'd think that these dolls are a little smarter than they are and they each have their own little inner lives they're acting out on their little paths." And so I was like, "Oh, I guess I should put a doll in who flatulates." So I just always kind of remember that ability, just because it was tied to this feature I was asking for. Not really a useful feature, but it was actually in the Amnesia Fortnight.

So, the Amnesia Fortnight actually, the abilities we had the seductress, we had the flatulator, we had the screaming mom, and we had guy with the wrench... Trying to think... and we had a couple of other little fun ones. But actually, you know in the Amnesia Fortnight prototype, one of the biggest differences was that I hadn't developed any story for it. So you weren't actually playing Charlie Blackmore, and there wasn't a tiny doll. When you actually unstacked all the way down, you were this floating essence, and you could kind of like glide through walls and float around the space a bit. And you were kind of invisible to the rest of the world. Just because we needed something in there as the core that you as they player were different, but we hadn't really - you know, Amnesia Fortnight is such a frenetic pace, we didn't really have time to develop stories or anything at that point.

I think the story gels well with Charlie as a character.

Yeah, you know it was funny because when I was talking to Tim, and I would just you know, Tim and I would meet once a week during the project and I would just sort of say, "Hey, here's some of the stuff I'm thinking about, what do you think about this?" And he, now he said - I was talking to him about characters and what we would do, and he suggested, I think it was a really, incredibly smart suggestion, to not get too abstract with this idea. So, you know, the idea that by keeping it grounded, you know, there's a physicality that everyone understands. I don't need to explain that the dolls stack into each other, because it just sort of makes sense if you've at all ever seen a Russian stacking doll, as opposed to being some sort of like, I don't know, disembodied ghost that's possessing people. There's a certain logic to it. So, keeping it about like, a family or certain specific characters was his suggestion, and then I've always been a fan of Charles Dickens and I sort of thought of the main character as being a bit like Oliver. I don't know where the child labour thing came from other than, you know I'd mentioned earlier about my family and grandfather was an immigrant to the States, and he worked in a coal mine when he was like 13, and his family was really poor, and so I guess I just sort of took a little inspiration off that and a little bit of Dickens and then just came up with this family of chimney sweeps.

14:55 It's amazing to think that Stacking began as a creepy doll possession game.

[laugh] Yeah, I mean, it wasn't - it was still, you know, it was still very similar.


Like, it still looked and felt the same, and it was still funny. But yeah, we just, at the time, you know, there wasn't any time to really think about what that character was, or what that thing was you were doing. And I was, I was also really influenced by the Brothers Quay stop motion animation films, which are incredibly creepy and really amazing. And I had written this whole sequence actually, before we started. It was like day one Amnesia Fortnight and I had just posted this few page story for the team that was pretty abstract. It was about... it took place at a train station, and you saw a mom dropping her kids off from school, and she did that by unstacking children out of her and into the train. [laugh] Which is a little weird. And then you kind of went past that in this sort of cutscene story type thing and you went through like, this mouth that was a door and inside there was a guard who would flip and stuff vertically and land and be a different doll based on how you were dressed. And umm... and I think some of those ideas, like the fancy dress dolls being allowed access to certain things, and that kind of social angle, like there's a... there's some puzzles where it's based on just the doll's social appearance, like are you a lady, are you a man, are you wealthy or higher upper class or lower class? Some of that sort of made its way through out the game still.

Yeah, cool.

16:24 I see Mim's asking me if you can describe the difference between being an Art Director and a Project Lead.

Yeah. So... first of all, I will say that both of those titles have... they're not standardised across the industry, so every job I've ever worked has a slightly different definition for those positions, but in general, when you're the art director, you are in charge of the overall look and feel of the game and making sure it's executed properly. So, oftentimes you may or may not be managing the art team directly. You may or may not be building the art team or hiring the art team. You certainly always work with other disciplines, like design and programming and sometimes the Creative Director - well, if there is a Creative Director, always the Creative Director as well - to make sure that all those things get taken care of. Now, some Art Directors also contribute a lot to the conceptual development, some don't. It just really kind of depends on the position and how big the team is. And a Project Lead at Double Fine is basically a Creative Director position, so it's kind of like mostly a Creative Director position, where you're kind of responsible for the overall ideas of the game and the overall experience of the game, but because the teams are relatively small, you're also responsible for helping manage the project, and you know, we do have Producers that help out, but it's rare that we get a full time Producer on each of the projects. In the case of me on Stacking, I wound up doing... I wound up still doing the art direction, I wrote the entire game and did design nearly all the puzzles, and then did some design implementation as well, in terms of you know, scripting the dialogue and scripting the moving around the world and all that sort of stuff.

18:18 I see Taekon's asking here, if you were an actual stacking doll yourself, what would be your ability.

[laugh] Wow. Let's see... probably something about a potty mouth. I think that's probably...


What would be my ability? I don't know. Enormous forehead? Umm... I don't know. I wish I had a clever answer for that. I don't have a clever answer for that, I'm sorry. [laugh]

That's alright.

18:46 [Question from Permafry] Are you aware of the Stacking reference in Little Inferno?

No. No, I've played that game.

I've played it too, but I don't remember.

Is there something about burning a - that you get to burn a matryoshka in that game or something?

Maybe. Maybe Permafry can elaborate.

I even met the guy who was responsible for making that game and he didn't mention anything.

It's all good.


19:07 Taekon has asked, have you ever and are you ever planning to participate in a 24 hour comic day?

I have never done that, no. I would like to. It would be pretty cool to do sometime. I've done a few, you know, 24 hour, 48 hour game jams, but I've not done the comic thing. It would be pretty interesting. It's been a while since I just sat down and tried to work on storytelling through comics, so yeah.

19:37 So on your blog, you've been showing that you've been doing some sketching during your commute. Is that something that you're going to continue to do, do you think? Your trackpad sketches.

Umm... yeah, probably not. I do it occasionally just, most of the time the train for me is actually a really productive time. For example, I wrote the entirety of Stacking on the train, and designed most of the puzzles on the train. So, I usually use the train time as my kind of organisation, or email or writing design time. But I do, like when I was working on Brütal Legend, and I didn't have to do most of the other stuff, I did do a lot of like rough concept work on the train as well. So, recently I was just wanting to do some simple little concepts, and I was using my thumb on the trackpad on my MacBook on the train - which is an interesting exercise in frustration, but still kind of fun. You know, you can't be too picky with the results because [laugh]

I think there's some great stuff that's come out of that.

Oh, thanks. Yeah, it's fun. It's fun. It's different, and so umm... yeah. I don't know. I think it's good to always switch media and try different things. You know, like I actually spent a huge chunk of my early video game career only working in 3D. I really didn't do a whole lot of 2D stuff because, you know, back then there weren't any concept artists and if you an artist working on a game, you typically did all of that, right? You'd do some initial sketches, you'd do all your models, you'd do your textures, you'd light. You'd often animate it as well, and or did your integration. So, you know, I sort of spent a lot of time doing 3D work, and then at Double Fine I've done a lot more sort of 2D work while I've been there, but it's fun! I think it's just good to switch media and switch the way you work, just to kind of get you out of - I've never really been an artist who's tried to develop a single sort of signature style, because I like creating a style or working in a style for the game that I'm working in as opposed to just trying to bring some arbitrary personal style to every game I'm working on. Of course, there's - every artist has their own interest and such, but I don't know, I think it's more interesting to do it that way.

21:53 Umm... I see a question, asking whether or not it was challenging to design the characters in Stacking to fit the same, more or less, visual template of the stacking dolls.

You know, it was actually at first, it was really kind of frustrating, but it actually became really, really awesome, rewarding to do that. You know, they all had the exact same model, so when we started Amnesia Fortnight for it, like the weekend before, I just went and modeled all the dolls we going to use. And, so those are still the dolls we shipped the game with. They didn't actually change, and the way it worked on the game side is we had the single model - one for each size, I guess. And, we would just sort of use our system to override the particular texture, so they all sort of had the exact same model, so when I would do the concept work for it, I had like a template I had drawn based on the outline of the model, and could just open that and just draw on them. I mentioned earlier that Levi Ryken did most of the actual textures in the game. And he did some of the concepts, and I did quite a bit of the doll concepts, and the reason why we wanted to have - in addition to being an awesome artist, the reason why we had Levi do all the textures is we wanted the same hand on the final linework. And he [laugh] he probably hated me by the end of the project, but I did have him do about a 120 - I think we have about 120 or so dolls in there, and he did you know, probably at least 100 of them, probably a little bit more in terms of the final textures. But I tried to do a lot of the conceptual design, and I usually would do that at night, from my home, just because during the day, you know, I'd be running the project or getting all the design work where I needed to have the tools and the engine running live, and all that sort of stuff.

So, umm... I forgot the original question. Now I'm just going to ramble. Is that right?

Umm... I've forgotten it too [laugh] So, yes! That's it exactly.

23:54 Umm... Taekon was asking, if there was a sequel to Stacking, what features do you think it would have that the original game didn't?

Oh my god, I already wrote the sequel to Stacking!


I won't tell you... There's actually - it's a huge, crazy surprise at the end of it story wise. I won't say it, but I will tell you a couple of things that I really was unhappy with ultimately - you know, as artists are, all I can see when I see anything I worked on is everything I dislike about it, but I think there were a couple of things that we wanted to do in the initial - we didn't have much time and we did this thing in less than a year with a relatively small team, so we just didn't really have the time, but one of the things was this concept of additive abilities, which would be that the dolls inside would affect the abilities of the doll on the... of the outermost doll. So, I actually had some concepts of that, and I'll give you a random example: so like, if we had these dolls that... let's say there's two dolls. There's a smaller and a larger doll, and the small doll is a dynamo, right, so he can generate electricity. He has like... I think in the drawing he has his finger out like a 'pull my finger', but it would just like zap people and give a little shock. And the bigger doll would have a magnet on his head, so it could attract certain things. So, if you were to stack the dynamo inside the magnet doll, the doll on the outside would change to be an electromagnet, which would like increase its abilities and pull. So, the idea would be that we would have the matched stacking sets in the game have additional additive abilities to make those umm... make some of the more advanced puzzles a little bit more challenging and complex, and we just didn't get a chance to do that. And then, the other thing is... I was in a really, really mixed mind about the cutscenes, and end of the day, there are way too many cutscenes in the game, and I really... I think I fell in love too much with the idea of everything taking place on a stage play, but the problem is, I think they just disrupt the flow of the game too much at the frequency they're at, and I'd really play that down quite a bit, if [I'd] have them at all.

And I like the idea... my favourite thing about the structure of the game was that once you're in an environment, you can do the puzzles in any order you want and you could do as many challenge solutions as you want, so the opening level in the game - the sequel that may never happen [laugh] plays in an orphan's workhouse. So, you are a different character than Charlie... I won't explain the relationship, but you're basically - there was this whole routine going on in this workhouse, and you were sort of... your ultimate goal was to like break all the kids out of this workhouse, but it was a little bit more - you'd have like, day and night cycles, it was a lot more open in terms of how you interacted with people and could kind of exist in this space. So, I guess if anything I was going to try to make it even more open in terms of structure so the player could just spend more time in the space if they want, have more choice about how they approach the puzzles and have it feel a little less funneled than the original.

That's pretty cool. And I'd spotted the example of the electromagnetic doll on Twitter as well, so if anybody's kind of keen to see that concept art, that's hiding up there.

Oh, that's right. I tweeted - I was digging through some things and found a bunch of Stacking 2 things, so.

Yeah, cool.

27:09 And coming back to the umm... the Russian mythology references, there's also some concept art of like a Baba Yaga hut there as well, which is cool.

Yeah, you know, when we started... So, after Amnesia Fortnight, when we were actually starting production of it, we spent - one of the partners we were talking to who was potentially going to fund the game said, "Hey, have you ever thought about doing just straight up Russian mythology?" And I did, before I went in there, but I think I was really interested in the... just some of the other influences of the game. But I did spend a while and I designed three or four different missions - I have some, actually some princess art too from that that I have never posted.


I can tweet you those. They're somewhere on my hard drive.

