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Double Fine aiming for a less prolific 2012

Schafer's studio on sequels, sales and Iron Brigade's future.

Tim Schafer's Double Fine Productions will surely rank as the hardest working developer of 2011.

Hot on the heels of last October's Costume Quest, it released three brand new titles - Stacking, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster and Iron Brigade - and announced that work on another Kinect project, Happy Action Theatre, is well underway.

Speaking in an interview with Eurogamer this week, Iron Brigade's project lead Brad Muir warned fans not to expect quite such prolific output in 2012.

"I think we're going to fall into a more staggered release schedule," he explained.

"We started all these games at the same time, sort of out of necessity at the end of Brutal Legend. It was like, 'Oh god, what are we going to do?'. And Tim was like, 'Okay, we're going to pitch all these different things'.

"And all four got signed, but they had different budgets and different schedules so it was like those four horses all started at the same time and ended at different times."

Muir added that beefier titles like Brutal Legend, which demand four year development cycles, just aren't feasible any more for a studio of Double Fine's stature. Instead, it will likely focus on one or two small to medium-sized releases a year.

"Hopefully people aren't expecting three of four games every year - I don't think we're really capable of that!" he added.

The San Francisco-based studio, founded by Monkey Island creator Schafer in 2000, has now released six new IPs in a row. Do future plans include making its first ever sequel?

"I don't think we're averse to making sequels," responded Muir.

"I just think we haven't had a real mega breakout hit. If Brutal Legend had done five million copies we'd probably still be working on Brutal Legend 2 right now. It would have been a slam dunk for EA to immediately sign it.

"So, I wouldn't rule it out but there's still this passion and hunger to make new s*** here that I absolutely love.

"Tim is so good at attracting really creative talent. These four games - they're so different, they're so creative, they're so out-there, and they don't come from Tim. They come from the brains of other people who are here at the studio. And that's super-cool, so I'd hope we can keep doing that."

Muir added that there are plenty of ideas floating around for an Iron Brigade sequel, but that would afford the studio less time to come up with new concepts.

"We could absolutely make a sequel to that game. No problem. We have enough spare ideas floating around that we could totally do that. But if we do a Costume Quest 2 or a Stacking 2, that means less new ideas that are floating around out there. It's a toss-up. There needs to be a balance."

Other than Happy Action Theatre, the only other project locked-in is the mystery title that Schafer's old LucasArts colleague Ron Gilbert is currently hard at work on. Muir wouldn't volunteer any further info, other than that "It's cool and it's moving along".

"I think people are going to be really stoked when they see it," he added. "More stuff will be coming out on that soon."

In the more immediate future, a new Iron Brigade DLC expansion, titled Rise of the Martian Bear, is due out early next year.

Muir's acclaimed action/strategy hybrid finally launched on Xbox Live Arcade in Europe earlier this month following a legal dispute over its original name, Trenched.

Despite all the stress it caused, Muir insisted that there was no bad blood felt between Double Fine and the Portuguese board game maker who forced the name change.

"I really wish we had had that opportunity to just see if we could hash it out developer-to-developer, but it just wasn't on the cards," Muir explained.

"But the dude had the name. He filed his paperwork, it's out there. It's not his fault. He's just trying to protect what is rightfully his. I get angry about the situation but I try not to get angry at him because it's fully within his rights to do this. He didn't do anything wrong.

"A lot of internet folks got really angry and were like 'this f***** Portuguese guy who's keeping me from playing the game. F*** that guy!'. No, don't f*** that guy. Don't do that. He's fine. He's just trying to look out for number one and I totally understand that. It's just an unfortunate series of events."

Unlike Costume Quest and Stacking, Muir reiterated that Iron Brigade won't be heading to PlayStation Network.

"I think the only way that can happen is if Microsoft buys Sony, or Sony buys Microsoft. Unlike our other IPs, it's fully owned by Microsoft," he said, with a hint of despondency.

"It's a bummer for me as someone who just wants to make games. You just want to get your games into as many hands as possible.

"I want it to be everywhere, all the time, for everyone. Even if you play on your own homebrew handheld Linux system, I want you to be able to play Iron Brigade on it. But I don't really think it's on the cards this time."

But what about a PC release? That could still happen, right? Muir remained tight-lipped, though didn't rule out the possibility.

"Microsoft absolutely could do a PC version. That is my statement on that."

For more on the game, head on over to Eurogamer's 8/10 Iron Brigade review.

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