Earlier this year, we did that whole Kickstarter thing. And for months now, we’ve let people who missed the campaign get in on the action as “Slacker Backers.”
We’ve been charging $15 for a subscription to new documentary episodes as they’re released, ongoing development updates from the team, private backer forum discussions, and eventual access to the beta on PC and released game on PC, Mac, or Linux. The money contributed by those backers goes right into making the game.
It’s gone really well! We have racked up a whole ton of content so far, all of which is available to Kickstarter backers and Slacker Backers. There are more than a dozen videos from 2 Player Productions, and nearly two dozen in-depth dev writeups. We think there’s a lot of valuable material there, and we think it proves out the concept of ongoing backer access.
When the game comes out, it’s likely to cost at least $15 on PC/Mac/Linux, and then the documentary will be sold by 2PP on top of that. So backers are getting a sweet deal even before all the extra stuff comes into play!
So now, the news: We will be increasing the backer access price to $30 in a week, on November 16. We think that better reflects not only what backers will receive with the beta and the game, but also the many hours of material available right this second.
BUT! If you’re already a backer, DON’T WORRY. You are TOTALLY SET. We’re not asking you to up your pledge. Thank you for helping this project exist! You are great.
AND! If you’re not a backer, you still have a week to get in at $15! Check out this ridiculous list of content you could be enjoying. (It’s all super good.)
You may be asking questions like, “Hey, where is that Middle Manager of Justice game?”, “Didn’t that come out like a month ago?”, or “What should I have for lunch?”.
The answer to one of those questions, clearly, is ribs. You’ll never go wrong with ribs, guys. Ribs. Also, the Middle Manager of Justice team is hard at work killing bugs (the virtual kind, not the real kind. Be nice to the environmentm folks! Unless it’s creepy looking), polishing the game, and reacting to the feedback we’ve gotten from when some folks got a sneak peek due to my itchy trigger finger. It’s coming soon, and thanks for being so patient! Superheroes will be filing paperwork on your iOS devices in no time!!!
For the time being, I want to share with you, the Internet, the SECRET ORIGINS of Middle Manager of Justice. No, it doesn’t involve radioactive spiders, although it would’ve been pretty rad if it did. First off, a tiny bit about myself. Double Fine is my first game industry job where I’ve worked as a gameplay programmer. I contributed in that capacity to Psychonauts (I may or may not have worked on Meat Circus, depending on whether you liked it), Brutal Legend, Stacking, and have helped out on a bunch of the other titles. One of my first tasks here was to work on Fred Bonaparte’s idle behavior in the asylum in Psychonauts.
As you may know, Double Fine periodically divides up into teams to work on new two-week prototype games. We call it Amnesia Fortnight. For the last AF, I wanted to make a superhero management game for mobile devices. When trying to come up with a clever name, I thought of the soccer sim Football Manager. From that, Superhero Manager (boring!) evolved to Middle Manager of Justice! Then I realized how fun it would be to juxtapose all the superhero stuff with the everyday humdrum life of a corporate office. Tim greenlit the idea for AF prototyping, but there was on tiny wrinkle. I would not be in the office for the meeting where we introduced our AF idea to the rest of the team. So I improvised…
I had initially envisioned the game with a lot of nondescript superheroes, with simple palette swaps to differentiate them. With a small team, this seemed to be the most conservative and economical way to go. However, prototype team’s animator, Dave Gardner, just went crazy (the good kind of crazy) with an assortment of unique and awesome characters that may or may not break copyright laws. (Bear in mind, all the artwork in this post was created during that two-week prototype phase. The real game is much more polished, featuring the amazing artwork of Mark Hamer.)
This showed me that we should focus on unique characters with their own backgrounds and story arcs for the game—the stuff that we here at Double Fine enjoy doing! The game itself had heroes patrolling territories, training, socializing, and fighting crime. The goal of the game was to bring each territory down to zero crime level.
This prototype was built in two weeks using the MOAI engine and was tuned to play well for AF, meaning playtime for an average player would be about an hour. When the decision was made to create the full game, one of the challenges was to bring the experience to a longer game without losing what worked well in the prototype. More on that later!
Thanks for reading, and thanks again for your continued interest in Middle Manager of Justice!!
Not every Double Fine employee was willing to brave the judgment of his or his peers and appear today dressed in full costume. But nine of them were, and now they will be subjected to the withering scrutiny of the internet. That’s what you get for showing off your creativity: the impassive collective critical eye of the world casting its steely gaze onto your efforts.
Fortunately, they all did a super good job! Phew!
Our own Allison Thomas diligently photographed each costumed Double Finer. And here they are, using that wacky Instagram thing the kids like. We’ve got one of those now! Because we’re hip and cool.
Jane Ng as Amy Pond from Doctor Who.
Levi Ryken as the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who.
John Swisshelm as that dead terrorist from Die Hard.
Justin Honneger as Business Viking.
