[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.]
If the adage “go large or go household” applies to any
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
time on a game borne from the Complete Throttle side of Tim Schafer’s thoughts. Brütal Legend is a molten,
balls-forward, third particular person, open globe, strategic action-adventure interactive
ride into the extremely soul of heavy metal.
The improvement story began out basically sufficient. Immediately after
shipping Psychonauts, Double Fine
designed a collection of notion perform, a pitch document and a game trailer
intended to capture the spirit of Brütal
Legend. Most publishers we spoke to had been interested in the game notion,
but their inquiries typically indicated that they did not fully grasp exactly where we
had been headed with it.
Concerns had been posed to us, such as “Why heavy metal?
How about rock, or nation, or hip hop alternatively? Why would you want to play as a
roadie? How about playing as a rock god?”
A single publisher, Vivendi Universal
Games, did not ask these inquiries in the pitch meetings — or in any meetings.
They understood the game for what it was, and signed it for what they knew it
could turn into.
We began improvement by focusing very first on the multiplayer
mode of the game — our pondering was that due to the fact we’d under no circumstances produced a multiplayer
game just before, figuring that out would be our top rated priority. It took 16 months to
In Rocktober 2006, we delivered a completely playable Ironheade vs. Tainted
Coil skirmish to our publisher. At Vivendi’s request, we then focused on the
single player campaign, expanding its scope effectively beyond the initial design and style.
This is the period in which we added the voices of Jack
Black and a host of other celebrity talent to the game, as effectively as other
enhancements that solidified the vision for the campaign practical experience that we
eventually shipped. In June 2007, we delivered the very first meaningful portion of
the single player game and also promptly admitted that all of the adjustments we
had produced to the game content material place us way behind schedule.
Our very first schedule
revision extended the project by ten months, the second by an additional seven.
Initially scheduled to be released in Could 2008 beneath the Vivendi Universal
Games/Sierra banner, Brütal Legend
lastly shipped on October 13, 2009,
published by Electronic Arts.
Double Fine encourages innovation, but that drive also indicates
we can not usually rely on prior practical experience to predict how a function or an
strategy will turn out. On Brütal Legend,
the practice of continuous iteration and notion refinement led to a quantity of
prototyped suggestions, several of which survived to ship in the final game, but just as
several of which had been left to digitally fossilize in the annals of Perforce.
Whittling down to ten the list of items that went appropriate and incorrect in the course of the
improvement of Brütal Legend
presented a considerable challenge. Right here are some lessons that had been the most
surprising or impactful.
1. Pushing Inventive Limits
Brütal Legend was to be the interactive
amalgamation of the more than-the-top rated ridiculous (but deadly severe) globe of heavy
metal. We had been reverent fans of the genre and felt it would be an honor to
bring that globe to life. Brütal Legend
started with a very simple list — a game that embodied anything that could be identified
on a heavy metal album cover: chrome rivers, pools of blood, volcanoes, caves,
fire-breathing metal beasts, laser panthers, bladehenge and beerhenge,
dominatrices, latex and chains, disembodied undead heads…
To that we added the core gameplay. We wanted to make a
brawler adventure game, exactly where the player was a heavy metal roadie who evolves
into a rock god more than the course of the game. Brütal Legend on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation three would have the
brawn of an action game and the elegance of an RTS.
We discovered early on in our partnership with Vivendi that
RTS was a naughty word in the console space, so we stopped calling it by that
name and, by extension, so did Electronic Arts — positioning the game largely
as an action title in the marketplace.
We wanted our RTS to exploit the
consoles’ benefit placing the player in the center of the action. We wanted
to give the player intuitive manage of a character that could execute a
assortment of badass movements and skills and also let the player to
personally bond with that character. And we wanted that character to command
dozens of masterfully-dialogued troops simultaneously.
A single of our greatest challenges in solving the RTS
accessibility situation was squad orders. It took quite a few attempts and numerous
concentrate tests, but we eventually decided on a very simple unification of the orders
interface, wherein the AI behaved as the player would want them to on the
The player would have 4 orders:
1) “Comply with,”
exactly where Eddie provides his troops commands to move to a particular place and
possibly attack, enabling the order to be provided only inside “shouting
variety,” a reasonably massive distance about Eddie that did not encompass
the complete map — solving the forced (ignore path enemies/obstacles) and
non-forced (engage enemies along the way) situation by creating the “comply with”
order non-forced when Eddie was close to his troops and forced when Eddie was far
two) “Defend,” exactly where Eddie could command his army to cease moving
and hold position, aligning them in the most advantageous manner (melee up
front, ranged behind, assistance in the rear) facing the camera.
exactly where the migration would be forced till the army is close to its location,
at which point it would engage nearby foes.
four) “Charge,” a
non-forced move to the enemy that is closest to the typical position of all
nearby enemies if your army was not attacking, and a forced move to the attack
position even if that meant disengaging from their existing activity if your
army was attacking.
The Double Fine incarnation of a console RTS occurred to us
not in an early pre-production meeting, but more than years of painstaking iteration
and reinvention and rework. We tested our progress in periodic “Mandatory
Hour of Exciting” sessions, exactly where the complete group played the most recent construct and
then met as a group to go over what was operating effectively and what was frustrating
or could be produced superior. This open forum for the exchange of suggestions as effectively as
the momentum for continuous iteration fueled profound adjustments to the core game
mechanic more than the course of improvement.