Tim Schafer – Full Throttle Remastered interview
Tim Schafer – Full Throttle Remastered interview

Tim Schafer – Double Fine interview

Ingmar: Getting back to Full Throttle, you mentioned that you decided to streamline the game experience. Please tell us a little more about your approach to the puzzle design in Full Throttle

Tim: I was trying to do something a little different with the puzzles in Full Throttle. I talked about that a little in the commentary, but when you see the junkyard and it’s locked up, and you pull on the chain and must figure out how to pull the chain to get up to the top, it was the first example of “I want to make puzzles where it’s all kind of on one screen.” Up to then, a lot of our puzzles were about “collect these five objects, mix them all together, and you’ve got five hundred objects in your inventory. We’ll make it a puzzle by just confusing the player with so many inventory items.” (laughs) I thought I’d prefer to have nothing in the inventory, and you’ve just got to look at the screen, and figure things out. That’s a lot of what the puzzles in Full Throttle are like.  

Ingmar: Full Throttle was developed at a time when CD-ROM technology enabled developers to do a lot of things they couldn’t do before, and many companies started putting a stronger emphasis on film elements. What was your vision of how the game could benefit from a more cinematic presentation?

Mo's shack, Full Throttle Remastered

Tim: I mean, we were always trying to push what we could do with adventure games. I remember wiring up the scene where Guybrush runs out onto the pier, and he sees LeChuck’s ghost ship taking off, and that ghost ship sails away and fades into the night. It was just a very small piece of the screen, but the framerate just went dooooown. (laughs) We were like, “we’ve got to make some changes to the engine, so we can animate full-screen stuff.”  We pushed that a lot on Day of the Tentacle, you know… the Edisons running away from the mansion when they’re scared of the skunk, and the brothers jumping out of the window. That was a huge thing, even though when the Edisons were screaming, only their eyes and their tongues were moving. We wanted to push that even farther, and I think we resented how hemmed in we were by how many pixels we could move at the time, but we kept pushing against that until we were moving the entire screen all of the time, and Full Throttle was doing that a lot.

As Larry Ahern explains in the commentary, a lot of that was actually to get some savings. Some of the inspiration was Out of this World [aka Another World]. It’s more of an action game where you die a lot. They use these camera angles, and they’re really dramatic. And even though it’s really low-poly, chunky, and jaggy, it’s visually expressive. The character gets into this elevator, and the whole screen is just like a crack of the light moving in the elevator. It’s like a Luc Besson movie. (laughs) You’re seeing this tight frame, but it’s really cinematic, and that’s what we tried to do with Full Throttle. You know, we had a lot of action, but then we cut really fast to Ben’s face, and just show his eyes move a little bit, then someone walks into the room, and we cut away from him to show Ben’s eyes again, and cut back to the other person. We saved a lot of money on animation, but it also seemed more dramatic when we cut to a close-up. (laughs) But still, it was the most expensive and time-consuming game I had ever made.

Ingmar: Around a third of the original concept was cut, right?

Tim: We were just not getting done, and everyone was like, “you’re gonna sink the company with this game”, so we had to cut out a big chunk of it, for sure.

Ingmar: Quite a few companies at the time were pretty ambitious about live-action video. Do you know if the executives of LucasArts, other than using that technology for cutscenes in action games like Jedi Knight or Rebel Assault II, ever toyed around with the idea of doing live-action video adventures?

Tim: Hmm, I think not. I mean, management didn’t really drive the creative process. It was the project leaders who came up with creative ideas, and we liked working with the artists. I’m surprised that [Hal] Barwood didn’t do this as he was the film director of all of us, but he liked stylized art, too, so I think we all just really liked the stylized art our artists made, and we never wanted to move away from that to make something that’s "more realistic". 

Ingmar: LucasArts cancelled two Full Throttle games you were not involved in, Payback and Hell on Wheels. As the creator of this world and its characters, how difficult was it to watch these developments from the sideline?

Early Double Fine Schafer

Tim: That was part of the reason I left LucasArts to found Double Fine. I heard about the first one through the rumor mill. I was like, “hey, what are Larry [Ahern] and Jonathan [Ackley] doing now that they finished Curse of Monkey Island?”  Someone was like, “oh, they’re working on a Full Throttle sequel”, and I couldn’t believe that no one from the company came to me and talked to me.

It wasn’t like I left in anger because of that, but that made me realize “I don’t own anything that I’ve made here, and that’s fair, I guess, because I have been paid for it, but if I’m ever going to own any of my properties, I’ll have to leave”, and that started the seed of the idea of founding Double Fine. Then, after I founded the new company, work on the second sequel started, and I wasn’t a fan of the way it looked, and I wasn’t optimistic about it being true to the original. Of course, I didn’t want that team to be out of work or anything, but I was relieved when the game was cancelled.

Ingmar: When it comes to the sales of the remasters of Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle, do you have an inkling of how many of the old fans bought the games in relation to new players?

Tim: You know, we don’t really have a way of telling if they’re old or new players, but the remastered versions sold more than the original copies, so I feel like that’s got to be all the old players and more.

Ingmar: Is there a realistic chance that Double Fine might also remaster other LucasArts adventures that you weren’t involved in? 

Day of the Tentacle Remastered

Tim: We’re in favor of that as long as the original creators themselves are interested in working on that with us, and it’s just a matter of trying to get permission. We need permission from Disney to do that, and, you know, it can be hard to get those deals made because Disney is a very busy company. But I would like to!

Ingmar: Any personal favorite(s)?

Tim: I would love to remaster… well, I don’t want to name anything because it might be interpreted as an announcement, but anything you could name, I’d probably be happy to remaster. They’re all special and unique!  

Ingmar: Do you think it’s still viable to do point-and-click adventures from scratch that aren’t based on a popular IP or accompanied by the kind of hype that surrounded Broken Age?

Tim: I mean, I don’t think it’s realistic to spend millions of dollars on them like we did, but adventure games don’t have to do that. Especially with crowdfunding, it’s possible to pull things off independently. The great thing about adventure games is that they’re very story-based, so they’re not set in how much art fidelity they need. We used fancy art on Broken Age because we like fancy art, we like working with artists, and we like art that’s really polished, so Broken Age went for a very polished, stylized look, but you definitely don’t have to do that to tell an amazing story. I feel like, actually, South Park gave that lesson to a lot of people by saying: “look, if the script is good you don’t need to blow people away with your art.”

Continued on the next page...

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Game Info

Full Throttle Remastered

iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Vita, Linux


Double Fine Productions

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Digital April 18 2017 Sony Interactive Entertainment

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About the Author
Ingmar's avatar
Ingmar Böke
Staff Writer


Mr Underhill Mr Underhill
Apr 9, 2017

Tim is my hero.

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