May 2nd, 2009 by Anuj
This post is kind of a mixed bag for me. It’s a strange phenomena to find the internet (i.e. the rest of the world) catching up with you for a change. Yesterday a friend of mine sends me a link to a game that I know all too well, and have been following all too closely myself. That game is currently my most-anticipated title… it is my desktop wallpaper, it’s been pre-ordered before even the clerks at the store had heard of it, and it’s none other than Brutal Legend. This should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me even slightly… in fact, if you’ve brushed past me at GDC, you may know this.
I don’t mean to jump the gun here, but (jumpgun)I’ll go ahead and say that Brutal Legend is the best game ever made(/jumpgun). Yep, I said it, and you can’t do anything about it. Brutal Legend is the game I’ve been looking forward to since before it was announced, it’s the game I’ve been waiting for moments after I destroyed my first orphanage in Lungfishopolis. If you don’t get that reference, please leave the website. Ok ok, come back… without you, this post serves no purpose, and therefore I am no one. The “moment” is from Psychonauts, a game critically acclaimed for being amazing, but infamous for lack luster sales. It was then that my cynicism began.
Before I get too deep into ‘it,’ let me just say that Brutal Legend has EVERYTHING going for it. I love Tim Schafer. The man is a genius and is absolutely hilarious. Everything he works on (Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island) has a personality that resonates through the game, and this has been quoted to be his dream project. I love Psychonauts. A brilliant game with some of the best writing and most creative level design to date. I love Double Fine. The studio that brought us Psychonauts. The studio that seems to be staffed by undercover super-stars. Like, you know that studio that has an amazing reputation for having great teams and so everyone’s always talking about how awesome they are? Well, they are like that, except only the cool people talk about them, and the average people don’t even know. I love Jack Black. I love Tenacious D. Jack Black, in my mind, is one of those guys that is just good at everything he does. Everything he touches has a slighly higher chance of turning to gold because he touched it. Sure a turd might still be a turd after all is said and done, but the probability of it being gold goes up when he touches it. And I love his band (hence the name of this post :D). So in conclusion, the only way this game could have more potential for me is if Joss Whedon was working on it too somehow.
Now, while I start getting too deep into ‘it,’ let me just address why I’m making this post and why it is something of a mixed bag. I feel like I need to make this post now, while it still counts for something. Brutal Legend was easily the breakout game of GDC this year I think, and it’s no surprise that game is rising quickly to stardom. I suppose this is exactly what I wanted with my years and years of “praising” Psychonauts, was for Brutal Legend to become popular… but the more popular it gets, the more my feelings get mixed. It’s not that I feel that my individuality is being questioned when something I identified with very much is becoming something everyone can identify with, no no, that would be selfish… and stupid. Ok maybe that’s it a little bit, but only a little bit. I suppose my fears boil down to a cautious optimism.
I want Brutal Legend to be popular because it is good, not good because it is popular. Obviously I can’t say that it is the best game ever made, because quite simply it isn’t done yet! It hasn’t yet been made! If it were any other game, right about here is where I would start getting pessimistic (as opposed to cautiously optimistic). Now that it is rising in popularity, all too easy is it to overlook small problems and pass along a amazing-but-just-slighly-less-than-as-amazing-as-envisioned product. Sure Psychonauts wasn’t perfect, and Brutal Legend probably wouldn’t have been perfect even if it was still as forgotten about as it was about a year ago when it almost got canceled, or maybe the year before that when it almost got canceled, or however much more forgotten about you can get. The difference is in motivation. The lack of a public “standard” or deadline or bar of quality can really motivate a team to deliver top notch quality. Why? Because they are working till they are satisfied with their own product, no other standard other than those set by themselves. No deadline other than “till it’s as good as I think it can be.” Now this isn’t realistic by any measure, but it’s certainly less so now that it is gained the public’s eye. Sure public expectations can result with positive outcomes as well, but I dunno, me personally, I think it’s easier to shine brightly when the spotlight isn’t on you. This begs the question of Psychonauts being as good if it was popular back then, and there’s no question that the game would have still been amazing. So maybe this isn’t a problem, and I’m thinking too much? Well I’m not done yet!
Now of course I want Brutal Legend to be great and do great and have phenomenal sales, and light up the charts and leave way for Double Fine Productions, a studio I want to work at unequivocally, to make a hundred other great games like Brutal Legend… But now we come back to the cynicism I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago. Just because the game is popular now, doesn’t mean that it will do well. I’m always overwhelmed by the capacity for humanity to overlook the good and settle for the mediocre. This is probably the most depressing thing I’ve ever said on my blog, but it’s truly how I feel. There’s always that fear of disappointment. Though I’m sure that anyone that cares about the outcome of this game has similar fears.
So the short version of this article is that I CARE about this game. I don’t know why I care so much, and it’s probably only going to hurt me in the end. I probably really should get to know the game quite a bit more before committing so much to it, and I really really really should know better. I go against all of my better judgement when I write this, but maybe I love it? Anyway, this post seems kind of depressing. So let me just finish by saying that I am looking forward to this game a lot, and I think it will be awesome. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks, I’ll be playing this game by myself alone at midnight in a dark room and I won’t come out till I’m a Legend.