Gamelab 2014: Tim Schafer's talk

Tim Schafer (Double Fine) is the the co-creator of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, and designer of Full Throttle and Grim Fandango - the games I enjoyed the most in my youth, and also the games that made me wanna start learning programing so that I could create my own games.

I would even say that Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert (Zak McKraken, Indiana Jones, Monkey Island 2 and Day of the Tentacle) are probably the main reasons I am into making my own adventure games.

Tim Schafer had an inspiring talk at Gamelab about many interesting apects, like the creative process of writing (freewriting), getting inspiration, psychology and individuality and a bit about the process of making games - among other things.

One of the first things that really caught my attention was when he said:

"Instead of using a big monolithic design document in the start of your project

you take a smaller more demonstrable(?) piece and make that right away.

And then look at it, and see what you wanna do next, and then create a backlog of tasks, and it's a more organic form of working together.


I like the idea that you don't know where things are going, and it terrifies a lot of people, but I feel more comfortable with that. If you know exactly where you are going to end up, it doesn't feel like art to me. You should have some sense of chaos, some sense of that things could change."

I really enjoyed hearing this. My experience is that writing a very detailed gamedocument almost kills my creativity and motivation.

I also enjoy the fact that a gamedocument is a "live" document, and that things can be added or removed whenever you feel like it.

He also talked about not using the entire world as "an audience" to your product, instead writing it for one person.

"Kurt Vonnegut talked about how it's impossible to think of the whole world as your audience when writing a book, he just picked one person. He picked his wife."

For me, this makes perfect sense!

I have done this myself, though "the one person" were myself. I made a game that I wanted to play, and that I knew that I would enjoy. Not caring about what other people think - either they would like the game or they would't.

"Negative feedback is a blessing, because you get to fix something bad and make it better."

(You realise that) Everytime somebody gives you a negative comment about your game, it's this gift. Because it's a negative thing about your game that, if you can find a solution to, you can turn it around and then it's this thing that made your game better.

So every comment you get is a gift that you should say "Thank you" for. The meaner it is, the more you should say thanks, because it's really helpful in making your game awesome."

-Tim Schafer

This, was the thing that made the biggest impression on me. Suddenly I realised that he is so right.

When I released my first game, Cowboy Chronicles, I had a hard time getting negative feedback on my game. There have few times in my life that I have felt worse than during that time.

I felt exposed, as it was my game, and I felt very personal about the negative feedback.

But rewriting the old quote:

"A chain is never stronger, than the weakest link."

to be related to games:

"You game is never better than the weakest part."

Improving the 'weakest part of your game and making it better will have a better payoff than polishing the best part of your game.

(This might not be true in all regards, but it sure helps me embracing negative feedback.)

Tim got asked what are the negative and positive things about your Kickstarter campaign. And his answer is a nice encouragement to end this post by:

"Positive parts about the Kickstarter campaign [...] We made 3.4 million dollars, and that's a fun thing to do! if you guys ever get the chance to do that, you should do that!"

#gamelab #timschafer #brokenage #monkeyisland #dayofthetentacle #dott #fullthrottle

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