A Study of Tim Schafer

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A Study of Tim Schafer

Tim Schafer is a big games industry name - but do his games justify his popularity?

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I didn't really enjoy that article. It's just sounds a bit whiney.

I still say Brutal Legend is awesome. I beat it the other day, but still play it with my brother and such online. But hey, each to his own.
Psychonauts was better, but only just, and only because it was longer.
Brutal Legend has two points which make it awesome, and that is the landscape and all that, and the music. With those two things, you can use this game as an interactive metal music video or something. Which I have, kinda, while talking to my brother on Live.

I hope this game earned enough money for Schafer to make a new game. 'cause the game is without a doubt something special. You haven't seen something just like this before. And that is what Schafer is good at. Making something unique.

(BTW, I am in the process of reading your story about Articulate Jim. It is pure gold. One of the best comedic reads I have had since reading H2G2.)

Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Thou shalt not criticize Grim Fandango!!

That small bout of fanboy rage aside, I agree with you. I have yet to play Brutal Legend, but when I do get around to picking it up I sure won't be expecting Psychonauts/Grim Fandango. Because that would be stupid.

From what I've seen/read, it's ambitious, it's funny and most importantly it's original. To me it doesn't have to be the best game in the universe, I just want to play something that isn't fucking NHL-whatever, or Generic Sequel 47 (which I know isn't the point you were trying to make, but it is my $0.02 CAD).

I made a similar blog post about Tim Schaefer, and while I agree he hasn't quite earned his stripes in terms of gameplay design, his unique ideas and excellent writing set him apart from most pen-equipped chimps who call themselves authors.

zagzag:
Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Shame it doesn't really live up to his gameplay standards.

I never got to play Grim Fandago, but always wanted to. I remember seeing it's commercials as a kid, only right after I got into gaming. I thought it was an animated movie trailer.

and I love how he adressed the "very haaaaaaarrrrrr" sound error. His answer was fine, and I think he might talk about Heavy Rain at some point, where the game is nothing BUT QTE's.

What Shafer needs to do is team up with some people who are really good game designers. I think a Mario game that was set in a universe that Shafer creates would be awesome. You know you want to see a Mario game with a good story, and since it's Mario, you can have him do anything and it wouldn't be out of place. Shafer gets criticized on game design and Mario for lack of story or characterization. Sounds like a good fit to me.

I think you're pronouncing Ü wrong. It's kind of hard to tell though ^^

Hmmm so a QTE is suppose to be:
1) Player initiated and
2) rewarding beyond what you would normally get?

that works in my head for some reason.

If you ask me i think Tim will become more and more influenced by games out today than with his other titles which were unqiue. In turn making his games less and less orginal. I guess in this day and age everything has been done before.

bue519:

zagzag:
Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Shame it doesn't really live up to his gameplay standards.

Isn't the entire point of this article that his gameplay pedigree is suspect? To what game(s) are you referring when you speak of his "gameplay standards"?

Anyway, I agree that Schaffer's games can be difficult to play at times, which can be a dagger in the heart of a game in most cases due to it being interactive media. I think the fact that I continue to buy them unquestioningly stands as testament to his originality, creativity, and writing skills. He's the rarest of breeds in the bland wasteland that is video game developers.

And for the record, I enjoyed Brutal Legend. The RTS isn't my genre, but the imagery, humor, and story were fantastic. That and I didn't feel the need to break things when I was jumping through a circus of meat.

PhiMed:

bue519:

zagzag:
Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Shame it doesn't really live up to his gameplay standards.

Isn't the entire point of this article that his gameplay pedigree is suspect? To what game(s) are you referring when you speak of his "gameplay standards"?

I thought it was that his games were very hit-and-miss, not that his "pedigree is suspect". He's made some excellent games, and he's made some games that really don't live up to the hype. Sometimes he creates brilliance, other time he...doesn't. At the risk of being flamed to oblivion, I'm going to refer to it as Whedon syndrome. I'm a massive fan of Joss' work, but sometimes he really drops the ball. Alien Resurrection, anyone?

I agree with this, I loved grim and Psyconauts, and BL wasn't bad, but the RTS element was crap and it massed up sometimes.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
"it's very hard...to piss in a shotglass from across the room, but it's a cakewalk compared to well-implemented QTEs."

Agreed. Star Was Unleashed had the insufferable groundhog day version where if you failed the target regained health too.

I think the original point you made stands; at least give us a chance to do it on the first run.

Littaly:
I think you're pronouncing Ü wrong. It's kind of hard to tell though ^^

Yes, he does. At least in the video.

