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Creative Promises

Tim and new lead designer Zak lock themselves in a conference room for months, attempting to define the gameplay and story of Psychonauts 2.

Published: January 20th 2023

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Episode Transcript

PAUL: ...story document and drinking some Writer's Tears.

PAUL: Yeah, what are you saving that for?

TIM: Do you think it's time for me to drink the Writer's Tears?

Now that I, um...


Don't show this footage.




So, here is to the writers!

Meaning me.

Congratulations, Tim.




TIM: So, we launched our campaign last night.

And I was really nervous, and... it went great.

TIM: Oh my god!

TIM: A bunch of people gave us millions of dollars.

We are going to make a game.

So, thank you!

You are public now.

CHAD: We got that new Psychonauts 2 designer coming in.

RAY: I know...

CHAD: And Tim's head seemed to be on:

"I gotta start meeting with that guy every day."

SCOTT: Uh, her hair kind of tumbles down.

And it's kind of greasy, and stuff.

And-- and I guess her collar kind of emulates brain waves on that one.

TIM: Mm-hmm!

I didn't even notice that. You are right, that's cool.

I like that crazy neck thing in D though, like she is in a Venus flytrap kind of.

Because she should be, like...

It's weird, because Rasputin, the original guy over here...

He was-- there was something-- he had a strong force of personality.

Like, he is persuasive. He kind of hypnotized people.

So she should be charming, I think, in the old days.

Like, she should have something commanding about her.

Maybe she is like Anjelica Huston.

You know, where she is just, like...

Remember? From the 90s.

Rasputin is one creepy dude.

Look at him, he is so creepy.

SCOTT: I know, dude, he is-- he is creepy looking kind of.

So, like, a hot version of him.

TIM: Scott, uh, has been doing--

He has worked a little bit on the project since the art jam.

He's been working on Maligula,

the archvillain in Psychonauts 2.

But what about--

I've been meaning to ask you, what about Art Director?

TIM: We are... trying to find one.

-Trying to find one? -TIM: Yeah, you know anybody?


Yeah, and we haven't hired an Art Director yet for the project.

So I'm just kind of getting a jump on...

You know, I still see Scott as the stylist for the characters,

and especially issues of Raz and the main characters,

and what they look like now,

and should they change at all?

SCOTT: But, dude, um...

But dude, I want to talk--

I also want to talk at some point about your new Lead Designer guy.

So, this is a Lead Designer for the whole game, you say?

Yeah, I've been working with him on the design.

So he is, like, the Erik Robson of this project?

-Yeah, yeah, yeah. -When did he start?

Uh, yesterday.

Hi, everybody! Thank you for coming to the meeting.

Please join me in welcoming

mister Zak McClendon to Double Fine Productions.

-TIM: Zak, please stand up! -[CLAPPING]

Hi! Hello.

TIM: Please remain standing.

-Uh, I have some questions for you. -ZAK: Sure, yes.

So that everyone may get to know you better.

First of all, why are you wearing a microphone?

I was told I had to. So, that was the main reason.

-TIM: By that guy? -Yeah.

He does. He is apprehensive about it.

ASIF: Okay.

Everybody is.

TIM: Yeah, for the people who did not get a chance to interview you,

please tell us, uh,

where did you work before and what games have you worked on?

Before that I was at 2K Marin, uh, and I worked on BioShock 2.

I was Lead Designer for that.

Uh, and then, before that I was at Crystal Dynamics...

-With this guy. -TIM: Collusion!

-ZAK: Yeah. -TIM: I did not know that, wait a second!

ZAK: Uh, where we worked on such memorable hits as Project: Snowblind.

-[CHUCKLING] -ZAK: And a game that never came out.

PAUL: What made you think that he'd be right for this job?



-[LAUGHTER] -PAUL: He showed up.

Uh, no. He, um...

He is just highly recommended from Lee, first of all.

And I really respect Lee's opinion.

And he used to be JP's boss.

And all these designers that I know, he was, like, the boss of them.


So, I guess that makes him better, right?

That makes him better than all of them.

No, he, um-- he comes really highly regarded and recommended.

And I met him, and he was just really easy to talk to.

Very smart, um, guy.

Just, like, you know, when you are interviewing someone,

you get that feeling of, like:

"Oh! When I hear them talk, I really, really want them to come...

do this talking in the office."

Like, the, like: "Oh, all the things you are saying,

I want you to come do them here at the office."

What are you going to be doing here?

ZAK: Uh, I am going to be on Psychonauts 2.

With this man, right here.

