Contrary to popular belief, game developers like Double Fine do not live in ivory towers surrounded by moats of blood, snorting the crushed bones of children through your hard-earned £10 notes. Not since they've left Activision, anyway. (Too much?)
But today we're meeting Tim Schafer and Lee Petty in the penthouse apartment of a swish hotel in New York City (so swish, in fact, that they ask camera crews not to name it, and swish enough that you can unplug the cable box from the TV and hook up your Super Nintendo if you get bored on Friday after dinner, as I did). Schafer and Petty are expected to ram about 408 interviews into a two-hour period, so we only get five minutes, but it's an enjoyable exchange so we thought you'd like to see it in full.
Petty is lead designer on Stacking, due out for PSN and XBLA this week. While Schafer isn't working on it much (although he assisted with story-writing and some puzzles), he does a reasonable job demoing it on stage at THQ's Gamer's Week event, and of course he's Tim Schafer, so it's always nice to see him.
Eurogamer: THQ core games boss Danny Bilson was very glowing earlier in his praise for you, Tim. It must be really gratifying to have fallen in with a publisher that respects your vision and what you want to do.
Tim Schafer: Yeah, it was great. We weren't originally planning to be up on that stage, but he brought us up and it think it says a lot that they're supporting our creative vision for the game and not trying to impose any creative restraint and weird focus-group test thing on us.
Eurogamer: Is there more to come from this collaboration after Costume Quest and Stacking?
Tim Schafer: Nothing that we have... There's... I don't know. [Laughs]
Lee Petty: I think it would be great to continue this collaboration in future, personally.
Tim Schafer: Yes, we really hope they call us.
Lee Petty: We're expecting money hats to arrive in the mail any day.
Eurogamer: I was playing the game earlier and it seems it's got that whole LucasArts adventure thing of everything being a joke, which I always loved, particularly in Psychonauts and some of the older games. Is that a philosophy for you guys? That everything has to have some comedic value to it, or that every interaction has some purpose?
Tim Schafer: I don't know if I approach it that way. I guess when you're making something work, you're like, 'What could be done here that's, just, interesting and entertaining?' And maybe just humour is the first we trick we use to make things interesting and entertaining.
Lee Petty: There's always the artifice of the game. There's always a little bit of that breaking the fourth wall when you're working on a game. And a lot of the humour comes from breaking that. Like, there's a guard at the door, and it's a gating device, and you're like, 'Well that's boring, I've seen that before,' then the guard's got his own comedic story about why he's there standing at the gate.
That's the nature of the game. So to some extent I think it's just reacting to some of the trappings of working on the game. It just leads to those comments. You hear those comments a lot when people are working on games, but you don't really see them in games, and they feel really good to me.
Eurogamer: Do you have particular favourite gags in there? Does anything particular tickle you?
Lee Petty: I know what Tim's favourite joke is.
Tim Schafer: Which is my favourite joke?
Lee Petty: I don't know what your favourite joke is. The thing I enjoy most about the humour is that there's a lot of dark humour and comedy in there, but I really enjoy the mix of high and low brow humour. I think having fart jokes in there is great... with Chopin.
These sorts of things I just love. It's not taking itself too seriously, but it's pulling on things in a post-modern way from all these different sources and mashing them up.
Tim Schafer: I'm sorry we weren't able to use that title for the game – Farts and Chopin.
Eurogamer: On that note, when we do features on Eurogamer we usually have a strapline on the frontpage – a little witty or informative nugget – and I was wondering if you guys could help me come up with something for this interview.
Tim Schafer: Inside Tim & Lee.
Eurogamer: I don't want people NOT to read it.
Lee Petty: So nothing about taking from behind. Hmm. Tim Is The Stack King.
Tim Schafer: Oh god.
Lee Petty: It's a pun! Tim loves puns! It's the only way to get anything approved at Double Fine.
More on Stacking
Face-off: Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3: Round 29
Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Test Drive Unlimited 2, Fight Night Champion, Stacking, de Blob 2.
Welcome to the dollhouse.
Hands On: Stacking
The pile-high club.
Eurogamer: Maybe we can revisit that one... So I was looking at your Wikipedia page earlier and it says "not to be confused with Tim Schaffer". Does that happen a lot?
Tim Schafer: There's a Tim Schafer who's a famous chef, and there's a Tim Schafer who's a footballer who gets in drunken fights a lot...
Lee Petty: Tim is basically a combination of those two personalities.
Tim Schafer: Who's Tim Schaffer?
Eurogamer: He's a Republican from Ohio, apparently.
Tim Schafer: That actually is me! The games don't take up that much time these days, so I'm trying to run some districts in Ohio.
Lee Petty: Slush-funding the Tea Party.
Tim Schafer: Lee Petty's much more popular because he's a famous NASCAR driver.
Eurogamer: How many games have you got in development at Double Fine now?
Tim Schafer: We kicked this off doing four at once, with four teams, so there's two more... Some of them are still working on, ah, secret stuff.
Eurogamer: Has the Costume Quest team circled back and started on something new?
Tim Schafer: They are... working. [Long pause.]
Eurogamer: He nodded.
Tim Schafer: [Protesting] I said they're working!
Eurogamer: Yeah yeah yeah, I saw you nod.