I think Brütal Legend would have worked best with a level system like Mario 64 (the levels are limited in size but you can always go back to visit them at a later time and find all the secrets)and with a lot less, but better sidequests. The only side missions I liked were the races against Fletus, the first mortar canon mission and the batcave mission.

I've like the stage battles because it's simple enough to enjoy from the start and it makes me an actual part of the combat (mostly due to double teams and solos), unlike every other strategy-based game now. Balancing is really poor now, but there's hope they'll fix that later.

SonicWaffle:

PhiMed:

bue519:

zagzag:
Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Shame it doesn't really live up to his gameplay standards.

Isn't the entire point of this article that his gameplay pedigree is suspect? To what game(s) are you referring when you speak of his "gameplay standards"?

I thought it was that his games were very hit-and-miss, not that his "pedigree is suspect". He's made some excellent games, and he's made some games that really don't live up to the hype. Sometimes he creates brilliance, other time he...doesn't. At the risk of being flamed to oblivion, I'm going to refer to it as Whedon syndrome. I'm a massive fan of Joss' work, but sometimes he really drops the ball. Alien Resurrection, anyone?

To clarify, I didn't say his pedigree was suspect. I said that his gameplay pedigree was suspect. I think Yahtzee would agree with me. Thus the underscore "Do his games (plural, as in all of them) justify his popularity?"

I think that's what Yahtzee's saying, not that his games are hit-and-miss. He's saying that even while his games were enjoyable, well-written, and original, they have a glaring, pervasive flaw. Namely, that none of them have ever been much in the gameplay department.

He criticizes each one of his games in the past for piss-poor gameplay. Two (DOTT and GF) were point-and-click adventures, which have never been much in that department. Then he criticizes Full Throttle for its combat system. He even bashes the occassionally confusing level design of Psychonauts.

Yahtzee implies that he liked all his previous games, so hit-and-miss doesn't really seem to apply if this is (according to Yahtzee), his first dud. Likewise, if the mechanics of his games have always been crap, there's no hit-and-miss there, either. There are only misses when it comes to that aspect of Schafer's games, which was his point.

So from that, I would say that instead of Whedon as an example, Dan Brown would be an example of a Schafer in another medium. Great concepts and great characters with completely retarded interactions. Thus, if you're going to enjoy what he has to offer, you have to accept that (normally deal-breaking) flaw that is pervasive in his work.

PhiMed:

bue519:

zagzag:
Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Shame it doesn't really live up to his gameplay standards.

Isn't the entire point of this article that his gameplay pedigree is suspect? To what game(s) are you referring when you speak of his "gameplay standards"?

Anyway, I agree that Schaffer's games can be difficult to play at times, which can be a dagger in the heart of a game in most cases due to it being interactive media. I think the fact that I continue to buy them unquestioningly stands as testament to his originality, creativity, and writing skills. He's the rarest of breeds in the bland wasteland that is video game developers.

And for the record, I enjoyed Brutal Legend. The RTS isn't my genre, but the imagery, humor, and story were fantastic. That and I didn't feel the need to break things when I was jumping through a circus of meat.

I do understand the point of the this article but to be fair there's only so much gameplay for a point and click game. I was just depressed that Brutal Legend's gameplay couldn't match his last outing Psychonauts.(Of particular standout for me is the Gogalor part)

Yahtzee Croshaw:
"it's very hard...to piss in a shotglass from across the room, but it's a cakewalk compared to well-implemented QTEs."

I disagree. Female gamers seem to be quite adept at games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero that involve rapidly copying an exact sequence of coloured buttons (like the old Simon game), but would probably have more difficulty managing the former - not that I have had the pleasure of knowing ladies that are keen to demonstrate their urinary proficiency.

image

bue519:

PhiMed:

bue519:

zagzag:
Brutal legend (don't know how to get umlauts when typing into this) definitely lives up to Tim Shafer weirdness standards

Shame it doesn't really live up to his gameplay standards.

Isn't the entire point of this article that his gameplay pedigree is suspect? To what game(s) are you referring when you speak of his "gameplay standards"?

Anyway, I agree that Schaffer's games can be difficult to play at times, which can be a dagger in the heart of a game in most cases due to it being interactive media. I think the fact that I continue to buy them unquestioningly stands as testament to his originality, creativity, and writing skills. He's the rarest of breeds in the bland wasteland that is video game developers.

And for the record, I enjoyed Brutal Legend. The RTS isn't my genre, but the imagery, humor, and story were fantastic. That and I didn't feel the need to break things when I was jumping through a circus of meat.

I do understand the point of the this article but to be fair there's only so much gameplay for a point and click game. I was just depressed that Brutal Legend's gameplay couldn't match his last outing Psychonauts.(Of particular standout for me is the Gogalor part)

On that we're agreed, especially on Gogalor (Gogglor? Goggleor? idk but I know it's derived from the word goggle. That and the mailman were my favorite levels.), but one game doesn't necessarily establish someone as a master of mechanics.