But yeah, so one of them of course, involved the Baba Yaga forest. There was a... I'm forgetting all the particular Russian mythology, but there's some really bad shit in that stuff that's just awesome, and one of them involved going to the underworld and rescuing... and the Baba Yaga shows up in multiple tales. She was kind of a combination of characters that all kind of got coalesced as Baba Yaga, but there were the three different princesses, there was a copper, silver and gold princess. I think it was called like The Three [Tsarevna] Of The Underworld or something like that[3]. And there was another one where you actually fly a magical horse to go out to an entire city that's on the back of a whale. So, actually I was really excited about potentially taking a lot of those ideas and kind of bringing like a miniature aesthetic to them, kind of a diorama aesthetic and exploring that, but... and then I thought, "Well maybe we'll get to do it as a DLC," because we did The Hobo King DLC[4], but I designed another two DLCs that we haven't done, and one of them was multiplayer, a two player co-op specific experience that was umm... I stole a little bit of that for kind of the zombie ghoul sequence in The Hobo King, but originally it was a multiplayer experience called Fat Man And Little Boy, named after America's first two nuclear bombs. But the Fat Man was the larger guy, who was impervious to certain type of zombie attacks, and he could carry Little Boy inside - this is sounding really disturbing - he could carry Little Boy inside of him, who could then unstack to do different actions. So, you had to... you had to cooperate at times, and stack together and use combo abilities by timing your attacks, and... anyways. So, we had that, and then we did have a Russian mythology one where Charlie was talking about one of his ancestors, his ancient ancestors, and that was another DLC that would have been Russian mythology based.

That's kind of cool.

29:47 So, I see Permafry has asked what it was like to do concept art for the environments of the game and see that realised into the 3D environments - do you feel your original core concept ended up being represented through all the stages of development into the final game?

Yeah. Well you know, I think whenever you're working on a project and you're working with other people, you know, it's always important to remember that it's not one person's vision, it's the whole team's vision. And I think the way I see the Project Lead is, you bring a sort of core essence to it, but you have to leave open questions for the talented people that you're working with to add to it and enhance it and obviously have input on any of your own ideas, and so with the 3D spaces specifically, I was working with two very talented 3D artists, Freddie Lee and Jane Ng who were the two 3D environment artists on the team, and so I actually - the way we would tend to work, and also just because this is a more expedient way to work, is that we would block out very simple mesh, and in some cases I would do it. I actually lost my team for five weeks. They went and helped out Costume Quest, so I was by myself [laugh] and that was when we were working on the zeppelin. So, I blocked out - I did the rough mesh for all the zeppelin just to get the basic game flow up while everyone else was gone. But generally, like, the steam ship is a good example, where I had like, an idea for a steam - I'd gone on a cruise with my parents and it was like, I had all sorts of dubious experiences there, and so I was like "Ah, I've got to make a level about this sort of fake posh cruise." And I knew that I wanted to have all these decks and they're all open, and so I just had done some very simple sketches and then I gave that to Jane and Freddie and I was like, "Just block this out. Just interpret this how you would, block it out." And then once they did that, I just took screen captures and did quick what we call paintovers, as opposed to developing kind of more inspirational key concept art, because it's very quick. And it's always relevant, because you're actually painting on the physical space that exists and you know is playable. So, a lot of the environment concepts in Stacking were done that way, just because of the time involved if nothing else.

31:58 I see a question from Permafry here asking, what was the biggest thing that you learned from the experience of making Stacking?

Umm... probably that it's good to go outside your comfort zone. You know, I had never done game design for a game or written a game. I mean, I contributed little bits to those things on other games, and you know, being an Art Director and being a Production Artist is where my comfort zone is, because I've been doing it a long time, and so when I saw the team and I knew how much time we had, there wasn't anyone to be a designer and Tim didn't have any time to write the game. And I was like, "Alright! I'm just going to do it." [laugh] And overall, there are some things I would do better, but I learned a lot from that experience and being that creatively uncomfortable helped me grow, so I think it's always good to try and seek those things that at least, if nothing else in small ways, make you feel uncomfortable.

33:13 So as far as you know, Project Lead experience goes, you also worked on Autonomous and I remember right Headlanders came out of an Amnesia Fortnight as well?

Not Headlander, but...


Well, I did pitch it in this last Amnesia Fortnight, but the public rejected me[5]. [laugh]

Aww, I voted for it.

And I also did another, there's actually another Amnesia Fortnight game I did between Stacking and Autonomous that has never been shown publicly, so I don't have any idea if it ever will. Probably not. It's based on the Kinect.

So, yeah. Autonomous was... was that 2012? Yeah. Yeah, that was really fun. That was a crazy - I was fortunate enough to work with a crazy talented team and I really - again, I try and do something different each time, so I really was wanting to do something from a first person view. Something with a little more 3D focused, something in that kind of - it's funny, it was really before, I guess, Oculus was a big thing, at least when I thought of the game. But I was really always inspired by that more 90s view of virtual reality, and I kind of wanted to incorporate some of that aesthetic into the game.

34:28 Yeah, I was going to say, because I think Oliver[6] posted some stuff of the game running with [an Oculus] Rift. Have you had a chance to play that? Do you feel that it enhances the feel that you were going for?

In Autonomous?


Yeah, so Oliver hacked together a version of it, and it was actually really amazing looking. And, I mean, I think there's challenges in Oculus to try and figure out how you would deal with all the navigation, the moving around and all that, but in terms of actually just looking into the space... and we had this sort of... the HUD kind of drawn on a different 3D layer. Yeah, and you know, we did spend a few more weeks working on Autonomous and made a Leap version of the product. This you know, motion... hand... it's like a motion control type thing, and we added a few features for that, one of which was the skymap, so this sort of map the levels projected up into the sky. And that looked really cool through the Oculus. And yeah, I would love to have like, made that game for the Oculus or figure out how to make it for the Oculus. Because even if it turned out that you couldn't really navigate without people getting nauseous in sort of a first person view, I think there's a version of that game where you're actually not even in the world. You're just manipulating and constructing the robots from, I don't know, an aerial view or what have you, and I think something like that might work better with the Oculus, but still retain - I mean, any of those decisions changes the game itself, but it'd interesting to see how it would change the game.

Yeah, totally.

35:55 Do you think that there's scope for Autonomous to grow into a full game in the future?

