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Time Away

The team adjusts to working from home during the pandemic, pushing the release date out even further.

Published: January 20th 2023

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Episode Transcript

VIC: I like this portal into everyone's inner space.

Uh, I realize how sparse mine is.

I have nothing cool behind me.

MONICA: Are we showing our houses?


CARYL: Some of us are.

-AARON: I thought we were, yeah. -MONICA: Oh, I think I can show mine!

GIGI: Plants!

EMILY: Plants, plants, plants!

-GIGI: Plants, plants, plants. -MONICA: I got all these plants.

-GIGI: Plants, plants, plants. -EMILY: Plants, plants.




-EMILY: Whoa-ow! -MONICA: Oh, awesome!


EMILY: Music, music, music, music!


EMILY: We should start a band, guys!



Good morning, everybody!


It's nice to see most of you.

Uh, we are just here to say, um...

this is just like every other week,

and everything is totally normal, and there is nothing weird about this.


JEREMY: We-- we have yet to...

put a fully functioning boss into the game.

SETH: Bob Z is... It's a big angry plant.

Or a ship battle.

Gigi, and Vic, and I are going over to PAX.

And we will avoid getting the coronavirus.

SPAFF: It's a ghost town outside. It's crazy.

The freeways are empty.

Oh, maybe we are being too lackadaisical.

TIM: Hopefully you all saw the announcement

about us going to full-on work from home

starting next week.

This milestone is-- is totally fucked.

TIM: Started. Okay.

I am here with my, uh, lovely crew.

My daughter, Lili Bean, on the camera.

My wife over there, in our very cozy office situation.


I have a cuckoo clock. It makes, uh, meetings interesting.


TIM: Beautiful, isn't it?

We are at home. I am at home. Like a lot of you.

Trying to stay, uh, healthy, and sane.

And trying to get outside once in a while, when it's safe.

Uh, I'm here in my backyard,

which is an exotic and faraway location right now.

Here is my house. I can hold--

My house is so tiny. I can hold it in the palm of my hand.

It's got one bathroom.

And amazingly work is still getting done on the game.

Uh, it's not helping us get the game done any faster.

But we are definitely still working on the game.

It's an adjustment, but everyone is kind of settling into it,

and doing it for as long as we need to.

So, in the midst of all that, uh...

we've hired a new gameplay programmer.

It was weird to introduce someone to the team on, uh-- on video.

Okay. Hi, everybody!

Please, join me in welcoming Juli Gregg to Double Fine Productions!

Juli, where are you?

I'm gonna play the game where I find your fa--

There you are! You got a little, yellow box around you.

Hi, Juli Gregg!

And she's great. And we've also brought on a few new cinematic artists.

And other new people. Even in this crazy time.

And it's been-- it's been really interesting.

And I think the team has really been doing an amazing job of staying connected,

both in terms of work and productivity,

but also socially.

This week would have been GDC.

And there is some stuff being live streamed.

But, yeah. It's gonna be weird.

In the bottom corner there is a thing that says: "Stop video."

And there is a little arrow, that points up, next to it.

If you click that,

and then you can choose a virtual background.


It's the only video I could find.

SILVIO: By the way, Lauren, your microphone is not muted.

Alt+A, if you...

LAUREN: Uh, good. Just doing the work from home thing.

So, setting up computers, adjusting, all that.

EMILY: Lauren, we are listening to you! And your conversation!

LAUREN: Yeah, yeah.



MONICA: Lauren!


-Ooo, you guys are matching. -I know. Me and Gigi are matching.


-This is me as a man. -Oh, no!

I am a very handsome dude.

You look like my brother Chase!

You are a very handsome man!


We are trying to get together, and do things like watch movies together,

and play games together, do yoga together.

And all the things that we, uh, used to like doing with each other.

EMILY: I got sciatic nerve things.

RUSTY: Upper back shoulders for me, Katy.

KATY: Upper back shoulders, upper back shoulders.

ZAHRA: My elbow and wrist is killing me.

Oh, we are falling apart!


TIM: Um, now it's that, plus also cats,


children bursting into frame.

MONICA: Are they a bonded pair?

PAUL: Yeah, they are brothers.


GIGI: Brothers.

-What are their names? -TIM: Where are the kittens?