Dave Gardner as Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights.
Brad Muir as Dapper Chestburster Host.
Elliott Roberts as Batman.
Laura O’Brien as a retro lady!
And now, dear readers, I must burden your eyes and souls with this final image:
Let's keep this quick, because this is all you need to know:
Tim is going to be playing Brütal Legend on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network this Saturday, Rocktober 13, starting at 4pm Pacific (that's 23:00 GMT), and he wants to play with YOU. Yes, you specifically. He told me so. So keep an eye out for the username TimOfLegend; he'll be online for about two hours.
And practice up! You could earn some achievements! Perhaps even the greatest achievement of all: lovethis one.
October is a special month for Double Fine, because it is simultaneously ROCKTOBER, the month of Brütal Legend’s release, as well as the month containing Halloween, which augurs the release of Costume Quest. We knew we needed to put one of these essential games on sale, but which one? Factions formed among the Double Fine staff, battling mightily on behalf of their chosen game, one side using a turn-based RPG-style interface and the other using RTS-style controls.
Eventually both sides collapsed from exhaustion, and it looked like there would be no sale at all. But then, the weary warriors picked themselves up and realized that there was only one real option: PUT EVERYTHING ON SALE.
Yes, every Double Fine game is on sale this week, starting RIGHT NOW. Just take a look:
Look, I’m not saying you aren’t rugged, necessarily. You don’t have to explain yourselves to us. We work for a video game company, for crying out loud. All I’m saying is that it probably wouldn’t hurt to have evidence of your ruggedness. Especially if it can be displayed in a highly visible location in your home. Say, pinned to your front door. With an axe. And what better symbol of said ruggedness than a high-quality print of everyone’s favorite lumberjack from the Double Fine Adventure pre-vis concepts and videos? Think that over with your weathered, leathery noggin.
Brace yourself. This Double Fine Action Cast contains a double serving of hearty podcast comfort food: first, a tantalizing appetizer of PAX wrap-up discussion, followed by a filling stew of Middle Manager of Justice. Breathe in the aroma. Let the cast simmer in your ears. Okay, this metaphor is getting weird. But the podcast is excellent. It features Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, Chris Remo, Drew Skillman, Greg Rice, Kee Chi, Gabe Miller, and Mark Hamer.
Music credits: Austin Wintory, Paul Lipson, Jon Shamieh (Kinect Party); Brian Min (Middle Manager of Justice)
Hi, my name is Mark Hamer, and I’m the art director for Middle Manager of Justice! Since the game has been announced and discussed a bit online, I thought I’d post something about the art style of the game and how it developed. It’s been a lot of fun working on MMoJ and I’m really excited for everyone to play it when it’s released. (Soon!)
A little bit about myself—I’m an artist with a background in traditional animation and almost 20 years of experience in the games industry. I’ve worked on lots of different platforms and games, including a 2D isometric game for LucasArts called Herc’s Adventures:
I went on to work with Tim Schafer on Grim Fandango and have worked with him ever since! Here’s one of the scenes I animated for Grim:
Now on to MMoJ! But first, a disclaimer: Some of this art is very early and rough work that doesn’t reflect the final game. I share it here just to show how things developed.
MMoJ started as an Amnesia Fortnight prototype which was completed in 2 weeks to get funding for the final project. I wasn’t involved in the prototype, but here’s a glimpse at how the game looked at that point:
When we decided to go ahead and make a full iOS game, our team was assembled and I came on as AD. With a small team (averaging about four people) and a short production cycle, we decided to keep things simple and go 2D with a heavily stylized look to keep things interesting. The first thing to do was to come up with a new visual style and redesign the game around it. Hopefully this look would be different from all the other free-to-play games out there.
The prototype had more of a standard superhero base feel to it and was rather stiff. I felt there wasn’t enough of an office vibe and I really wanted to create a quirky, inviting office with a personality and warmth of its own. In other words, I wanted the environment to be a character itself. I tried to develop this world, adding lots of detail and humor everywhere I could. One challenge in doing this was the isometric top-down view—how to inject personality in such a rigid format? I did this mainly through props and detail in the world, using wonky perspective and humor to break up the seriousness and rigidity of the isometric view:
(By the way, I’ve been working at Double Fine for more than ten years and have worked on almost every game made here, so you’ll find lots of references to our other games and artists sprinkled throughout the world just for fun.)
Developing the characters was a similar challenge—how do we treat the serious and highly defined world of superheroes? How do we make it ours? We decided to build our heroes as characters with fully developed personalities and quirks. Like in other DF projects, the writing comes first and we used it to develop the characters and bring them to life. So once we started to come up with characters that interested us, how do we draw them visually? What is the art style for these guys? They have to fit in this weird, wonky world, and they have to be be appealing and warm, not just caricatures. Their look went through some dev phases until we came up with a style that felt right and also worked well in the isometric perspective.