Ah, I mean I wrote up a bunch of treatments of how that could happen, and I think it was just one of those things where, you know, we're in the position where we're always pitching games to a variety of different people, and it's whatever... you know, we kind of have to follow the money to some extent. Like I mean, when we go to Amnesia Fortnight, it's all about inspiration, but in terms of what can get turned into a full project, it's whether we can find a business opportunity for it that makes sense.


You know, that didn't happen with Autonomous. We got really, really close! I can't talk about it, but it was so close I could have tasted it. But yeah, part of the design, there is a lot more multiplayer to that game, and that was something that we just didn't have time do in the Amnesia Fortnight, but it was... I think the multiplayer would've been really unique and not necessarily competitive, like we had some competitive and cooperative modes, but it... something I at least would have liked to [have] seen how it would have changed the game.

36:57 We have somebody asking if the updated Leap Motion version of the game, if there might be a non-Leap version that'd be available for people to play, because it has extra content, right?

It does - it's a different game. So, it has extra content and it has a little less content. So, let me give you an example, so it has a level progression ladder structure, so you know, whereas Autonomous was just about - the Amnesia Fortnight version was about capturing a certain percentage of energy and you sort of maybe speed run it and see if you could survive that long. The Leap version had, once you achieve that certain level of energy, you had to make your way to the centre of the map and go through a transmission chamber to go to the next world. So, we made three different looks, three different worlds that would kind of get somewhat randomly cycled through, and each time you'd go to a new world, the amount of energy you [were] required to get got higher, and we had these things called Hunter Killstars that would start spawning into the levels if you went past a certain time, and the frequency that they would start spawning into the levels got higher. Now, these guys were... I think they were wielding dual laser chainsaws with pink lightning, which is pretty awesome.


And they were really tough to kill, but if you did kill them, you could pick up their body parts and make an automaton our of their body parts. It was the only way you could get the body parts. But anyway, we added a skymap and we refined a few things, but the one thing we removed was we removed the programming part of it. So, instead of - when you constructed an automaton, the heads were a little more naturally programmed to be sensible, and you couldn't go and flip all the switches and do all that, which for me would've been the most interesting part on the PC, but what it did do was kind of make it a little bit more of an arcade experience, and maybe a little more approachable, Just because we thought that trying to program all those little UI bits with the Leap would have not been fun.

So, the question is whether it could make it over to PC, I don't know. You know, the problem is that we're always strapped for programmer time - it's nothing I can do myself. But I think, in theory, we could do it. I don't think there's anything that would contractually stop us from doing it. It's just a matter of finding a week or two of a programmer that isn't doing anything else better, which is always hard at Double Fine because we always have so many projects going on.


39:12 I see Permafry has asked where the inspiration for the, coming back to Stacking for a moment, where the inspiration for having multiple solutions to puzzles came from.

Umm, oh yes! Well, so originally in the Stacking Amnesia Fortnight, it was actually, it was totally different. There were multiple solutions, but there was no interface or system that reset the challenge, and then gave you the option to replay it. What it was was that you could - I mean, you could do multiple solutions in there, and I told people playing Amnesia Fortnight, "No, there are six solutions." It was originally six instead of four in that original train station, it was that same get-into-the-lounge puzzle but the difference was the Amnesia Fortnight ended with a story, some title cards and story that was assembled based on the solutions that you did and in what order you did them.


So, we originally had this idea that the game would kind of construct the story, and some of it was, it was more like a future view, so like, I think there was a story written where if like you solved it with the seductress, her and the guard got married and they gave birth to Woodrow Wilson, who'd become president of the United States.


I mean, there was this... really strange things like that that were going on. And I think umm... and so then when we came to the game, we got rid of that story stuff because it was, just the narrative was constructed differently, but I really wanted to keep the multiple solutions, and part of it is because I think when I was younger playing adventure games, I really didn't like getting stuck on a puzzle. And even though that's part of the fun of adventure games, there were two, sort of two things in Stacking I wanted to do differently from a traditional adventure game, and one was just provide multiple solutions so that if you're - because some fans of adventure games just like exploring an environment at their own pace and engaging with the story and characters, and if you are that type of adventure game player, you could just solve the easy solution and move on. But if you were the type of adventure game player who liked challenges, you could come back and solve as many of them as you wanted, and they could get progressively more difficult as they got more esoteric. So, there was that motivation. And the other thing was that oftentimes even though exploring in adventure games is really fun, oftentimes traveling doesn't really give you anything to do, and so I wanted to have a whole bunch of stuff for the player to do even if it wasn't directly involved in the puzzle itself, and so part of that was just interacting with the dolls is fun. You know, there are a lot of abilities that aren't directly involved in a challenge solution that are just kind of fun to do and umm... [unknown] all the different responses if you were stacked into a different doll, because the responses would all change based on which doll you were in. And also, that's where the hi-jinks system came from, it was just an idea, just a way to kind of reward and encourage the player to kind of use abilities in kind of a fun way that was sort of outside the main puzzle structure.

42:03 Is there any content within the game that you feel players haven't noticed or hasn't been as well appreciated as you'd like?

Well, there's probably a lot of stuff that people haven't noticed, because some of it's really hard to find. You know, it's not necessarily remarkable content in any way, but the way the game... the way we wrote the game is so that, you know, of course like I mentioned just a minute ago ago that if you're a different doll talking to different dolls, there are different responses based on the type of doll you are. Now, in some cases that's your gender, in some cases it's your age, in some cases it's specific dolls, but it's also based on game state, which means that if you say, were to play through the steam ship and not necessarily solve all the solutions, but solve solve like one of each of the primary puzzles so that you've unlocked the next level, if you go back and talk to a lot of those dolls, they have completely different things to say based on the world state changing. And then, if you go and do the same thing with the zeppelin and you go back to the steam ship after you've solved the zeppelin, they have additional different things to say based on that. Because what's happening is the world's changing, right, so some of the dolls would previously be talking about how the Baron has enslaved children, and if you come back after the zeppelin, they might say "Oh, all the children are freed." So, there's a lot of just little hidden dialogue and one off specific stuff there, that is kind of in there that I think a lot of people probably haven't seen, and there's some weird little subtext stuff going on in there too. At the end game, you know, we get those little loading screens where they have newspaper articles of stuff happening and there are a bunch of them at the end game state. There's like one of them about... there's a recreation officer whose name I can't remember in the zeppelin, who's this little guy who's sort of in that room when Charlie gets thrown into the rec room by the guards. He's in there and so, it turns out he's actually a spy working for the people who were championing to get rid of child labour, the ambassadors. So, it's mentioned briefly in a newspaper headline, but if you actually stack into the ambassadors and haul them all the way across the level and talk to that guy at different game states, he'll say entirely different things to you. Like, he's on the covert mission and talk about reporting the things based on what's happening in the game state, so there's just like a ton of this - I just kinda went nuts. Since I was writing all the dialogue and implementing it, I could just go nuts with all these random little things that... you know, without having to pester a programmer to do it [laugh] so, there's a lot of stuff like that that people haven't seen.

