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Surface Tension

Frustration from Amnesia Fortnight carries back over into Psychonauts 2 as the team struggles to see eye to eye on the execution of the newest level concept.

Published: January 20th 2023

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Episode Transcript


Welcome to Psychonauts 2.


I'm back-- I am back just in time.

ZAK: I know, yeah. We don't have an Art Director.

JAMES: I think we decided on the drunk.

Yeah, the drunk one.

When he is sober, he is haunted.

But when he is drunk, it's, like, a drowned world.

All the ghosts get washed away, and he can tolerate it.

ANNA: We can't have scale things.

Like, I think, I need to, like, axe that.

KEE: At what point do we need to address the camera a little bit more too?

TIM: Everything always looks weird every frame,

because of the world that you've chosen.

ZAK: It seems like that's just a problem that's not solved yet,

not a problem that's unsolvable.

TIM: It's time for Amnesia Fortnight!

ASIF: Because these people will go back to making games.

And I never will.

AMY: This is what you have to do.

ZAK: Well, no. I mean, this is what you have to do.

JEREMY: Zak has ruined that for everyone forever.

ZAK: I know, I know. That's what I'm here for.

Ruining things for everybody.

ZAK: Uh, and then the other thing I wanted to say.

Uh, post AF for everyone is...


I would like to see also

if we can start moving at a little bit faster pace.

Um, I think the amount of time we spent on Bob Z conceptually is fine.

Like, I don't feel like it was wasted time or anything.

Um, but...

I do feel like we could be making quicker decisions about stuff.

And getting things up and running, and in the engine,

and working front to back, a little faster than we have on previous levels.

Um, and hopefully people are kind of inspired

by progress during AF to make that possible.

Because the main thing right now is not to make a perfect level,

but to get an idea of what we are building.

ZAK: I don't feel like the Psychonauts team is quite moving

as fast as I know we could be.

It's hard to do when you are on a project

that's, you know, three years long or whatever,

um, to keep up the pressure of decision making.

Um, and AF, you know, day by day by day.

You see the impact of every decision you do or don't make,

because the turnaround time on that thing is so short

that you are like: "Okay, I'm making a decision here,

it's gotta land two days later,

um, or the whole thing is going to go off the rails.

Um, and just in an environment

where those time frames are much much longer,

it's harder to keep that frame of mind.

I think we were just very careful on the--

on the Helmut, and early Bob level.

Stuff like: "Ugh, is this the right decision?"

Um, and so things have been a little tentative

and not moving quite at the pace that I think they could.

So, if you feel like we are churning

because people are asking you to keep thinking about high level ideas,

then we should figure out how to make some decisions and move forward.

Because I feel we've definitely...

not made decisions on stuff and it's taken a long time.

So, I'd rather make some quick decisions and move forward.

And then, if we decide we want to change it later, we can.

JAMES: For Bob Z?

Yeah, it got really desperate towards the end of the concepting phase.

We, like-- we had a bunch of brainstorm meetings

where every brainstorm meeting we tried to leave the meeting

with a concept we all agreed on.

ZAK: A withered plant world that you are, like, bringing back to life?

And he's been, like, cutting it back, and cutting it back, and cutting it back,

and keeping it, like, all tiny, and bonsai'd up.

JAMES: And then, like, ten minutes after the meeting we'd be like:

"No, we can't do that. That's awful."

Like, we ended one meeting thinking that, like, the dishes in a sink idea...

And it was just... bad.

ANNA: Yeah, I think this-- this particular concept was interesting

in that it uncovered an important value for Tim for the level.

Which is that he--

It was very important for him to have it be based in reality in some form.

A thing.

Yeah, like, it's a-- Because for us it was like:

"Well, everyone likes the concept. Like, why can't we go forward with this?"

And that was, like--

That's why we kind of had to go back to the drawing board.

But now that that is known...

Yeah, I mean, I don't think that was just a Tim value.

I think that was a-- there was a set of unarticulated values

about what makes a good brain that we just hadn't...

-ZAK: ...wrote down. -Thought about, yep.

ZAK: Um, and, in general, if something is not good

we should be able to articulate why it's not good.

And if we want it to be better, we should be able to articulate, like:

"What it would look like to be better?"

And if I can't do that, then tell me I'm being bad at my job,

and I need to figure it out.

Uh, and if Tim can't do that...

it is my job to extract that from him, not your job, so.

You are not-- none of you all are paid to be mind readers.

JAMES: There is a little bit of divining... from Tim.

ZAK: There is a little bit of divining, but, like, I don't--

I just don't want you all wasting time on that.

-Agreed. -ZAK: Yeah, so.

