And why not? Double Fine have proven themselves to be an extremely charismatic developer, who labour under the pursuit of pure fun and joy. Two stories came forth this week: their announcement of a Kickstarter project to raise funds for a new adventure game (and the subsequent backing of that project), and the tentative hope that Psychonauts 2 could see the light of day under the financial backing of Markus "Notch" Persson (of Minecraft fame) and Dracogen Strategic Investments (who backed the funding of Psychonauts for OS X and the port of Costume Quest to PC).
We want games that celebrate just how wild this form of entertainment can be, and how it’s fantastically different to film, music or literature.
The first bit of news deserves its own article on the current role of a publisher, but the speed in which the $400,000 funding cost was met was astounding. In a little over 8 hours, gamers demonstrated the love of the craft, and the love for Double Fine itself. 30 days to go, and the funds stand at a mind-blowing $1.5 million.
While many will surely leap to the conclusion that publishers are about to become irrelevant, it’s important to not underestimate the celebrity factor of this campaign. Double Fine has a long history, not only as a company, but from the people within it: with names like Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert (who established themselves with landmark adventure titles such as Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango), a great deal of nostalgia would surely have been a key attribute to the rampant success of the funding attempt. However, it still demonstrates the sheer power that the gaming audience has over the industry, and will surely prompt more than a few companies to think differently.
Psychonauts was, and still is, one of the most brilliantly unique games ever made, and an absolute joy to play.
The second piece of news is still somewhat tenuous; no formal statement or release has occurred, merely a simple and very public Twitter-based exchange. What transpired in that exchange, however, is completely awesome.
The original Psychonauts was a financial disappointment in every respect. Majesco, the original publisher, suffered major setbacks upon release, owning to lacklustre sales, and Double Fine itself would not release a new game until four years later. This situation was entirely unfair to both entities, as Psychonauts was, and still is, one of the most brilliantly unique games ever made, and an absolute joy to play.
To be personal for a moment, Psychonauts is on my short list of all time favourite games: it is a game I can replay at least once a year and love every minute of it. The perfect blend of comedy and story, coupled with Scott Campbell’s playful art style, Psychonauts (and Double Fine itself) fill a gap left by a now rather faceless Rare.
Should Psychonauts 2 come to fruition, I must stress the following. Anyone, and I mean anyone who played the original game and liked it, MUST buy the sequel. I am not concerned if you pirated the original, or bought it two or three times (as I have), I just want the gaming world to be clear on this: we want games like this. We want games that celebrate just how wild this form of entertainment can be, and how it’s fantastically different to film, music or literature. We want companies like Double Fine to have creative independence, without needing the luxury of being a multi-million dollar conglomerate (á la Valve and Rockstar).
In the words of Notch, let’s make it happen.
In light of Double Fine’s million-dollar (and climbing) kickstarter project for a classic adventure game, coupled with the talk of Minecraft’s Notch wanting to fund the development of Psychonauts 2 that’s been buzzing around the Twittersphere recently, we thought it’d be a good idea to talk about Psychonauts this week.
If you haven’t played Psychonauts (or any of Tim Schafer’s other games), you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. What’s so great about this guy that he can trigger such a viral reaction within the game community? The answer is a nice extension on last week’s topic: Creativity and innovation.
Psychonauts is easily one of the greatest games of our time, for many reasons – look up some reviews or simply play the game, and you’ll understand what I mean. What is most important for me, however, is the level of creativity put into the development of the game’s plot, environment, and gameplay. These are the things that turn Psychonauts into such an amazing game of last decade.
Unfortunately, Psychonauts didn’t sell very well. In April 2005, the Xbox (the game’s target platform) was close to dead, with the Xbox 360 announced three weeks after the release of Psychonauts. PC gaming was at an all time low (it picked up again in about 2006 when Valve’s Steam service started gaining traction), so the PC release didn’t make much of an impact either. The release of the game in the European regions was delayed by almost a full year, which further damaged sales figures. And finally, it just simply wasn’t marketed well.
Most of these things have changed in the past few years. Psychonauts 2 (reportedly) continues to be rejected by the big publishers because the original game was a commercial flop in 2005. But I don’t think that would be the case if Psychonauts 2 was released today. PC gaming is better than ever with the boom of Steam and other digital download platforms. Yes, the big consoles are again on the verge of moving to a new generation, but one hopes that the release of Psychonauts 2 doesn’t clash badly with that. Hell, it could even be a launch title on a new console – that would be a fantastic way to boost sales.
Psychonauts is now a cult classic game, and the fanbase is more vocal than ever. The huge kickstarter program shows that Tim Schafer and Double Fine have an almost viral effect on the Internet. Websites like Kotaku, Reddit, and Slashdot have huge audiences, and would all promote the game in every way imaginable. The Twitterverse would explode and the word would spread like wildfire. Essentially, the game would get loads of free, viral marketing with little effort from the developers.
And finally, the game would actually be good! It wouldn’t be a clone of some other game, nor would it be a phoned-in sequel. I believe that Tim Schafer and Double Fine have the talent, skill, and creativity that will allow them to make a Psychonauts 2 that will go down in the history books as one of the best games of all time, right next to the first one.