-ZAK: I think that's what I'm doing here. -That's right. He is a designer.

In case you guys didn't get that, he is the Lead Designer on Psychonauts 2.

Okay, now you can sit down. So now people know.

PAUL: Did you happen to play Psychonauts when it came out originally?

ZAK: Yeah, yeah I did.

I played it on the, um, on the Xbox.

I finished it, I got all the way through Meat Circus and everything.

I mean, replaying it now I was really struck

both by just how ridiculously ambitious that game is, and how much is in it

from all different kinds of genres,

and just, you know, pure content and ideas.

Um, and then, how well it's actually pulled off

for a new team that's building a game together for the first time.

And it's just so constantly inventive, and funny, and human, and charming, so.

ZAK: Um, do people want to take a break? To get, uh, sodas or anything.

ANNA: Uh, sodas would be good.

ZAK: So, uh, the first meeting I wanted to just talk about Psychonauts 1.

And what people thought about it,

um, in terms of what's important about the game,

what, uh, is sort of the essence and the core,

and, like, things that you think are, like:

"It wouldn't be a Psychonauts game

if we didn't do these things or have these things."

In terms of the gameplay, and the story, and the spirit, and the feel of the game.

Um, and then, stuff that was good about it,

stuff that was bad about it, stuff you'd expect to see fixed.

What does this-- the game mean to you,

and what is, like, gives it its unique personality?

-ANNA: Okay, should I start? -Anyone, anyone.

It would be awesome if we could preserve that--

that extreme, like, departure from your normal gameplay

in the-- in the mind worlds versus...

ZAK: Right. Like, there was the-- the duality of the normal world being

sort of closer to a normal video game.

-ANNA: Right, right, right. -And the minds being, like,

really, really, diverse and crazy. So, that-- those extremes.

ZAK: And then, I think a lot of the other things

that are going to come up for a Psychonauts 2 are going to be,

you know, surprises,

for us, and for the audience for the game, and we are not really going to know.

We are really going to try to, you know, embrace what was good about the game,

which was its endless inventiveness.

And, you know, every time you went to a brain

not knowing what the rules were, not knowing who's going to be there,

not knowing what the enemies or any specific gameplay might be.

Yeah, and you could tell that no one cared about the schedule.


Yeah: "I can't believe someone did this,

but I am glad they did, because it's super cool."


Yeah, that's the sort of thing that I-- I feel like,

in a 2 that we would have problems with, you know.

-Yep. -GABE: Justifying some of that stuff.


GABE: And I feel like that's going to be a... tension.


ZAK: So, that's sort of the last of big studio involvement stuff for--

for Psychonauts 2 until people start rolling onto the team.

So, if you have ideas, if you want to talk about anything,

if you want to talk about involvement on the project,

come-- come talk to me.

TIM: Zak's done things like involving everyone

in the brainstormings for the minds, and having those meetings

that was a great impulse of his to, um...

Whereas I am kind of more, like, isolated.

Like: "I'm just going to be by myself with my notebook."

Um, Zak has definitely been driven to, like:

"Let's get everybody brainstorming from the very beginning."

And I think that was really helpful

to make everyone feel tied into the project.

ZAK: I mean, I guess the--

the biggest thing that I want to accomplish is just

improvement on the stuff that is--

is obvious, and obviously fixable.

Um, you know, some of the things with the camera,

the core controls on Raz, the sort of, um,

overall level of polish in the core gameplay.

I think there is a lot of bits of Psychonauts

that are sort of charmingly lopsided and don't quite fit together in a way

that, uh-- that people expect and want from a modern game.


You know, it's not easy to do.

It takes time, and focus, and polish.

Uh, but, I think, that's the thing that Psychonauts absolutely has to hit

for a number two is to be as good a platformer game

as anything else out there.

The other one that's further...

It's a move that, I think, I really like, which is rolling up in your ball.

He has his Thought Bubble around him,

and you steer him around like a little Morph Ball.

Wait, wait, wait. I missed the beginning of that.

-ZAK: And then... -Wait, wait.

I'm still thinking about the last one.

TIM: He curls up into it.

He curls up into it, and you roll him around like a little marble.

-TIM: So, like Metroid. -Like Metroid!

-TIM: Okay. -And then...

And then what you can do is you can roll the ball into different stuff

to give the ball different little properties.

I'm going to go find a little pool of sticky,

and get my ball sticky, and go up on there.

Get my ball sticky.

What are these things that change the flavor of the ball?

Little sockets, little wells, little...

-ZAK: Well! It could be an emotional well. -[TIM CHUCKLES]

You go in, and then you come out, and you've got the emotion.

So, anyway. I like that whole idea.

ZAK: No, I mean, hopefully you find something fresh

and interesting to do about it that means, you know,

that's not just, like, a: "We like this kind of thing.

We, you know-- We like double jumps,

so we are putting double jumps in the game."

Um, it's one of the things with the high-level direction

of really trying to understand, like:

"What are we trying to do with the game globally?

And does every idea help contribute to that?"

ZAK: This big mess here.

-TIM: Creative promises. -ZAK: Yes.

ZAK: So, this is something that I started doing

on the project I did with Lee.

Um, that was this big mess of a project that had--

-That game that never got made? -Yeah, it never shipped.

Okay, so we know this is, like, a cursed method.

No, actually.

The problem with that game was, it had a million ideas in it,

and we didn't really know what its focus was, and so, um...

Luckily, we have limited board space this time.

-ZAK: We have limited board space. -TIM: So, we are not going to get...

-TIM: Yeah. -ZAK: Yep.

-TIM: You are an Acrobatic Psychic! -ZAK: That's important.

-TIM: Hilarious. -ZAK: Hilarious, there it is.

ZAK: This game is going to be hilarious!

See, I was just going to put, like, "comedy" or "humor",

but "hilarious" adds a-- sort of raises the stakes.

ZAK: It does. I like to-- I like to aim high.

That's why you use the phrase: "Creative Promises."

Because it has a moral component.

ZAK: Uh, you can go into people's minds.

TIM: I mean, that's the same with him being a psychic.

Uh, and it's the main structural-- organizational structure of the game.

Going to put that-- So, that would go--

-ZAK: I would argue for it, like, being-- -TIM: Number one.

-ZAK: Number one. -TIM: Probably.

ZAK: You can pick literally, like, hundreds of different things to value

within the experience from a design point.

And having a set of them

that you can articulate to the team and say:

"For Psychonauts 2, actually, novelty is really important.

That's why in your level Raz gets turned into a worm,

and has totally different sets of controls."

Gets cut in half, turns into two Razs.

ZAK: Oh-h! That... yeah.

But it is a useful thing for the team, because if you are making a game

that's a first-person shooter,

and people are trying to put puzzles in it...

It's just like: "Look, we are not doing-- we are not doing puzzles."

ZAK: Um, and I think the plan that Tim has for the story of the game,

and the setting of the game is-- is really strong.

We have an idea concretely of the core setting of the game,

and the core story of the game.

ZAK: Um, and that's a great place to start, so.

Cool. Hey, everybody!

Psychonauts. The story so far! Let me hold this now.

Which key don't I press to turn off the computer.

JUSTIN: Um, the one that says power.

-[CHUCKLING] -Oh, look at that, it's right here.

This is my keytar.


All right. So, where we last saw Razputin.

This is not going to be a fancy presentation.

Google and research.


So, a lot of what Raz decides to do is, in order to fight Maligula,

the spirit of Maligula which is rising,

he needs to get Ford's help.

And so he goes into Ford's brain,

which may or may not look like a Yes album,

and tries to link these parts of Ford's brain back together again.

And, um, once he does, he--

Raz discovers a terrible secret about Ford

which is that he wasn't shattered by Maligula.

He was shattered-- He shattered his own brain.

Because when he dug deep, uh, into his brain,

much like the greedy dwarves of Moria...


TIM: ...he found an evil within all of our collective unconscious.

Dark, dark psychic power within his own head

that he needed to fight Maligula, but he couldn't control it.

And I think of it as a mental Balrog, or a Malrog, if you will.

That starts to try and take over Ford's brain.

It starts to kind of come up and turn Ford into something else.

And Ford shattered his own brain to quarantine that creature

into one of those little floating islands, if you will, in his brain.

And so when Raz heroically brings him back together,

he is like: "Yes! Raz, I knew you would do this!"

I knew you would, but you didn't bring that one last piece, did you?"

And he is like: "What?"

ZAK: I also love stories in games, and I love writing in games.

Uh, and so, working with somebody who has a much stronger understanding

of how to bring that human side,

and the story side into games is always, like, a really nice complement for me,

and a nice, uh...

a nice struggle to try to account for both of those things.

Any questions about that?

Okay, thanks for coming! See you later! Awesome!

-[CLAPPING] -Hey, you are clapping!

TIM: I'm excited also because no one else is on the project right now.

And having just me and a designer...

Never started out a game that way.

Just being able to focus on just the design

before they start throwing resources on us.