I just mean that there is an approval bottleneck, which is...

I will-- We will--

RYAN: All right.

I look forward to helping you solve that.


LEVI: Nap time!


-Hi! -ZAK: Hi, Andy!

-ZAK: Andy's here! -I'm here!

Yesterday-- Yesterday I wasn't here.

And today I am. Starting today.

So, I'll be kind of rolling on, talking to people,

doing some meetings with Tucker and Gavin.

And we'll see where it goes from there,

as I will now be on this project.

-Woo! -ZAK: Hurray!

So, this is, like, bronze wire... farm or...

TIM: Sorry.

-Or bronze wire-- bronze wire mine. -Mm-hmm.

Um, so, you know, you see all these broken bridges,

and there are pieces of bronze wire.

That's a cool idea.

That they would, like, weave it back together using the bronze wire.

All right, well, this broke,

but we are going to put this here, so that people can--

Whoa-ow! You can stand on wires right now.

-ZAK: Ah-h-h! -JAMES: I don't know why that is, but...

Uh... I should have just pressed creepy button.

JAMES: Um, so, I pitched the bonsai idea right before our break.

And it, like-- No one ever brought it up again.

We are just-- we are off to the races with the bonsai idea.

Which was probably not the best way to come upon an idea for the level.

ZAK: I'm, like, in a big, giant, cool, lush miniature tree.

Um, you get what it is. And I think they'll be everywhere.

There will be the presence of the leaves, and the branches,

and those all will always be sort of, like, going down.

And I think the downward motion of, like, you are sort of delving further,

and further, and further into the root of this tree, and the root of his problems.

Like, that downward motion is super important.

JAMES: So, yeah, this is where we are at.

RYAN: Um, one of the things that I've noticed

as you've been running through here is that other than the rails,

um, all of the paths are very terrestrial.

Like, you are running on ground. Um, is it--

Like, especially on the top level,

there is, like, lots of bridges that connect everything up.

Um, are those going to be there alone?

Are there going to be action paths that connect you between places?

Like, what's your intention for how the player...

-RYAN: ...gets to move around. -JAMES: I'm not sure yet, because...

...we haven't gotten to that level of scanning yet.

ZAK: It feels like the action path related stuff is just

sort of, like, as the structure of the level gets more developed...

um, work on that stuff.

Because I feel like the next big thing is sort of like:

"What is the quest flow? How do these areas connect to each other?

How does the flow of the water work? And the flooding, and unflooding."

JAMES: And this-- this level is definitely the--

probably the biggest bummer level?

Like, whichever way we go with it.

-ZAK: So far. -JAMES: So far.

-We've just gotten started on the bummers. -JAMES: There is still time.

Yeah, I'm trying to remember. It's been through--

Bob Z has been through a lot of different iterations.

It was, like, a-- a Venetian village.

And, like, a big pillar in the sky.

And then-- and a terrarium.

And then bonsai?

I think bonsai may have come from... Levi? I don't know.

And the trunk is leaning on... a stack of dirty dishes.

-LEVI: Oh, dishes are back! Nice! -Use it all.

ZAK: And the whole thing is deep fried!

-JAMES: What? -Oh, god.

-Oh, that was a failure. -That there was no deep fried?

I think that's my favorite one.

Which is, like, that's a strong thing in real life,

like, a lot of things went bad on one day.

But it feels a little, like...

uh, diluted (Dee-luted).

Dai-luted. Diluted, not Dee-lu--

-Yes. -Sorry, Dad.

No. No, no, I was clarifying.

JAMES: Yeah, it just feels a little, like...

TIM: It's always been--

To me it's always been about the flooding and the unflooding.

And that's going to take a lot of work to get to,

to prove that out.

TIM: I booted up Wet-Dry World by the way, and started playing that...

-JAMES: I saw! Without me! -TIM: Just to see if it was running.

Well, I wanted to see if I can get it running

before I had anyone watching me.

But it's really much harder than I remember that.

ZAK: All of Mario 64 is much harder than you remember.

TIM: Because you have to be-- The camera, like, hates you.

And you have to be in the right place,

and then these little-- the guys are just blowing flame on you.

-TIM: But, um... -ZAK: Yeah.

TIM: There are still some-- They have the floating things,

that you can probably imagine, that are used to solve puzzles.

There is also, like, a big shaft of-- of--

of mesh that has a door in the bottom.

But you have to blow up a crate.

But you have to have it dry, so you can blow up the crate.

And then you have to have it flooded, so you can swim up the unclimbable shaft.

Yeah, I mean, Wet-Dry... They get a lot more mileage

out of Wet-Dry World, because Mario can swim.

JAMES: And when we were...

