The Double Fine Adventure documentary series is a rare look into the development of one of the most surprising stories in the video game industry and no fan of Double Fine, adventure games or the medium should miss it.
With one Kickstarter campaign, San Francisco-based developer Double Fine inadvertently changed the video game industry for years and outlined the way in which most independent companies were going to fund their projects. Their idea was simple, the company wanted to create a classic point-and-click adventure game like the ones from the Lucas Arts era. But since they didn’t have enough funds to start working on it and publishers weren’t interested in reviving the genre, they turned to their fans to fund the project. The Kickstarter campaign was a resounding success, raising more than $3 million and proving that the crowd-funding service was a viable solution for independent developers.
Some of the people who contributed to the campaign might remember that one of the perks was a documentary series where Double Fine was supposed to show the development process in an honest and open manner. The developer wanted to be as transparent as possible with the project, so the documentary would allow them to do exactly that, at the same time they would promote the upcoming game. The Double Fine Adventure documentary series is a rare look into the development of one of the most surprising stories in the video game industry and no fan of the developer, adventure games or the medium should miss it.
Each episode focuses on different parts of the development process and this ranges from the creation of the pitch video, the recording of the voice acting, the composition of the music and so on and so forth. As you’d expect there are several interviews with some of the people behind the game, including Ron Gilbert and project lead Tim Schafer, two of the pioneers of the point-and-click adventure genre. We see all the excitement a few days after the project launched, meetings with all the people behind the game, the writing process, a bonfire to celebrate the launch of Act I and so on.
The amazing thing about this documentary (and to a certain extent, Double Fine’s titles) is that you don’t need to be a fan of the genre or even video games to enjoy it. Of course, there are some obscure references to classic games here and there. But for the most part, this is always compelling to watch and I can see people who don’t play video games on a regular basis interested in learning how games get made.
This is an insightful look into the creative process of a game and it’s fascinating to see how the developers are able to create something from such as basic premise as “a classic point-and-click adventure game.” We see Tim Schafer explaining how he wrote the story, we see him showing his notes and we see the entire team scouting for bars so that they can have a few drinks and codename their game. If you’re interested in the creative end of any industry, it’s really easy to empathize with these people and the way in which they work. Some of the discussions I found thought-provoking, for example, Double Fine had to create an adventure game that seemed like a game that was made in another era, but they also didn’t want to alienate younger players and newcomers. Not only this affected the visual aspect of the game, but they also had to think about their favorite and least favorite aspects before developing it. By the way, if you intend to play the game at one point though, make sure you do so before you watch this documentary, since there are some spoilers here and there that might sour your experience with the game (some whiteboards are blurred out, but there are still minor spoilers.)
Since Double Fine is a small team, it’s great to see how people contribute something different to the project. A lot of love and passion goes to every part, including the story, characters, dialogue, music, graphics and voice acting. By the time I finished watching this film, I may not understand how video games are made, but at least, I appreciate the care and detail that goes into independent titles such as Broken Age. The level of detail that goes into this documentary is almost unprecedented when it comes to showing the process of developing a video game.
It’s truly admirable to see how the passionate work of different individuals turns into a love project, in this case a game. There are different opinions, ideas and passions driving those people to do what they do and at the end of the day, the result is remarkable. We see voice actors recording line after line of dialogue, a prestigious orchestra performing beautiful musical pieces, people obsess over character animation and when we see the result, we’re still wondering why people do all that. Is it for their love of the medium? Is it to make ends meet? Do they want to leave a legacy for future generations? And as cheesy as it sounds, do they want to make people happy? Regardless of the answers, I’m just glad every single one of those people decided to do what they do and I hope they are able to do it for years and years.