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What is to be a glorious summer of Psychonauts content updates begins with the addition of the w.i.p. enemies section, detailing the game's many foes.
Ryan pulls the venerable Tim Schafer away from the excitement of Psychonauts' impending release for a few seconds, and asks him three brief (read: long) questions about the game and himself.
Interview: A few words with Tim Schafer.
With Psychonauts due for release in just over one week, the demo having just been released to the mass gaming public, and a powerful marketing campaign underway to get word of Psychonauts to the millions, it is truly an extremely exciting time for the fans, publishers and developers of Psychonauts. I took the opportunity to ask Tim Schafer - the creator of Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle - a few questions relating to the release, the game, and himself.

Razputin.net: As those of us who have been following the game since its announcement know, Psychonauts has had a fairly long development period. Taking into consideration the fact that this game's development has probably consumed you and your teams' life for the past few years, how do you all feel about finally having managed to pretty much get it to the point of completion? Are you relieved? Excited? Sad?

Schafer: Well, try to forget for a second that I don’t know anything at all about foot ball, and I will tell you that I feel like we just made the touchdown of all touchdowns, after running the entire length of the field, and the field was so long that it took five years to run, and it was tilted so we run running uphill the whole time, and it was infested with land mines and bear traps and killer bees, and instead of grass it was covered in jagged shards of glass, and the opposing team’s smallest player was 20 feet tall and one of his arms was a machine gun and the other arm was a poisonous snake, and the snake had a switchblade. And after running for two and a half years, half the stadium got bored and left, and half of the people that remained started booing, and half of the people who weren’t booing were reading magazines.

And then it started raining, and then snowing, and then hailing, and then acid rain, and then poison snow, and then radioactive hail. And then the white lines in the field turned out to be trip wires, and when we stepped on them poison arrows shot into our legs and arms and cheeks. And then the Goodyear blimp crashed on the field, and it was one of the rare, hydrogen-filled blimps, and it exploded, and we had to run through it, and all the passengers on the blimp were burned beyond recognition, but they died in a rage so they were still alive in a smoldering, zombie state, and all the burned zombies attacked us, and then there was an earthquake, and then we found out our wisdom teeth were all impacted and had to come out, and then the world exploded, and then when we thought all the blimp zombies were dead, eight more came out of the luggage compartment, and then we twisted our ankle, and then we lost the ball for a while, and then we died.

Then a volcano fell out of the sky and landed on the field, and then everything was just a pile of hot lava, and acid, and poison, and snakes, and blimp guts, and there was no sign of us, so they started playing “Taps” and the TV coverage cut to a commercial and the fans started getting up to leave, but then, right then, a tiny girl in a Whinny the Pooh nightie stood up in the cheap seats and, with a single tear falling down her dirt-smudged face, she said simply, “Psychonauts?” then the tear rolled off her face and fell on to the lava and hissed into steam and then the steam rose up and turned into the Earthly Form of Satan, and he walked onto the field and started taking a leak on the Double Fine two-headed baby logo painted on the ground and he laughed and laughed and then he shuttered a bit and then he laughed again and then there was an eerie silence, and then the silence grew more silent, and then everybody looked to where the silence was coming from—the pile of lava and acid.

And then there was a distant murmur, and then a far-off rumbling, and it got louder and louder and louder, and then Satan started mouthing the words “wtf?” but before he could finish, BOOM! We exploded out of the lava pile, riding a motorcycle we fashioned out of zombie bones, riding a wave of molten radioactive hydrogen that comes crashing down with us onto Satan, melting him into nothing and ending evil forever, and then the stadium exploded with applause as we hit the ramp and jumped over 44 busses and landed doing a wheelie that we kept riding all the way into the end zone, and as the largest worldwide television audience in history sat there with their jaws wide open we took this ball, this ball called Psychonauts, and we spiked it into the end zone, we spiked it down so hard that a ripple spread out from the point of impact--a ripple in the fabric of reality itself--and it spread out like a wave of light and ecstasy and satisfaction that healed all Psychonauts fans of all known diseases, and caused all enemies of Psychonauts to immediately pop like eggs in a microwave.

The international dateline AND the Equator were both moved so that they passed through the place where we spiked down that ball, and all measures of time were reset so that the moment the ball hit the ground was forever thereafter refereed to as 00:00:00 on the day 0 in the year 0. And by some fluke by-product of these changes, all of our parking tickets were somehow instantly forgiven and Rhandy Rhodes came back to life and a tiny, tiny spider in a nearby meadow silently spun the words “Good Job!” into her dew-covered web and smiled. It’s a great, great feeling.

Razputin.net: One of the things that most people recognise you for is your ability to create stunning puzzle-based adventure games. How do you feel about the adventure game genre's evident fall in popularity with both publishers and gamers alike? Does it sadden you to know that a genre which you were so heavily involved with has become a niche market amongst today's gamers, with reality-pushing games that're so lacking in character development and universe realisation taking a dominant stance instead?

Schafer: Okay, here’s the thing: I don’t think genres matter. I think quality matters. It doesn’t matter what type of game you’re making, what specific collection of formal rules you are following, what label people put on your game. All that matters is whether it’s a good game or not. Any genre can be done well; any genre can be done poorly. For example, one genre I used to dislike was traditional RPG games with turn-based combat. It was never appealing to me at all. And then I started watching someone play Final Fantasy VII and got so caught up in the epic story, the art, the characters—I didn’t care what genre of game it was.

It was just done so well. From the moment the game starts you know you are in good hands and that you are going to have an amazing experience. That’s what matters. So then I thought, “Well, I guess I like traditional RPGs with turn-based combat now!” And I played some more, and you know what? I still didn’t like most of them. I only liked the really good ones like Skies of Arcadia. So what I’m getting at is, who cares? Who cares about genre? If what you care about is good characters and stories and fantastic settings then push for that, not some strict set of classifications or rules. That’s missing the big picture, and is, I think, bad for creativity and innovation in the industry.

Razputin.net: A lot of people will be buying Psychonauts because of their familiarity with your past work, while lots will be buying it because it's a new 3D platform game that seems to be earning itself a lot of early recognition. What gameplay elements are in place to appeal to those players which have enjoyed your adventure games of the past, and what is in place to appeal to those players who are new to your work and will be craving plentiful traditional platforming gameplay? We know that dialogue trees will be making an appearance, but what about puzzles? How significant will their role be, as opposed to be running around collecting things and beating up enemies?

Schafer: Well we made the entire mechanic of the game, on the surface, for platform players. You run, jump, climb, swing on trapezes, fight enemies, just like you might in a game like Zelda or Mario. And then, once that structure was complete, we poured in this adventure game. We put in characters you could talk to, objects you could pick up, puzzles to solve. A lot of that stuff we put off of the critical path of the game, so if you were just platforming through, you might miss it. But if you are the type who is attracted to interesting characters, then you will naturally be one of those who stop to interact with them to see what they do.

And if you do, they will point you in the direction of more such gameplay. Side challenges lead to exploration and more character discoveries and hard-to-find scenes, and for the player who just wants to hang out in camp all day climbing trees and splashing around in creeks—they can do that! We put little discoveries for them to find too. And that’s the difference between taking 12 hours to finish the game and taking 45.

Thanks, Tim!

Feature written by Thrik on April 11th, 2005.