2017: A Look Ahead

2016 is near its end or it’s over based on when you read this. It was a rough year in many respects, but it gave us a ton of excellent pop-culture. 2017 as of now promises to do the same. There’s SO much to look forward to. To list it ALL would take forever so I thought I’d just focus on a few things here and there.

NETFLIX is hitting hard with a multitude of shows debuting or returning. Amongst them:
Degrassi: Next Class Season 3 – Available January 6, 2017.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1 – Available Jan. 13
Santa Clarita Diet: Season 1 – Available Feb. 3
Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 1 – Available March 17
Sense8: Season 2 – Available May 17
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later- Date TBA

In terms of Network television I can highly recommend the 12th and final season of BONES on FOX premiering Jan 3rd. I’ve seen the first three episodes and they are very hard to comment on without spoilers, but plot twists, reveals, robots and one of the greatest actors of any generation Hal Holbrook are involved.

The reimaginging of the L. Frank Baum saga by Matthew Arnold finally happens with David Schulner (creator of Do No Harm) and so far poorly reviewed but keeps getting work Tarsem Singh at the helm. If anything NBC’s Emerald City looks like it’ll be definite event TV or fail drastically and get cancelled before all 10 episodes even air. One or the other should be fascinating to watch.

legobatman

In terms of films I’d have to say LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is high on my anticipated list. Sure it’s not by the actual writer/directors of Lego Movie (they’re busy making Lego Movie 2) but it has a good pedigree and every teaser and trailer has me excited.

I’m also intrigued by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. For his first follow-up to Instellar to be a WWII flick is fascinating. It’s also his first SOLO project since Inception as brother Jonathan was busy creating and developing the excellent Westworld. Equally fascinating is the amount of work put into this film. It’s not a remake of the late 60’s film, so it’ll truly interesting to see what stories Nolan chose to build upon to coney emotion, gravitas, and character even when the lead character is still the operation and Dunkirk itself (the film was actually filmed there).

Also pulled in by the adaptation of Dave Egger’s The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. James Pontsold makes visually enticing, perfectly paced films and chose the easiest and simplest yet not simple Eggers novels to turn into a film.

There’s a ton of amazing video games coming 2017 too but this site is still without an XBoxOne or PS4 so the focus is on PC games but those that will not require a $5000 rig to run.

First up on the excitement board is Full Throttle Remastered the next rebuild of the classic Lucasart’s games designed by Tim Schaeffer which Double Fine was able to get the IP rights back for. I’m really curious to see how they update some of the worse parts of the game like the combat and the maze puzzles. I’m not completely sold on the art actually but I’ve been happy with DF so far, so I’m in.

Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier (First Chapter out, but the rest hits 2017) is awesome. I already reviewed it and I’m excited for the rest.

thimbleweedAlso excited for platform point & clicker A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.
Third person action adventure co-op player TROLL AND I.
2-D Shooter with old school animation CUPHEAD.

and most especially, Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, David Fox and teams’ THIMBLEWEED PARK, the pixel point & click dream of a game I think many thought Broken Age would be. I loved Broken Age, always will, but Thimbleweed Park is looking bigger and better then I ever imagined it could be. I didn’t get to back when I wanted to, but I wouldn’t been able to back what I wanted anyways. This is probably number one on my experiences for 2017 I look forward to.

There’s a share of BOOKS coming out as well.

First up two genius female writers tackling heroes from Marvel and DC.

Shannon Hale (with Dean Hale) does The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Meets World and Gwenda Bond comes forth with a third in her awesome Lois Lane series with Tripleflaminglips Threat.

There’s a really cool STEVEN UNIVERSE ORIGINAL GN coming out called TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL by the show’s co-creator Ian Jones-Quarterly, Jeremy Sorese, Asiey Barbie and Josceline Fenton

Michael Crichton’s never before published posthumous novel DRAGON TEETH comes out May 23rd. It’s a Western during western times but about dinosaurs!

