Psychonauts Is Many things: among them a glittering example of intelligent comedy, originality and beautiful artwork. Occasionally it isn't the greatest platform game ever, but for the purposes of this love-in we'll ignore that, as in the past year, there honestly hasn't been a more surprising, interesting or lovingly-crafted game in the whole of PC or console land. So how the hell was it made? Let's ask Double Fine's Tim Schafer...
Creating Levels Around Real Minds:
That's one of the main inspirations for the game - real people and their personalities. I would meet some interesting person, or even just be thinking of a friend of mine and I'd think: "Man, what must it be like inside their head? For example, Boyd the guard is actually based on a guy that used to hang out in the alley where our old offices were. He would mutter a lot to himself about how the government was out to get him, how they were tracking him with "optics" and "plastics" and how "the pelicans knew what they were up to". I wrote down everything I heard him say and put it in the game."
Making Kids Sound Like Kids:
"I made in-depth back-stories for all the kids, describing where they grew up, what their hobbies were, who their friends were, who they had crushes on and who they hated. I made mock Internet profiles for all of them as if they were members of an online social network, making it look like they'd left little testimonials on each others' Web pages. Writing the testimonials was like writing practice dialogue for the game. Then once I knew all the characters in my head, I could sit down and bang out a scene or a psi-power reaction and the words would just come, as if I was an actor improvising."
Team Double Fine:
"The whole thing is very collaborative. I made up the characters and the general idea of what the inside of their head would be like, and then I worked with the artists and designers as they came up with the specific visuals and gameplay structure. Plus, as the programmers and animators implemented those designs, they put in their own ideas and changes. In the end, you have something that's better than what any one person could have done on their own.
Hearts Of Darkness:
"How people handle tragedy tells you a lot. Some people obsess over it, letting it control their conscious thoughts. Others never talk about it and bury the memory of the tragedy deep down inside. This game provides a natural way to go deep into someone's mind, find that vault and look inside. So you can go into Sasha's mind and see how he handles his painful memories by controlling his thoughts. Milla does it by keeping a loud party going on in her mind at all times. Gloria can't manage either of these two coping mechanisms, so her personality swings from happy to sad in an instant. She appears crazy because the symptoms of her pain are so apparent. Sasha and Milla seem sane, when really they're just better at working around that pain, and more importantly, hiding it. But in this game, you can go past people's personas, crack open their vaults and see what they're hiding.
Maddest Thing You've Ever Done?
"Well, there's a lot of crazy stuff in Psychonciuts, but I've never really thought of it as that strange because it's just making real worlds out of pretty average human thoughts. If you look at the environments and characters in the in-mind levels of the game, and see them as just the literal form of a mental structure, they're not that weird. They're all based on normal, common thoughts: dreams, paranoia, grief, repression, obsession, rage, fear, guilt, insecurity. But when you take something like rage and try to imagine what that would really look like - and it becomes a huge Day-Glo bull running through the streets of your mind - then it just shows how even normal human thoughts and feelings are amazing tilings."
Depth Of Hidden Content:
"When a player finds a small detail in a game, it's what makes the difference between them saying, "that was a good game," and, "I loved that game!" You can't skip that kind of detail, even though it may seem unimportant Players notice and care, and word gets around. When a player notices that detail, it creates a trust between the player and the game-maker. The nature of that trust is hard to explain, but it has something to do with the fact that we care about the game, so it's OK for you to care about it too. Also, coming up with those little details is fun.
The Brain Of A Conspiracy Theorist:
"I heard once that a paranoia is just another form of self-absorption. If you think that everyone is out to get you, then you must think the world revolves around you. That intrigued me a lot, because I liked to imagine the inner world of this person where the whole world revolved around him, where even the streets wrapped around his house like spiderweb, with him in the middle. So that was the basic concept for Boyd, the paranoid security guard. And then our environmental concept artist Peter Chan came back with these drawings of twisty streets that bent around like ribbons; and then our physics programmer Paul Du Bois developed the tech for arbitrary gravity, so those drawings work. From this, our lead designer Erik Robson went off and designed this set of puzzles based on mysterious trench-coated G-Men wearing ridiculous disguises, and that inspired me to write all their dialogue based on the idea that the G-Men think they're passing as phone-workers, housewives and sewage workers. So, in that kind of collaboration, it's not just that everyone throws something into the mix, but everyone reacts to what the others are doing and inspires the others to come up with new ideas."
I stole that name from one of our animators, Razmig. He actually worked at LucasArts at the time, I knew him through friends and thought that the name he went by - Raz - was really cool. So I stole it. But then we hired him on at Double Fine and things got a little confusing between Raz the game character and Raz the animator. And our associate producer at the time, Camilla, suggested the long form be 'Rasputin', but then our lawyer changed the Cs' to a 'z' so that we could register it as our own trademark. You have to misspell things if you want to own them it seems. That's why it's spelled 'Froot Loops', for example.
Well, that and the fact that it's not really fruit."
Origins Of The Tabletop Napoleon Complex:
"The earliest design docs just said that there was a guy who thought he was Napoleon Bonaparte, and when you went into his head, you were suddenly on the battlefield at Waterloo. It was going to be an actual war going on. But then, when we first sat down to figure that out, the animation resources needed were crazy, plus it was hard to figure out puzzles for it. Someone suggested making it kind of a turn-based war, where the soldiers only moved once in a while, so you could set up trip-wires and traps for the enemy between moves. And then that just got gamier and gamier. We shrunk the soldiers and world down so that Raz could move them with telekinesis.
"The original level designer and a programmer tried to make an actual game you could play on that board, kind of like Stratego, but the programming was getting more and more complicated. At a certain point the whole level design was trashed. But I really liked the tiny buildings and game pieces, and I liked putting the camera on free-fly mode, flying down to the level of the tiny trees and little streams. I've always liked miniature worlds like that.
"So Erik redesigned the whole level and came up with the idea of playing it on three different scales, and of having the game be more about recruiting the game pieces with adventure-game style puzzles. Waterloo World had been trashed and redesigned a few times and our first publisher wanted to cut it, but in the end it turned out great. According to one poll I saw, it's a lot of people's favourite. So you see, some ideas you just have to keep banging away on! And don't be afraid to move the design backwards (sometimes all the way back) to move forward in a better direction."
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode