Double Fine Productions is a game developer best known for adventure games like Psychonauts and Brütal Legend. The name of the company was chosen from a sign on the Golden Gate Bridge that used to say "slow to 45 mph - Double Fine Zone"1.
- July, 2000
- Tim Schafer
- San Francisco, California, United States
- Key people
- Tim Schafer (Founder & Game Designer)
- Lee Petty (Game Designer and Art Director)
- Brad Muir (Game Designer)
- Nathan Martz (Game Designer & Programmer)
- Former staff
- Tasha Harris (Game Designer & Animator), left to join Pixar
- Erik Wolpaw (Writer), hired for Psychonauts only; later employed by Valve
- Ron Gilbert (Game Designer), hired to create The Cave and subsequently left to pursue independent titles
- Major Titles
- Brütal Legend
- Double Fine Adventure
- Official Site
Released in 2005 for Xbox, PC, and PlayStation 2, Psychonauts has the player take control of Raz, a boy with psychic abilities who runs away from the circus to sneak into a camp for gifted children. The title was originally to be published by Microsoft but they pulled out; Majesco ended up publishing the title in the United States. The game cost an estimated $13 million2. Despite being critically acclaimed, Psychonauts sold less than 100,000 copies after a year of release3, but has since sold well after being re-released on digital distributors Steam and Good Old Games4. The game has since been made available on Mac via Steam.
October 2009 saw Brütal Legend released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Blending elements of action-adventure and real-time strategy, Brütal Legend stars rocker Eddie Riggs, modeled after (and voiced by) Jack Black, who is transported to a fantasy world inspired by heavy metal. The soundtrack features 107 heavy metal tracks by 75 different bands. Originally to be published by Vivendi Games the title was dropped after the merger with Activision and was eventually published by Electronic Arts. The game went on to sell an estimated 1.4 million copies - more than any previous title but not enough for a big title5.
When Vivendi and Activision merged and subsequently dropped Brütal Legend, Tim Schafer split the company into four teams to forget their work on the title and develop a prototype to be reviewed by the other groups within two weeks. The process was dubbed Amnesia Fortnight. The idea came from Hong Kong director Wong Kai-Wai6, who filmed Chungking Express (1994) and Fallen Angels (1995) during the development of Ashes of Time (1994). Chungking Express subsequently is a shining example of both world cinema and art films, and Schafer wondered if his team could pull of the same level of creativity in short bursts. Five ideas coined were subsequently developed into games.
Following Brütal Legend7, Double Fine began simultaneous work on four separate titles each with separate project leads based on the concepts developed during the Amnesia Fortnights. The first was Costume Quest, released for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade on October 2010 (and a year later on PC). The game saw siblings Reynold and Wren dress up for Halloween only for a monster to kidnap one (the sibling the player does not choose). Lead by ex-Pixar animator Tasha Harris (who has since returned to the animation studio), the game is a blend of adventure and RPG with over-the-top turn based combat. The game's budget was $2 million8.
February 2011 saw Stacking released for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, with a PC version being released just over a year later. The adventure/puzzle game was helmed by Double Fine's art director Lee Petty, who conceived an idea to use matryoshka dolls to be used as a player interface for a game. Charlie Blackmore lives with his family in the industrial age, and they have fallen in to debt after the mysterious disappearance of his father. The family is then forced into work by The Baron, and Charlie later discovers his family are being forced to work as slaves. It is up to Charlie to use his ability to stack into other dolls and save his family. The game's cutscenes are done in the fashion of the silent film era and the game areas are a unique blend of great depression era designs and small household objects. Stacking's budget was the same as Costume Quest - $2 million.
In June 2011 Double Fine released Iron Brigade for Xbox Live Arcade, with Brad Muir being project lead. The title is a tower defense/third person shooter which sees the player control giant mecha style robots in an alternative reality after World War I.
October 2011 saw the last in the four titles released - Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. Conceived and led by Nathan Martz, the title utilizes the Kinect to control Cookie Monster and Elmo, as well as two new characters, to sing and dance. The game teaches lessons about human themes (rather than basic English and math) including shyness, friendship, bravery, sensitivity and empathy9. The aim was to have parents to join their children to play together by including jokes for adults10.
Tim Schafer found his 2-year-old daughter had trouble with Kinect games due to both the system limitations and game difficulty. He then had an idea for a game that was simple enough for her to play and enjoy - which became Double Fine Happy Action Theatre11. The game uses the Kinect camera and motion-sensing in an augmented reality shown to the viewer which allows players to mess around in lava and simulate Space Invaders. Schafer lated stated the game was aimed at "three-year-olds or college dorm rooms full of drunken 20-year-olds"12. The game was released on February 1, 2012.
Schafer wondered if he could potentially launch a game project on Kickstarter to raise money for a title, rather than having to rely on a publisher for funds. Following the project launch on February 12, 2012, $3.45 million was raised from a total of than 87,000 people for Double Fine Adventure. Schafer wants to create a point-and-click adventure title in a similar vein to The Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango but with a modern approach. The title is scheduled to be released on Android, Linux, iOS, Mac and PC in 2013. The game was tentatively titled Double Fine Adventure (with the internal name of Project Reds) until the final name 'Broken Age' was decided upon.
Ron Gilbert (The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion) was revealed to have been hired by Double Fine in September 2010 and The Cave was born. The platform/adventure title will have seven player characters and is able to be played co-operatively by several people. The game was to be published by Sega in 2013.
SF Weekly posted an article about Double Fine on May 23, 2012 which mentioned a sequel to Double Fine Happy Action Theater13. This was later revealed at PAX Prime 2012 as Kinect Party14. The game includes new game modes including the ability to play as giant dragons taking down a castle and was released in December 2013.
On August 30, 2012, a fifth game was announced that originated as an Amnesia Fortnight prototype, Middle Manager of Justice. The game is led by Double Fine gameplay programmer Kee Chi, and is a simulation title for iOS that contains role-playing game elements. It was accidentally released on September 5 2012, but was quickly pulled. The build that had gone out was in fact not the finished version of the game - it was not ready. Double Fine reached out to those who had downloaded the title asking them to submit bug reports and advised the title would be released later on15. The game was released in December 2013.
In November 2012, Double Fine opened up their Amnesia Fortnight process to the public via Humble Bundle, allowing the public to contribute funds (and also to split their money with charity and the site's hosting) and vote on all pitched projects. Double Fine also announced live streaming would take place during the two weeks of development. After 75,065 votes the top four became projects - these were Hack n' Slash by Brandon Dillon, Spacebase DF-9 by Jean-Paul LeBreton, The White Birch by Andrew Wood and Autonomous by Lee Petty.