We had this directive right from the beginning of Bob Z that was like:

"We want to do a water level, where you are underwater sometimes."

Like, uh, Wet-Dry World from Mario.

And we probably should have sat down and been like: "Is this actually fun?

Do we have the ideas we should have for this idea.

Raz can't go underwater. He can't go in the water.

JAMES: So, now, you type in whatever path you wanted to go to.

So, let's say M-3.

Um, water path M-3.

And the level kind of tilts appropriately.

ZAK: Whoa-ow!

So, the affected one is tilted in the correct way.

TIM: Wait, did you connect Google Docs and Unreal?

-Or are you just using that as a guide? -No, no. It's just a guide.

Oh! I thought you somehow clicked

on the link in Google Docs, and affected your level.

I'm like: "You guys are getting really good at Unreal!"

JAMES: Uh, so those trees-- The tree pieces don't move yet, but, yeah.

So, I pressed B-1, so now it tilts over there.

And then over there.

In reality, two of the bottom level things would be on at a time.

But this is perfectly fine for testing, I think.

AMY: Ah, goddammit all to hell!

Can I go down here?

Oh, sure, I guess.


AMY: Oh!

It's fun that you are programmer, because it's, like,

you should fix this.




I really don't like the trampolines.

Wait, what don't you like about the trampolines?

AMY: Like: "Oh, I'm going so fast!"

-"No, you are not!" -JAMES: Sure.

-AMY: It feels bad. -JAMES: That's true.

-It's, like, sticky. -Make it better!

-AMY: Also not me. -JAMES: You are making the game!

AMY: Also not me.

Hey, Tim.

Hey, guys!



Asif, you are not allowed to laugh when you are the cameraman!

-Yeah, listen... -Maybe when you are on camera... a level designer.

AMY: Oh, god, Amy.

-AMY: That's not good. -JAMES: Don't!

-JAMES: Oh, fuck! -AMY: Fucking hell, man!


It's because it only works with static objects.

Wait, this isn't a static object?

No, it's going to move.

-JAMES: Also, all these wires... -AMY: This?


TAZIO: It turns out what James actually wants

in reality is, like, significantly more complex.

Just now I've asked James what's the intention in terms of, like,

when it's tilting on its side, and the whole world is tilting.

-Uh, how-- how is this going to work? -GAVIN: Right.

-That was the main stuff. -Kind of there.

Okay. Well, we'll see. And we'll talk about it.

Uh... Tazio is working on cool stuff.

-Yes. -So...

You have that in your back pocket.

GAVIN: But definitely for, like, the Bob Z stuff...

Um, when it's on, like, tight kind of deadlines like that,

we should-- Anything comes out of the meeting,

it should be tasked out for those guys.

Um, so, we'll be sure to do that going forward.

Um... and then, we are moving--

Uh, production-wise we are moving into our First Playable phase.

Which is where we try and get one level kind of to an arted, kind of pretty state.

Where we can play through it with as many features as we can get in.

Hopefully testing out our cinematic pipelines,

dialogue, stuff like that.


-Lots of planning for that going on too. -Cool.

We wanted to get together and talk about First Playable stuff.

We should choose what we are doing very carefully.

Uh, because I do think it's important to get the game all working in one place.

However, I think it's important for us

to get the game successfully working all in one place.

And, also, increase the team's, uh...

momentum and delivery...

accuracy, I guess.

And people are committed to it, and it's not: "Hey, we need you to do

this amount of work in this amount of time. Do your best!"

Because that's what we are doing kind of right now.

And people are doing their best, and we are underdelivering.

So, um...

Uh, because we will be dogpiling this thing,

it would be really good if we could just knock the shit out of it.

So, I've been thinking--

I think we should take a whack at the actual, like...


What the game would be saying to you at that point.

-Even though it's going to change. -Right.

Because that will help us see if it works, and...

So, yeah, even in the little First Playable,

I feel like you can tell a little story.

-Because it's going to be a demo. -Right.

It's going to end with an explosion of some kind.

We'll throw a car at your face.

Uh... I mean...

Even, like, Train Simulator, Microsoft would be like:

"Can you end this demo with an explosion?


What's the occasion?

TIM: I'm really excited, because

we have been doing pre-production for so long on the game.

And everything has, like, been planning, and building the team,

getting things organized, and doing roughs and whiteboxes.

And we've done some art tests, but this is, like...

This is the first asset-- this large... environment

that we are building that we are not going to throw away.

I think-- yeah, I think we should do an opening shot.

The thing starts, Raz goes: "Whoa-ow!"

And then, he looks around.

-There is an intern, right? -Gotta write that down.


TIM: Like, this is-- The game is going to have this in it.