Because everyone is busy on Rhombus of Ruin, or Headlander.

But a lot of them are going to come off, and come on the project.

And then we gotta, like, be ready.

TIM: So, we have to be in that place that we were on Day of the Tentacle,

or, like, overprepared and designed.

So, that's an exciting place to be.

TIM: Okay, what are the brains? What are the ten brains?

But I don't have the brains, because that's all...

So, the brains I know about. The brains I know about, so...

You were almost going to say: "I don't have the brains, that's all you."

And I was hoping that we would get that on camera, but...

-Yeah, no, didn't happen. -Just be ready... case he does that again, you guys.

Uh, great! Another Psychonauts news.

Psychonauts 2. We are moving onto brain brainstorming.

Brainstorming about brains.

-ZAK: Meta brainstorming. -Meta brainstorming, which is awesome.

TIM: What do you think? Do you have any, uh...

What do you think about that system...

As far as what I saw as the components of every brain.

ZAK: I have the doc, I have your doc. Because I didn't put everything in with--

-TIM: Occupation, role, host. -ZAK: Yeah, the host's role.

-The mental condition. -Mm-hmm.

The setting.

The aesthetic.

And the twist.

TIM: There was a lot of things that were hard to fit into these charts.

Like paranoia, where it's kind of a theme,

but I think that comes more out of the...

I think the mental-- the mental condition becomes the theme...

-Yeah. -ZAK: ...of the whole thing.

ZAK: Like, everything-- The twist should relate to that.

To me, it, like, it all kind of comes out of the mental condition.

-It is the central one. -Okay.

ZAK: My instinct is that...

if you really strongly try to hit on each one of those

as all five columns being super unique...'ll probably be a little crazy. -Yeah.

As opposed to, like, one of them being the central one,

and then, the other ones kind of support it as necessary.

A lot of them were just settings. Like: "What about a demolition derby?"

And they don't really-- that's not enough for, like, a brain.

We need to be more specific. But it's a cool-- it's, um--

By putting them on the chart,

it lets you see how they could be combined.

Yeah. No, no, I'm not arguing against it at all, I think it's great.

-Stop arguing against my chart. -I'm not arguing against it.

-Stop. Just stop. -I'm not. I'm saying the chart is great.

Stop arguing against the chart. Okay.

ZAK: Uh... hairdresser.

Hairdresser, yep. World of hair.

Well, because we kept thinking--

We had, like, all that hair stuff we never used in Broken Age.

I've always wanted to have a world of hair.

Because it would drive the programmers nuts!

-TIM: Right? -ZAK: That's why? That's why?!

ZAK: Atari 2600 box art.

All those covers were awesome.

Gambling addict.


ZAK: Bee hive.

Cool and weird.

But what would that be like?

Can you go to a world that was full of just Macy's Day balloons?

And you are-- you are just a big balloon,

but you are controlling all the people on the ground that are driving you around.

There is no platforming.

ZAK: It's a bad idea, stay out of the brains.

Now on stomachs. I'm all about going into stomachs.

There is a separate group, there is the Stomachnauts.

That just fire in--

-Gastronauts. -ZAK: The Gastronauts.

Wait a second, I'm going to write that down.

Let's do one this way.

-Brain in a jar. -Jar.

-The host is a brain in a jar. -Okay.

They have Peter Pan syndrome.

They-- It looks like old movie posters.

And the twist is Rashomon.

-And the setting is... -ZAK: Wait. Peter Pan, movie poster.

A carousel.


-Done! This is easy! -ZAK: Poster, Rashomon.

TIM: I should have brought a notepad.

Might be a little too much going on in that one.

Peter Pan.

Yeah, not wanting to grow up.

Uh, well, how would someone not want to grow up? And that--

It does get a little bit into that Jungian stuff that I am interested in.

It is that-- that idea that there is an archetype.

Like you felt when you first had kids.

Like a weird transformation going on in your head

where you change from a person who thought about... type of things. -Yeah.

And then you became someone who thinks about a whole different set of things.

-Your priorities are completely different. -Yeah.

Because that-- that-- the Jungian--

Jung would say: "The archetype of the father rose up in your brain

and became more dominant."

-Yes. -And some people...

It, like, a lot-- My brother was the same way.

He was like: "I don't want to get married!

I just want to go on these epic bike rides!

If I had kids, I couldn't go on epic bike rides!"

And then they had a kid, and all of a sudden

he was mailing us videos of the kid all the time.

He was like: "Oh my god!" And he became, like, ultra dad.


