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      These Forums are closing!   10/04/2019

      After more than a decade of serving this community well, these forums have finally run their course and it's time to close them down. That doesn't mean we want to close the doors on our community, quite the opposite!
      Our discord server grows ever busier by the day, and we encourage all Double Fine fans to meet us over there www.discord.gg/doublefine In a short time these forums will become a read only archive and will remain that way until they become needed again.
      You never know, it might happen.  There is... a prophecy. Thank you all for being part of these forums, and remember that the fun is definitely not over - so please join us on Discord! Love ya, Spaff, Tim, Info Cow, and all of Double Fine.
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KestrelPi

The future of Fine

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Hey guys, I think you should calm down. While I do understand why you are asking for a refund, I think context is important here. Based solely on speculation, I think it looks like double fine is running unexpectedly low on money. I've been following the Broken Age documentaries, and from that I get the feeling BA is over budget again. If I had to guess I'd say they're $1.5-$2 million dollars over budget right now and likely have a few more months of work to do. Just like with the Brutal Legend port double fine are trying to get some cash flow, unfortunately due to Spacebase's poor performance and early development they didn't get enough to cover both Broken Age and Spacebase. I'm sure you guys are upset about Spacebase's situation, I know I am, but maybe we could be a little easier on the dev team.

I thought this was worth bringing to a new post in general Double Fine discussion.

The question I think everyone who likes Double Fine and their work is pondering is "What's next?" and so since some points of speculation have been opened, let's speculate.

Firstly, yes, one of the reasons to stop work on DF9 now rather than at another time would likely be that other funding sources didn't pan out how they hoped. DF is good at finding money when it needs to, we know this from the doc, but there are limits to that and they might have hit them for the time being. Still, we don't really know for sure. I don't think it had a whole lot to do with Broken Age since they've been targeting end of year for a good long while now and most recent info suggests they still are.

Regardless, what now?

I think that wherever you stand on this one thing that is easy to agree on is that some things will have to change about DF, whatever the reason.

Crowd funding is unlikely to be something they can contemplate in the short term. Since most of what they've been working on for the last couple of years has had some kind of crowd funded element to it, this suggests the next couple of years will look quite different.

We have Massive Chalice getting towards the final stretch of development. Broken Age even closer, probably. Costume Quest 2 is out in 2 weeks, Grim Fandango is probably the furthest off project that we know anything about. That means that for the first time in a while we really have very little idea of what's happening beyond a couple of months at DF.

I see two realistic futures for DF.

1) A move towards fewer, more focused projects. We know there are new projects happening, I expect the days of DF managing 5 teams at once might be over, soon. I see a move back towards the days of Costume Quest, Stacking etc but with everything they've learned in the meantime.

2) The Big One. Maybe it's time for most of the studio to focus on a bigger project. To get funding for this they would need to pick the right project, and right now one of the words that still excites people is Psychonauts. Maybe after being rattled, what DF needs is the comfort of returning to its roots and making a sequel to their best loved title. We've wanted it, we've half jokingly speculated for years, but maybe it's actually time to take the plunge.

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Hey KestrelPi, thanks for making this thread.

Sorry if I come off as a know-it-all, I don't presume to know whats going on at double fine. I have however worked on a few larger budget movies as a producers assistant. The director I worked with was known for being a creative powerhouse and making sure he was in charge of everything. He even refused to let his second unit do anything. I was lucky enough to work with an amazing producer and assistant director who seemed to effortlessly manage his insane work habits with a full production crew. I'm only mentioning this because I like to think I can offer some insight into what might have gone wrong in the production of BA and what could be done to fix it.

I'm sorry Tim, but I'm going to have to come down pretty hard on you. You've made some amazing games and I've loved most of them. It's pretty clear you are an idea/writing guy, and you've got a lot of talent for that. In this case, I saw you be the writer, CEO, and project lead. Any of those jobs are tough enough to do, but you did all of them. While, I want to say kudos to you for taking on so much. I think its clear to a few people that that was too much. That looked like the main bottleneck in productions. Where you had to run pre-prod, while writing/designing a game. Limiting your team, bringing on another writer, or reducing the jobs you had would have been key here. I did see several people give you this advice but they didn't seem to push it hard enough until you were down to the wire. You gotta let go of something here, you can't control every part of every project it's too much for one person. You clearly have a very talented, hard working team here. Trust them to do their jobs and to help you with yours.

