Tim Schafer explains how Psychonauts nearly failed and took Double Fine with it

Okay, let's not beat around the bush: Psychonauts is one pretty special game. Loved by many, its cult status as a subversive platformer only served to solidify Double Fine's position as one of the most creative studios in the industry. It's so popular fans are still clamoring for a sequel, but in the latest issue of Edge DF head honcho Tim Schafer reveals Raz's memorable, mind-bending adventure was almost the downfall of his team. Read on for an extract from Edge's eye-opening interview...

“I didn’t think this one through. Starting another engine from scratch and having never worked on console games... We had one guy on the team who had worked with consoles previously.

We pitched to Sony, but they were like, ‘Well, you’ve never made one of these kinds of game before. Why don’t you send us the design document for a level?’ Microsoft was, like, ‘Let’s go!’ So we went with them. Sony was probably right to question whether we could make one of these games.

All of a sudden we were starting a new project, and a lot of people were outside that safe space and not comfortable with what they were doing. The original time frame was two years, but Psychonauts took five. We had to go and ask for more money every time we ran out, and got in trouble. But [Microsoft] gave it to us a couple of times, despite the fact that our first playable for the game really wasn’t fun. We had all these concepts for the levels and some great concept art, but the motion of the character was just off. We’d spent so much time on the environments that the characters didn’t feel right and we had to have this emergency taskforce meeting where we decided to focus on [Razputin].

And it was shocking having our first playable not be fun, because we were so used to feeling confident in our ability to make games and make them good. And then it’s like, ‘Wait, these things can be not fun if you don’t do them right...’

Why did Microsoft keep giving us more money? I don’t know, but eventually they stopped and just cancelled it. But that was more because they said they just didn’t want to work on an Xbox game any more – basically, we were at risk of missing the first generation of consoles! They were starting to work on Xbox 360 and were like, ‘If it’s going to come out beyond 2004, it’s cancelled.’ And we were just like, ‘But we’re just coming out in February of 2005...’ And they were like, ‘Sorry.’

That was a very dark time, because if the company went out of business it would have meant we had spent the past four years on nothing. The company never would have shipped a game. Psychonauts would become one of those infamous mystery games that no one ever played. So we just took it on the road and showed it to every single publisher, and they all passed on it except for Majesco. After that, we crunched really hard and made it!"

The latest issue of Edge, with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on the cover, is out now. Download it here or subscribe to future issues.

Dom has been a freelance journalist for many years, covering everything from video games to gaming peripherals. Dom has been playing games longer than he'd like to admit, but that hasn't stopped him amassing a small ego's worth of knowledge on all things Tekken, Yakuza and Assassin's Creed.