Because, like, it really is like this other construct in your mind,

that you weren't using,

bubbled up to the surface and took over.

And, uh... Like, he came fully formed. And that's what's so shocking about this.

He knew everything about how to be a super dad.

Like, all of a sudden he was like:

"Dad time. Gotta get the ugly clothes, make bad jokes."

-Like, just... overnight. -The puns.

Yeah. Just an overnight change, and, um...

And I think that-- I think there is something to that, you know.

That these different roles are dormant

until they are needed, in your brain, you know?

Repressed. That goes with Censored Thoughts.

There you go! There you go. It's a really repressed person.

Timeline scrub. Because, like, you are examining--

You are going to examine the censored thought

over and over again or something.


-Oh, man. Oh, man! -Interesting.

So, Lili is hiding her thoughts about Raz...

Or hiding thoughts about something else interesting--

Or what she wants to do instead of being a Psychonaut.

ZAK: Okay, are you going to flip over some more?

-TIM: One more. -ZAK: All right.

TIM: Now I'm worried that you think this is going to go on for too long...

-...if we do this for a number of days. -No, no.

If you say you want to start wrapping it up,

does that mean you think all the ideas we need are in this pile?

No, we could come up-- We could do this forever.

We could do this forever.

So as long as it's a finite amount of time.

Yeah, and like I said there is no-- There is nobody on the other end.

TIM: What if we just kept doing it until all the ideas are perfect.

-Okay, sure. -[TIM LAUGHS]

That worked.

No, we are going to do it for four or five days.

Yeah, that's fine. Four or five days.

We'll spend the last day, whether that's Thursday or Friday...


-...wrapping it up. -All right.

Or extracting our favorites.

-Okay. -Four or five brains.

-Okay. -Well, however you want to do it?

I-- How are you-- How are you-- This-- That's what I said--

The brain.

You are in the driver's seat of the brain stuff.

He's going to say it, he's going to say it.

I said: "He is in the driver's seat of the brain stuff."

See, I'm not going to say...


ZAK: I'm going to-- Just to warn you by the way,

It's going to happen soon.

Every year, when it gets to be spring, summer--

When the season strikes, the beard comes off,

and the mustache comes out.

And then it's mustache all summer.

Oh, really? Oh, really?

TIM: And that mustache.

It's really, uh... its own kind of handicap, but...

He keeps everyone guessing with his facial hair.

ZAK: We did, like, just pure brain brainstorms.

And we have a giant list of, like, I don't know,

five hundred brains or something, that we could do, and we are undecided

on which ones are going to make it into the game.

Um, and then we've moved from that onto doing the actual, like, plot.


(I'm just kidding.)

-ZAK: What? -We're gonna be over there today, right?

-Over here? Yep, sure. -Yep.

-Sure, why not. -Could you muster a little bit of...

-Make it sound like: "Yeah!" -Yeah!

Yeah! Fuck yeah! We are going to do-- talk about story!

TIM: And we did brainstorming on minds a lot.

And then, we were getting near the end of our note cards.

And we felt like we hadn't done enough with the story yet.

I think that-- that's just-- it's just, like, um...

To use my favorite knot analogy all the time,

like, you can't just grab one string of a knot

and just unravel the whole thing.

Um, you have to, like, pull a little bit on this one,

a little bit of this one, a little bit of that,

and they all start loosening up each other until you can just unravel the thing.

And... so, it's like that. We can do--

We can do these brain designs,

but then, we really need to know more about the story

to give us more ideas about brains, and, um...

And so we jump around.

And also creatively you just need to rotate the crops a little bit.

ZAK: That's a really weird thing to want to learn how to do.

And who figured that out?

What were they trying to do?

ZAK: You know, who figured out-- who figured out you could eat artichokes?

-ZAK: I don't know how these things work. -Well, they smell good though.

-Alcohol is the one that beats me. -ZAK: No, alcohol is easy.

ZAK: Because rotting fruit just becomes alcohol.

I know, but why would you drink it? You'd be like: "Oh, rot, no."

Because you needed to eat some rotting fruit.

-Because you are hungry. -Oh, you are hungry!

You are hungry, and there is nothing to eat,

except for this fruit that has fallen-- Like, that's why wine is, like--

Wine ferments in the skin.

Like, grapes ferment in the skin really easily.

And so, if you just have, like, grapes that have fallen on the ground

and you are just like: "I am starving.

There is nothing but these grapes that are on the ground."

You start eating them and you are like: "Those grapes...

"Suddenly, I get along with my family a lot better."

...make being a hunter-gatherer seem like less of a bummer.


