Schafer: Brutal Legend "unfairly vilified because of poor messaging"

Double Fine boss explains how a more open approach could have helped rock adventure

Tim Schafer, Double Fine founder and Psychonauts deisgner, has admitted that muddled messaging ultimately harmed 2009 title Brütal Legend, and that he now aims for a more open approach to development.

"The part that I felt was most special about the game got unfairly vilified because of poor messaging," Schafer told Eurogamer of the game that combined RTS and action.

"I think it's the neatest thing about the game turning into a big negative for people, whereas if we'd brought them in the process early they would have enjoyed those parts about the game a lot more."

The game started out with Vivendi as a publisher, before being picked up and actually released by EA. Schafer explained the problem started with Vivendi's refusal to refer to the game as an RTS.

"Vivendi was like 'No. Absolutely not. We'll never say RTS, ever. Even if someone asks us if it's an RTS we'll say no.'"

"There was definitely a messaging problem with that game. That's one example of how the openness would have helped that game a lot. Say we were developing that and sharing our battle system with people before we launched; not only would people have known about it, but people would contribute ideas to it and embrace it, and feel like it was their idea instead of this nasty shock."

The game had a troubled life, with the move from Vivendi and Activision to EA causing legal issues. An out of court settlement was eventually reached and it was released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in October 2009, and achieved a Metacritic score of 82.

Schafer now has a different, more open approach to game development, and explained "we used to have this terror that if I go off-message and say the wrong no one will buy my game, which is not true."

"I've had this epiphany about how it doesn't hurt to be open. Let people see how it progress over time, so they feel the way we feel about the game. So they're really attached to them. You think people are going to reject you or your ideas about the game because they'll see something they don't like, but what actually happens is they embrace them more because they feel more included and more like a part of it."

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Latest comments (8)

Tommy Thompson Lecturer in BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming., University of Derby5 years ago
Publishers aside, when you release a demo for an action/RTS game that carries none of the RTS elements no wonder some people were surprised.
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James Prendergast Research Chemist 5 years ago
I have to say that I enjoyed Brutal Legend a fair bit. The RTS parts were okay, the action parts were okay but the realisation of the world was pretty stellar. It's just unfortunate that the story really took a left turn and a nose-dive at the 3/4 mark with very little foreshadowing... It was a little abrupt and, well, IMO, not well written.

I think in that context, 82 % average rating is pretty accurate if you're thinking about it on a true 100% scale.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
Electronic Arts also avoided talking about the RTS bit. That demo didn't help, although in defense of everyone involved, it was just a slice of the opening act of the game which started out more simply before the game introduced a lot of other systems an hour or two in. And that's just part of the messaging problem that Tim is talking about - Brutal Legend is this unique combination of gameplay elements in a world that resembles nothing else in gaming, and while I'm not sure how big the audience could be for that, people that like it in my experience really like it.
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Show all comments (8)
Pier Castonguay Programmer 5 years ago
This game had everything to be my favorite game. Metal music, Jack Black, Comedy, Double Fine. Unfortunately, I haven't even bothered finished it, the gameplay wasn't good enough.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises5 years ago
Brutal Legend was an RTS?? :O
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Kevin Patterson musician 5 years ago
I thought Brutal legend was awesome, until I was made to play an RTS style game over the action adventure that I loved so much. If they would have kept it as an action adventure all the way through, it would have been a better game.
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Zidaya Zenovka Blogger, Writer, freelance artist. 5 years ago
Sorry Tim. Brutal Legend got vilified because it wasn't a very well written story towards the end, it wasn't that good an action/rpg, and was a poor rts. If you'd been more open and gotten more consumer/fan feedback, maybe you would have realized that you would have been better off making it more along the lines of Darksiders, only hopefully with a lot better combat system.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 5 years ago
Its about f***in time, man!

Get a sequel, and this time on the PC/Mac, too.
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