Tim Schafer, Rezzed, man, presentation, interview, stage

Rezzed 2018: the Schafer experiment

Anybody who visits the blog regularly will know how attached I am to the Monkey Island series, and how much of an impact it has had on me as a gamer. The original instalment was the first game I played on my beloved Amiga 500 as a kid back in the early 1990s and this was the title that sealed my fate as an adventure fan and wannabe-pirate lover.

It was therefore with some excitement that I learned Tim Schafer, one of the designers of the franchise, would be giving a developer session at 2018’s Rezzed event. I knew my blogging partner-in-crime Ben would be hyped about this too; when we first met in person around five years ago, he launched into an enthusiastic in-depth discussion on why Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle are some of the finest games ever made.

We made our way over to the room in the Tobacco Dock an hour before Schafer was due to appear on stage and eagerly took our place at the front of the queue. We had the pleasure of bumping into Luke from Hundstrasse while we were waiting and sneakily edged him into the queue with us, before quickly heading down to the first row of the hall once the doors were opened (thank you to the lovely EGX staff who made this happen for us!).

As Eurogamer editor Oli Welsh asked questions about his career, it became obvious that Schafer was the sort of guy who had plenty of experience along with great sense of humour: you’d love to take him to your local pub for a chat about his favourite video games over a pint or two. He gave some good advice for aspiring developers on how to handle crunch and avoid the mistakes usually made by people trying to break into the industry.

When discussing his design process, Schafer picked up on the concept of ‘free writing’: “I use a pen and a notebook, and you just have to write for a certain amount of time – it can be two minutes or an hour – and you just can’t stop writing. That’s the only rule. So even if you’re just writing one word over and over, you have to keep writing. It’s a strange thing where putting your mind in that position makes ideas come out.”

He continued: “I think it’s a similar thing to when you’re creatively stuck and then you go to lunch with somebody, and you’re telling them how you’re stuck. As you’re talking, you start to solve the problem out loud; they never say another word but you’re like ‘Thanks, I fixed it, that’s great!’. Sometimes it’s just the act of going verbal with your thoughts, it opens doors and it’s a weird phenomenon but it’s helpful.”

Schafer then went on to explain where this process came from: “I learned it in seventh-grade English class. It was just like, we had to write for two minutes and I just did it. At first you’re like ‘This is dumb, why am I writing, I’m hungry, I really have to go to the bathroom’ – then all of a sudden, poof! Some weird idea comes out, then you get excited and you start writing, and you’re turning the pages because you just designed an entire game.”

So on his advice (that everybody should try it because ‘it’s really cheap’) I’d like to propose a short experiment for anybody reading this who’s willing to give it a go. All you need is a timer, your keyboard and an active imagination. Simply set your stopwatch for two minutes, click into the comments box at the end of this post, write whatever comes into your head and don’t stop typing until the time is up.

Will the WordPress community be able to come up with a groundbreaking idea for an awesome new video game that we can pitch to Schafer and Double Fine Productions? I’m looking forward to seeing what everybody’s free writing experiment produces. Even if it ends up being only thoughts on hunger or needing to go to the loo – hey, existing games have been developed on lesser concepts than that.

Let’s end this post on a high point with a bit of inspiration for the rest of the day. In the words of the great man himself: “Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.”

36 thoughts on “Rezzed 2018: the Schafer experiment

  1. Ok, so I did this on the train this morning… and it’s very difficult… the trickiest part was not self-editing as I typed, but I did manage to restrain myself. Anyway, here is my unedited (apart from me correcting a few typos) 2 minutes:

    “Softly, so softly I padded down the corridor, through a door, between the chainlink. My feet cold against the concrete. I was lamenting my shoes, even with all this going on, my shoes, somewhere in a dumpster, they were Oxfords, or brogues.. wait, no, Stetsons.. or is that type of hat? I wasn’t sure at this point. My attention snapped from my snazzy footware to the security guard. Late 40;’s moustache, tied back hair under his plain issue hat. I covered his mouth and stifled the scream. Most people screamed. I stepped back, a fresh 50 in his hand and he seemed to understand… then I kissed him… well… that was just my style; before I pushed him down the stairs and continued along the path. The door was half open and suddenly I realised that this whole thing was wrapped up in a bubble wrap of 30’s Film Noir…”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Two minutes of unfiltered stream-of-consciousness-ness below:

    It wasn’t so much the thing that anyone else could have done it; it was more just that I ended up being the one in the position to do it – unenviably so, it has to be said, but nevertheless here I am. The trouble is, I’m not sure I’m even someone with the capability – but then, I suppose nobody starts out capable, capability is a sort of osmosis via exposure to things at which we’re not yet capable. Unfortunately, dismantling the largest brain in existence isn’t something I’ve really been exposed to in any capacity, but exposure’s the name of the game, and in front of me now sits an enormous exposed brain and I haven’t the first idea where to start with it. I’m not sure why I don’t just destroy the thing, which would be much easier – mindless destruction is much easier than mindful dismantling, and ‘mindful’ is, I suppose, the key word when it’s a brain you’re dealing with, but we want to preserve some big ol’ chunks of grey matter because we’ve run out of fried chicken.