I'm afraid after watching the double fine adventure game documentaries and some serious speculation on my part that Double Fine is in some dire financial situation. Their options are limited. Kickstarter likely wont give them much without further hurting their reputation. I fear they poisoned the well with spacebase and early access. Ports of older games can't bring in the revenue they need. I guess one of the options that I see would be selling rights to one of your games. Now before you jump down my throat think about this. What if you sold rights to costume quest to an animation house. You might lose out on some long term money but the publicity of a tv show based on one of your games could potentially push sales of costume quest into the mainstream/kids audience. People have been making tv shows to sell kids toys for a long time.

The last thing I want to say is to Greg Rice. From the videos you look like a hero. I cannot understand the patience you have or sheer amount of love and passion for double fine, but god damn good work. Keep on trying to get your way, almost every idea you had was spot on. You show a level of insight and understanding of the fans that rival the best producers.

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I think Double Fine has created a lot of value by taking risks in the crowd funding space. Broken Age couldn't have been made any other way, and regardless of how you feel about its merits, it really refined the conversation about what a modern adventure game should be. Prior to this, it was all nostalgia and there weren't enough big budget modern adventures to really know why people are so passionate about them in the first place. I mean, look at all those meetings Tim had at the beginning with various designers just riffing on why adventure games are special - there really wasn't much non-theoretical information anymore. After the community spent years grappling with and discussing an actual concrete example made with a decent budget by some of the best in the business, we all know a lot more about what people care about and the general size of the market for adventure games. DF-9 taught us all a lot about what types of games can expect to find success through early access. It's a shame that the studio lost money on both the projects, but rather than "wreck" Kickstarter or Early Access I think they did both mediums a substantial service by being one of the brave few to try and really attempt to follow through.

I see two realistic futures for DF.

1) A move towards fewer, more focused projects. We know there are new projects happening, I expect the days of DF managing 5 teams at once might be over, soon. I see a move back towards the days of Costume Quest, Stacking etc but with everything they've learned in the meantime.

2) The Big One. Maybe it's time for most of the studio to focus on a bigger project. To get funding for this they would need to pick the right project, and right now one of the words that still excites people is Psychonauts. Maybe after being rattled, what DF needs is the comfort of returning to its roots and making a sequel to their best loved title. We've wanted it, we've half jokingly speculated for years, but maybe it's actually time to take the plunge.

I for one am hoping that Notch now views $20-30m the way he used to used to view $1-2m, and starts sending more tweets :)

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How about (i'm sure DF is doing some of this already to a certain degree):

+ Making better products, like games people also want to play, like working games, like serving the target audience, like ... but still offering a unique DF experience, standing your ground. Trying to converge to a point where success and providing something new, different and tasteful have a chance to meet.

+ Staying flexible, like taking your chances. This involves big and smaller projects, investors' budgets/their own money/crowdsourcing/early whatever. When early whatever is involved then properly setting up a game before, explaining things properly, don't misuse early access as a test scenario for how successful a game could be (unless you make this very very clear), communicate right from the start and during the process till the end (if there is any). When Kickstarter is involved then also use the money for the purpose people gave you the money for, be transparent and communicate properly as suggested already. I'm still waiting for a crowdsourcing where you directly benefit from the success of a product as well.

+ Keep focused, try not to delay stuff too long but also make it worthwhile (find the right balance).

+ Also offering DRM free global priced competitive products hand in hand with what they're offering already, not weeks/months/years later. I generally like the idea of providing the source (maybe the full source) for a game as well, for curiosity/modding/learning purposes. (I might be in a minority with this one but it feels right.)

+ Concentrate on platforms you also can support properly and which make sense.

