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Generally speaking, people compare games by listing bullet points. Which game has better graphics, which game has better gameplay? Which one has the better story, or better multiplayer?
Little did they know, there is a better way to determine which game is best. Just leave your game cases in a room together and see which one comes out alive.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the idea of game cases having their own secret lives. Michael Shanks takes the idea to a whole new level in this video. Ha!
Even by Humble Bundle standards, the Humble Bundle V contains some fantastic-ass games. Lookit that! Wow. They're all so great, in fact, that I'd be surprised if you haven't played pretty much all of them.
But still: Pay whatever you want for the terrifying and amazing Amnesia: Dark Descent, the hilarious and wildly creative Psychonauts, the dark and clever Limbo, and the lovely and incredibly soundtracked Sworcery, with freakin' Bastion thrown in as a bonus if you beat the average bid.
If you don't own even two of those games, this is a bargain… this is like, a great games all-star jam or something. The trailer above does a pretty good job of summing it up.
Perhaps best of all, all of the games come with their soundtracks, each of which is fantastic and two of which made last year's Best Game Music of 2011.
So: You probably have these games. Heck, you may play them regularly. But on the off chance that you don't, here's your chance go catch 'em all.
The Humble Indie Bundle V [Official Page]
Tim Schafer wants more video games to make you laugh. The legendary designer behind Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle thinks comedy is necessary and not enough games are doing it right. Or even trying.
Speaking to some two hundred people at the NYU Game Center Thursday night, Schafer shared his thoughts on the current state of the gaming industry, discussing the nature of adventure games, his personal favorite titles, and that one important tool that many developers fail to use: humor.
If you go and ask a game development team why they're not making funny games, the Psychonauts creator said, half-joking, they'd say it's because nobody's made one that sold very much. "Comedy's really scary," he said. But it's also really necessary.
"If the game is not funny, you're missing something," Schafer said, telling the crowd how he used comedy as a tool to solve problems in The Secret of Monkey Island. While working as a programmer/writer for developer Lucasfilm, Schafer was tasked with writing the scene where protagonist Guybrush Threepwood and Governor Elaine Marley meet on the beach and fall in love. In five lines.
"You can't write a serious scene that has a pirate and a governor fall in love in five lines," Schafer said. "Humor is a tool to cover up the fact that this is not a solvable problem."
So he wrote the scene as if it were a joke, peppering the dialogue with terms like "honey pumpkin" and "plunder bunny." Without that humor, it wouldn't have worked. But by playing it up to absurd proportions, Schafer was able to throw logic under the rug and leave players laughing instead of scratching their heads.
Schafer, who has made headlines recently for his monumentally successful bout with crowdfunding site Kickstarter, didn't give any specifics on his new $3.4 million point-and-click adventure game, though he did assure the crowd that it will be in 2D (because it's cheaper). He promised that it would be true to the nature of adventure games, as nostalgic Kickstarter backers might demand. But it will also have new ideas, he added—because "people like to be surprised."
And—like all of Schafer-helmed studio Double Fine's projects—the upcoming crowdfunded adventure game will aim to be funny.
"If you don't have anything funny to say about a situation, the player will realize something's fake," Schafer said, bringing up the oft-cited pot-smashing of Zelda games, in which you can destroy and steal from peoples' homes with reckless abandon. When those townspeople don't react, the illusion is broken. Suddenly you realize that you're playing a video game.
Maybe that's why Schafer has fallen in love with what he calls "wacky Japanese games"—titles like Katamari Damacy, LocoRoco, and Okami. Even when they're melodramatic, those types of games still never seem to take themselves too seriously. And they're atmospheric, Schafer points out. They're packed with emotions.
"Those things that the King of All Cosmos says are just so crazy," Schafer said, referring to the planet-sized Katamari character.
Last year, Schafer and his team developed a prototype for a narrative-heavy game that was quite literally driven by emotions. Instead of using verbs or commands to solve puzzles in the Kinect-controlled adventure game, players would use gestures to manipulate characters' feelings, forcing them into emotions like fear, anger, and love. The publisher backed out after the final prototype, so we'll probably never see that game, Schafer said.
One fan asked Schafer what he thought of the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy. Though the designer said he hasn't paid much attention for fear of spoilers—he still hasn't even beaten Mass Effect 2—he mused that he "always winds up defending the author" in situations like this.
"Games aren't made by an autonomous robot," Schafer said, "they're made by people. And those people have a point of view on the world and that's interesting. Connecting with those people is what makes art art for me."
Another crowd member asked if Schafer was worried about that sort of fan pressure now that he has 87,139 backers to worry about. Does the thought of living up to all of those expectations stress him out?
"It's not that stressful to get a whole bunch of money all of a sudden," Schafter said. "It's kind of relaxing."
The Psychonauts soundtrack was composed by Double Fine mainstay-maestro Peter McConnell. While no soundtrack may ever replace McConnell's own Grim Fandango in my heart, this one perhaps demonstrates his depth to an even greater degree.
For all of its Danny Elfman-ish flourishes, psychedelic country guitars, and emotionally charged Spanish bullfighting music, the theme that plays whenever Raz goes to Agent Cruller's HQ is my favorite.
It crept up on me, the slowly building horns, the choir, that noble melody... and the single chord change that lifts things ever so slightly… yeah.
It felt like a good first "Listen Here" for Kotaku Melodic. If ever you need to get in the mood to mete out some justice, this piece is a good place to start.
A Tweeted offer to back a sequel to Tim Schafer's cult favorite Psychonauts was "a semi-joke," said Markus "Notch" Persson, the creator of Minecraft and a guy who's not hard up for cash in light of that game's success. Notch rattled off a host of reasons why we shouldn't get our hopes up, especially the cost of the project.
"The budget for doing a Psychonauts 2 is three times higher than my initial impression, Notch wrote on his personal blog today in a post titled "Hype!" He also assumes (rightly, one thinks) that Schafer's Double Fine studio will be tied up with the Kickstarter project, which has raised $1.8 million in about a week.
"Tim and I haven't spoken much at all other than a couple of emails," Notch wrote. Also "a couple of other parties have mentioned also being interested in investing in it."
In one of those conversations, Schafer told Kotaku that he informed Notch the original Psychonauts budget was $13 million. It released in 2005. "I was like, 'I don't think you can make [it] for a million dollars,'" Schafer says he told Notch. Yet, "as soon as I mentioned the amount of money he said, 'Yeah, I can do that.'"
Evidently that figure moved up to about $40 million. That's not to say Notch hasn't seriously thought about it—he has, to the extent that he would be very specific about his reasons for doing so. "I would not be investing in this as a charity. It would be because I think the game would be profitable," he said. "And naturally, I wouldn't want to have any creative input in the game. It would be purely a high-risk investment in a project I believe in.
"All I know is that IF the numbers work out and IF they still want to do it and IF they don't decide to self fund a sequel by doing more crowd funding (which is honestly what I would've done if I were them), I would be most interested in doing this type of investment," he said.
Hype! [The Word of Notch]
But then the man who made millions making Minecraft, Markus "Notch" Persson, offered, over Twitter, to "make Psychonauts 2 happen."
Tim Schafer, whose Double Fine Productions made the first beloved Psychonauts game told Notch he'd be into it, but it was going to be expensive.
"I was like, 'I don't think you can make [it] for a million dollars.' The original game was, I think, $13 million, I think you have to match the original game."
"As soon as I mentioned the amount of money he said, 'Yeah, I can do that.'"
Imagine if other rich people—say, any game publisher in the business in the last half-decade—had been as ready to make this game happen.
Tim Schafer has pitched Psychonauts 2 to big video game companies. He has pitched the sequel to a game that was canceled, revived and then earned raves when it finally came out in 2005. But no publisher ever bit. They thought it was too creative or too obscure.
The failures frustrated Schafer, because Psychonauts, an adventure about a boy who can enter the minds of other colorful people and explore their thought-landscapes, wasn't supposed to be one-and-done.
"We had a lot of plot elements that were backstory in that [first] game that we planned on revisiting in the future and tying it back in," Schafer told me last week. "We had a longer story arc planned for those characters."
This is how he'd pitch the sequel to big game publishers: He'd show a 2010 fan trailer called Inceptionauts that mashed up the movie Inception and the first Psychonauts. "It's better than any trailer we ever had for the game," Schafer said. He says it even helped him remember how much he'd liked Psychonauts, which he had taken a break from thinking about after it came out. "It reminded me how much I like it," he said, adding that "I'd like to thank that fan for making the video. I used it to try to fund Psychonauts 2."