This is the game. So, we are now...

We are making the game, and it's going to be polished.

Like, a lot of stuff, you know, you rough in, it's not polished.

But this time, we are going to, like, make Raz move right.

And we are going to make his psychic powers look right.

And we are going to make the world look right, and play right.

And it's going to be fun.


ASIF: Ryan asked me to help out... I had the time to.

Um, like, whenever I could.

Uh, just, like, learning, like...

...basic whiteboxing stuff,

and placing assets, and things like that.

And that was mostly just making, like, test levels

and, like, metrics levels basically,

so that designers could have, like, a...

a universal set of numbers to work from for all that kind of stuff

before they started building levels.


Have you been doing stuff on Psychonauts since then?

Well, no one tells me anything.

What have you been working on?

What? No one showed me?

Why didn't you tell me?

Like a metrics room? You are making a metrics room?

ASIF: Mm-hmm.

Like: "You got some good ideas, kid. Come make a metrics room."

And then, Asif will be getting his next task this week.

-ZAK: And move on to that task. -Yes.


ZAK: That's everybody! Thank you!

Oh, that's awesome! I didn't know you were doing that!

Apparently Asif is on the project.


One of the project leaders from Amnesia Fortnight did...

a really solid job.

And so we brought him on the project

and gave him some work that we can cut later.

I look forward to seeing your amazing jumps.


ASIF: There are some pretty sweet jumps in there.


ZAK: Even with everybody dogpiled on something content-wise,

we still are not the fastest moving team in the world.

Um, and the brain team is kind of still getting their feet wet,

and figuring all that stuff out.

Should we be doing a small section of Hub

which compartmentalizes a little better.

Um, because Bob Z is hard to compartmentalize,

because it's this big, open level.

And it would be the two most senior level developers.

Just, like, kicking the crap out of it.

And sort of showing, like, what success looks like for that.

What do people think?

Is that the right thing to do?

Like, doing the Hub section as opposed to the Bob Z section.

GEOFF: My biggest concern with Bob Z is that they still don't know

the primary sort of gameplay mechanic.

How it's going to actually impact the level,

in terms of the water flowing through there.

Which they should figure out during whitebox.

And I have faith they will figure it out, but, like, we don't--

We don't know the impact of it in terms of cost on the team, so.

GEOFF: Yeah.

I think the-- the Quarry itself is just...

We'd have to build the HQ...

And we still don't know what that effing thing looks like, so.

I think that's something that would be a big hurdle.

-ZAK: Let's figure that out. -GEOFF: Yeah.

ZAK: Um, I think probably it's at the point

where, uh, Levi should be able to spare some time from Bob Z.

GEOFF: Okay, I'll talk to Levi then.

Like a Rubik's cube.

Yeah, this is more, like a...

What's it called? The museum?

GEOFF: I really like this one.


GEOFF: This is partially submerged, right?

It's still in the water, right?

Maybe the water line comes across here, so you can see it extending down.

And then, at the end, the whole thing detaches and flies away.

They are like: "Fuck this quarry." [TIM VOCALIZES FLYING AWAY]

ZAK: Yep.

It does.

And the other thing is, like...

The Bob Z level team has been thinking about their level being the--

the one that's going to be focused for the... First Playable.

ZAK: We've changed minds.

Yeah, that-- that, I mean, I'll talk-- We can talk to them.

I'm not worried about that one way or the other.

We are going to do what's right for the project.

-KEE: Okay. -Um, that doesn't--

Yeah, that's not--

There is a component of that which is like:

"I would rather have the more senior team on the hook for this."


That I would not communicate to them,

because I don't think that's a very particularly great--

That doesn't help them in any way, shape, or form.

Um, uh, but I think there is a plenty of other reasons to do it...

um, that-- that make sense.


-Sounds good. -All right.

KEE: I'm pretty excited to see some of these, uh, systems that's on here.

Just like: "Oh, we've been needing to do that, we needed to do that."

It's going to be really good to see them online.


ZAK: And... we would be building

the, uh, end of the initial Quarry demo that never got built.

-That's true. -[LAUGHTER]

KEE: So, do you want TK-able tightropes?

ZAK: Uh... we should still have them.

-ZAK: They are totally broken now, right? -KEE: Probably.

RYAN: Yeah, they are. They definitely are.

ZAK: Uh... move that over to now,

we are going to start talking about doing the Hub.

Uh, and first pass at basic economy stuff.

Like pick up and, uh, loot drops.

Um, getting a version of the quest system in.

Uh, getting, um, one cutscene.

TBD cutscene with just scratch dialogue in,

and functional, and triggered from the game.

