So, as you may have heard from the racket produced when the entire internet simultaneously exploded with joy, Notch of Minecraft fame offered to finance a sequel to Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s psychic adventure Psychonauts, widely regarded as one of the best games of the last generation and also a personal favourite of Daniel Floyd, creator of Extra Credits. That’s about as many internet celebrities as I can cram into one sentence, so straight to the point – We’ve got advice that we think will help make the new game even more successful than the original! Here’s our top three tips:
3) Don’t release it at the end of a generation.
The first Psychonauts suffered commercially, making its publisher an $18 million loss. This was partially due to a lack of mainstream appeal by way of not being a generic shooter or dull incremental upgrade to a sports game, but also because it launched in April 2005 for the Xbox in North America, and didn’t reach Europe until early 2006. As far as appropriate timing goes, that’s like going to open an umbrella stall on the Titanic – it could sell the most wonderful umbrellas in the world, but it’s not going to last very long and won’t stop anyone getting wet.
I have a feeling Double Fine will face a similar problem here. Happily though, I think they’re in a much better position to handle it. After all, Psychonauts was their first game – since then they’ve gained quite the following through sublime titles such as Costume Quest, Iron Brigade and, er, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster. What’s more, there’s still a good bit of life left until the next batch of consoles, with only Wii U and Vita out this year to count as next generation. That said, if budget allows for it, I wouldn’t say no to a Double Fine game to kick off the eighth generation. Hint.
2) Make sure it plays the same on every platform.
Psychonauts was released for the PS2 slightly after it came out for Xbox, and the port was notorious for being the worst version of the game available. Still, that’s a bit like being given a free car and complaining that the wing mirror is askew, so we won’t dwell on it. I’d just like to say that this time, it would be clever to make sure that the version released on every system (yeah, still hoping for a Wii release here) is optimised perfectly for the hardware. We can wait. We’ll even keep feeding them money until they get it done. Seriously, Double Fine are worth it!
1) Don’t sacrifice valuable space for graphics at the expense of more lovely writing.
Now this isn’t a criticism of Double Fine particularly, but it’s a problem several games of the past generation have had. I’m referring of course to FUEL syndrome, the temptation to create vast, expansive worlds populated by nothing. This latest game will probably be a download-only affair, what with proper boxed releases being infuriatingly expensive and so on, so it’s especially important to preserve space where possible.
I’ve had the unpleasant experience of buying a Steam game and being told I have 11GB to download to play the game I paid for, so remember – a lot of people (myself included) still have terrible internet connection speeds, so a possible solution would be a standalone HD texture pack for those of us with the time and space to install it. Not that we’d probably even need it – Grim Fandango came out last millennium and that still looks gorgeous today.
Before you rage at us for failing to include your fan suggestions in this article, bear in mind that this advice is purely from a development/publishing viewpoint – there’s no way I could even hope to hold a candle to whatever the Double Fine folks could come up with. However, if you do feel really passionately about what they should do with their game, feel free to let us know. Who knows, we might revisit it in future!
With all that said and done, I’d genuinely like to wish Double Fine the best of luck with their endeavors – they’re a wonderfully talented bunch and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. If you’d like to make a donation to their next project, you can do so here (and I’d strongly encourage you to do so). To watch the Cubed Gamers team in action in Double Fine’s 2011 game Costume Quest, you should head here!