Brutal Legend Suffered from Lawsuits

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Brutal Legend Suffered from Lawsuits

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A postmortem from the game's executive producer reveals that annoying legal wranglings drew the attention of the game's designers during crunch time.

The executive producer at Double Fine Studios, Caroline Esmurdoc, wrote a rather lengthy postmortem piece on the development of genre-bending Brutal Legend last month for Game Developer magazine. In it she describes how the development team was blind-sided by then publisher, Activision, when that company announced its slate of games and Brutal Legend was left off the list. Then, after it signed with Electronic Arts, Double Fine was embroiled in a legal battle as Activision tried to block the game from being released. Esmurdoc claimed that all of this drama took time and energy away from lead designer Tim Schafer and the game suffered in quality because of it.

At first, development of Brutal Legend went well because of the relationship with Vivendi. "We had been working collaboratively and successfully with various groups at Vivendi for two years until Vivendi merged with Activision," Esmurdoc said. "We lost touch with both publishers while a lawsuit percolated. The merger announcement and subsequent diminution in publisher contact with Vivendi personnel, especially after such a previously harmonious relationship, caused internal unrest and morale dips among the team. Company meetings often included frustrating discussions about what little we knew about the current situation at our publisher."

Then Activision failed to inform Double Fine that it was not going to publish their game until the rest of the world knew. "We learned Activision was not going to be publishing Brutal Legend through an official press announcement issued by Activision that listed the games they would be shipping, ours conspicuously absent," she said.

Then further lawsuits were brought by Activision after the developer signed with its new publisher, Electronic Arts:

Most of the team was shielded from the drama that unfolded between December 2008 when Electronic Arts announced that they had picked up the game for publication and July 2009 when the lawsuit settled. But Double Fine's leadership was not.

The lawsuit was filed just as the game went Alpha, with a stipulation that it be heard prior to Gold Master being submitted - relegating Tim and myself and a cadre of team leaders to the unenviable job of information gathering, declaration writing, lawsuit reading, witness interviewing and all around non-game-making during the crunchiest, most critical time of development. The lawsuit took its toll on the team, on the company, on our product and on our optimism. Wrong, any way you slice it.

Kudos goes to Shafer, Esmurdoc and the rest of the team at Double Fine for pulling together such a complex game while having to deal with such annoying lawsuits. One wonders how awesome a game Brutal Legend could have been if the designers had had a supportive, helpful publisher throughout its entire development.

Source: GSW

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Bah, shame for them. Hope their next game will get more luck.

lol first its "this game is going to best the most awesome game ever" then when it gets a luke-warm response we find out about these "complications".

maybe they would have made a better last boss battle, i'm still giving it one try a day before being frustrated and quit, damn Tim Schafer and his 95% awesome games.

edit: finished that last mission just after writing this, but i still think its only 95% awesome, loved the ending, but i hate having to travel the land looking for story and music, i dont mind the dragons, the stage battle attacks and lookout posts, and even the background story can be forgiven, but the music! no way!, thats -5% of awesome.

also despite that last rts level, i really didn't mind the "rts" fights, it was simple enough to work on a console and it was still very hack n slashy as you where only looking down while regenerating health and choosing a new target, and the double teaming, though i quickly found one combo that worked best, where fun and added a new dept to the combat, some polish and wider variety of side quests would have been nice, but i don't feel like they have to excuse themselves.

A weak excuse.

MOre time would have given them the ability to use less RTS style battles when fighting a boss and making it one big hack-and-slash fight like it should have been

SnootyEnglishman:
MOre time would have given them the ability to use less RTS style battles when fighting a boss and making it one big hack-and-slash fight like it should have been

Agreed. The RTS sections really bring it down.

triorph:
lol first its "this game is going to best the most awesome game ever" then when it gets a luke-warm response we find out about these "complications".

Idk what planet you've been on, but all we heard about in the year leading up to release was about how Activision was giving them shit.

Perhaps Yahtzee would've liked it more if it wasn't for those pricks at Activision causing the delays?

Oh well, what's done is done, but at least you can learn from what has happened to you.

triorph:
lol first its "this game is going to best the most awesome game ever" then when it gets a luke-warm response we find out about these "complications".

SilentHunter7:

Idk what planet you've been on, but all we heard about in the year leading up to release was about how Activision was giving them shit.

Indeedie. The Escapist agmonst other REPEATLY reported on the 'joys' Activison was throwing on Double Fine.

Anywho, as for the news itself, *puts on best James T. Kirk face* "KHAAAAAN.... I mean....AACCCTIIIVVISSSSION!"

Activation (or should I say Vivendi) is readily becoming the next EA with their tendency to acquire existing studios and run them into the ground. Pandemic Studios is gone. Cryptic Studios is probably next, thanks to being rushed to market. This Brutal Legend interference further encourages me to boycott the brand entirely.

Booze Zombie:
Perhaps Yahtzee would've liked it more if it wasn't for those pricks at Activision causing the delays?

Oh well, what's done is done, but at least you can learn from what has happened to you.

Sadly, we'll never know. Another black mark to add to the list of evil Activison has inflicted on us.

geldonyetich:
Activation is readily becoming the next EA with their tendency to acquire existing studios and run them into the ground. This Brutal Legend fiasco further encourages me to boychott them.

Readily? They've surpassed EA's (mostly) former evil. The saddest part of that is EA turns nice, and then they start to lose money, whilst Activison all but use their customers as foot cushions, and yet have their own mint to print a vast pit on money.

Doug:

geldonyetich:
Activation is readily becoming the next EA with their tendency to acquire existing studios and run them into the ground. This Brutal Legend fiasco further encourages me to boychott them.