TIM: Where are the kittens?

-MONICA: Paul O'Rourke. -PAUL: Ezra and Zeb.


RUSTY: That's so cute!

ZAHRA: What are their names?

TUCKER: Ray and Rusty.


JEREMY: Are they really named Zeb and Ezra?

RUSTY: They'd be much older, Tucker, if it was Ray and Rusty.

JEREMY: That's amazing.

This gives you-- I'll give you a little glimpse of...

Double Fine-- this is Double Fine Utah.

This is my son, he is playing Animal Crossing.

You can see our dog-- even our dog is bored these days.

-Hey, Yüki. -Okay.

It wasn't that big of an adjustment to be working,

but it was an adjustment to having kids at home.


You can see today, on Wednesdays,

we have actually all of the animators, um, together.

Everybody is streaming in, in Google Hangouts, so.

It's definitely not ideal, but we are making progress.

And, um, everybody is getting-- going through this together, so.

Anyway, that's it!

KEE: Can I ask, um...

How is everyone doing?

How does it seem like all the folks are doing kind of through this?

It seems like signs are pointing to longer time away?

If, uh...

Like, Google just said that they are not going to reopen

until July 2021, right?

Oh my god!

Yeah, how is everyone doing?

Uh, I left the house for the first time, so that was--

TIM: You are just trying to get it.

You are like: "I'm sick of this. I'm just going to go get it."


CARYL: Like, you don't go for walks?

We went for our first walk recently.

Like, we weren't going for walks, no.

GEOFF: When my dog is here, I go for walks.

But when he is not, I just work.

And then I go to sleep.


TIM: How are you doing, Kee?

Eh, it's--

It's like this.

You know, it, uh...

You think it's going to get better.

And then you read the news, and then you get really sad,

because it's not.

And it feels like just nothing really is going to change.

Um, to be honest,

work has been for me, like, um...

nice in that I feel like I could effect change,

that I could do something about things.

As opposed to other... stuff happening in the world

that I don't have control over.

TIM: You guys, if it's really loud, just scream as loud as you can.


TUCKER: I am internally.

Can you guys hear now?

-Yep. -Yep.

TIM: No? Can I hear you?

I don't know.

-We hear you. -No, I don't hear you guys anymore.

You don't hear us?

Just put on the headphones.


Except I don't think he can hear us.

Kill me.


Anyone else getting really bad video quality right now?

Yeah, it's, like, chopping around and stuff.

This is going to be the part that requires some tweaking.

The camera is on a spline right now. And where the camera is on--

Uh-oh. Are you there?


-Tim? -TIM: Yeah.

-Oh, okay, your video froze. -Can you not hear me?

TIM: Oh, it says my internet co-- Oh, no, no, no--



-I love-- -It is very broken.

I love sharing things over the internet.

-It is so functional and good. -It is awful.

It is awful.


It's so-- Fucking kill me, man.


RUSTY: Like, because of the pandemic, are we still November... release?

That's an interesting-- That's an interesting question, Dave.

So, when we had our one year out meeting,

one of the risks was not worldwide global pandemic.

That wasn't actually on our risk list.

We didn't really have any mitigation steps for that one.

Sounds like we are not the only limited integration studio

having this conversation with Microsoft.

Um, you know, their overall guidance has been, you know:

"Be safe. Take care of your team. You have stability."

And to me it doesn't really make sense for us to pick a new date out of a hat

while we are all out of the office and trying to get stuff done.

But when we get back into the office that'll probably be

one of the first things we try and figure out.

Do we know what happened last sprint from a, like-- total work done?

Yeah, we are down anywhere from thirty to fifty percent.

From what we were.

I have definitely felt the slowdown from my team as well.

But... things are getting done.

TIM: The first milestone in quarantine,

uh, we hit a lot of, um...

the levels seemed to slow down a lot.

Certain levels seemed to slow down a lot.

And I couldn't tell if it was quarantine,

or if it was just that we kind of overloaded those levels.

Like, I am fully behind, just...

...dropping everything and getting it working right now.

And it's--

You know, a part of me feels it might be good for people too,

because they cannot focus on the levels,

which in a lot of cases are going nowhere.

Because of our situation.

What are the levels that are going nowhere?

All of them?


GEOFF: Right now Gristol is... It's been in limbo.

Like, Will and I have no art to do in there,

because we are waiting on design.

TIM: I mean, that sounds like a huge-- like a red alarm kind of situation.

GEOFF: It is! I've been trying to shout it at the top of my lungs, but...

TIM: It seems like it kind of, like, snuck into this meeting,

kind of, like, the lead has been buried here.

Like, if we can't--

Are there two levels that are not progressing?

Is that the sense that we have... right now?

That's-- that's big news.

Hollis is having a lot of the same problems too, so.

Like, the Hollis level.

Every time we work on it,

it's like one of those weird fractal CG images

where you get closer and it just becomes more complicated and more complicated.

And it just never seems to end.

And it seems like there is a level inside of a level inside of a level.


We, for scheduling purposes, realized that Hollis is two or three levels.

But we've just been calling it one level.

But on the topic of these things.

There is five weeks left in this milestone.

How are you guys doing?

I mean, looking at how, like, the progress is going

on the MCon stuff alone,

I think we are going to need more time.

Because we still have a game room.

Uh, all of the MCon areas.

We haven't touched most of Holl Class.


And, I think, just because our designers can really only focus

on one space at a time,

and we have just two designers,

um, like...

it is probably going to need at least one more sprint.

We can only do so many things at a time.

TIM: So, that-- that realization, I think, made the whole team feel like:

"Well, we can't get this done by the milestone.

We can get this part of it done."

You know? And I think it's recovered from that.

In that we've made the schedule more honestly reflect

the work to be done in that level.

We need to continue working on that--

from the very beginning all the way to the Morris section.

HOLLIS: I forgot to mention, Eggbeater, there doesn't seem to be any path--

GEOFF: The parts are there, but they are not polished,

and they are not shippable.

I think the goal here would be to get those sections shippable,

so we know how much work it's gonna take for the rest of the thing.

The progress on this-- on this level has been pretty good though.

Uh, it's--

You know, I think if we were in the office,

it could probably be going a little faster, but..., I have been impressed at the speed that it's been working--

this level has been coming together in quarantine.


Which is-- which is nice.

It's been not fully my experience.

What is he doing?

EMILY: A one-handed push-up!


Oh, okay.

What was that effect?

Is it putting me back?

EMILY: It should be, like, pushing you back.

There needs to be an animation for that.


That's awesome.

Oh, now I'm going to kill the other runner.


-ASIF: Oh, man. -TIM: Yeah, you are dead, clubs!

Oop, no.



Won somehow.

I'm used to playing the demo and critiquing every single thing.

Like that penetration on Hollis' butt.


TIM: Yeah, look at Tucker's long hair.

It's good. I think that's a good look for you.

You should go with it! Let it go! Yeah!

Emily was saying I look like Keanu earlier.

-Yeah. -Which is a great compliment.

Super Kea-- yeah.


That's awesome.

All right, everybody.

Good to see you all.

I got my Booty-- my 11 AM Booty call.

-All right! -Enjoy.


Takes me a second to realize what you are talking about.

Yeah, I had no idea what you were talking about at first.

I like to leave these notes around the house for my wife to find.

Booty call. 11 AM.


All right! Bye, everybody!

-Bye! -Bye!

But now things have moved on to, um...

the boss phase, where we--

We had a big change where we actually...

paused all development on all of the games.

Including Derek's game which is going to be awesome.

Everyone is really excited about him doing that game

and sad to pause that.

And Lee's game which I am excited about. And had to pause that.

We brought everybody in the studio back to Psychonauts.

In an effort to get Psychonauts done

somewhere near where we want it to get done,

we are actually requiring the help of both of our other two projects.

We are having to pause development on those temporarily,

while we ask that team to come help us wrap this game up.

Because we really can't, uh, crunch the team.

And we can't move our deadline anymore.

And we can't cut any more things from the game,

because we really need this game to be--

This is the first game from--

Both because this is a Psychonauts game,

and because it's the first game we are doing with Microsoft,

we can't lower the quality bar on it.

So, um...

Because of all those constraints, we are, um...

getting help from our friends on the other projects.

And, um, it's unfortunate because we don't want to pause those projects.

Those are really important projects for me personally to get made,

and for the whole team, and they are really great games.