That's cool.

44:32 I really appreciate that, you know, for a player, you can either whiz through or you can dive deep into the game, that the amount of game that there is to experience is sort of up to the player to decide.

Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I think it actually kind of hurt us in reviews with that choice, but I agree with you. I still do the same thing. There were a lot of reviews that came out that said, "Oh, this game's too short. You can get through the whole thing in four hours," and someone would would say, "Well, did you solve all the solutions or did you find, you know, a chunk of them, or did you find some of the unique dolls, or did you do the hi-jinks," and they were like, "No. No, just the primary playthrough, so I'm only giving it, you know, 4 out of 10 or whatever because of that." And to me, you know, it was weird because it was almost like a lot of people were asking for me to force them to have to do that. You know, let's put an arbitrary star system in and now you have to have eight stars to advance to the next level. That just felt, I don't know, just felt really punitive for no particular reason. [laugh]

So, I kind of felt I got mixed reviews because of that choice, but I - it's one of my favourite choices as well, about the game structure, is that you don't have to do that. And umm, I don't know, I think part of it I was thinking about, when I was designing the game, I was thinking about a game that I would like to play and that my daughter would like to play, who was - I don't know what she was at the time, maybe six or so. And, you know, she just likes messing around and watching things interact, but as someone who's been a gamer for a while, I'm more of a completionist, so I want to go and find all the unique dolls and I want to go and find all the solutions and do all that, but I don't... if there was an experience that really railroaded the player, it'd be an experience that someone like my daughter couldn't even enjoy because she'd be being forced to do all these things.

[At this point, an echo had been introduced into the voice call]


And so I didn't want to go down that road.

That's fair enough. Like I said, I think it's a pretty good choice.


46:14 Ah, Mim here is asking whether there's anything you can tell us about your role on Grim[7].

Yeah. I can talk a little bit about that.


So, I'm still art directing the second act of Broken Age, but I'm also art directing the remastered seq - remastered, not sequel [laugh] - remaster Grim Fandango, which... obviously the game exists, so it's a different role of art direction. I'm not inventing a new look for the game or anything, but there are some remastering of assets that we're doing, and I did some of those assets to sort of establish the initial prototypes for that, and directing the artists who are doing that. I am working on - I've done some promotional posters and imagery for that as well. I'm working with Mr. Awesome, Peter Chan on the new cover and key art for it, which is... which hopefully we'll be able to show soon. It looks amazing. And, I'm still working with Brandon and some of the other programmers on some of the render side improvements that we're hoping to get - the real time rendering and kind of what those might be, and doing some tests for that.

And, yeah. It's that type of stuff, and also I think that, you know, the user interface for that game is really very early 90s PC, which is to say it's not very good. [laugh] So, and that we're also on platforms like the PS4 and things like that... it needs some redesign, so I'm redesigning that. Still with the same influences and looks that influenced the original art, but it'll be a different interface.

47:54 So, are you finding that style, those influences interesting to work with?

Yeah, you know, it's funny looking at some of the textures, let's say some of the textures for the characters. It's interesting to see, like I remember working in games - I was working in games when Grim Fandango came out. So, different projects, but I can look at some of that stuff and recognise some of the artifacts that were just limitations of the technology at the time and separate that from artistic intent. Because the last thing we would want to do in the remaster is change the artistic intent, right, just so I can put my fingerprints on it. That's not the point, the point is to preserve the game that people love but maybe remove some of the fidelity issues that were just a result of poor technology. Or... it wasn't poor technology for the time. It was good for the time. So, I think, you know, just walking that line.

48:48 Can you talk about whether or not your work in overseeing the remastering if that's limited to 2D work or whether that's going to include 3D work as well?

Umm... I'm not sure I can talk about that.

[laugh] That's fine.

I don't think I can probably talk about that. Yeah.

Definitely looking forward to hearing more as time goes on.

Yeah. Hopefully we'll be, you know... Information; more things will be shown as time marches on, I'm sure it will. Of course it will. But soon! I think it'll be soon.

49:24 Umm, I see that Taekon has brought up the... Asif from 2 Player Productions has teased a photo of some secret stuff that's coming. People are asking if you know the secrets, can you tell us all the secrets?

I have no idea what he's teased. Those guys. Those 2 Player guys.

I know, right.

Oh man, I [unknown] them because first of all, whenever - this is more of a Broken Age thing, but whenever I watch a documentary, all I can do is see these like, terrible unattractive shots they get of my face making all these like, terrible expressions. And they're not even usually - they're just like edited in.


I don't believe that my facial reactions to what Tim or whoever are saying. And I was like... I think they like to make me the villain of that series, and I'm like, "Guys, come on." But actually, it's funny. I'm actually going to be speaking in Norway in about a month, a little less than a month from today at a conference. I'm going to be talking about Broken Age and I'm going to be showing some of those terrible clips they have of me and complaining about it, so...

Nice, Nice.

I'll get back at them.

50:23 How have you found working with cameras over your shoulder all the time?