Here are some early character roughs, exploring different looks, body types and styles:
Everyone liked the direction of “A” from that sheet so I developed him more, making him less “doofy” and more heroic (and deciding to stay away from any Superman comparisons) his look was refined to his final state:
One of the biggest challenges was designing the Middle Manager himself. How do you make an appealing and heroic character out of someone usually portrayed as a shlubby, wimpy, or obnoxious character? Again we talked out his personality and developed him as a character first, until we ended up with our initial MM design:
His expression was refined and his grey hair was eventually replaced with dark hair that had more contrast in-game, and was more dynamic/heroic but still read true as a middle manager. Here’s his final look:
Besides the office and the heroes, I also needed to create our supervillains and the environments where fights would take place. For the fight environments I wanted to break out of the isometric confines and be a little freer, while still fitting in the same world. I kept it cartoony but tried to maintain the humor, level of detail and inviting feeling:
Here are some villain concepts and secondary character designs:
And some damage done to the unsuspecting town by our heinous super villains!
Thanks for reading! There’s plenty more stuff to see in the final game. I hope you enjoy playing the game as much as we did making it. Any questions or comments are welcome!
That’s the sound of Double Fine bursting onto the mobile scene with Middle Manager of Justice!
That’s right. The superhero management game you’ve been waiting for is here! And it’s just the first title to be announced of an all new, three-game partnership with our pals at Dracogen Inc.
It’s going to be FREE to play on iOS and will be available soon on iTunes.
“Somewhere between GOOD and EVIL… Between ORDER and CHAOS… Between UPPER MANAGEMENT and the SENIOR STAFF… You’ll find the glue that holds it all together: The Middle Manager… of Justice!” said Kee Chi, the game’s creator, dramatically reading from the marketing text.
“Congratulations!” he continued, “You have been promoted to Middle Manager.. of Justice! You have been chosen to whip the latest branch of Justice Corp into shape! Train and manage your team of superheroes to thwart crime and save citizens around the city! Increase efficiency in your branch by building new facilities and upgrading the equipment! Could it be done without you? Yeah, probably, but it would be sloppy, costly, and demotivating!”
“Wow, a game about Superheroes AND middle management! That’s what I’ve always wanted!” said a soot-covered orphan we hadn’t noticed before hiding in the shadows. “But, surely, a penniless, adorable ragamuffin like myself could never afford an amazing game like that…” He looked despairingly at his iOS device.
“Sure you can,” said Kee, “It’s free!”
“Free? Well then…Looks like it’s HERO TIME!” the orphan declared with a sly wink. Then he kicked aside his crutch, wiped the coal streaks from his face, and stood tall to reveal that he was actually Steven Dengler of Dracogen Inc., stalwart ally of Double Fine Productions!
“All I ask is that you release it in Canada first, so I have a chance to get to the top of the Leaderboards,” added Steve, as he went back to watching that game where the ice skaters fight over the ashtray with sticks.
It’s our first year attending the show as an exhibitor, so come say hi! Check out this bountiful list of Double Fine-related excellence going on throughout the show:
We’re Booth #3010 on Level 4. Be there!
The Cave and the Happy Action Theater sequel will be playable at our booth! Come get your hands all over them.
The Cave will also be playable at the Sega booth. If you play it there, you’ll get one of The Cave figurines shown below!
Tim and Ron will be signing autographs at the booth at various points throughout the weekend. Check at the booth for specific times.
We’ll have new merchandise available for the first time at the booth, including some items that will only be sold at PAX!
PAX 2-Headed Baby shirts featuring the new image at the top of this post PAX Exclusive
Double Fine Adventure lumberjack art print
The Cave art print PAX Exclusive
The Cave character figurines shown below
We’re holding a fan meet-up! Join us at the Hard Rock Cafe on Sunday from 5pm to 9pm, and wear your backer shirt if you have one! Tim and other Double Fine team members will be there, and the Happy Action Theater sequel will be playable.
The Hard Rock Cafe is at 116 Pike Street, about a 15 minute walk from the convention center.
Double Fine folks are on lots of panels! Check these out:
The Double Fine Adventure Adventure! Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Greg Rice, 2 Player Productions’ Paul Levering, and Kickstarter’s Cindy Au will talk about Double Fine Adventure, show some documentary highlights, and answer audience questions.
Canceled and Prototype Game Fiestathon! Iron Brigade lead Brad Muir and devs from Supergiant, Twisted Pixel, and PopCap will show off never-before-seen prototypes, including “Custodians of the Clock,” the precursor to Iron Brigade.
Idle Thumbs Podcast Live: Rising: Double Fine’s Chris Remo and other industry folks will talk about video games, take audience questions, and maybe play some goofy music!
Be sure to come by and play The Cave and the Happy Action Theater sequel! This is the first time either game has been unleashed upon the public. (The Happy Action Theater sequel was, however, unleashed upon Giant Bomb last week. You should watch that.) See you there!