TIM: And our First Playable on the first game was kind of a disaster.

Like, we-- we got a really early version of Gloria's Theater up,

but we had, like, a little bit of rolling on the ball done.

You know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

And then we had some enemies.

And, um, our whole take on the pacing of everything was just really off.

Like, we made the ball really, really big, and it moved really slow.

Because that was the original version of it.

And then, the PSI Blast was really unsatisfying.

And the enemies were just the little flower girls.


Microsoft wanted concept pitches, so we pitched it to people,

and they loved the concept, and they are like: "Show us the game!"

And then, everyone was really happy, and then we turned on the game,

and you could just see, everyone was just kind of sour and like:

"This is not what you said this was going to be."

We just-- just felt it.

We just felt it, you know, failing in that First Playable.

So, already the game is in a much better shape than that.

Originally we had talked about doing this in the Bob Z, uh, level.

Um, and we were going to do that up until, like, yesterday, basically.

It has all kinds of crazy water gameplay,

uh, that needs a little bit more time to bake.

And I think if we tried to polish that up in the next two months, um...

I don't think we'd be successful.


JAMES: Uh... it's still...

It's a toughie.

It's a tough cookie.

But I think we are making progress. Right, Jeremy?

-JEREMY: What? -Yep.


Yeah, I mean, I don't have any technical advice.

It's just-- it needs to feel miniature.

KRISTEN: Is it supposed to be bark?

It's supposed to be the surface of a bonsai tree.

-So, like, macro photography. -So, we are kind of on the same page then.

JAMES: Yeah, I mean-- So, this all takes place in a bonsai tree.

Uh... and as we got further into whiteboxing,

we discovered that maybe everyone wasn't sold

on the miniaturization stuff.

So, what we are working on right now is kind of a material test world,

to test out all that stuff,

and make sure everyone loves the way it looks in action.

Because concept art wasn't doing it.


Luckily, I don't really have to worry about that.

It's, like, a Jeremy problem.


Wait, when you say actual turning, you mean, like, Unreal turning?

-GEOFF: Yes. -ZAK: For the platform parts.

GEOFF: For the platform parts. Because that's the--

That's the, like, density of detail that you are going to need.

JEREMY: Yeah, uh...

I guess I'm--

I'm kind of out of my comfort zone right now.

Just because, like, I haven't, like, done art in so long.

ZAK: Uh, hey. So, can... anyone answer this question?

Uh, it is...

Can we open up the material test room

and start reviewing stuff in context there?

Okay, so let's just take a look at that.

So, the floor texture thing is the one of the big things that you are working on.

So, like, the major thing to look at right now is

the actual little porcelain buildings.

Uh, which are not quite there.

Yeah, I mean, it also just does not read as a miniature.

Like, the exaggeration of, like, the glaze.

The bulbousness of the glaze, and the fineness of the-- of the cracks...

Like, it does not-- It does not read as small at all.


JAMES: Uh, yeah, the level just feels like it has too many scales.

So, you have, like-- bonsai tree is, like, a miniature tree.

But then we are doing, like, a miniature Raz on a miniature tree.

And then there are these porcelain figures which are...

miniature even for porcelain figures.

And then, there is big buildings

that are, like, bigger than they would be in real life.

It was just-- there are too many scale references going on.

So we are trying really hard to get it down to one,

so it's super understandable.

And that's what Jeremy, and Levi,

and Tazio are working on for the most part.

ZAK: Um, the thing that we are talking about doing

for, like, this kind of big town square,

is as though it was like a chunk of the tree where the bark's worn away,

and some dirt has settled there.

So, it's a mix of...

I mean, Levi did a paintover, um...

that we can look at real quick actually.

Uh, just to get Tim on board with where we are.

I will never be on board with this idea.

I'm trying-- I'm just creating an arc for the documentary.


ZAK: Yeah, so it's the idea that it's kind of, like...

TIM: Pebble.

-ZAK: Yeah. -That is a cool rock.

Okay, but yeah, I mean-- I think--

I think it's starting to get really, really cool.

And actually, do you have the-- the water droplet on your machine?

-TAZIO: Yes. -ZAK: Just to--

ZAK: I just want to show it to Tim real quick.

ZAK: And then it goes...

TIM: That's neat! Look at that!

TAZIO: It's like in the-- in the Hub 1 test world.


ZAK: All right, maybe it needs a little less angular dampening.

TAZIO: Uh, it's fine, it's fine.


-TIM: That seems fun. -ZAK: Proof of concept.

TIM: You trap people in it.

You just drown people.

-Small people just drown in it. -ZAK: You put it right over their head.

They are like...

That's neat.