Um, and we are excited about them, but we are in a kind of...

very urgent situation with Psychonauts 2.

And we are going to start after this next sprint

integrating them more after doing some planning.

We've been documenting as much as we possibly can.

And, uh...

We are going to do some final playtests before we put it to sleep.

And uh...

-Put it to sleep. -Put it in a cryostasis.

Yeah, yeah.

And, uh...

And, uh-- but, yeah. We are just, um..

Yeah, maybe couple people getting some rest and, uh...


Looking forward to working on Psychonauts!

Because it look amazing!

TIM: Because when we were looking at the schedule.

You know, we are going to go into next year.


if we didn't get help on the project,

it would go into next year and who knows how long.

Like, it seemed like it was just never-ending.

And, of course, we are always looking at, you know: "Can we cut stuff?"

And... I felt like the problems were that we had cut a lot of important stuff

like the boss fights.

And we had to stop cutting that stuff.

We just had to get stuff done.

ANDY: The first big item then is...

At the end of the Compton level you fight the three puppet judges.

Now, I realize you guys who are coming in have no idea what that means probably.

TIM: Oh, welcome to the project.


ZACH: Don't forget they are goats.

ANDY: And they are all goats, yes.

Goat puppet--

Goat hand puppet characters.

DEREK: Sounds amazing.

TIM: Your background! Just move a little bit to your left.

-[LAUGHTER] -There is children here.

-TIM: Thank you. -[LAUGHTER]

ANDY: All right, um...

So, my next agenda item from that is...

We have the team consisting of Lee and Gabe.

And there has been kind of some discussion back and forth.

Somebody in some meeting said: "Gabe is good at hooking up dialogue."

KEE: That's me. I said that. He is.

You are welcome.

Kee, you son of a bitch!

Yeah, I think I'm going to...

[LAUGHTER] that for now.

Well, I think I can easily see Gabe and Lee, um...

making like a-- enough of a prototype

to use as kind of a document

to make everyone understand what the design is, you know?

To, like, test out scale and camera issues.

And that kind of pitch-type stuff.


You know, and so...

we got the help of Lee.

It's really nice to have Lee on the team.

It's like when during Broken Age, having--

you know, someone senior can just kind of take an area of the game

and, uh, apply his brain to it.

PAUL: Everything is coming to a head.

Coming to a head is one way to say it.

Wrapping up nicely and elegantly is another.

Yet a third way is...

crash landing a plane.


I'm not saying either of those is appropriate.

PAUL: But how does it feel to be inside of the-- the chaos now?

-Like, versus just watching it from afar. -[LEE CHUCKLES]

-I didn't say chaos. You said chaos. -PAUL: Oh, okay.


LEE: My first impression is there is some really cool stuff in there.

There is a lot in the game.

You know, like...

There is a lot of variety, there is a lot of really cool moments,

there is some really neat, weird-- I call it quasi-psychedelic stuff

that they are doing with portals and camera,

and things like that that I really liked.


And so, those are all the things that struck me.

And then, the other thing was just like: "Wow, there is still..."

And I knew it was going to be a lot of content,

because I knew I'd played through Psychonauts 1.

There is a lot of unique content.

And so, I was like: "Wow, there is still a long way to go

for this game to get done."


And, you know, which-- which wasn't a surprise.

It was just a reaffirmation of, like: "Yep! There is a lot of levels.

They are big. There is a lot of unique moments.

These all gotta be connected and refined enough.

And the storytelling has to have all these through lines.

I think the bosses, at least in, say, Tim's mind,

they are there to serve these big narrative beats.

Probably even more so than player skill testing.

And I think that's probably appropriate for Psychonauts 2.

You know, we'll see how it all fits together.

And I'm sure there will be a lot of changes, but...

I think you always want, like, a little surprise or a fresh experience.

And regardless of its mechanical skill challenge level

or its narrative beat, you just, like--

you want to see something a little different.

And, um... that's what we are trying to do.

LEE: This was an idea. Maybe not the best idea, but...

"You are canned."


I've seen enough!


Come on! Downsized is a mini Bob.

-Look at it. -"You are axed!"

"You are downsized." Those are good.

Man, the dialogue is all written.


And then, to mix it up, or instead of,

we also have, um... this other idea here.