[laugh] It's really... it's really unusual. And generally, it's actually one of the things I'm going to be talking about, but it is... you know, like, 2 Player are actually really amazing, because most of game production is quite boring. It's a bunch of nerds sitting at computers, occasionally in a meeting that is usually kind of unexciting. And, you know, they can somehow take a lot of that footage and edit it down to actually tell what turns out to be an accurate narrative about the development of the game. So, that's a really hard thing to do and they must have to go through a ton of footage. But it is something you get a little used to, but I still am uncomfortable being on camera. Like, I don't... I'm uncomfortable drawing on camera or making art with other people looking at me, and so, you know like, at this last Amnesia Fortnight when I was working on Dear Leader, they wanted me to stream some of my painting of those things that I did one day, but I'm really... I don't know. It just makes me uncomfortable, so I don't know. I... [laugh] I'm not sure. I'm not sure, I still haven't quite figured out whether I like it or not, but I think it's great for people. Like, if I was not working at Double Fine and I liked the games that Double Fine made, I'd love to see that stuff, or if I was maybe wanting to get more into game development and I wanted to know more about how things are made or see people making it - I can see why people would be interested in that. But it does get a little strange, having this sort of like third party involved.

Umm, yeah. And that's really exciting to be able to see that window into development.

52:06 How have you found Broken Age, in terms of working on a point and click adventure game? Do you feel that it's got different art requirements to the other stuff that you've worked on?

Yeah, very much so. You know, Broken Age is, even though there are 3D elements involved, at its heart, it's just a pure 2D game in terms of most of the art production. And, I think that's probably the only game that's been pure 2D, or almost the only one.

Bear with me one tick. We might see if we can sort out that echo.

Yeah, I don't think I've changed anything at my end. Actually, I've moved my laptop into a wind tunnel.



I was going to say, I didn't know there was one.

I'm actually, I'm in my art studio right now. But ideally, the ideal art studio for me would be like, buried under the ground in like, a wine cave or something. Dark and moist and somewhat evil. That's probably where I'd like to make art.

A nice little cave.


53:21 Umm... Ah! Liorean is asking if there are any games beyond Grim Fandango that you would, you know, if you had the ability to just wave a magic wand and have it happen, if there were any games you would be interested in working on remastering.

Any of like, Tim's games?

I think anything in general.

[At this point, the Twitch stream went down. Lee began talking about Deus Ex and the connections between it and Project Snowblind before we realised that there were technical difficulties]

00:00* ... [project Snowblind turned into] another mundane military shooter, but umm... so yeah, Deus Ex.

In terms of Tim's canon, I'd love to do Full Throttle. I -

00:08* Just one second, it looks like we've dropped the stream for a moment.

No worries.

I might hold you there until we get confirmation that it's back.

No problem. So, I can look at the chat... Flesk says it's back, he thinks.

He thinks... let's just make sure that people are good.

Hey, Marykate's on! Hi Marykate. I'm going to say hi to Marykate.

You totally should. She'll love that.

[sounds of typing]

Is now a bad time to bring up mermaids?

[laugh] You know, I said - I told umm... I actually have a little sketch for her already.


But I've been ridiculously busy. But I'm working on it!

Nah, that's cool. Pass it onto Risse[8], I'm sure she'll...

Risse tells me every other day. She reminds me and I'm like, "I am working on it!"

Ah, nice. Nice. Ah, there we go. Marykate has fainted. That's what matters.

01:03* Alrighty, so I think the stream is back. Going back, you said that if you could work on remastering anything, Deus Ex would be, would be of particular interest to you.

Yes, I love that game, and I don't know how much of it made it through before the stream crapped itself, but I was working on a game that was set in the Deus Ex universe for a while, and it got shifted from being in the Deus Ex universe by the time it released unfortunately.

What game was that?

It was called Project Snowblind, is what it came out as. Which was when I worked at Crystal Dynamics, but it was originally - because Eidos owned Ion Storm and Crystal Dynamics. So, this was before Crystal Dynamics started doing all of the Tomb Raider stuff, and we were working on something called Deus Ex: Clan Wars, which was for the Playstation 2 and was going to be in that universe but be maybe a little more action focused, but with still some of the same gameplay that I loved. And Deus Ex 2 came out before we finished, and they said, "Wow, Deus Ex 2 didn't do so well, so we're going to shift your game to be a military shooter." And so, all the stuff we had been working on - some of the game systems and everything survived, it's still a guy - a cybernetic enhanced soldier, but it just, you know. The story arc and the visuals just didn't really make any sense, because it was shifted fairly late in production and it was a big disappointment to me.

But yeah, so actually working on a real Deus Ex title would be amazing, and then... I think in terms of Tim's games, I'd love to work on Full Throttle.


Or maybe Psychonauts 2. I guess I'd rather do that than remaster. You know, generally as an Art Director too, a lot of the most interesting things is just working on new stuff. Even though they're like games that I love. But a lot of the real interesting thing is trying to find a new look that works with the themes of the story and the gameplay itself, and so sometimes... remastering is great, especially if you're a fan of the title, but it's not the same type of artistic level of interest as when creating something new. At least for me.

Right, right.

03:08* If you had the opportunity to direct art on a [hypothetical] Psychonauts 2, do you think you would kind of go for Raz's[9] style again, or do you think you'd try and explore something new?

Well, I think, you know, ultimately you're making the game for the player, and I think the fans of that game would want it still with the same overall sensibilities to it. So, I think we'd stay in a very similar art style, and with better technology, we'd probably push it in certain ways, you know. Like, there are some fidelity issues with the original title and some things that might have made some subtly different choices, but I think still, it would be set in that same world and have the same feel to it, it would just be new areas, new characters, you know, as well as some of the old ones. At least, this is what I would imagine. I mean, Tim may have different thoughts on it.


And you know, I mean, if you just imagine even those exact same character designs, but just rendered with a more modern lighting, you know and materials - closer to something Pixar would do, it'd be amazing, right? So, umm... not that I'd want to make it look exactly like Pixar had done it, but you know what I'm saying.


Like, there are some - if you go back, you know, the Xbox 1 can only do so much, and so there are some low res textures and distracting things that I think are barriers to people identifying with certain aspects of the character that we could get a little further... get a little past. And plus, coming up with new, crazy environments. That's the great thing about that franchise is, you know, it's landscapes of the mind, so it could be anything really.

04:39* And I guess, some of that umm, you know, those fidelity issues you talked about, if the opportunity arose to do a remastering of Psychonauts, that could be addressed there.

Yeah. That's true. That's very true.