Even though the gameplay was much better than Brutal Legend's, I shared Ben's confusion during some of the levels. It sometimes got to the point that I would have to put the game down for a bit in order to come back fresh because my frustration was preventing me from enjoying the game. In fact, if the rest of the game wasn't so outstanding, the confusing level design probably would have soured me on the game as a whole.

Unfortunately, we may have to accept the fact that Psychonaut's decent gameplay, not Brutal Legend's poor gameplay, is the outlier when you look at Schafer's entire body of work.

I've been finding people talking about Brütal Legend to be a bit confusing. From the discussions I've seen you'd think the game was solid stage battling from start to end whereas, for me at least, *maybe* 5% of the gameplay time was spent on them. The majority of the game is actually smashing things, blowing things up and driving over/through things, so comments such as Yahtzee's that the in no way resembles the final product seem strange and confusing to me.

Maybe this is just my general ambivalence towards online multiplayer, or maybe the fact that I read Shafer's gameplay tips on the Double Fine blog beforehand and thus won every stage fight first time with no problem at all (on Brütal) means it was a smaller chunk of gameplay for me than a lot of other people. I don't know; I just find the apparent collective delusion about this game's content rather baffling.

Hey! it's the same argument i tried to make a week ago, only clearer and better supported! i'm flattered.

Distorted Stu:
If you ask me i think Tim will become more and more influenced by games out today than with his other titles which were unqiue. In turn making his games less and less orginal. I guess in this day and age everything has been done before.

are you talking about Schafer's writing or his game design? If you mean his writing, Brutal Legend was inspired by Schafer's love of metal album covers and the peyote trip scene cut from Full Throttle. i don't see any significant influence from modern games in that regard.

If you mean game design, then i'd argue Schafer has NEVER been original. his games, at their core, are essentially simple, by-the-numbers genre pieces, be they adventure, platformer, or RTS. Schafer's writing and creative design is what makes his games so memorable and appealing.

bue519:

I do understand the point of the this article but to be fair there's only so much gameplay for a point and click game.

well yeah, the point is Schafer has only ever really distinguished himself as a writer, not a game designer.

I think the point is that Writing and Game Design are not necessarily in the same skill set. I spent roughly 12 hoursish with Brutal Legend (I don't know how to make the umlaut) and I have to say its strongest point is as an artistic vision. The coolest part for me was racing around from one end of the world to the other and checking out all the detail and the vivid imaginations and creativity that clearly went in to every inch of the world.

My biggest beef is that this game REALLY needed another year of development. The story felt like it had hunks chopped off (it felt half as long as it should have been). You see all sorts of tainted coil at the very beginning and then not again until the final battle. There are a few relationships between characters that feel only half flushed out, and the world seemed like it had some cool spots that were put in for a reason and then had that "reason" taken out to rush a game to production.

Ultimately it REALLY felt like the cake needed another hour in the oven; if you get what I'm saying. Whats my point again?

>>>TOKEN LEXICAL PEDANTRY POST<<<

"On-bike combat sequences were roughly EQUIVOCAL to a fighting game in which all the characters are inflatable clowns..."

Do you have a subediting vacancy? Can I have the job? (Oh God please, I need the work!)

>>>END<<<

To be honest, game's don't mean shit in this industry (with the exception of Peter Molyneux, as you get a pre-warning to stay the fuck away from whatever he's helped to create).

For instance, Jade Raymond was plastered all over the first Assassin's Creed, but I doubt she really got anyone interested in it - it was hardly a little known game, the inclusion of her and her looks weren't important (for more than a minute tops).

Instead of actors and directors we see developers and publishers, individuals (other than the pantomime villains and fools, Bobby Kotick and Peter Molyneux respectfully) are, for better or worse, irrelevant when it comes to me buying a game (and many others I'd imagine).

mklnjbh:
I didn't really enjoy that article. It's just sounds a bit whiney.

Which makes your response humorous ;).

I noticed Will Wright on his list.

Will Wright was my certain win until SPORE. Now I don't really trust him anymore, I worry that he may have gone nutso.

Brass tacks, let's get down to them

Tim Schaeffer is a writer. If you're going to his games expecting innovative or expertly executed game mechanics, you clearly aren't keeping up with your own account of the man's track record. His point-and-click adventures actually have much in common with his recent work in Brutal Legend - taking one (or many) established gameplay styles and using them as a platform for visual/narrative experiences. Point-and-click may have been technologically limited, but it was a well understood mechanic intended as a vehicle for quirky plots and puzzle development. Brutal Legend is a hodge-podge of familiar mechanics used with the same intent, to provide a basis for that visual/narrative experience.