He doesn't have to say 'fire',

but it's still about the idea of him firing you.

And then you get to the island,

and then there is-- Bob is in this little cocoon.

I think probably whatever makes most sense to you from a writing standpoint.

Because, I mean, it's just a small action we wanted to give the player,

so they had a moment to see Bob struggling with this moth.

-And... -Yeah.

I have to clean up this cat barf. Hold on.

Did he say he has to clean up some cat barf?

-[LEE LAUGHS] -NAOKO: I think so!

That's pretty amazing.

TIM: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it seems like there'd be some details to work out.

But I can't imagine any of the big ideas not working.

TIM: So, that's-- that's awesome.

And so, we have, you know, Derek and his people and Kevin

working with Geoff.

So, it's a little mix of the old team and the--

and the special pitch-hitters team,

uh, working on stuff in Compton's level.

And it's really gross.

But, uh... it's cool.

JOSH: You were saying you were reading from a document?

Something about a puke laser?

I'm reading Geoff's description of the puke laser,

and it's beautiful.

Geoff, you are a poet.

-[GEOFF CHUCKLES] -This is great.


GEOFF: Uh, as these goats are...

uh, sweeping the combat arena with their puke and you sort of--

Excuse me, did you say sweeping the playfield with their puke?


-Mm-hmm, that's it. -[GEOFF LAUGHS]

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right,

B, A, B, A, Start!

There we go! Okay.




So, there is basically four different versions

that Derek mocked up.

Wait, they are eating their own puke?

That is the implication in that first one.

And also the second one.

That's a little rough, you guys,



Some luscious barf.

Oh, wait, you do hold because of the struggle?

The struggle, yeah.



No! God!


KEVIN: We could also quickly look at the attacks for the hands.

I really like the blender.

JOSH: Plus isn't Eggbeater Raz's, uh... sign? -Oh, yeah.

Ha-ha, that's right it is!

Oh my god!


ANDY: I didn't realize how much, like, vomit is just this amazing catalyst

for all your guys' creativity.



No, you know, like, I hadn't seen a ton of the game beforehand,

so it was really surprising how much was in there

and how great it looked.

Uh, it was really-- actually really intimidating

to try to come on and, like, do some--

"You want me to design stuff for this?

Because it's, like, uh... you guys are doing great.

I don't-- Like, why am I--

You don't need me."

Just... yeah.

But, uh...

Yeah, it was-- it was nice though.

TIM: Uh, another big thing we did was we made--

-[A CUCKOO CLOCK STRIKES] -A cuckoo clock.

We got a cuckoo clock.

Um, no, another thing we did was, uh...

we made Seth Marinello the lead designer.

Which is something I've wanted to do for a long time.

Because we haven't had a lead designer for a while.

Hello, sir. Welcome to our first base touching

of the new era...

of Seth runs everything.

Ha-ha, I don't know if that's exactly the case.

TIM: I am taking off.

I am going to go on a vacation.

You are in charge of this shitshow.

SETH: Oh, boy.

Oh, boy.

Hi, Lili!

SETH: Because after Zak left...

we had no lead designer...

for over a year.

TIM: And I would kind of act as the final decision maker,

being the creative director on the project,

but, um... you need more than that.

You need, like, someone in there who kind of owns--

keeps the whole design of the project in their head,

and helps everybody know what's designed,

helps everyone know what all the decisions are,

and helps everyone remember how the whole thing fits together.

Our game is really big.

And a lot of people...


touch every part of it frequently.

I mean, I was just having a conversation with Lauren earlier

about how that now that we have this upgraded PSI Blast that chains,

there is this problem where in all of the later levels of the game,

none of which we are working on right now,

you can shoot a Regret and it bounces to the other Regrets.

It seemed like I killed them all in one shot.

SETH: And you can kill, like, five of them in one shot.

Like you saw in the Bob Z level.

It's like: "Well..."

TIM: I'm still talking to you.

I, um...

I think that's a-- I think that's a fine development.

Like, I kind of think, in fact there should be a moment--


I always hate in a game where they--

they escalate both things at the same time.

But I feel like there should be a moment where for, like, half a level

you really can waste all the Regrets as much as you want, really fast.

And then you are like: "Oh, now the Regrets have powered up too."

