It's been an interesting week for Tim Schafer. First, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick accused the Brütal Legend creator of missing milestones, going over budget, and, perhaps worst of all, making poor games. Schafer then hit back in his own, unique way. All this amid the hiring of old LucasArts pal Ron Gilbert and the completion of Double Fine's first downloadable game ever: the cute, funny, Halloween-themed RPG Costume Quest.
The fun and games all began, of course, in July, by the sea in sunny Brighton. Now, as we sit down for round two with perhaps the funniest man in gaming – and lead animator and chief architect of Costume Quest Tasha Harris – the rules are different. Tim has a publisher – THQ – and is on a tight leash. Still, we didn't want to let you down.
Eurogamer: After our last interview a few people doubted you were aware the tape recorder was on. The tape recorder is on Tim. There's a red flashing light.
Tim Schafer: Yeah. Well, you know I was making a joke about how I didn't know the mic was on. These things never show up as jokes.
Eurogamer: Jokes are impossible on the internet. Where to start, Tim?
Tim Schafer: Costume Quest... Tasha?
Eurogamer: There's a mini-game where you have to eat apples that bob in water. For some reason I was revolted by the apples that had worms coming out.
Tim Schafer: How strange. That's strange that you would be revolted by the idea that you were eating a worm.
Eurogamer: What would Freud say?
Tim Schafer: Obviously your potty training was botched. That's what Freud would say.
Tasha Harris: It might harken back to when I was in kindergarten – it's funny, you only remember these certain aspects of when you were that young – but I remember a kid putting a worm in a girl's milk carton. And her not drinking it, but spitting it out, like on the ground. And the worm was... Oh.
Eurogamer: Is that why there are worms in the game?
Tasha Harris: Maybe subconsciously I was thinking about that when I did it.
Tim Schafer: Sometimes a worm is just a worm, Wesley.
Eurogamer: I've spent some time with the turn-based combat, the quick-time button presses and the levelling up. It feels quite easygoing. Is that old-school JRPG stuff in the game because you used to love JRPGs back in the day?
Tim Schafer: That was just what Tasha likes.
Tasha Harris: A lot of it is that. We had some focus tests with kids, and I wanted to make it very accessible for all players. With kids, it gives them more time to think about things. It's not twitch-based gameplay where you have to wrestle with a whole bunch of controls. It's something that's more accessible for a kid. The Pokémon games are like that. Mario RPG.
Eurogamer: Did those games inspire the JRPG sections of Costume Quest?
Tasha Harris: Yeah. And the old-school RPGs, obviously.
Eurogamer: Did you play those kinds of games back in the day, Tim?
Tim Schafer: Yeah. Tasha's a real expert on EarthBound and games like that. But I came into liking RPGs later in life. Later in life, as an older man, when my brain started moving slower.
Eurogamer: Turn-based combat is out of fashion now, isn't it?
Tasha Harris: Yeah. A friend of mine pointed out, how many turn-based Western RPGs are there? And I was like, oh man, I can't really think of one. Maybe the new Penny Arcade games?
Eurogamer: You guys are bringing it back.
Tasha Harris: Yeah. Well, people who grew up with those games are now making games.
Tim Schafer: The one that made an impact on me was Skies of Arcadia. I really liked it. It was turn-based combat between regular warriors, and also you could fly in a pirate ship.
Eurogamer: You like pirates, don't you?
Tim Schafer: It always works. Pirates always work.
Eurogamer: Outside of combat you have to do a lot of exploration as you get and complete quests and talk to NPCs. Was that deliberate?
Tasha Harris: Yeah, definitely. Halloween is one of the days when kids can go out and explore their neighbourhood, maybe even by themselves. So I wanted to get that aspect into the game.
Eurogamer: Did anyone inspire the main baddy, the evil witch?
Tim Schafer: How far did you get with her?
Eurogamer: I got to the point where I was fighting her right-hand monster, the middle management guy.
Tasha Harris: Maybe the classic Disney villains, the evil queens.