04:55* Mim in chat has asked what sort of games you currently play, and what sort of games you're into.

I like all sorts of games, you know, I don't really stick with one genre, but currently... I am quite behind. I am actually currently replaying Kentucky Route Zero, and I really liked that game initially, and I guess I feel like I have a slightly different perspective on it. Now, I didn't play all - like, I played all the way through Act I and a little bit in Act II, but now I have all the way through Act III, so I kinda started over and I'm playing through that and enjoying that.

It's amazing. I love that game.

Yeah. It's really interesting, you know. Like, I'm on the GDC advisory board, so one of the things we do is we mentor visual arts speeches that go to GDC. And so we had those guys talk last year, and they gave a great talk. And they're both, they have like theatre background and had some really interesting perspectives on things, so it was really great - just gives me a new appreciation of the game, so I wanted to go back to it. And in terms of bigger games, well, every Thursday night, I play Grand Theft Auto V with some pals. That's my current like, co-op sort of thing I'm doing. It's not really particularly new game. And... let's see... I'm trying to think of different platforms I can mention different things I'm playing on. On iOS, I just got Wonderputt. I haven't played too much of it yet, and I'm still playing [868]-Hack a lot, which I really like. And, let's see what else am I looking forward too? I'm looking forward to getting a Playstation 4 soon, and playing Destiny. This is probably the next big game I'm going to check out.

I know Marykate plays that. You should add her to your friends list.

Yeah! I'll have to get a Playstation 4. I have like, very few friends. I have like five or six friends on Xbox. So, there you are. I don't even know what my handle is, I really don't. It's probably, you know what, my handle on those things is "Nostrilking". It's one word.

Nostrilking. One word. Write that down.

Yeah. It makes no sense why it's that. It's just, I umm. I think it was the fifth time I tried getting a handle through the censorship filter, and I just picked something random.

Because my first multiplayer games were back in... are we still there?

Yeah. I think we are.

My first multiplayer games were back on the PC and, you know, everyone's handles were semi lewd, so - that's of course, when you are in that era and you have handles from that, and Xbox comes out and you're like, "Oh! I'll just use that same handle on Xbox Live." And, no. Not going to happen. [laugh] [...] any of them were that bad.

07:31* So, Taekon has asked, what would your mind be like in Psychonauts?

What would my mind be like in Psychonauts?


Wow. Huh, I don't know. How do you answer that question without sounding incredibly arrogant or egotistical? [laugh]


I haven't really thought about that... umm, let's see. It would be one part Stanley Kubrick, one part Terry Gilliam - I'm trying to thing of film references for that.

Nice, nice.

One part Egon Schiele - some disturbing imagery. Umm, and one part Deus Ex. And it'd probably be set in a post apocalyptic environment, because I'm a giant post apocalyptic nerd, as a child of the 80s. So, anything post apocalyptic, I like disproportionately with actually how good it is. So, I've always wanted to do a post apocalyptic game. I actually have an idea that I - a really unusual one that I almost pitched this last Amnesia Fortnight, and I switched to Headlander at the last minute, and now I wish I had pitched it. So, if we do another one, maybe I'll pitch it there. But it's a very different... it's a very unusual post apocalyptic game.

08:44* Alrighty, well umm, we'll do one last call for questions and then we'll dive in. Thanks heaps for giving us your time this afternoon.

Yeah, of course. My pleasure.

08:54* I've seen someone ask if there's anything that you umm, you know, specifically dislike about Stacking, or maybe to put that in a more favourable light, what's your favourite bug that happens to be hiding in the game?

That's still in the game?

Mmm. Or even during development.

Yeah, we had this great gender bending bug during development, which was umm [laugh] If you... so, the way the dolls all work, like I mentioned, we had one master model for everything and then we would paint individual textures, and when the doll was instantiated into the world, it remapped the textures to new ones. And so, we had a different texture for the face and body for each of the dolls - they're kind of split up into two textures so that in theory we could mix and match. Well, it turned out that for the large sized doll, the seductress - the Window Chastity, that was her actual name - was actually the base texture for that certain size doll. And all the time, for whatever reason, we would get these bugs where the face remapped to the map, but would keep her body texture. So, all the time we'd have her with her low cut dress slinking around the level with a guy's face. Just kind of randomly popping in the world, and I enjoyed - those were great.

That's awesome.

[laugh] Yeah. Those were pretty funny. And the other sort of funny bugs that we would find were things that we had to fix, but they were things that we hadn't planned on, so as relates to dialogue, because what would happen is, both the abilities, when a doll would use an ability on another doll - so, you as a player had stacked into a doll and you're using an ability on the other doll. It would look at the type of doll it was and the ability and figure out its response based on that, and same with dialogue. And the way we generated these types is that the programmers just exposed meta tags for me, and I would go through all these different, what we'd call prototype, which was sort of a definition of a doll in like Lua script, and we'd list attributes of the doll. So, it might say male or female or child or it might say something specific like farter or old.


And it would trace down the hierarchy of that and it would pick the first response that it met those conditions with. So, that seems simple enough right, so if you're [...] if you use the seduce ability on a male doll, the male doll will follow you, right? If you do it on a female doll, they'll act incensed about the whole thing. Well, sometimes things slip through the cracks and you do things like use it on a child, but it doesn't, like I didn't flag child as an ability flag for her, and it just sees that as a male doll, so then you're seducing a child, which is really wrong. So, you have to go through there and go, "OK, now I've got to go back into her ability," and say, if it's a child, you know, the child could say, "Why is that lady shaking her hips," I think is something like that I wrote. And so, you wind up having to go through and find all those weird cases, where like, she could seduce an animal, and what's the animal supposed to say in that point? You know, so we had to go through and find all those weird cases and sometimes they [laugh] they were completely unintentional and definitely not fit for public consumption in some cases.