Readily? They've surpassed EA's (mostly) former evil. The saddest part of that is EA turns nice, and then they start to lose money, whilst Activison all but use their customers as foot cushions, and yet have their own mint to print a vast pit on money.

EA never turned nice, though they attempted to clean up their reputation a bit by saying they did. They ran Mythic nicely into the ground by "encouraging" them to make Warhammer Online into a giant WoW clone, and apparently their CEO is quite happy to leverage the recession as a means to keep employeees "motivated."

It might not even be specifically EA or Activation so much as how incompatible big business and pursuits of art are incompatible.

I watched a friend of mine play Brutal Legend for an hour or two shortly after it was released. I was disappointed, as it had so much promise.
Not to say that it was a bad game, but with the major parts of the gameplay - open-world, hidden RTS, that just don't appeal to me, I'm skipping on it.
God, do I ever hope it brings in enough money for Psychonauts II though.

Doug:
Readily? They've surpassed EA's (mostly) former evil. The saddest part of that is EA turns nice, and then they start to lose money, whilst Activison all but use their customers as foot cushions, and yet have their own mint to print a vast pit on money.

The little drop in profits for EA is just part of the process of treating your customers more like people, the profits will drop because you haven't made an exceptionally dumb game, but then they'll go back up over a sustained period as opposed to "raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh, yeaaah" money shots like Modern Warfare 2, which are more "one week money rakers".

The problem with money shots, both in business and in other... areas, is that they leave you tired after a while, people get bored of seeing the same thing over and over again and when you're tired and your fanbase is tired of you, you're just a big target.

This happened to EA, it will happen to Activision.

Fuck Bobby Kotick

That's really that can be said, thought really anything involving Activision can be summed up like that.

geldonyetich:
Activation (or should I say Vivendi) is readily becoming the next EA with their tendency to acquire existing studios and run them into the ground. Pandemic Studios is gone. Cryptic Studios is probably next, thanks to being rushed to market. This Brutal Legend interference further encourages me to boycott the brand entirely.

I started doing that around the time of MW2s PC shit... The many, many Guitar Heroes lead me to believe they're a pack of phenomenal idiots to think they can get away with this for long and pushed me to Rock Band.

triorph:
lol first its "this game is going to best the most awesome game ever" then when it gets a luke-warm response we find out about these "complications".

If you were about to release a game, would you hype it up and say it's excellent, or would you say it sucks and no one should buy it? Marketing 101.

I call bullshit

They could have done much more other than polish the game more. Its core gameplay would still suck.

I loved Brutal Legend. 'm not entirely sure why, I might just like tooling around in the Druid Plow with the game's fantastic soundtrack playing in the background.

Really? You will try to make me believe that it's all Activision's fault that Tim Schafer decided to go on and make a console RTS while promoting it as an action game. Schafer is an amazing storyteller but this game did not deliver on the gameplay, and that's entirely the developer's fault.

Does sound like a bit of an excuse to me. But hey, I've not played the game, so I guess I'm in no position to judge. And I don't think I'm likely to be either.

Screw Activision. That is all.

Maybe if they make another one they can develop a better RTS, or maybe remove the RTS entirely. It was the only part of the game I didn't like. The driving around and shooting stuff part was awesome though.

Yay! It all makes sense now! Brütal Legend was found a little lacking because of Bobby Kotick's progressive insipidity! Whoo, scapegoat at last!

So let me get this straight. Activision bumped them from the list of games they were willing to publish, without saying anything, then when the designers found a new publisher, activision kicked up a fuss and sued them? Am I understanding that correctly?

And that is why the modern-day way of making games will suffer a slow, painful death over the next years until video games as a media are almost unrecognizable from what they are today. Awesome!

Icecoldcynic:
So let me get this straight. Activision bumped them from the list of games they were willing to publish, without saying anything, then when the designers found a new publisher, activision kicked up a fuss and sued them? Am I understanding that correctly?

Yes. You are. Activision said they were "in talks" for a publishing deal, and that EA took unfair advantage of Double Fine's situation.

I doubt the game would've been any better had the lawsuits not existed. Perhapsthe game would've been made faster, but it's unlikely the game would've had extra modes, levels and better gameplay because of it. I think this is partially an excuse for some awkward gameplay decisions probably made right from the start.

Good on the guys for making the game, the world is better with it around, but having suffered a major blow by Activision, personally, I think not.

Icecoldcynic:
So let me get this straight. Activision bumped them from the list of games they were willing to publish, without saying anything, then when the designers found a new publisher, activision kicked up a fuss and sued them? Am I understanding that correctly?

As stupid as it sounds, yes, that's exactly what happened.

If not for all this lawsuit buttfuckery, Schafer could have had more time for playtesting and replacing gameplay mechanics. Sounds plausible.

orannis62:

Icecoldcynic:
So let me get this straight. Activision bumped them from the list of games they were willing to publish, without saying anything, then when the designers found a new publisher, activision kicked up a fuss and sued them? Am I understanding that correctly?

As stupid as it sounds, yes, that's exactly what happened.

And Activision got nailed in an Out of Court Settlement as fast as you'd expect, too.

Its so awesome that as soon as the so called "messiah of game development" turns out a less than stellar game, gamers are split into either calling Schafer a washed-up has been, or roped into making ridiculous excuses for him.

ShadowKirby:
Really? You will try to make me believe that it's all Activision's fault that Tim Schafer decided to go on and make a console RTS while promoting it as an action game. Schafer is an amazing storyteller but this game did not deliver on the gameplay, and that's entirely the developer's fault.

Do I have to break out the big flaming letters screen shot again!?

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