ZAK: Um, and then you learn how to make booze.

It's one of those things.

Escaping... escaping life. It's very motivating.

-That's good. -All right.

All right, tomorrow, I think, we are going to do more story stuff.

-Yeah. -We are just getting started.

Yeah, we totally took a bite out of it.

I like to say that, because it's pitiful.

Have you watched on Seinfeld-- When they were doing the show--

On Seinfeld when they were doing a show about nothing.

And they had these brainstorming meetings where nothing got written down.

And they are like: "Well, I think we took a bite out of it."


TIM: We are actually doing actual story work now on Psychonauts.

And putting up the different acts,

and all the things that are happening in Psychonauts 2.

ANNA: Is it going to be cool?

-TIM: Is the story going to be cool? -ZAK: Oh, shit!

-We hadn't thought of that! -[LAUGHTER]

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

ANNA: This is just, like, a little reminder.

TIM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

TIM: Um, every-- We have a brainstorming meeting,

and we get stuck on a lot of stuff, but at the end of the day,

you always are able to look back,

and you can come up with two, or three, or four,

like, those are major changes to the game we made that day.

ZAK: All right, so, that-- I mean, that would mean we'd want

the Psychonauts to be more, uh, on hard times when you get there.

Well, I mean, is it more hard times, or the people are more jaded?

There is something kind of cynical about the place or, um...

It's not as full of bright-eyed enthusiasts like Raz.

Because Raz is, like...

He is reading the comic books about the Psychonauts.

He is like: "These guys are the most amazing heroes."

He's got a very romanticized view of them.

They've lost their vision.

-Like, they've lost their-- -ZAK: Right.

The... what's the word, they lost their, like,

their vision of themselves, and...

he restores that somehow.

Just because he sees it as a noble profession to be a Psychonaut.


To soar across the astral plane.

-TIM: Just think about it like NASA. -Yeah.

Like, there is a group that's always like...

Funding is questioned, mission is always questioned,

and it seems to, like, lose its way from time to time.

And then every once in a while, everyone gets fucking inspired.

It's like: "That's right! We are a very inspiring thing!"

Like, is it-- You know, like, what...

Well, is maybe the original mission

of the Psychonauts not just about preventing psychic disasters.

-But, like, helping people mentally. -TIM: Yeah.

-TIM: Bringing people to this level of... -ZAK: Bringing people's consciousness.

And bringing about world peace

through that kind of, like, psychic transcendence.

TIM: Yeah, yeah.

Like, inspiring people to better know themselves

and to be more empathetic to other people.

ZAK: So maybe there is, like, an original, hippie mission of the Psychonauts.


No, I mean, like-- like, you know.

But it's because maybe that more, like, militarized, superhero view of...

Yeah, maybe they got militarized,

and that's why they don't feel like they have a mission anymore.

Because they succeeded in their military mission.

But then they are like: "Well, I guess the military thing is gone,

I guess we are useless now."

But, like, that's never what they were supposed to be about.

They were supposed to be about advancing the human psyche.

ZAK: Right.


-Hmm. -Yeah, there you go, okay.

-All right. -That's good.


TIM: Um, and so it's never a waste.

But some days are more frustrating,

because the one thing you are trying to figure out...

you just can't figure out.

TIM: It's... you know, it could be a simple history thing.

ZAK: Yep.

Or... there is some horrible psychic terrorist event happened,

and it leads to-- points to, like: "This looks like the work of Maligula,

but she's been dead for wah-wah-wah."

ZAK: Yep.




That'll-- that'll solve it.

-All right. -It's hard.

-It's easy. -ZAK: Video games.



Level designers will figure it out.


TIM: But why wouldn't everyone get on the...

When you are like: "Hey, I want to get Ford back together."

Why wouldn't everybody just go, like: "Okay."

-Because you can't tell anyone. -You can't tell them.

You cannot tell anyone. You are not allowed to tell anyone.

But you mess up a little bit, and you tell Lili at some point.

-That's when it starts to unravel. -Yeah.

You know, because, a part of that Psy--

A part of the Psychonauts feel to me is, like:

Little kids, out of their depth, saving the world,

with adults who aren't really paying attention,

not helping them.

-Yeah. -It's that-- it's like the...

-The teen movie kind of thing. -But that could be so frustrating.

Like in Harry Potter. Because it's always like:

"If you would just go talk to Dumbledore, everything will be fucking fine."

-Yeah. -"Just go talk to Dumbledore. Just do it."

"Tell him that your scar hurts. Just go..."


