Tim Schafer is a video game legend. While at LucasArts he wrote loads of the dialogue in seminal point and click adventure The Secret of Monkey Island and its sequel Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. After leaving LucasArts, Tim founded Double Fine Productions, and created the critically acclaimed Psychonauts. Now he's back with the heavy metal inspired action adventure Brutal Legend, which stars none other than Hollywood star Jack Black. To celebrate this rocktastic occasion, we sat down with the man himself for a chinwag on all things Brutal, Legendary, and Psychonauts.
VideoGamer.com: I think it's fair to say Brutal Legend has had a tumultuous development, what with the publisher search following the Activision Blizzard merger and the recent lawsuit from Activision Blizzard. Was there any point when you thought all my hard work is going to go to waste, that this game is never going to come out?
Tim Schafer: No. You know people ask me that and I feel like, oh should I have felt that way, because I never felt that the game wasn't going to come out. Ever since we came out with the first demo there's always been a lot of interest in it and publishers want to talk about the game. And so even when we knew there was going to be these shenanigans when we heard about the merger, there were already people calling us wanting to talk about our game. Brutal Legend always seemed like this unstoppable force. I always knew it was going to see the light of day.
VideoGamer.com: What is it about the game that made you think that?
TS: It's more just the will of the team. You just know that like, we are not going to stop working on this game. We are going to make it. Just like with Psychonauts. The world tried to kill Psychonauts in the middle of development, and we were just like, no, we are going to make this game! Sometimes you've got to teach the world a lesson and just push on through.
VideoGamer.com: The game is out shortly. What is the team doing right now?
TS: Well, some of them are relaxing. Some of them are working on... secret stuff. Secret stuff. I'm not there right now. A lot of them are playing the game, you know? We're doing some tests in multiplayer, you know, testing and thinking about ideas for a new game.
VideoGamer.com: So you think about a new game even at this stage?
TS: Yeah all the time. We're always thinking about it. But now different teams are starting to formulate what they'll be working on next.
VideoGamer.com: Was it Jack Black or no-one else for Brutal Legend? How did it come about?
TS: I'd never worked with a celebrity before, except for, like Mark Hamill was in Full Throttle, and the guy from WKRP in Cincinnati was in Day of the Tentacle, but no-one really like, you know, international movie star of the level of Jack Black, you know? So it was just a weird design with a character that was inspired by him. Like this idea of having someone who loved metal and was into both serious awesome side of rock and also the over the top ridiculous side of rock all in one, at one time, in one person. Like his character in School of Rock, or his character in Tenacious D, just embody that, that spirit. So I really wanted him to like the game. I knew he played games, so I was hoping he would play the game some day and like it.
And then, when it came time to cast the voice for the game, we were like, do we want to get a sound-a-like for Jack Black? That would be cheesy. Then someone told us that they had heard he had played Psychonauts and liked Psychonauts. So we were like, oooh. That gave us enough to have our people call his people and set up a meeting. So I got a meeting, just me and him, at the Four Seasons in LA, and I got to bring my binder full of Double Fine Brutal Legend concept art and laid it out on the table and told him all about Eddie Riggs and he signed up to do it right then. He liked it, so it was great.
VideoGamer.com: How did that make you feel?
TS: I felt validated [laughs]. I felt like, yes, we are making the right game because Jack Black likes it!
VideoGamer.com: His public persona is of someone who likes to have a laugh and joke around, but he wouldn't be successful if he didn't knuckle down when he had to. What's he like to work with?
TS: Oh he was a very hard working and professional guy. He shows up and he's really into the character and figuring out what the voice should sound like and then he does many, many takes for each line. He had almost 3,000 lines of dialogue and he just sat there with each line, like, many, many takes of each one to get it just right. Sometimes exactly how it was written, sometimes he would improvise and make it funnier. So he put a lot into it and really made the character a real person, you know?