Neil Gaiman ventures into both old and new territory retelling the tales of Odin, Thor, Loki and more in NORSE MYTHOLOGY scheduled for February 17.

George Saunders first ever complete novel, LINCOLN IN THE BARDO comes out February 14In music I’m mainly excited for one album.

The new The Flaming Lips titled Oczy Mlody. AFAIK I believe I’m seeing them live in March as well so that makes 2017 awesome.

Notice on DFA Documentary/Broken Age

While PCS still awaits the Kickstarter Collector’s Edition we wanted to give you a heads up on the excellent Documentary by 2 Player Productions now being on Steam as well as a bundle sale on Broken Age with the documentary and soundtrack.

Here’s the official word from DF themselves:

unnamed

October 1st 2015 – San Francisco

Double Fine Adventure Documentary now on Steam, 66% off this weekend

The Double Fine Adventure Documentary by 2 Player Productions is now available on Steam, with an introductory 66% off sale price until Monday October 5th!

The collaboration between 2 Player Productions and Double Fine Productions that launched a historic Kickstarter campaign has reached its conclusion! A three-year journey spanning twenty episodes, the “Double Fine Adventure” series chronicles the creation of “Broken Age,” from a germ of an idea in Tim Schafer’s notebook to a finished game and beyond.

Along the way, the team is confronted with production delays, internal strife, and outside controversy in what is the most honest, in-depth look at video game development ever created. Previously exclusive to Double Fine’s Kickstarter backers, now everyone can share in the passion, humor, and heartbreak of this landmark documentary series.

Now available on Steam, the Double Fine Adventure comes with 10 collectable Steam cards featuring art by Michael Firman, 5 Theme Badges, 5 Emoticons, and 4 Profile Backgrounds.

“Double Fine Adventure is the best video game documentary to date”

– Eurogamer

“A must-watch for those intersted in the art of game creation”

– Game Informer

“Even if you don’t care a jot about adventure games, even if you’ve never picked up a Double Fine game in your life—this is a documentary that demands your eyeballs (and your heart).”

-8bit-chip

Double Fine Adventure

Regualar price $14.9 – $5.10 until Monday (66% offf)

http://store.steampowered.com/app/402590/

Double Fine Adventure + Broken Age + Broken Age Soundtrack bundle

Regualar price $44.98 – $15.30​ until Monday (66% offf)

http://store.steampowered.com/bundle/141/

Tim Schafer Games: the History of, and my Love of BROKEN AGE


Double Fine Adventure was what turned me into a Kickstarter fiend for a few months. The only thing that ended that fun was a mix of finances and seeing certain projects I funded just take way too long. Still I pledged $100 to DFA with trust in what Tim Schafer and Nathan “Bagel” Stapley coming together and combining their efforts to create a modern point and click adventure based off the strength of Tim’s previous work and where it’d lead had he not had to move on to things such as Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. This is not a commentary on those games, but more to explain my views of what became BROKEN AGE and my feelings towards it versus how certain reviews and opinions have formulated based on preconceived expectations based on misunderstanding and lack of comprehension on the part of the backers.

Being a backer meant that for the last two weeks I have gotten to playtest, look for bugs, analyze the game and prepare for whatever post release onslaught could be coming. The fans on the boards who were negative… and I mean NEGATIVE and I can understand most of their issues. Yet, those issues are mostly based in falsehood expectations that they had. Not one of them have I heard complain about the story or the art. Many of them have complained about length and character, but the second is to each his own. Some people love Natural Born Killers, others hate it, the same with True Blood, My Little Pony, Ben 10, Batman and many many other things. One person will say the character was full of emption and I could really relate and another person of the same exact character can say they had no emotion and could not relate at all. These are things that happen with every creative piece of art ever made and BROKEN AGE truly is a piece of art and it is a game.

