Tim Schafer has an impressive CV, having worked on games such as Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango and more recently, Psychonauts. In other words, he's a bit of a big deal.
His latest project, Brutal Legend, was met with much anticipation when the curtains were swept back last October. It's an action adventure based in a fantasy world of heavy metal where players become a roadie called Eddie Riggs. Jack Black will provide the voice for the unlikely hero
When Brutal Legend, originally to be published by Sierra, was dropped as part of the Activision merger, we were worried. But as announced today, fellow super-publisher EA has swooped in to pick up the game for the EA Partners label - the same one responsible for Valve's recent works.
Brutal Legend will now be released on Xbox 360 and PS3 next autumn. We had a chat with Schafer to find out more.
Eurogamer: Hello, Tim Schafer! Can you tell our readers who you are and why you're so famous?
Tim Schafer: Why am I so famous? [Laughs] I worked for 10 years at LucasArts and I did a lot of the old-time graphic adventure games there, like Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango. I left to start my own company, Double Fine Productions, in 2000, and we made the game Psychonauts. Now we're working on Brutal Legend.
Eurogamer: Brutal Legend has been in limbo for a while now, following the Activision-Vivendi merger. How did that affect Double Fine? Has development suffered? Was there sulking?
Tim Schafer: No. The team really knuckled down and worked on through it. It was a rollercoaster of a year, but it was a productive one, and now we're really excited to be working with EA Partners. I would say there was not even a single day where work stopped because of the confusion.
Eurogamer: And what's so good about EA? Don't they just make sports games?
Tim Schafer: No! Actually a lot of the really interesting stuff going on right now is happening with EA Partners. If you look at other developers working with them like Grasshopper Manufacture and Valve, there's a lot of really creative stuff that's happening. They're the perfect place to launch a new IP and to do something that is pushing the boundaries of gaming.
Eurogamer: Is Brutal Legend a bit different, then? Is it a change from what a big publisher would normally push out?
Tim Schafer: Well it's a unique take on... Not straight-up fantasy, and it's not a straight-up music game. It's something that uses the imagery of something like heavy metal to create a unique fantasy world. As long as you're willing to do something that hasn't been done before, I think it can really be rewarding.
Eurogamer: We've been told not to ask you too much about the game, because you're saving that for later. But we don't know that much about Brutal Legend anyway, apart from the Eddie Riggs roadie plot and what was said back when it was announced. Why has there been so much secrecy around the game?
Tim Schafer: We've been waiting until it's time to show people the game. It just isn't the time yet.
Eurogamer: We've heard that Jack Black will still be voicing Eddie Riggs. What's it like working with him? I hear you're quite friendly.
Tim Schafer: It's been great. From the beginning, before I even dreamed of having someone of that calibre on the game, we were hoping that we were making a game Jack Black would like. Just because the stuff he had done before with School of Rock, with Tenacious D and that song "The Metal" - he wrote a whole song about how metal cannot be destroyed.
We were like, "I just hope he would play this game," because I'd heard that he played games. And then when he liked it, we thought, maybe we can actually talk to him about doing this game.
So I met up with him in LA and I showed him my pitch for the game and he really loved it, I think, and said he'd do it. And he's contributed a lot; he improvises dialogue, he really brings a lot to the character. So he's been great to have. Not just for the participation, but contributing to the energy and enthusiasm of the project overall.
Eurogamer: We remember reading that some famous metal groups were recording new music for the game. Is that still the case?
Tim Schafer: The final track list is not something we can announce right now. But we're definitely going to have the same calibre of top bands in the game, yeah. So it's still going to be awesome, even though we're not announcing the songs yet.
Eurogamer: And what about the game, has much changed since announcement? Or is everything as the target document predicted?
Tim Schafer: We're still talking about a heavy metal fantasy world and that experience is the same. Projects evolve or improve over time, but we're still talking about that roadie making that epic journey through time.
Eurogamer: I know you can't say too much about the game, but could you tell our readers something about the game that will get them so excited they might not be able to sleep tonight?
Tim Schafer: Haha! In Brutal Legend you'll go into a world you haven't gone into before, which is combinations of every single thing I've ever thought was cool in the world, all together in one place. How's that?
Eurogamer: Excellent. I'm excited. And obviously we here at Eurogamer were big fans of Psychonauts, so much so that we voted it best game of 2005. I don't know if you know that, so...
Tim Schafer: I did!
Eurogamer: ...How much better is Brutal Legend going to be?
Tim Schafer: Hahaha! Brutal Legend is the natural evolution of awesome. I think you must take the next step, even if it is a giant step... The next logical, enormous step towards awesomeness that we've made.
Brutal Legend will be released for Xbox 360 and PS3 in autumn 2009.