Schafer may have talked plot and setting to his potential Psychonauts 2 backers, but he demured from telling me how the new game would relate to the first, other than to tease that "I have ideas to take them to a more international setting."
He did, however, definitely talk to publisher suits about sales. "My pitch also involved how the game sold something like 400,000 copies initially. It wasn't enough for us to make money. But since then, through Steam and Good Old Games and all the places it's been, it's gotten in the hands of a lot of people." He recalls one day when a $2 Steam sale pushed Psychonauts even ahead of Call of Duty for revenue for that day. That, he remembers, was a good day.
None of this turned Psychonauts 2 into a real project scheduled to become a game you or I could play.
Then, on February 7, Notch Tweeted.
Schafer woke up to text messages from friends telling him to check Twitter. He thought he was being sued. No, the opposite. Someone wanted to give him money.
Soon, Notch and Schafer were talking.
"He said he had no idea it would get picked up like this. He said, 'Sorry for putting you on the spot, I didn't realize it would go so big.'
"I feel like I was being proposed to on the jumbotron at the baseball game."
Schafer sounds like he wants to say yes, but negotiations between him and Notch remain private. (Notch and his team at Mojang didn't respond to requests for comment for this story.)
The man who oversaw the making of Psychonauts simply wants to work with the man who made Minecraft. "He's been pretty successful. And, when you look into it, it's a really inspiring story. He's just a regular guy. He didn't do anything sleazy to get it. He just made it himself, distributed it himself, it's a great story. I think we have a lot to learn from him, so I'd like to do something with him.
"And I'd like to make Psychonauts 2."
You want to know how Tim Schafer and Double Fine managed to generate more than a million dollars in Kickstarter cash? Look no further than this hilarious exchange from twisted platforming classic Psychonauts. Sometimes you just gotta make out.
Expect to see plenty of Schafer and friends in our weekly Great Moments in Gaming Humor segment. He and colleagues Dave Grossman and Ron Gilbert are responsible for a some of the most hilarious gaming experiences ever gifted to mortal man from on high, from the point-and-click adventure The Secret of Monkey Island to the point-and-click adventure Day of the Tentacle.
Apparently pointing and clicking leaves a lot of room for funny bits.
But 2006's Psychonauts is no point-and-click adventure. It's a platform odyssey through the fractured minds of the campers and counselors of a summer camp for psychic children. Children like Razputin, the game's hero, voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz of Invader Zim fame. Or Raz's girlfriend Lili, who get excited by the strangest things.
The entire game is filled with side-splitting humor, courtesy of both Schafer and Eric Wolpaw, half of the beloved gaming commentary site Old Man Murray, who later went on to write the dialog for Portal and Portal 2.
But those are games for another week. Now pucker up!
Got a favorite funny gaming moment? Send them to Fahey @ Kotaku Dot Com and they could be featured in the next edition of Great Moments in Video Game Humor.
After joking around earlier, Double Fine head Tim Schafer has told Kotaku that a Psychonauts sequel funded by Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson could very well be a possibility.
"Could happen!" Schafer told me in an e-mail today. "I have found funding on Twitter before!"
This likely refers to Steven Dengler, CEO of Dracogen, who helped fund versions of Costume Quest for PC and Psychonauts for Mac after talking to Double Fine on Twitter. Dengler also expressed interest in helping fund a hypothetical Psychonauts 2, publicly chatting with both Persson and Schafer today.
Double Fine head Tim Schafer is just as baffled as the rest of us at news that Markus "Notch" Persson wants to fund a Psychonauts sequel.
"I just woke up," Schafer told me when I asked what he thought. "Is something strange going on?"
The legendary designer responsible for games like Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle responded to a barrage of tweets in classic Tim Schafer style.
"Man, so many tweets," he later wrote on Twitter. "I assume this is all people asking for codes to Happy Action Theater and Rise of the Martian Bear?"
"Oh wait," he continued. "Hm. This is interesting."
Clearly this is all just Twitter goofing for now, but we'll keep hounding Schafer for a more serious response.
Update: Double Fine has sent official word to Giant Bomb, telling the gaming website that "Tim and Markus are talking. Who knows what might happen?"
Image: Matt Tichenor