Two Player Productions' Double Fine PsychOdyssey—a documentary on the making of Psychonauts 2—is one of the most revealing looks inside the game development process that's ever been released. Filmed over seven years, it's a fairly unflinching look at how difficult it was not just to make Psychonauts 2, but also to ship the VR game Psychonauts: Rhombus of Ruin.
Why would a developer want to put all of that process out in the open? After Double Fine CEO Tim Schafer accepted a lifetime achievement award at the 2023 DICE Awards, we had a brief moment to quiz him about his experience since the documentary was released—and why he thinks it was all worth it.
As he put it, documentaries like PsychOdyssey aren't just a chance to re-examine your game development process, but also an opportunity to help would-be game developers envision what part they could play in the game development process.
Tim Schafer wanted a chance to celebrate the Double Fine team
Schafer was, as always, fairly self-deprecating about the attention. "The first time I watched it, I felt really exposed, really scared," he admitted. The key word there is "first," because he then said he watched it two more times (the 32-episode series is over 20 hours long).
He explained that after a while, he began to see it as an incredible love letter to his team, and a chance to spotlight how everyday folks in game development put in as much or more work on a game than high-profile creative talent. "If you look back at the old meetings, you'll see really important things about Psychonauts 2 come out of that person's mouth, that person's mouth, and that person's mouth...[we] didn't know it at the time, but that really defined what the game was."
In preserving those moments (which Schafer has been doing for a long time—the series begins with archival footage filmed by Schafer during the early days of Double Fine and the making of Psychonauts), he wanted to help more people dream about how they could help make fantastic video games. "I wanted to show everybody that there's so many jobs you don't know exist—like sound editor or producer," he said.
I met the DICE scholars tonight and I feel even better about the future of games. What a great group! pic.twitter.com/SghC95D0OX— TimOfLegend (@TimOfLegend) February 24, 2023
He recalled being a young fan of video games in the late '80s wondering how he could get into making them himself. He wrote a letter to a video game magazine asking how to get a job in games, but never got a response. "I thought 'I guess I'm not the kind of person you come up against because it's much more fancy people than me.'"
If Schafer has his way, fewer and fewer dreaming developers will have that moment. "I want to see people see that and be able to visualize themselves making games."