It is is not an interactive story, or an animated children’s book which you can press buttons on. It is the perfect example of an adventure game that exists as it would’ve had if when Double Fine was created did nothing but point n click games. This is how they would evolve. They wouldn’t just be retreads of Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle or even Grim Fandango, but the next step, following the path that gaming has taken from going casual, back to hardcore, a return to casual and then reaching a happy medium that isn’t exactly a perfect balance and definitely won’t please all, but would allow for something fun, creative, purposeful, enjoyable, engaging and for some challenging, while others truly easy. For those who find it too easy though they would be getting something that no other game possessed. A special kind of charm, a witty humor, a sense of logic and story building that only Tim Schafer and a team he helped hand select could create.

My personal largest issue is people saying this is not what they expected and yet their expectations are all based on their own personal nostalgia and conception of what a Tim Schafer game is instead of the reality of it or at least to sound less biased, that there is another view of that and that the most important one is Tim Schafer’s. I will leave this argument and focus more now on the game itself and a couple of facts on the history of Tim Schafer games and Double Fine.

I feel to look properly at BROKEN AGE we must skip Monkey Island, as those were mostly Ron Gilbert games in which Tim got input but did not show us what type of game he would make. Day of the Tentacle is the first place when one sees the type of game Tim would make. Something that would take the genre to the next place. While multiple characters had been used in Maniac Mansion, finding a way to have those characters work together was new. DOTT was not as hard as people seem to remember though. Dave Grossman co-directed it and lots of his work which would be seen later on Moop & Dreadly and the Telltale Games catalog was definitely in place here… and they were equally Tim’s. Simplifying things to extract humor and thoughts but not making things so hard. The same can be said with Full Throttle, a game that was much more about fun, humor and story then trying to make things hard or complicated. It was short and balanced and even combined a difficult but not impossible action sequences, the first hint that Tim felt the best way to expand the genre was to simplify puzzles and add different types of gameplay. Full Throttle also showed Tim’s great and intriguing choices in voice casting and focusing on getting performances that would really show off his hilarious quips and really thought out storytelling. Mark Hamill, Maurce LaMarche, Tress Macneille, all inspired choices who at the time were established actors known to animation and genre fans worldwide. Then with Grim Fandango he flipped EVERYTHING upside down and made a 3D game with difficult controls, an abstract plot and even more abstract casting with voices everyone knew… Tony Plana, Maria Canals, Alan Blumenfeld and Pamela Segall-Adlon were all established actors with careers. It was an indication that if Tim could he’d really reach as far and as wide to get performances above and beyond that of a normal video game. The kind of performances we have all slowly now gotten used to, but back then… not even close to the norm.

Then… Tim Schafer stopped making point and click adventure games. Psychonauts had puzzles, but it was also an action platformer and one that took that genre into new directions with a heavy emphasis on conversations, visual cues, great storytelling with depth, and amazing acting performances. There was some really interesting casting on it with Armin Shimmerman, Josh Keaton and Tara Strong. He also proved a dedication using a lot of the talent from Throttle and Fandango. Then came Brutal Legend, turning the entire third person action adventure game in new ways and at times trying to do also way too much by adding Real Time Strategy. Yet, inspired casting, dialogue and story really leaped and showed Tim’s true talents as a director. Jack Black, Brian Posehn, Tim Curry, Jennifer Hale, Cree Summer and of course getting those legends of Rock.

After Brutal Legend and how it fared though Double Fine went smaller and Tim became a department head, while other voices in Double Fine showed how equally awesome they were. Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade, Middle Manager of Justice were all brilliant and definitely Double Fine games which also felt like Tim games even with Tasha Harris, Lee Petty, Brad Muir and Kee Chi as directors.

