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22 Years Old

Harper Jay Harper

July 26th! A day of infamy and dire consequences. A day of jubilation and cheering. A day of backflips and gambols. For it is on this day, in the year 2000, that Double Fine was founded. Somehow (and I'm told this isn't intentional but it kinda feel intentional?) it was also Tim's birthday. I've been at Double Fine for two years now and each passing anniversary is a chance to think about what the heck this place even is.

That's hard for me to answer since my time at the studio has been spent working remotely and while I want to talk about What The Heck™ Double Fine is, I also don't want to sound like I'm doing some kind of breathless cheerleading. That's because Double Fine is many things and the road to releasing any game is a process of highs and lows. Double Fine was founded with a "fly by the seat of your pants" attitude. It was a motley crew of fresh faces, LucasArt vets, tech culture dot com boom nerds, and more. The development of the original Psychonauts was a crucible for good and for ill. It was a chance to establish what Double Fine could be: silly, experimental, empathic. But everyone I've asked about the process comes back to another point: it was a pretty rough time! Young and eager to prove themselves, folks worked dang hard and while that dedication is neat it's also exhausting. That ship nearly sank multiple times due to publisher woes and financial concerns. Designers, artists, animators, and programmers held onto Psychonauts the same way that you cling to an inflatable ducky in a storm.

The old-timers, though they're not really "old," talk about that time fondly but also remember a lot of pipeline stuff they'd definitely not do now. Which brings me to a major thing I do like about Double Fine: after years and years of games, people always talk about improvement and how to grow. There's a real sense that game design is a journey. You don't come up with best practices a decade ago and never change. You look at what worked and what didn't and figure out how to make the next process better. That can mean giving people more time to play with new engines and tech but it also means making things transparent and ensuring that if someone needs to take a day off, they take the day off. This sound serious but the point is that the folks who make games here are pretty awesome. And if you give awesome people the chance to screw around and play? You get cool things.

Inside the Brain in a Jar

Holy crap, we actually made Psychonauts 2!

What's that mean for our future? It means that we can have all sorts of people pitch ideas and lead projects. It means that while we love returning to worlds like Psychonauts, there's plenty of chances to make new worlds and fresh characters. A huge thing that people ask me about (pretty much every day!) is if we're going to make a sequel to their favorite game. The answer is a mix; it's never off the table but Double Fine's not shy about getting messy and rolling the dice on completely new stories. Games, and any art, are at their best when you're working on whatever your heart is screaming about. I don't know what Tim has planned next but I'm glad that it'll be whatever he's excited about. Psychonauts 2 was a fun game because it was a story desperate to become a reality. It was something bubble and boiling and simmering until it needed to be told. Everyone here at Double Fine has those stories and characters in their hearts. We're working on bringing those ideas to life all while we daydream about what could come next for the worlds we've already made.

That's the big takeaway from seeing two anniversaries here. Double Fine plays around! It experiments and grows and learns. You visit the studio and your coworkers are keen to grab tacos and play Third Strike at the arcade. People come to meetings with sketches of bouncy characters and videos of dreamy new techniques. There's a lot of stories to tell and I can't wait to show you what's in store.

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