Open-world gaming: is it destroying the integrity of the game-styles it subsumes? Yes. But to say that this detracts from Brutal Legend's overall quality is missing the point of the game. Every time you attack Brutal Legend's open-world because of the saturation of the open-world genre only shows your personal boredom. BL's is the first world I've seen designed completely with a formalist intent, whereas every other game has been a virtual-New York/Miami/Compton/Chicago/Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland. In other words, Brutal Legend is the only game I've seen that goes beyond emulation to make way for expression in its geographic design. If you get bored exploring the world of Brutal Legend, you are simply bored of open-world gaming and your objectivity is lost in the process.

Of course this is practically unavoidable for Yahtzee, he's made a commitment as a games critic to finish every game he approaches. I guess my experience with BL benefits because I didn't have to force myself to finish GTA IV, Saints Row II, InFamous and Prototype. To me Brutal Legend is more than just another world that must be explored, experienced and evaluated within a professional time frame. It is a visual feast and, unlike GTA IV's endless errands and familiar-from-real-life row and column streets, it's a living breathing wildlife beckoning me to visit it over and over again.

Bottom-line: Brutal Legend is a triumph of interactive story-telling combined with fantastic (as opposed to realistic) art design offering a unique, guided free-form experience. It fails mildly in the familiarity of its gameplay, majorly in the repetition of its secondary missions. If you're going to account for Tim Schaffer's popularity as a game designer and success as an industry veteran, can we at least acknowledge where his true talent lies? Because revealing that a point-and-click adventure writer has problems implementing hack-and-slash combat with RTS elements in an open-world setting while maintaining proper balance, that's a no-brainer.

Here's one for Yahtzee - Please, take another German lesson on the pronunciation of umlauts... Ü is more like the French u, like the one in "crčme brűlée" (pronounced in French, not English - that would remove the point altogether).

Apart from that, love your reviews.

"...as in the point where you have to make your monster sidekick vomit gelatin over a set of dominoes so they won't fall over and detonate a bomb."

Odd game logic, yes, but it did feature what was quite possibly the best line from any game I've ever played --

"So, what is that stuff they pack canned hams in?"

Priceless.

L.

I thought that bit when the sound went off was intentional, lol.

Good stuff. That being said, I know a few games where I feel that QTEs work quite well. But thats just me. Probably just like them as I thought resi 4 was the best thing to happen to me since I bought a Gamecube and it had them.

williebaz:
I thought that bit when the sound went off was intentional, lol.

Me too so your not the only one!

Powerman88:
I think the point is that Writing and Game Design are not necessarily in the same skill set. I spent roughly 12 hoursish with Brutal Legend (I don't know how to make the umlaut) and I have to say its strongest point is as an artistic vision. The coolest part for me was racing around from one end of the world to the other and checking out all the detail and the vivid imaginations and creativity that clearly went in to every inch of the world.

My biggest beef is that this game REALLY needed another year of development. The story felt like it had hunks chopped off (it felt half as long as it should have been). You see all sorts of tainted coil at the very beginning and then not again until the final battle. There are a few relationships between characters that feel only half flushed out, and the world seemed like it had some cool spots that were put in for a reason and then had that "reason" taken out to rush a game to production.

Ultimately it REALLY felt like the cake needed another hour in the oven; if you get what I'm saying. Whats my point again?

I wonder if activision is to blame for your supposed lack of development.

Wow, I haven't thought about that wall kicking minigame in Full Throttle for years. Thanks for opening up a wound Yahtzee. *sniffle* Jokes aside a really good article as always. Also only 30+ comments? What happened to all the idiots who comment on the ZP videos? EP too intellectual for them?

Adzma:
Wow, I haven't thought about that wall kicking minigame in Full Throttle for years. Thanks for opening up a wound Yahtzee. *sniffle* Jokes aside a really good article as always. Also only 30+ comments? What happened to all the idiots who comment on the ZP videos? EP too intellectual for them?

Yeah, that kicking game was bad. You have to wait until the lights all match up, then kick a specific crack in the wall at a certian point that your sidekick can't remember exactly because she was only about 6 years old at the time. That is probably the worst part about the game otherwise great game(unless you forgot the booster fan for your bike and didn't clear the cliff).

I wouldn't mind going back to unleash the horde of wind up rabbits into the minefield again, or try to find some new forks, well, maybe not "new" new, but not ground into thousands of little pieces new.

Two pages AND they have to read it all themselves? That's an alwful lot of work for a lot of the ZP folks.

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