All this brings us to BROKEN AGE and I’ll start with this. I love it, I understand any negative reviews and complaints but respectfully disgaree with them and I think this is something all gamers who want a new experience that at the same time feels old. Tim’s handprint is all over this thing. The jokes are aplenty and funny. Some are easily missed if you don’t experiment at illogical things, but there comes the real fun of adventure games. This is the linchpin of everything for me. Tim has created something that is funny, heart warming and full of depth. Are the puzzles easy? I guess. I’ve seen plenty of people also stating they were stuck in places and actually turning to a walk-through or asking for a hint, so I think the balance has been hit. A delicate balance that any game of this type will have had trouble juggling. I believe they have done so successfully. We also really get everything we’ve gotten from Tim in the past, innovation, the next step. This is the game he’d of made in 2014 as an adventure game especially if Psychonauts and Brutal Legend were point and clicks if he had complete control without publishers and never turning to Kickstarter in the first place. Turn to Kickstarter he did though and that created a whole different setup. Because this might not be the game he would’ve made under a publisher. A publisher would’ve maybe given him that little amount asked for and then he’d make a game and publishers would complain instead of fans. All this could be wrong, but it’s what I feel and isn’t that what reviews are, feelings?

I think the biggest thing that makes BROKEN AGE special is twofold.

Firstly, taking the evolution of casting to the next level. Tim brought in a ton of old friends along with him, including the folks with him since Day of the Tentacle and even bringing back Jack Black, as well as Cree Summer and even recruiting Wil Wheaton again. It’s the NEW people that are so exciting though. In the leads Elijah Wood (yes, that guy!), Masasa Moyo (best known for Team America: World Police and Young Justice), and David Kaufman (Danny Phantom and animated Jimmy Olsen); joining them in minor roles are major voice actresses like Hynden Welch and Grey Delisle with a final extra special appearance by the creator of Adventure Time & Bravest Warriors (and the voice of Spacy Lump Princess) Pen Ward. It’s like the greatest cast ever in forever for anything.

Secondly is the art style. No game has ever looked like this, because no game has ever tried to look like a painting by Nathan Stapley (well other than the Flash game on Double Fine.com based on his comic book). While he’s been an employee at Double Fine for a long time and was previously at Lucas Arts, his personal work is something special and other worldly. His palette and style has a frenetic energy that has not been seen by many… not even his occasional mate and fellow Double Fine employees Scott Campbell, Levi Ryken or Lee Petty. “Bagel” is a very special artist and that comes through every image in the game. While Peter Chan and the other artists I mentioned had a major part in the concept art, the final look of this thing is still all through the eye of Nathan.  Words really do it no justice, so here’s two screen shots.  One from the “fantasy” world and one from the “space” world.  Both have all the artistic influences in here and really show off how absolutely beautiful this game is.

The final word from me is you need to get BROKEN AGE. Be it now (released February 28th, 2014) off STEAM to experience the awesomeness of ACT 1 and marvel at an amazing Part 1 or waiting for the whole game off of Humble and other sources. I say play it now… as you get the entire game. Also grab the soundtrack.

Amnesia Fortnight Follow-Up

With almost a week and a half of work done, over nine days days of streaming footage, six documents of daily work edited by the team at 2 Player Productions and many many Double Fine forum and tumblr posts with concept art, music, programming and development discussion I felt I’d do my own quick personal viewcap on the Double Fine Amnesia Fortnight. This is for myself, the Double Fine team, the people already as invested as much as I am in the progress and those who have not yet joined in and can still do so within the next two days or possibly longer.

The breakdown will be by games and my own insights and reflections.

AUTONOMOUS: Not long into the game I came up with calling the production team of this prototype PETTY CROOK. This being a what I thought a clever combination of Project Lead Lee Petty, and Lead 3D Modeler/Artist Ray Crook. While equally the team could also be called “MOO-AR PETTY CROOK IS SOULLESS” to add some more team members in to the name, that leaves out the awesome music guy Camden Stoddard, programmer Oliver Frankze and all the rest of the excellent team working on this, so…
AUTONOMOUS is A Petty Crook production…

That music by Camden btw is amazing, but is also the only music that can’t be heard outside of the twitch.tv or downloadable 2PP eps as of yet. That’s okay though as added to the Humble Bundle has been a soundtrack and as each prototype has been given it’s own cues and original music this soundtrack itself will be worth being in the bundle grip.