Now there is double Regrets or, like, armored Regrets,

or big weight Regrets, or something we can do simply,

or just more of them, I guess.

And I've been turning to Seth a lot for especially narrative stuff, he just--

I'm like: "Wait, what state did we have Ford do this?

And we have this. And when did we say that was?

Can you walk around? Can you get to this place when you..."

And he usually can summon up either a document

or a memory of what we decided on that.


Even I-- like, it's been so many years on this project

that some of the decisions were made five years ago.

We are like: "Wait, what did we say we were going to do with that?"

Because there was a plan for-- for everything, right?

I absorb a lot of it.

And it just sort of sits in my head in a way that I can access.

2999 is, like, reunite with Nona.

And it's the transition from Ford Gravedigger into Act 3.

It's, like, at a certain point you are just like:

"I don't know, I just look at this every single day.

For now three years, so."

TIM: So, anyway, Seth has always been

through all the crazy ups and downs the project's happened--

The project has been through so many...

you know, conflicts, and some ugly times.

And Seth has always been just very positive

and pushing forward solutions.

Like: "Oh, here is a design doc!

Here, I designed this thing that's not designed yet. Here it is!"

And so, you know, I've always appreciated his, like, uh...

ability to just focus on what's the work that we need to do and get it done.

TIM: Wait, if you boot up the game right now,

and you are Microsoft,

what would be the first point you'd hit something really janky?



Well, Hollis.

TIM: Yeah.

SETH: Which isn't really that janky.

I think the question is, it's, like...

TIM: It's not finished. I mean, Maternity and stuff like that.

Those minigames were not finished.

-TIM: They are not at Alpha. -SETH: Yeah.

RAZ: Huh. Well, it's different...

...but maybe it's not so bad?

SETH: And that's one of the interesting things

where, like, right now we actually have...

a lot of really good content,

but it's not pulled together in a way where you can...

Like, you have to squint really hard to see what it's trying to be.

TIM: I know there is this time bomb ticking.

Where there is this grace period where Microsoft is going to be like:

"Hey, send us the build.

Like, send us the game."

And if I hesitate even a second,

I would send up a million red flags for me.

Like, the game has been in production for, like, four and a half years.

And it's going to be shipping soon.

And I'm like: "Well, I don't really want to send you a build right now."


CARYL: I'm just starting in my head--

Just started thinking about, like:

"How much is this game going to slip its date?"

Um, because, you know, we should--

Andy and I started talking about this yesterday.

And I was going to be quiet, but then--

Sorry, Andy.

I have some, you know--

We are going to have to start having

some more serious discussions about dates soon... I think.

I'm not sure we can wait until we are back in the office to, um...

to review the schedule.

Yeah, I mean, I agree with all that.

LISETTE: My gut on this is we really do not know

the true answer to that

until we lock ourselves into a room for two weeks.

So, we can't do that though.

And I know we can't do that.

-Well, we can't do that mostly, because... -Any time we pick a date...

...we end up in a place where we've got some wishlist date.

And then the team is upset,

because they feel like they have a goal they can't hit.

And we can't keep doing this to the team either.

So, we have to have some better process of picking a date.

You know, this game, from what I've seen,

could go on forever.

I agree, but we also can't pick a date the team doesn't believe in again.

TIM: I think most people feel like: "Okay, there is a lot of stuff.

There is a lot of stuff in this game.

And it probably can be pulled-- stitched together to be great."

You know what I mean? But I don't think people are like:

"Yes, we are a hundred percent sure all these levels are great."

Right? And so, um...

It's not like we are in that position

where we are just kind of noodling with something

and changing colors back and forth,

because we can't decide about what's great or--

It's more, like, we are worried like: "Ugh... you know, this game can't be bad.

And our first game with Microsoft can't be bad.

And Psychonauts games can't be bad.

And Double Fine games can't be bad."

LISETTE: We need the qualitative information

from you Tim, and the leads, to the team,

to tell them what to do...

to close this game.

Because we've done a lot of exploration,

and testing, and prototyping, and we've been in this phase for so long.

People need to just--

They need-- they are ready for, like:

"Just tell me how to finish."


Making out!

Making out!

Making out!

Making out!


Make out!



I hate you, Gigi.

Oh, I feel so embarrassed now.



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