Yeah. Is that too Harry-- It's like--

God, how many times can we ask that?

-Is it too Harry Potter? -TIM: No. No!

Is it not too Harry Potter enough?

If it's not Harry Potter enough, is that okay?

TIM: You know, it's always funny with, um...

Psychonauts and Harry Potter, because you kind of...

um, it has a lot of the similarities.

It's about a young boy with special powers,

who goes to a special training facility.

Um, and Harry Potter is such a big series,

and it covered so many of the things that can happen, that every time--

It's hard to not cite Harry Potter over and over when you are brainstorming.

Because it's-- it's like Star Wars. It's like--

There is something in Star Wars that represents

every archetype of storytelling, and you can kind of, like:

"Oh, that's, like, an Obi-Wan character."

You know? And...

There are a lot of things, I feel like, are done pretty well--

pretty well in Harry Potter. No, like, so...

They are pretty much, you know, nailed in Harry Potter,

and other pop culture things I feel like wanting to stay away from.

Like, uh, the idea of a chosen one.

I think it's something we always try to keep away from.

Because, I think-- Maybe because of The Matrix.

The Matrix pretty much, you know...

At the point when The Matrix came out, and, like, okay:

"The idea of someone being chosen, or possibly not chosen..."

But we were like: "Let's stay away from the whole, like:

"You were born special, you are super special,

and wait till you figure out how special you are."

Like, just staying away from all that stuff.

And having it be more about the choices someone makes.

Not about, you know, what they were born with,

I think, is something that right now feels more interesting.

TIM: So, the water boss is in your brain, and it's what you do.

And that's how you save your family.

And your family does a cool acrobatic trapeze act.

Oh, they all work together!

Yeah, I feel like you are always taking--

You are kind of always stripping down past projects you've worked on,

or past things that you've enjoyed.

And kind of breaking them down, and reassembling them into new ideas.

And the trick is to not just take,

you know, prebuilt LEGO piece of some other thing and snap it on,

but to actually take it, break it down into, like, the essential feelings of it,

and really digest it, and figure out why you liked it,

and put it back together to-- to make something different.

Yes, do we-- Wait, do we have everything?

-Are we missing something? -It's a video game!

That's a video game!

ZAK: I'd love you to actually sit down

and write the story outline yourself because I think when you write it...

-Like prose form? Like you could read it? -Just, yeah-- yeah.

-Just be like: "Here is a summary?" -Like a treatment, if you will.

-How's two weeks for that? -Two weeks is great.

TIM: No one needs deadlines more than writers.

-Because otherwise... -That's right, so...

I've never written anything when I was in a writing class, or a writing group.


Oh, man, I can't wait to retire.

-Um... -[ZAK LAUGHS]

There is a bunch of other stuff to handle.

And so, if you can handle, like, moving the story forward.

-Yeah, yeah, yeah. -Then that will be helpful.

No, I should be handling the story in general.

ZAK: That's what I think.

-And I... I will. -ZAK: (Yea-ah!)

-TIM: It's good, it's going to be good. -ZAK: (Yea-ah!)


-ZAK: ...we just used that time. -TIM: Oh, I thought you were reading!

-ZAK: No, no, I just finished it. -TIM: Oh, oh, okay, okay, okay.

ZAK: I was-- I was reading. I was reading.

-All right. -Um...

-It's a first draft. -It is a first-- yes.

I don't know why that took so long.

-I'm never writing again. -[ZAK LAUGHS]

Well, good!

We should talk about writing now.

Now that I finished my document.

I was really-- I had a writer's block on that document for a while.

Writer's Tears.

I've saved this...

for a long time.

But now that I've finished the document, I can actually drink Writer's Tears.

Yeah, I mean, I, um...

I gotta remember to write every day.

Like, if you don't write every day,

it takes a long time to get it going again.

It's like getting on a bike.

Just on a painful, awful, hurtful bike.

No, it's like speaking Japanese.

Um, how do you feel about it?

TIM: Uh, I mean, I think it's a step, you know.

I mean, I think I tried to put solutions to a lot of our questions

-Yep. -Um...

Some of it was just kind of, like,

the quickest, masking tape version of a solution I could think of.

And, I think, now we just--

our job is to kind of poke holes in it, and try and, like, tighten it up

before we let everybody read it.

ZAK: And then finding the poker chip.

All-- that all...

That seemed cool to me? I don't know.

TIM: What do you mean? That was the stuff I was really--

I waved my hands over the poker chip and kind of--

Because I do want to go to, like, a Monte Carlo place.

