Eurogamer recently discovered one of its very own personal heroes padding around EA's Guildford offices wearing a hoodie and looking eminently lovable. In-between gazing longingly at him while he ate free sandwiches and attempting to force him into playing Time Gentlemen, Please! by stutteringly telling him that "it's definitely not rubbish", we interviewed him about Brutal Legend, Psychonauts and all his new celebrity rock royalty friends. At no stage did we climb into his lap and tell him that the Milkman level in Psychonauts was fabulous, and that we should definitely be best friends forever. That's for next time.
Eurogamer: So you're a very funny man, and so is Jack Black. So when you were doing the recording how much licence was he given to change lines and improvise?
Tim Schafer: I was like: "Just shut up! Mr... big! Mr movie star! You do realise I worked on..." Nah, we'd start with the script, then he'd like to read it out - but then he'd like to do loads of different reads on that line. Then he'd start changing it and improvise, using the same essence. Sometimes we'd say to move on and that we'd got it, but he'd keep on and say "How about like this?" thinking we weren't recording any more - and do a really funny version of it. Sometimes we'd use that version of it - it's a mix.
Eurogamer: From the first time you see Brutal Legend in motion the comic timing and Eddie's reactions seem to be perfect. There's a lot of comic acting done in just the way his eyes move... Is that Jack Black shining through too?
Tim Schafer: Yeah, we put a lot in from when we were recording the voice-overs, but we also watched a lot of his movies. There's a point in School of Rock where he looks through a window into the classroom and he raises one eyebrow after the other in this crazy wave motion. When you're working with an actor like Jack you've just got to get some really nice eyebrow-work in there...
Eurogamer: So when he turns up at the MTV Video Awards dressed as Eddie and waving an axe - is that something he's asked to do, or is that his own doing?
Tim Schafer: I think from him, that was his idea. He's been really good support and he's a natural for it - it's a natural thing for him to do. Dress himself up. I'm worried about all the steroids he's been taking though.
Eurogamer: So what's gone into Brutal Legend that you learnt during the process of creating Psychonauts?
Tim Schafer: Well, we developed it in a more agile way; we started with the gameplay. With Psychonauts we worked on creating all these assets - the world, the characters, the animation. Then we put it all together at the last minute, hoping it would work - making a few changes so that it fit. With Legend we started with the core gameplay: Eddie, the axe, the car, him running around. Then we added the headbangers, and then some ideas for the world that he would go into. I think that's better, from the very beginning we had a fun gameplay experience there.
Eurogamer: Going further back in your career, does the mini-resurgence of adventure games make you want to revisit your roots at all?
Tim Schafer: I didn't get out of adventure games because anyone told me to, I could have kept working on them. I just got excited about directly controlling a character... I got more excited about playing those games. Whether popular or not, I'm more far likely to make whatever game I'm interested in.
Eurogamer: You don't miss making games like that anymore then?
Tim Schafer: You know what I miss more than adventure games? Platform games. I was really sad that by the time Psychonauts came out it was illegal to make a platform game. I like a happy, brightly coloured platform game - now everything has to be dark and gritty, and have a lot of shooting in it. People bemoan the loss of adventure games, but no-one wants to be sad about platform games. I think that's a big loss... younger kids want to act like older kids, wanting to have guns, shoot things and be violent. A lot of them would like a fun, happy platform game.
Eurogamer: Psychonauts was pretty dark in places though.
Tim Schafer: But not dark like "I've been tortured for five years and everything's melodramatic!" Psychonauts was dark in the way that life is, it was about that mixture of happy and sad that everybody's life is.
Eurogamer: So is there anything like that in Brutal Legend? Any taps into the psychology of Rock? Or is it just more full-on?
Tim Schafer: Psychonauts was more about everyday human life and experiences... this is more like a hero's tale. Like Norse mythology. The stories are bigger, the characters are bigger... it's not like in Psychonauts with Gloria's sadness about her mother. This is more comparable to... Odin.
Eurogamer: Not everyone is a heavy metal maniac, so how are you catering for people who don't share the music taste?
Tim Schafer: The idea is that even if you hate heavy metal, there's a lot to like in the game - the humour, the action in it, the art. My hope is that after playing people will find that they actually do like heavy metal. Something that I'm really proud of are the songs, which are the best songs that I can think of and that, I think, will convert people. We've made it so you can always press the start button and see who's playing and what the song is.
Y'know, people in the office, the people working on the game who we didn't think were heavy metal, they found that they liked it. We forced them to like it.
Eurogamer: Why did you include a feature that lets people bleep out the swearing?
Tim Schafer: Well, two things. Once I got a letter from someone saying how much they like playing Psychonauts with their kids, and I was thinking about that guy when I was making Legend and I was thinking: he's not going to be able to play this game with his kid. You just can't stop Jack or Ozzy from swearing, no matter what. And I didn't want to write 'frick' and 'frak' or whatever in the dialogue for them...
Also, Ozzy was talking about how it was really weird for him living in the States and watching the Osbournes there with all the bleeps, and then seeing it in the UK uncensored. It felt strange to him, jarring even, to hear all the swearing. He thought it was funnier when it was bleeped out, to make your imagination think of an even worse word. We liked the idea, so we made this thing that bleeps on the fly. It's not a feature that people demand, it's not a publisher demand, I just wanted to put it in.
It gets a lot of attention as secretly people do like to play these games with their kids, even if it's M-rated. It's nice that they can turn off the decapitations, turn off the swearing and not feel guilty about it. Then again my kids drop the f-bomb more than I do. Swearing doesn't seem to be important anymore, it used to be a big deal. I wasn't allowed to say 'fart' in my house when I was growing up. But now I'm all like 'fartfartfart'! Take that parents!
Eurogamer: So was it easy to get people like Lemmy and Ozzy Osbourne on board?
Tim Schafer: Once they realised we weren't making fun of them, they were really excited. They wanted to see the art and how it would be used - I think they didn't want it to be a parody. But it's not - it's a very loving tribute to heavy metal. I think they could tell that, and that's why they signed on to do it.
Eurogamer: I seem to remember being told once that Lemmy was really into his games.
Tim Schafer: Well, I don't know if he has a PlayStation yet. I know he has an Xbox 1. I got to go to his house, and he had an Xbox, and he had a GameCube - and on that he was playing Star Fox: Assault. Hopefully he'll play Brutal Legend and like what we've done with his character.
Eurogamer: So did you make this game just so you could go round all your heroes' houses?
Tim Schafer: Yeah. It worked. That's my advice: do it. You want to meet famous people? Just make a game about them. I get to meet them all.
Brutal Legend is due out for PS3 and Xbox 360 on 16th October.