Why Tim Schafer Chose EA for Brütal Legend
Double Fine head also reveals extent of Jack Black's contribution, and why he thinks this time, his studio has a success on its hands.
Double Fine boss Tim Schafer has laballed Brütal Legend's script a "collaboration" with Hollywood enfant terrible Jack Black, whose jawline and frat boy twang have already been instrumental to the creation of Eddie Riggs, the game's demon-slayer roadie hero.
The movie star did more than just read out Schafer's 30,000 line script for the Heavy-Metal-inspired, third-person action title. "I write it all and Jack Black adds the flavour - he changes the dialogue and improvises!", Schafer told Kikizo during a recent showing of the game.
"After he's done a take, he'll often do a 'joke take' - and sometimes that's the funny one that we end up using - so it's really a collaboration."
It's also been a collaborative effort with publisher EA. But why exactly did Brütal Legend - originally to be published by Sierra and then dropped by Activision after the Blizzard merger - end up in the hands of EA?
Schafer explains: "They really liked the demo we showed them, and I really like what EA has been doing lately - the partners they've been working with, like Valve and Harmonix. There's a lot of creative stuff going on there, and there's definitely a big commitment to working with new IP.
"To launch something new is a huge endeavour, and it takes a company of experience to do it. They do that more than almost anybody else and I think are willing to take that risk. So I think it's going to pay off."
The game's art style resembles the covers of classic Metal albums, and among the player's tools of warfare are pyrotechnic-laden guitar riffs, designed to give "the feeling of being both on stage in a rock concert and in the middle of battle at the same time". This is hardly your typical mainstream release - and indeed, previous endeavours from Schafer - such as Psychonauts - have flopped at retail despite huge critical acclaim.
But Jack Black's involvement has brought with it levels of publicity Double Fine and EA might have struggled to generate alone. Brütal Legend enjoyed a spectacular US introduction at the 2008 VGA's on Spike TV, which saw Jack Black march around stage with a flamethrower, chanting "Tim Freaking Shafer" before introducing Schafer himself on national television.
So will Black's involvement ensure that his studio doesn't go overlooked this time? "Jack definitely helps," Schafer admitted when we questioned him about the developer's sojourn in the limelight. "I found when pitching the game to people who had previously scratched their head about it, they hear the name 'Jack Black' and they understand more."
"Things like [the 2008 VGAs publicity] have been more exposure than I'm used to, reaching a lot more people than ever before, so that's really a good sign. But I wouldn't have done that if I thought that was Jack's only use for the game - he's really had a creative influence on it too, and he really fits the game. But it definitely has helped."
If our time with the game has been any indication, Brütal Legend should be well worth the additional column inches. The characters and story are genuinely entertaining. Melee combat is a definite strong point, with more of a taste for evasion and positioning than the OTT presentation suggests.
As Schafer sombrely advised us during one sequence: "Just like in real life, it's always best to do things from behind."
Stop back for our review in a few weeks. Brütal Legend will raise a blood-spattered Flying V guitar over PS3 and Xbox 360 in October.