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Tim Schafer and the Comfort Zone

Tim Schafer is responsible for many gamers’ earliest and best memories. As a developer working for LucasArts (then Lucasfilm Games) in the late 80s and early 90s, Schafer was responsible for creating or helping create many of the greatest point and click adventure games that the gaming community has ever known; he’s been at least partly responsible for games such as Grim Fandango, Maniac Manson: Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Full Throttle. All of these games were praised (each game has a score of 94, 93, 86, and 86 respectively, via metacritic.com) for their original stories, compelling gameplay, and for the comedic tone that Schafer to brought them. After working on these games, Schafer decided to set out from LucasArts to found his own company, Double Fine Productions. The first game Double Fine produced, Psychonauts, a third person action/adventure game, was for lack of a better word, a masterpiece. While not without its flaws (iffy platforming, sometimes frustrating combat, and an intense difficulty curve), Psychonauts has truly stood the test of time and provided the most unique, fun, and rewarding gaming experience I’ve ever had. Double Fine then produced Brutal Legend, another third person action/adventure game. While it was a very fun experience and one of my favorite games of the previous generation, it wasn’t quite the masterpiece its predecessor was. It was too niche, too esoteric for a wide audience, as the whole game was about heavy metal music. If you’re a metalhead, it’s one of the greatest games ever. If not, it’s just a fun and enjoyable experience with a lot of good laughs throughout, due in no small part to its stellar voice cast.

Earlier this year, Schafer returned to his roots in the point and click genre when Double Fine produced the first half of Broken Age (the second half will be released later this year). And, to no one’s surprise, Schafer’s not lost his touch. If not his best effort, Broken Age is well qualified to sit alongside Monkey Island and Grim Fandango in Schafer’s pantheon ( garnering an 82 via metacritic.com). But here’s the thing. Gamers KNOW Schafer can produce great point and click adventure games. As charming and fun as they may be, and as great as their stories are, we know what we’re getting with Schafer’s adventure games: A funny and well thought out story with unique and fleshed out characters. I think it’s time for Double Fine to experiment again the way they did with Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. Schafer needs to step outside his comfort zone of adventure games again, because he can do magnificent things there. As I said before, neither of these games were flawless, but there were reasons for that. Psychonauts had its funding pulled by Microsoft halfway through the development process and floated in limbo until Majesco swooped in and saved the project. Brutal Legend’s gameplay was more fluid and simply more playable, but due to the incredibly specific nature of its story, it didn’t manage to appeal to as many gamers as it should have (and also those big fights where it got a little RTS-ish were kinda weird and confusing). But even with their flaws, I loved both of these games immensely and I would absolutely love to see what Schafer and Double Fine could do with a new third person action/adventure game. Psychonauts 2? Yes, please. Brutal Legend 2? I’d love it. A new IP? Absolutely.

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As much as I love Schafer’s adventure games, I would rather see a new platforming or action game from Double Fine because Schafer’s mind is totally unique and could be (and has been) blended so well with the action/adventure genre. We’ve all played the standard fare of these games that bring nothing new or exciting to the table. Double Fine could give us an accessible third person action game like we’ve never seen before, just like they’ve done in the past. I don’t want to run around shooting robots or zombies or robot zombies for the umpteenth time. I want to fight another telekinetic bear and get my hot rod suped up by Ozzy again! More Milkmen, more Metal Beasts! From no other studio could could we expect things like this to happen in a game. That’s why Double Fine is truly a special company and why Schafer needs to step outside his comfort zone of the adventure games again. After part two of Broken Age, that is. If you haven’t, oh my God go play that game. Come on Schafer, and just release it already!

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