Tim Schafer has always been something of a maverick within the games industry. Although it had originally been conceived of as serious in tone, for instance, Schafer’s dialogue for The Secret of Monkey Island convinced Ron Gilbert to turn it into a comedy. Much later, after founding Double Fine Productions, Schafer responded to the commercial flop that was Brütal Legend with a shrug and a bit of original thinking. He gave his employees a fortnight to come up with ideas, anything they liked, and turned them into games – Costume Quest and Stacking, which were conceived of in this process, have already been huge successes and demonstrate a degree of creative freedom not usually found in such a big studio. These so called ‘Amnesia Fortnights’ were based on the filmmaking practices of another maverick genius, Wong Kar-wai, whose masterpieces Chungking Express and Fallen Angels were made in incredibly short and free-wheeling production spans in the middle of creating his epic, Ashes of Time.
Given his track record of thinking outside the box (thinking with rubber chickens, perhaps), it’s hardly surprising that Schafer would respond to the lack of publisher interest in another classic point and click adventure not with despondency, but by pitching the project on Kickstarter. Within eight hours the project had already reached the target of $400,000 dollars, and is currently sitting at the $1.7 million mark, only the second Kickstarter project to have breached the million mark and by far the most successful project on the site. This not only demonstrates the immense affection Schafer’s fans feel for him, but indicates an unexpected level of demand for a genre that he playfully says seems to only “exist in our dreams, in our memories and in Germany”. After all, the people who funded the game knew next to nothing about it; they just heard ‘Tim Schafer’ and ‘point and click’ in the same sentence and reached for their wallets. Rightly so.
So what happens now? Well, we know we have a new point and click adventure to look forward to from the man who brought us Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. But more than that, Schafer’s success at finding other ways of funding, drawing directly on the enthusiasm of his fans and bypassing increasingly conservative, money conscious publishers, may offer openings to other indie developers. On top of that Schafer is also using the money to fund a behind the scenes documentary with unprecedented access to the often murky, obscured world of games design. 2 Player Productions, the people behind the camera, will be posting regular updates on the production for eager fans who now have a staked interest in the project and there are plans to allow the project to be shaped by fan feedback. Tim promises “Double Fine is committed to total transparency with this project, ensuring it is one of the most honest depictions of game development ever conceived.” This may well become a watershed moment for independent game development and the role of the player in the process.
But let’s leave the final words to the charismatic Tim Schafer in this charming video that launched the adventure: