Afterwords – Broken Age In Retrospect With Tim Schafer
With Broken Age's lucrative Kickstarter, the fantastic game development documentary series, and the positive reviews for the second half, the saga of the "Double Fine Adventure" is almost over. We asked Double Fine's president Tim Schafer some of the lingering questions we had after finishing the game.
There was so much debate about splitting the game in half, but the dividing line looks so clean and obvious now. Was the twist at the end of the first act originally going to take place later in the story? How much was the story changed to accommodate for the division?
The story had this natural break right in the middle where the whole world gets turned around and the story moves in a different direction, and that’s actually what gave us the idea to split the game into two releases. So we didn’t have to change a thing to make it work.
Is there a reason neither character speaks during the ending scene of Act I?
By the end of the game, I felt that the player would have projected his or her own impression of the relationship between Vella and Shay onto those characters and I didn’t want to contradict that. Some people see it as a romantic relationship, some platonic, and some people see it as a psychic kinship almost. So they just walk up to each other and smile, and you can decide for yourself what they’re thinking.
How did Alex Rigopolous from Harmonix get involved with the project? Did you always envision him having such a large role in the story?
Alex was one of our two generous “super backers.” They backed at a level where they got to become a character in the game. I thought if I wrote it as basically Alex himself, speaking in his own voice, he wouldn’t have to act and he could be more than just a cameo. And it worked! He did a great job, and many people list him as their favorite character. The other super backer was board-game publisher Days of Wonder, and that’s how the conductor from Ticket to Ride got onto Shay’s spaceship.
And on that note, were the jokes about Alex possibly being Shay from the future always planned or was that based on speculation from fans after playing the first act?
That was a little nod to the theories that appeared in our forums after the first act was released. Hello, backers!
Shay's dad said he was busy working on the outside of the ship, but why did his mom disguise herself as a computer? Wouldn't Shay remember that they were people from when that family photo was taken?
She wasn’t disguised. She was just so busy running the ship, she only spoke to Shay through the ship’s intercom system, the fish-eyed lens of her “Control Sphere.” As he says in Act 2, he always knew they were people. He just hadn’t thought about them that way for a long time. There’s a point in our lives where we all realize our parents are human beings, you know?
What was Shay's mom referring to with her story of the "sacrifice girl?" Was it about her decision to leave Loruna? Was it designed to mislead players about the mom potentially being Vella in the future?
Yes, but she follows up on it in Act 2 if you talk to her. She describes how the Thrush called for volunteers to leave home and spend the rest of their lives on a Dandelion Cruiser, and that leaving her life behind was the great sacrifice.
Are you satisfied with the response to the increased difficulty of the second act? Those wiring puzzles can be a real pain in the ass; how inspired were you by your obsession with Rubik's cubes?
I’m happy with the backer’s response to the puzzle difficulty in Act 2. They wanted them more difficult than Act 1 and they got it. And I think it made a difference. Backers are who you have to please, first and foremost. And the wiring puzzles aren’t that difficult if you take notes. I really wanted the player to have to take notes on paper, like I did when navigating mazes in Zork.
Even though I know the development of the game didn't come into play until deep into Broken Age's development, was the story's emphasis on pure bloodlines influenced at all by the bloodline-focused Massive Chalice strategy game that Double Fine is also working on?
Massive Chalice bloodline management feels more akin to Mendel's Peas--with positive and negative traits getting passed down through the generations. The creepy eugenics of the Thrush is more about blueblood inbreeding and the dangers therein. So totally different creepy breeding stories!
Above: You can watch the first episode of the documentary here, and the rest are available for free on YouTube.
How early was the ending locked in? Did you always anticipate tying up some loose ends with drawings in the credits?
The ending was all planned out, as you can see in the documentary, well before the first act shipped. The drawings were inspired by the ending of My Neighbor Totoro, and they kept us from having to shoehorn a lot of wrap up shots into the ending cutscene. Instead of every single character appearing for a line to say they were okay, we just added them to the credits as an epilogue. It let us really focus on Vella and Shay in the ending. Of course, some people think the two girls in My Neighbor Totoro really die in the end, and the end credits are just some sort of dream or heaven. So maybe our ending credits are just a spoon’s fever dream as he melts into a bottomless ravine? Maybe? But that’s silly. Or is it? It is. I’m just kidding. Or am I?
What timeline do you have in mind for the release of the uncensored and spoiler-filled final cut of the Double Fine Adventure documentary series?
We have one more episode of the documentary to go, and then the 2 Player Productions guys go to work at making the final Blu-ray, which will have all that uncensored info and more. Hopefully it wont take to long. But if it does, I think it will be worth the wait. Kind of like the game! :)