Postmortem: Double Fine’s Brutal Legend

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[In this postmortem taken from the December 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine, iconoclastic developer Double Fine Productions outlines the complex and at times daunting process of developing its action/strategy rock god epic Brütal Legend, taking in everything from legal troubles with Activision to tool development and everything in between.] &#13

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If the adage “go large or go household” applies to any&#13
computer software improvement work, it applies to the creating of Brütal Legend. As we did previously with Psychonauts, Double Fine as soon as once again bet it all on innovating — this&#13
time on a game borne from the Complete Throttle side of Tim Schafer’s thoughts. Brütal Legend is a molten,&#13
balls-forward, third particular person, open globe, strategic action-adventure interactive&#13
ride into the extremely soul of heavy metal. &#13

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The improvement story began out basically sufficient. Immediately after&#13
shipping Psychonauts, Double Fine&#13
designed a collection of notion perform, a pitch document and a game trailer&#13
intended to capture the spirit of Brütal&#13
Legend
. Most publishers we spoke to had been interested in the game notion,&#13
but their inquiries typically indicated that they did not fully grasp exactly where we&#13
had been headed with it. &#13

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Concerns had been posed to us, such as “Why heavy metal?&#13
How about rock, or nation, or hip hop alternatively? Why would you want to play as a&#13
roadie? How about playing as a rock god?”&#13

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A single publisher, Vivendi Universal&#13
Games, did not ask these inquiries in the pitch meetings — or in any meetings.&#13
They understood the game for what it was, and signed it for what they knew it&#13
could turn into. &#13

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We began improvement by focusing very first on the multiplayer&#13
mode of the game — our pondering was that due to the fact we’d under no circumstances produced a multiplayer&#13
game just before, figuring that out would be our top rated priority. It took 16 months to&#13
do so.&#13

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In Rocktober 2006, we delivered a completely playable Ironheade vs. Tainted&#13
Coil skirmish to our publisher. At Vivendi’s request, we then focused on the&#13
single player campaign, expanding its scope effectively beyond the initial design and style. &#13

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This is the period in which we added the voices of Jack&#13
Black and a host of other celebrity talent to the game, as effectively as other&#13
enhancements that solidified the vision for the campaign practical experience that we&#13
eventually shipped. In June 2007, we delivered the very first meaningful portion of&#13
the single player game and also promptly admitted that all of the adjustments we&#13
had produced to the game content material place us way behind schedule.&#13

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Our very first schedule&#13
revision extended the project by ten months, the second by an additional seven.&#13
Initially scheduled to be released in Could 2008 beneath the Vivendi Universal&#13
Games/Sierra banner, Brütal Legend&#13
lastly shipped on October 13, 2009,&#13
published by Electronic Arts.&#13

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Double Fine encourages innovation, but that drive also indicates&#13
we can not usually rely on prior practical experience to predict how a function or an&#13
strategy will turn out. On Brütal Legend,&#13
the practice of continuous iteration and notion refinement led to a quantity of&#13
prototyped suggestions, several of which survived to ship in the final game, but just as&#13
several of which had been left to digitally fossilize in the annals of Perforce.&#13

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Whittling down to ten the list of items that went appropriate and incorrect in the course of the&#13
improvement of Brütal Legend&#13
presented a considerable challenge. Right here are some lessons that had been the most&#13
surprising or impactful. &#13

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&#13

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1. Pushing Inventive Limits&#13

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Brütal Legend was to be the interactive&#13
amalgamation of the more than-the-top rated ridiculous (but deadly severe) globe of heavy&#13
metal. We had been reverent fans of the genre and felt it would be an honor to&#13
bring that globe to life. Brütal Legend&#13
started with a very simple list — a game that embodied anything that could be identified&#13
on a heavy metal album cover: chrome rivers, pools of blood, volcanoes, caves,&#13
fire-breathing metal beasts, laser panthers, bladehenge and beerhenge,&#13
dominatrices, latex and chains, disembodied undead heads…&#13

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To that we added the core gameplay. We wanted to make a&#13
brawler adventure game, exactly where the player was a heavy metal roadie who evolves&#13
into a rock god more than the course of the game. Brütal Legend on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation three would have the&#13
brawn of an action game and the elegance of an RTS.&#13

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We discovered early on in our partnership with Vivendi that&#13
RTS was a naughty word in the console space, so we stopped calling it by that&#13
name and, by extension, so did Electronic Arts — positioning the game largely&#13
as an action title in the marketplace.&#13

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We wanted our RTS to exploit the&#13
consoles’ benefit placing the player in the center of the action. We wanted&#13
to give the player intuitive manage of a character that could execute a&#13
assortment of badass movements and skills and also let the player to&#13
personally bond with that character. And we wanted that character to command&#13
dozens of masterfully-dialogued troops simultaneously. &#13

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A single of our greatest challenges in solving the RTS&#13
accessibility situation was squad orders. It took quite a few attempts and numerous&#13
concentrate tests, but we eventually decided on a very simple unification of the orders&#13
interface, wherein the AI behaved as the player would want them to on the&#13
battlefield. &#13

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The player would have 4 orders:&#13

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1) “Comply with,”&#13
exactly where Eddie provides his troops commands to move to a particular place and&#13
possibly attack, enabling the order to be provided only inside “shouting&#13
variety,” a reasonably massive distance about Eddie that did not encompass&#13
the complete map — solving the forced (ignore path enemies/obstacles) and&#13
non-forced (engage enemies along the way) situation by creating the “comply with”&#13
order non-forced when Eddie was close to his troops and forced when Eddie was far&#13
away.&#13

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two) “Defend,” exactly where Eddie could command his army to cease moving&#13
and hold position, aligning them in the most advantageous manner (melee up&#13
front, ranged behind, assistance in the rear) facing the camera.&#13

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three) “Move,”&#13
exactly where the migration would be forced till the army is close to its location,&#13
at which point it would engage nearby foes.&#13

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four) “Charge,” a&#13
non-forced move to the enemy that is closest to the typical position of all&#13
nearby enemies if your army was not attacking, and a forced move to the attack&#13
position even if that meant disengaging from their existing activity if your&#13
army was attacking. &#13

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The Double Fine incarnation of a console RTS occurred to us&#13
not in an early pre-production meeting, but more than years of painstaking iteration&#13
and reinvention and rework. We tested our progress in periodic “Mandatory&#13
Hour of Exciting” sessions, exactly where the complete group played the most recent construct and&#13
then met as a group to go over what was operating effectively and what was frustrating&#13
or could be produced superior. This open forum for the exchange of suggestions as effectively as&#13
the momentum for continuous iteration fueled profound adjustments to the core game&#13
mechanic more than the course of improvement.&#13

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