It’s an underdog success story tailor-made for the digital era: Double Fine Productions, perpetually the creator of quirky, critically-acclaimed titles that amass rhapsodic cult followings while not selling as much as they really deserve. A game studio founded by the talents behind Grim Fandango, a classic of the point-and-click adventure genre which had been dubbed dead by industry consensus. After hitting another frustrating roadblock in the alley between art and commerce, head honcho Tim Schafer decided he might as well try this new-fangled crowd-funding thing.
He expected he wouldn’t be able to raise more than the bare minimum necessary to create a simple, mobile game–if he could even raise such an amount, at all. Then, he cleared his funding goal within a head-spinningly short amount of time. And then he went on to surpass it almost ten times over. Not only did Double Fine’s Broken Age campaign set records on Kickstarter, and not only did it inspire a swath of developers to raise blockbuster budgets through this platform, it also proved that adventure most definitely wasn’t dead. Despite what naysayers kept insisting, there was an audience for such games, and they were definitely willing to pay.
This series of events happening behind-the-screens would make a riveting movie. It’s got dramatic acts with dreamers facing daunting obstacles and ultimately surmounting them. Any screenplay with such a plot might be knocked for tugging too hard at the audiences’ suspension of disbelief. So, good thing a documentary crew was there to record everything.
As you see in the clip above, Schafer and his gang were followed from the very start, right during the anxious late night hours when their Kickstarter was launched, all the way up to the release of their seemingly impossible creation. Every step of planning, production, and execution is explored in depth with a kind of candor that recalls other epic making-of docs like The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys and Some Kind of Monster. Even then, Double Fine Adventure! is a much deeper dive, with twenty weighty installments offering a master class in game making for anybody who’s ever wondered how an idea goes from a twinkle in some creative’s eye to a spectacle you’re controlling with buttons and joysticks.
This series was previously only available to backers, but now Double Fine has released of all of its installments on YouTube for posterity and everybody’s edification. In another segment, the crew follows the artists at the company, showing how visuals evolve throughout production, both shaping and being shaped in turn by the narrative gameplay they complement. Far from just some promotional EPK, this installment even gets into some of the key designers’ heads, letting them reflect on how their artistic urge connects to experiences from their childhood.
Again, candor is a quality definitely worth harping on when discussing this series. Double Fine wasn’t afraid to let themselves be taped during harder moments, even when arguments arose. In this other installment, the crew watches Schafer hash out the logistics of managing voice casts across numerous translations of the game, right down to determing exactly how many lines actors will record, and in what languages. There’s a moment where his own deadlines have to get bumped up in order for other members of the team to see out his vision. And at one point, the crew even realizes that their animators are over-taxed by Broken Age‘s unique demands, so they’ll have to outsource (which is a first for Double Fine).
And there’s so, so, so much more. All 20 episodes are up on YouTube, right now, and Double Fine is also offering a deluxe variant of the series, with higher-resolution, commentary tracks, and other bonuses.
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Featured Imaged Credit: Double Fine Productions