TAZIO: In order for, like, the level to sort of function

and read as what it's trying to be, we needed a little bit more...

uh, sort of advanced structure.

Something that was communicating the bonsai-ness of the level, which was--

which was pretty key.

Like, essentially some weird problems that we had to solve.

Um, and I got involved pretty early on to start looking at--

into sort of, uh, specifically water effects.

Because we knew that we wanted water to be a really big part of that level.

So, one of the things was--

There is this feature in Unreal called Distance Fields.

We can use it to deform this sphere,

so it feels like it has surface tension, and it's reacting to the-- to the ground.

Your eye just accepts it as: "Oh, yeah, that's just totally water.

That's the way water works."

And you can see... yeah.

Why am I telling you guys how to break it.

But you can see it also reacts a little bit poorly

to things being in the foreground.

So, you can see... like, around Raz, this little halo.

Because he is totally in that map.

PAUL: Oh, okay.

It almost looks like you are seeing a reflection of him in there though.

TAZIO: Yeah, totally, right?


I'm-- I'm still uncertain.

Because we are not, like--

We are not at all finished with the way water is going to function in the level.

And there is still, like, a lot of unanswered questions.

LEE: Yeah, so...

A couple of things, um, that jump out at me.

When you are trying to sell... small scale...

So, looking at that, say...

-I'm assuming that's wood. -Mm-hmm.

Even though I'm sure there is microscopic wood grain

that if you were tiny, you would see,

our human brains just assume that the wood grain will be at a bigger scale.

Like that's to me is, like, tiles--

Like, I'd expect to see a wood knot, like you would get on a board.

But it'd be giant, right?

-GEOFF: Need a pen? -Where'd it go?

GEOFF: Here.


JEREMY: Well...


Right now...

Right now-- It's kind of scary right now, because...

we have a lot of shit to do, and we don't have a full team to do it.

It's just, like-- I guess, like, finding people... hard.

Like, we don't have an Art Director yet.

That's really crazy to me!

I mean, that's one of the cool things about working here is, like...

They don't just hire people.

I mean, like, it's kind of-- it's tough,

because, like, we don't have the people we need, but also...

When they do hire someone, like, they are fucking--

there is no problems working with them,

because they went through that whole vetting process.

Like, I worked at EA before.

And they would just hire, like,

the best people to do the best job or whatever.

But, man, sometimes it was so hard working with those people.

Like, we'd go to lunch and just bitch about people the whole time.

They just want this fucking awesome guy doing this VFX.

But then you have to fucking working with other people, and then it's...

It becomes a nightmare.

Yeah, so. I mean, it's kind of--

It's tough, because we don't have the people we need.

But it's also nice that when we do get someone,

then they are fucking awesome to work with.

So, that's cool.

There is-- there are definitely times

where you can feel that we are missing an Art Director.

But, you know, there is a lot of...

There is a lot of talented artists in the studio,

and a lot of, like, really good opinions.

You do...

At some point you do kind of want to stop stubbing temporary assets,

and you want to be able to say:

"This is-- this is, like, at least close to where we are headed."

TAZIO: And then, just today I added this very important feature,

where you can...

-ZAK: Bloop! -TAZIO: Bloop!

Glue them together, and if I can aim...

also break them apart.

ANNA: Aren't you afraid of water?

But there is surface tension, so it doesn't hurt you until it bursts.


Come on!

ZAK: So! Uh, Quarry.

RYAN: Yeah, it's very, very bright.

It's really warm out here, I guess. I don't know.

ZAK: Also, trampolines with sound are so much better.

-ZAK: Look at that! -RYAN: Yep.

Video game just happened there. That was great.

And then there is a button.

RYAN: Hmm.

Oh my god! We have actual interactivity?

-ZAK: Wha-a-at! -RYAN: This is insane!

RYAN: And the ladder doesn't appropriately update,

and the tightrope doesn't either, so, we'll fix those things...

-RYAN: ...and make them better. -ZAK: Look, it's fine. We fixed it.

-ZAK: That's not good. -RYAN: That's jumping.

RYAN: That just happened! I've never seen that before.

This is exciting! New features happening all the time.

ZAK: Oh, breakables!

RYAN: And we just broke a thing, and got experience out of it.

ZAK: Aaron did breakables and loot tables.

So, those things drop stuff that you can pick up,

and they break, and we'll be able to make more breakable stuff.

RYAN: Uh, that's a bad camera, but it will be a lot better in the future.

AARON: Cameras are tricky.



Yeah, so...

It was kind of a joke for a while on the team...

about designating, like, what--

what programmer was gonna end up working on the camera system,

because nobody really wanted to.

The only thing is that stuff gets really hard really fast.

