Pack your graters, hit the streets

October 5, 2009 by Tim

I’ll admit, I hold a bit of a grudge with the gaming community over Psychonauts. A game which, by many critical accounts and personal opinions (my own included), is a masterpiece of fun, and yet was largely neglected at the time when it counted the most. It’s gained more notoriety now, sure, but mostly as being “That fantastic game you never played”.

And while everyone who played it saying “I love this game” is great, there’s a pretty large part of the “Should we make more of these?” equation missing, and that’s big numbers in the sales department.

I don’t put the whole of blame on the gamers though. As I recall it, advertising and promotion for the game around the time was pretty dismal too. So while I would have hoped that a lot of gamers would immediately recognize the Schafer name and his previous work, the bottom line is that most don’t. Many have never played those original LucasArts titles, and so hearing that he’s associated with a game (if they hear that at all) isn’t going to spark interest that advertising would otherwise need to create.

Because let’s face it… even though video games are approaching a “hollywood film” level of budget and development time, they still don’t get the same treatment. You don’t get to know the main guys making these games happen, the same way you get to know certain directors. Sam Raimi can do a movie completely unrelated to Evil Dead and Spider-Man, and you’ll still take notice of his new project because, hey, it’s Sam Raimi. You like his stuff.

But if the lead developers of Halo break off, form their own studio, and make a new game… are you doing to know about it? Probably not, unless they stamp ‘From the makers of Halo!’ all over the box.

I think this should start changing. I think that it is starting to change, a little bit, and I want to see this trend continue. I think that we should be aware of the people making these games happen, and not just the action hero lead role of the franchise that’s slapped all over the box. I feel like a good developer should be able to go from a “Halo” to a “Pyschonauts” and still get the attention on the new project that the successes of their past warrant.

And so with Brutal Legend coming out this month, I’m hoping we don’t see a Psychonauts repeat. Honestly, I don’t foresee that happening, as clearly Brutal Legend has gotten far more press and promotion than its predecessor. Still, I hope the word gets out there. Some may decide “hey, this game isn’t for me”, but I’d rather people at least get the chance to make that decision, as opposed to never hearing about the game, or hearing about long after sales really matter.

And more so, I hope people learn who’s making this game. Tim Schafer’s name is on the box. You don’t see that on video games often (if at all). But we should. I hope that Brutal Legend is a critical and financial success, and then when Double Fine starts working on their next game, more people say “Oh yeah, Tim Schafer. I loved Brutal Legend, lemme see what this is all about”.

Developers shouldn’t have to keep churning out the same franchise over and over again just so they don’t have to build a following from scratch. Just my $0.02.

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