Same with responses, you know, if we umm, like the Solicitor Barnabas says semi lewd things to female dolls - I really sound like I'm a terrible misogynist when describing it [laugh] but that doesn't mean - it's not that way. But he'll just say, "Ask...," you know - it was supposed to be a parody of Victorian society, so he'll say these type of things, but again, you know, if you hadn't set the flags on... it's a female animal doll or something, he'll give it an inviting response, and that seems strange to us. Yeah, so those are my favourite bugs and I think the last thing I'll say about weird bugs that were my favourite was that when it came to localising the game, I would get these enormously long emails from the localisation team trying to figure out what I meant by some of the dialogue. Because there was a lot of implication in some of the dialogue and they would umm, it was really funny to see how they would interpret it. So umm, and I tried to answer it delicately, and after a while I just started having fun with it. They - like, there's a character on the zeppelin who has the ability called the Royal Wedgie, right?


And so, when I was a kid, a wedgie is when someone would grab you by the back of the underwear and yank it up. And maybe that's an American thing, I don't know.

We get them here, unfortunately.

Yeah, but is it called a wedgie as well there?

Yeah, yeah.

Alright, well. See, where ever these localisers were, in Germany or something, you know, the country with no irony, would say, like, "What's a wedgie, and what's royal? Why is it royal?" You know, and I said, "Well, it's a wedgie. A wedgie -" I had to describe what a wedgie is. I'm like, "A wedgie is when you yank someone's underwear... and it's called royal because it's Victorian society and it's just a little fancier." And, yeah. So, I just got so many emails like that, or, you know, if you get the pied piper on the steam ship, and you talk to female dolls, he talks about his instrument a lot, and so they were like, "Oh! Is the instrument really a stand in for the male organ?" And I was like, "Nooo..." You know, they would ask me these questions that I hadn't really thought of. I was like, "He's just talking about his musical instrument." So yeah, those were really funny emails. We got a lot of those.


13:55* Well, on that note, is there anything you'd like to share with us before we wrap up?

Uh, well I didn't prepare anything. Should I have?

No, no. That's fine.

[laugh] Did I let you down? Sorry.

No! It's all good. I just want to make sure that we don't miss out on anything.

14:12* Do you want to know a little bit about the start of the game? Like, something that changed.

Yeah. Sure.

I guess we're going to play the start, right?


So, the start of the game. So, Tim wrote one cutscene for Stacking, and it's the... he wrote, well maybe just did a writing treatment on top of that... I think that's - it's the intro cutscene. So, I had written it and he did a treatment on it, and added several lines and stuff. So, there's a little bit of Tim writing in this intro. And then, originally, it was going to be interactive. So, once you left the house, you getting to the rail yard and meeting Levi was a gameplay sequence. And we just ran out of time, so it had to be rolled into the cutscene. But, unfortunately I think it makes the start of the game a bit too slow. It takes long to kind of get through a lot of cutscenes before you start playing, and that's part of the reason that we did originally have this whole interactive thing there. And then the other thing about the train station that's interesting to note is that it's the same... it's changed quite a bit, but that level was the level we used in the Amnesia Fortnight prototype. A version of it.


So, it lasted.

Yeah, no, that's cool to see that, you know, make it all the way through development.

Yeah. [laugh] Pretty unusual.

15:21* Right, well thank you again for joining us. We'll be dropping back into chat and we'll get some stream of the game going in just a minute. Umm yeah, thanks heaps again for your time.

Yeah, you bet. Thanks!


Bye everyone.

After the interview, Lee rejoined us in IRC to continue chatting. Items of note that came out of the insuing discussion include:

IRC logs and links to the game and interview streams can be found in the first post of this thread on the Double Fine Forums.

A note from cheese

A note from Cheese

Thanks for reading!

First up, apologies for my untimely cough. I had hoped to be over it by the time the interview rolled around, but sadly that didn't happen.

I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Lee for taking time out of his weekend to chat with us.

As always, my Game Club wonderful coordinator cohort Syd deserves special mention, as does Mimness for assisting me with pulling questions from the chat. And thanks also to Permafry, who hosted the Skype call for this interview and handled the following game stream.

Note that timestamps marked with an asterisk (*) are from a second recording which was started after the first stream went down.

[1] Tim Schafer, former game desiner for LucasArts and founder of Double Fine.

[2] Tasha Sounart (formerly Tasha Harris), former animator and game designer for Double Fine, and Lead Franchise Artist for Pixar.

[3] I had a little difficulty tracking down an exact reference for the story mentioned, but Lee had this to offer:

The 3 princesses of the underworld (historical painting): [link]

Here is one version of the story (I couldn't find the one I really liked). In this link its called 'The three men of power -- evening, midnight and sunrise' [link]

Another great Russian fairy tale: [link]

[4] The Hobo King DLC is included in the PC (Linux, Mac and Windows) versions of the Stacking.

[5] In spite of having perhaps the highest production value pitch, Headlander was unsuccessful in the voting phase of Amnesia Fortnight 2014. Interestingly, the project reaches farther back in time, with Tasha mentioning that she worked on animation for the trailer when she was still working at Double Fine.

[6] Oliver Franzke, a software developer for Double Fine, who is currently Lead Developer on Broken Age. He also worked on Rift support for the Amnesia Fortnight 2014 game Mnemonic and did the experimental Rift implementation for Autonomous (read here for more thoughts on Rift implementation from Oliver). Examples of the Rift prototype of Autonomous are rare, but Oliver did send along these two screenshots so share with readers, which Rift DK1 owners should be able to check out with their HMDs to get a better feel for what an in-game still would look like.

[7] Announced at E3 2014, Double Fine are working on a remastered version of Grim Fandango (see here for the E3 announcement complete with Sony's questionable usage of the word "exclusive", and here for an article I wrote coinciding with Double Fine's announcement of support for PC platforms). Lee's role as Art Director was unveiled in the second episode of a 2 Player Productions documentary on Grim Fandango's remastering (the first episode can be found here), which was first aired preceding a panel on Grim Fandango's remastering efforts at PAX Prime 2014.

[8] Amarisse Sullivan, Office Administrator at Double Fine and all round nice person.

[9] Razmig Mavlian, former LucasArts artist and Senior Concept Artist at Double Fine, who heavily influenced Psychonauts' visual design and inspired the protagonist's name.

You can learn more about Game Club and find links to each game's forum thread in the Double Fine Game Club F.A.Q., via @dfgameclub on Twitter, and by hanging around the Double Fine Game Club web page around 9:00pm UTC on Saturdays.

This interview was conducted as a part of the Double Fine Game Club's first session of Stacking on the 20th of September 2014.