Like, trying to do some procedural, like: "Oh, it always leads the player..."

I'm-- I'm aware it is a complicated thing.

Because camera systems are notoriously difficult to do well.

If a camera is done really well, you don't really notice it.

PAUL: Unreal comes with a third-person camera out of the box.

AARON: It does.

It comes with a third-person follow camera,

but it's very, very simple.

It doesn't really handle any of the weird situations you get into.

It pretty much just says: "Hey, look. Here is a character.

We are going to look at the character and be a certain distance away."

And, like, that's it.

If the game is moving the camera around when the player didn't expect it,

they might suddenly jump off the side that they weren't planning on.

So, it's kind of interesting.

There is a lot of pressure to do well, but it's sort of a thankless job.

-Cameras are complicated. -ZAK: They are, they are.

ZAK: They are complicated.


AARON: I made a spring-based camera system,

and quickly found that that was likely going to make people nauseous,

and have other problems, so I'm going to scrap that.

AARON: I promise...

If you want to take a look at it, I'll show you.

I promise it would-- it would be unpleasant.


AARON: So, here for example you can see

how when Raz jumps there is that white sphere that follows him up.

PAUL: Yeah.

AARON: And it shows that his position is moving,

but we are not moving the camera here.

This is a good example of not trying to make people sick.

Where if you jumped,

and every single time you jumped, the camera kind of jumped with you.

That would get really, really old really quickly.

Um, this is where we want to give a wider view.

When you are climbing, it would be kind of annoying

to have the camera in so close.

There is the camera manager that I wrote doing a smooth interpolation

between two different places.

And I also know it's, you know, it's a big responsibility.

It's an important part of the game.

And so, I want to-- I want to do a good job at it.

And I want to be able to put the game out and not have to worry about reviewers

or, you know, people playing the game complaining

that it's difficult to control the camera.


PAUL: That notebook is cool.

Almost done!

Remember this notebook? I got it on Broken Age, but I just...

Gotta finish it. I haven't been doing enough freewriting.


It's cool how much platforming stuff-- it's already up and running.

Developing platformers is, like, a million tiny, little things.

And so, uh, until you get them all done,

which is, like, the end of the project,

it just never-- it's always kind of hard to get around,

and it feels kind of chunky.

But this feels pretty good!

Like, you can go from piece to piece...

without getting stuck in the geometry, and...

Hmm, I don't know if I'm supposed to go down here.


I don't like that popping PSI Balloon.

In the first game it lasts forever,

and I understand why that's a problem for platforming.

I just think it's not fun right now that it doesn't last at all.

Maybe because I've been playing a lot of Zelda,

and I paraglide everywhere.

Just because it's more fun.

TIM: I mean, we feel-- I feel, you know, the--

The First Playable level is a real world level,

and the platforming feels really good in it,

so I feel good about that.

So, we just have to...

you know, hit that milestone now with a mental world.

We don't have that yet. We don't have a mental world

where you are feeling like you are having surreal fun yet.

They are all very, you know--

Bob Z is still in the whitebox phase, and, um, has iterated a lot.

And that's the farthest ahead of all of the mental worlds.


JAMES: So, this level ended up being...

significantly bigger than Helmut's level.

Because this is kind of the footprint of the level proper.

And then...

These are all the buildings that you go into in the level, so...

Kind of accidentally made, like, six levels.

JAMES: I guess. But if the idea is

that we are trying to get rid of, like, an entire set...


JAMES: ...and we'd still want the optional stuff.

RYAN: You know, yes it will!

JAMES: Well, here is the thing.

Well, here is the thing is that, like...

I don't think it makes sense to do the water before we have the branches

And the branches aren't going to get done until...

Like, Jeremy has a lot of work to do.

JAMES: Yeah, because the alternative is, like,

just waiting for them to finish what they are doing.

Which isn't really an option.

There is the possibility that...

whatever we land on will, like, drastically change the...

shape and geometry of the level.

So, that's kind of terrifying, but...

It's-- it's, uh--

It's weird doing it from behind.

Where I'm, like, still working on something

that I feel like is going to be cut.

Don't laugh at me, Emily!

Why are you laughing?!


Shut up, guys!

RYAN: We don't-- we don't just get to... keep taking time infinitely.

(I know.)

RYAN: There is a point where we have to draw a line.


A big part of it is...

Everybody thinks it's overscoped.

We just don't know what to do about that.

ZAK: Well, we know it's overscoped.

-ZAK: We need some data on how much. -RYAN: How much, yeah.

ZAK: So that we can cut intelligently, and not just be like:

-ZAK: "It's too big! Chop it all up!" -Sure, sure, sure.