    Huh. That took a turn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And now I want to know what happens next. I can totally see this being a flash-forward at a start of a video game, and the rest of the plot explaining how we got there.

      Like

  3. This is ace! Ok, Ready, Set Go:

    Clouds. Of white and grey ovehead. Sky dragons float amongst them circling. Sqaucking and screaming. they never stop just go on endlessley like beacons above the world. But it is not outside but inside they wait. It is dim. It is warm. But what will happen next. Too many questions to answer too much to be said for everyhting. Looking out the grey appears again. No other colours. Where are the leaves, the flowers? A solitary Bee passes by and buzzes loudly. To where will it fly if there are no flowers? What will happen next…….where will they all go? Who knows. Later, they will go but none know where and none indeed know where this will all end, but for now must just sit and wait and watch and contemplate amongst the grey clounds of lunchtime.

    Erm, ok, so there are some typos in there! That was fun but also kind of stressful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha thanks! I found it really interesting to do – you reach moments where you have no idea what you’re going to put next and just write literally any word in order to keep on going.

        Like

        1. I can totally relate to the bit in the session where Tim said “At first you’re like, ‘This is dumb’…” All of my free writing attempts seem to start with something like ‘I have no idea what to write…’ 😂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. If you haven’t already, I STRONGLY recommend watching Episode two of Double Fine Adventure which was filmed following the Kickstarter of Broken Age (previously for backers only, now on YouTube for all to see). In this episode (as long as I’m right!) Tim goes over Free Writing and shows you all his old notebooks from all his old games; it was honestly an incredibly inspiring watch. Ever since then, I’ve dabbled with Free Writing and I’m surprised with how many good ideas have stemmed from it!

    Like

    1. I was a backer for the campaign… but I must confess, I didn’t watch any of the Double Fine Adventure videos! *hands head in shame*

      Thanks for the tip – I’ll make sure I rectify this as soon as possible. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely should rectify! They were great and really inspiring.

        Episode 2 specifically deals with what you’re talking about though, so even if you solely watch that one, it’s totally worth it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Right I’m taking a break from writing a book to do this and they’re will probably be loads of spelling errors that I might have to go back and correct. A game idea? One idea I’ve always thought of is based on an old Spectrum game I used to play at a mate’s house in the late 80’s after school. You were walking around a Victorian London during the day but when the night came and the moon rose up into the sky you transformed into a werewolf. It was really cool how the game changed from you being human during the day and asking NPC’s questions and getting items and then becoming a toothed bringer of death by night.

    Thing is I’ve always imagined that this would work really well if the console clock was done in real time. It would be a bit like Animal Crossing meets Bloodborne. You could have some kind of mystery going on but then when the sun set in real life you’re character in game would slowly transform and you could hunt down those who wronged you.

    I did go back and checked spelling after two minutes. Sorry.

    Like

    1. Wow… this is a really good idea for a game! I can totally imagine getting sucked into the story and putting plans into place so I could play it at different times of the day.

      Have you ever thought about writing it up properly? You could be onto something here…

      Like

  6. Here we go! Into the depths of my random mind for 2 minutes, haha.

    OMG Mass Effect is awesome!! I’m almost done the first game, and wow. Lighting Farron rocks too. And ugh, why can’t I win the lottery. It’s only Monday and I’m ready for the weekend. I wish I had my own tropical island with a freaking sweet internet connection and every game ever made, ever. That would be the life, eh. I wonder when the next Amiibo is coming out? Hm.. Oh! There’s the annoying sound of my 2 minute timer 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha ha this is exactly like most of my free writing attempts! There’s an idea for a game there though: you win the lottery; buy an island with the money; go there and realise it has inhabitants already (Commander Shepard and Lightning); rope them into playing video games with you.

      It’s got ‘best seller’ written all over it.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks, haha.

            Ok… I just pictured me, Lightning, and Commander Shepard fighting off a wave of 2 minute timer-like enemies on the island… help! 😛

            Like

  7. Love this idea! Here’s my attempt.

    Looking around the room, the tough, grizzled senator took stock of his surroundings. The ball pit loomed menacingly in the corner. Sure, the multi-coloured plastic looked playful and exciting, but who knew the extent of the pitfalls and unsavory things that might dwell inside. The alarm beckoned. It was time for the senator’s lunch. Chicken and ham sandwiches. Congress would be busy today.

    So, er…this was completely normal and requires no further explanation, right?

    Like

    1. I was laughing as I read this ha ha ha! I can only imagine the backstory you’d have to put into place to make a game with this setting make sense. 😂

      Like

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