Brad Muir has truly been the star personality wise of this whole deal, between his recording of the Jersey bot for voices and jokingly, but not completely stating the game sucked (as it exists at the time, because the bots were just being dumb, so it became some fun to mess with, but not fun to actually play). Still I understand why so many want to to play. I personally kind of just want to mess around with it, and feel it’ll need to prove itself to me in knowing my final goal.

BLACK LAKE: Levi Ryken’s sketches and concept art are still the most top notch part of this game. Of all the games this is the one I’d want a collected concept art book

(speaking of concept art book… Double Fine actually will finally have one soon. That will be the BRUTAL LEGEND art book. It is in the current PREVIEWS Catalog in a full page spread from UDON, and comes out in February.)

I’m also really enjoying how this game is coming together, the idea of scanning for smells and sounds and then following clues to your next spot in the tracking of an animal while also trying to avoid enemies really sound intriguing for a game that from a gameplay standpoint was the weakest at first and now seems conceptually the best.

In terms of music we know that Dax Tran-Caffee has recorded accordion parts for a mechanism of gameplay which I can only assume shall also come into the actual soundtrack as well and that makes me assume that the Doublefine employee who brought him in Brent Andrew Shinn is also recording some original guitar pieces.

HACK N SLASH: While the concept art for Black Lake blows me over, especially the early sketches, it’s the final look of Hack n Slash that is really calling me. Mark Hammer’s final version of the protagonist is awesome, but even better is the work Razmig Mavlian has put in. While inspired by Zelda he’s created his own awesome background that would work well as prints, wallpapers, or whatever. Raz also did the utterly awesome logo.

I’m still unsure completely n what the game playing will be like. I’m intrigued by the ideas originally presented and seeing how they finally find their way into the prototype and how easy or difficult they’ll be to understand.

On the music end, Paul O’Rourke has outdone himself creating as of now three amazing sketches that invoke an old school feel yet at the same time being completely modern. They really should be heard and along with Camden’s tracks will make a seriously awesome soundtrack.

SPACEBASE DF-9: This actually coming together in a way that I’m actually interested in seeing the final product. While many were excited by the concept alone it has taken seeing how much work has gone into it to make me want this as much as everyone. From the choosing jobs for your individuals to the fact that Bagel is doing sitting and eating animations to the Facebook style status updates it all looks really nice.

I get a vibe of them really trying to find a way to make this gameplay that for a sim that allows even the biggest sim hater to appreciate. I really hope they pull it off, because I always had issues keeping my excitement with things of the ilk.

In terms of music, I’m really impressed by what Chris Remo has put together. It’s very atmospheric, it has the most feel of being something you’d hear in a TV show instead of a game actually.

THE WHITE BIRCH: The platformer is coming together really nicely. We’ve seen her leaps on ledges, run across a bridge, climb ropes, and all in an almost finished 3d character. Over these last two days they should be able to accomplish a lot and make something that feels like a really complete minigame that if expanded could be even crazier and wild.

The only thing I don’t think we’ve seen yet is how the original idea of different prizes from climbing the tree and different pathways causing multiple playthrough has been implemented or if possibly scrapped for this prototype, only trying to prove Double Fine could make a working 3D platformer that was fun and innovative.

In terms of music, long time adventure game video game design Brian Min is really outdoing himself. On stream we saw/heard him recording live. Of all the music folks at Double Fine he’s the one I’d want to interview most. His sound career goes back to the days of Sierra at its limelight till today at Double Fine and I’m sure he has great stories. Even if he told them in instrumental musical pieces. Btw, listen to some White Birch suite.

In conclusion, as I finished writing this the Monday Standups have begun on the Stream, which is fun stuff to listen to if you’re fascinated with production like I am.

We’re heading to the end of the Fortnight here, but these next two days will be long and exciting, so hop on board while you can!