At what point do we kind of go:

"All right, Bob Z is representation-ish. Let's get moving on the next one."

ANDY: Each level is its own different thing.

And some come together quickly,

and some don't.

Sometimes you get an idea,

and it takes you getting all the way-- two-thirds of that idea before you go:

"Oh, this isn't going to work. It's just not going to work.

We thought we could have this thing that would look this way at this point.

And it took us all the way getting there to realize: "Oh, it's not going to work."

Is there a way that you maybe could've figured that out?

I don't know...


But sometimes you have to bring it to that point

to realize it's just not going to work the way you intended it to be.

So, okay. How do you fix that?

How do we change it?

You know, and sometimes you have to take the time to go:

"Okay, scratch it. We'll try something else."

ANDY: So, the situation we are in with Bob Z,

there is going to be overlap.

I mean, the reason this is happening is because...

James is essentially done with gameplay elements in Bob Z.

-RYAN: No, not yet. -ZAK: Yeah.

The only thing that I have been--

It's been communicated to me, he is finishing up the puzzle work.

Yeah, like, he is finishing up his first implementation of that.

But we need to review it, and then get feedback,

JAMES: Next brain will be Hollis's brain.

Which, I think, unless we've changed it, is still a brain about addiction.

-ANDY: Schedule-wise... -RYAN: Yes.

This sprint was when we were supposed to kick that off.

Right, right, right. That's totally fine.

And it is absolutely concerning.

And if we want to--

You know, our option is to start the concept phase to just get that going.

Because he doesn't have--

James right now does not have enough work to fill up the entire-- his two weeks...

-We can definitely... -...on Bob Z.

ZAK: What are you actually advocating for?

JAMES: This level has gone on for eternity.

And this meeting will probably determine...

whether or not it will keep going for more than a week or so.

I'm trying really hard to... convince Ryan and Zak

that it doesn't need to go for longer than a week.

-PAUL: Doesn't? -Does not.

JAMES: Um, hopefully coming to the last week...

of... action path work.

I hope.

I pray.

RYAN: We-- we, you know, we should keep reviewing it...

to make sure that is the case.


ZAK: So, I haven't had a chance to play through it in a while.

Where are...

What state is it at for all the tilting being represented?

-ZAK: In representative. -JAMES: Uh, the puzzles are stubbed in.

JAMES: The tilting does not work, because we need, uh, tree pieces.

And that is not on the top of Jeremy's task list.

-ZAK: Okay. -JAMES: But I assume...

ZAK: Because I would like to get out of representative

with that stuff being, like, also representative.

I think everyone on the team is really tired.

Cam, are you tired?


JAMES: There is the theater interior.

Oh, well, yeah. We also can cut areas that are done.

Like, sad as it is, like, it may still be the right decision

to cut an area that already is at representative.

JAMES: Sure, I don't know, the two or three that are done...

ZAK: Sure. No, no, I'm just saying that when you are considering cuts

how almost done something is, is often a real sunk cost fallacy.

Just because how done-- Like, the reality of it is

the amount of done that anything in our video game is right now...

is very little.

Compared to how much work we are going to have to do.

-Yeah, totally. -Um...

And so, there maybe a place where, like,

sadly that you've already, like, done a representative pass on, but it's...

TIM: The first thing you do in any game--

The first thing you do when you enter the games industry should be cut.

First thing I did was ship combat in Monkey Island.


Because it teaches you not to get attached to anything.

PAUL: Ship combat?

Yeah, remember the ship combat in Monkey 1?

-PAUL: Mm-mm. -That's because it got cut.


It was great!

And Ron saw that my star was rising too fast,

and he was like: "We are going to cut your shit."

And he did.

And now I'm going to do it to James.


ZAK: Alternatively, we can sit down,

ballpark it, and just cut some shit.

From the hip. Like, that's our other alternative.

If we don't feel like we have the ability to actually estimate

what this level is going to take us to build.

That's bad. We should fix that problem.

But we can also just do it. Gut check it.


JAMES: We yell: "Stop!" when we think it's the right size.


ZAK: I think we haven't quite gotten...

where we need to be creatively with them.

And we'll probably come back later on.

And layer on more crazy ideas.

RYAN: Cool.

-Thank you, everybody! -GEOFF: Wee!

ZAK: ♪ Video games, video games ♪

GEOFF: I do think the level has come a long way.

-ZAK: I do too. -RYAN: Absolutely, yes.

JEREMY: Holy shit!


Um... yeah, it's crazy.

Yeah, I do think some crazy shit is going to happen

over the process of making this game though.

PAUL: Yeah.



-[LAUGHTER] -Christ!

-[LAUGHTER] -Christ!

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