And finding a shrine in the hotel room.

Which is obviously, like, Gristol was staying there.

So, I always refer to the stuff in video games,

like, when you are trying to figure out your video game script,

it's like footwork. There is, like, a footwork thing of, like:

"And then you find a thing, and find a clue,

and you have to convince a person to do a thing,

and then they tell you where the location is."

And that stuff is always, like, really hard to do.

Um, and so, the more you can collapse that down, the better.

Is the-- the extra hoop to jump through of--

As opposed to...

You find Nick, and he's got a chip,

and a map of this, like, you know, hotel in Monte Carlo.

The room is circled, and you are like: "We've gotta go there!"

-"He was getting close to..." -TIM: Are you saying the step...

...of Raz having to trick the interns into going there...

-TIM: the problem. -Yeah, might not be necessary.

Oh, yeah, I'm going to-- I'll just-- all these things--

ZAK: Like, you know the-- The whole thing might--

We can just not make a video game! How about that?

I just-- I always try to put things in Raz's hands,

because it makes him more active.

And then he uncovers the clue that everyone does believe.

So I feel like there is some positive story benefit

to having no one believe him,

and then he does that work to make people believe him.

Yes, there are just a couple of extra, like, mission steps in there.

And I'm worried about having places where it's like:

"And then you go wander around the base for a while

until you trigger this next thing."

Like, should we just try to have it be like...

You go from one brain, and you go to the next brain...

-ZAK: Uh... -Because I was thinking some--

TIM: There would be some things that you did in the headquarters

that are real world things with the headquarters.

Yeah, yeah, and there should be. And there should be.

TIM: I think he is just trying to remove, uh...

things that are more like chores for the player to do.

Like: "Let's just get on with the story."

I think is what he is saying. So, I feel like we need--

That's why I think we need more details, and more, you know--

It's hard to tell from that really high-level discussion about the story

whether that will seem like an active thing that player is doing,

or seem like a tedious task.

He didn't say he was underwhelmed. Let's say he wasn't--

He didn't go completely Gilbert on it. Is that what you are saying?


Also... Maligula dying.

TIM: Yeah, what do you think about Maligula dying?

I don't know...

I don't know, just wanted to have some real stakes that were permanent

and, you know, things that happen, and...


TIM: Cross of the line you can't come back...

-TIM: ...somewhere in the game. -Yep.

I was toying with the idea of, like, Ford dies, or something like that.

But I feel like that might be just too down of an ending.

ZAK: Yeah.

She doesn't have to die. She's like-- She has--

She has committed atrocities.

So her coming back, and having the world accept her again,

and Ford loving her again, like, it seemed like that could...

-TIM: That could be a problem. -But... yes.

Or she makes peace with her demons, and then dies at rest.

That's what I was trying to sell.

-I wasn't, like... -ZAK: Yep.

TIM: Yeah, it's like Dead Man Walking.

-ZAK: Somebody's gotta die. -I mean, it could be really...

It's, like, Ford begging to be shattered again could be super sad.

If we wanted that to be sad.

I mean, we could. And, like, for a while I was like:

"We could actually end it with Ford re-shattering."

-Because he is like: "No, I can't..." -ZAK: And then he is like: "Hey!"

-[ZAK LAUGHS] -TIM: I couldn't think of a way to...

It's super sad, and then he becomes kooky old man Ford.

TIM: "What are you kids doing on my lawn?!"


And you are like: "Nothing. Nothing, Ford."

"Who is this old lady here?

I gotta-- I gotta bury this lady. I'm the gravedigger."


Throws her in a sack.

-Oh, no. Oh, no... -[TIM LAUGHS]

Yeah, you sold me on that. That's better.

Yep, yep.

Yeah! I think it's a good-- I think it's a good first draft.

ZAK: All right, I gotta get going.


TIM: Have you ever had a pee that was so-- felt so good you are like:

"Oh, god, wait. What if I'm dreaming right now?"

You know what I'm saying, right? You know what I'm saying?

-ASIF: Sure. -Come on!

Because you-- Like, you ever had that--

You ever had that dream where you are like:

-"Oh, yeah, I'm in the bathroom." -Yeah.

"And I could totally pee right now." And then you are like:

-"Wait a second!" -"Wait a minute! Wait a minute!"

-"I'm not in the bathroom!" -Yeah.

And you have to get out of the bed, and you are like:

"I got you that time, buddy!"

I also wrote down--

I'm going to put a star next to this too.

"If you die in the mental world... pee your pants." pee your pants."

I noticed you didn't write that down.

That is gold!



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