+ Remove user mods but keep the yummy colours. (I know i'm in a majority with this one.)

+ Cool merchandising, the cooler products are the better the merchandising works (normally).

+ Taking a demographic factor into account, not only kids are playing video games.

+ And tons of other (more) sensible things.

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I would imagine the initial exclusivity partnership with Sony on the Grim remake is lucrative, but can only be spent on the Grim remake and nothing else. CQ2 should bankroll DF for a while.

It's very much an anticipated game, especially for parents who want to game with their kids.

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I was discussing this with some friends. While I loved almost every game that DF has made, the only ones that were really well-received by a larger audience were (from my frankly limited perspective, so I could be way off) Psychonauts and Costume Quest. Sure, Brütal got a lot of attention, but there was also a lot of backlash when people reached the RTS-parts of the game and found out it wasn't just Psychonauts 2.0 in gameplay style. Stacking and Iron Brigade were also well received, but I don't think anywhere near the level of Psycho and CQ. Their other games didn't receive nearly as much attention (apart from Broken Age, but that currently falls under that maddening 'angry internet people' umbrella). Like others have said, while I don't agree with most of the criticism of how DF handles crowdfunding (especially the angry comments about how it's a company of scammers), it is unlikely that they can return to that well in the near future - at least not until we see how the world reacts to the finished versions of Broken Age and Massive Chalice.

My point with all this is that Double Fine seems to have done the best when they did relatively straightforward interpretations of accessible gameplay systems - Psychonauts was essentially a 3D platformer, and Costume Quest an introductory RPG in the style of Paper Mario/Earthbound. I think something like that would work best for DF's next project - something that's easy to grasp for audiences while still delivering on their trademark style/polish/comedy. While I love games with weird experimental gameplay styles like The Cave (the multiplayer game I didn't realize I had been waiting for since my childhood), Stacking, Iron Brigade, etc., I think it'll just be a lot safer to go with something that's a bit more familiar for modern audiences without trying to push the border of what game design can do (which is risky - both in the quality of the eventual product (as seen with Spacebase) or how large an audience there is for something like that). This might make it seem like I'm trying to limit the team's creative urges, but as Costume Quest and Psychonauts show - you can still deliver a very original, heartfelt and worthy game while staying within the limits of more familiar and popular genres. Keep the settings, artstyle, characters and all that as crazy as you want. I think that, with DF's money troubles, a safer option is a better choice for now. As much as I loved Brütal's multiplayer and lost many hours in it, that game would have done a lot better with a larger audience if it was 'just' the 3rd person action adventure it was in the first couple of hours.

I think putting Costume Quest 2 out now is a good start - hopefully the audience is still there (the first game did come out during the high point of Xbox Live Arcade's popularity, where polished, small games like this often hit it big). The importance of Psychonauts finally getting a sequel is growing, but like a lot of people know, they'll need money for that. Still, it's a familiar game, and even people who never played it know it as one of those games that everyone keeps going on about. Everyone knows what to expect from a quality character platformer (and it's worth noting that they're not making a lot of those these days - Nintendo is actually one of the only ones who started a new wave of these games a couple of years back). The time might be right for it.

Still, if that's not an option, I'd advise them to go for a similar accessible genre. Maybe a smaller 3d platformer in a new franchise. Hell, make a kart game, or copy Smash Bros. with DF characters. As good as a game like Hack 'n Slash is (and it's very, very good), there will be a lot less people getting into that game as compared to a more straightforward Zelda-style game.

And I've written too much already, so I'll stop now.

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I think Stacking was pretty well recieved, and Iron Brigade (which isn't very experimental, it's a 3D tower defense game, really), and Hack 'n' Slash.

But I would agree there's perhaps a good time to bank on safe territory. It's just a bit of a shame to have to, because I've loved a lot if not all of their experiments.

And also, I guess from their perspective it's not like any of those games has been a real hit for them, so I guess they don't see them as a LOT safer.

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It's also worth considering that, if they did do a Psychonauts sequel now, someone investing the money wouldn't be the only problem - making a game like that takes several years (going by Psycho 1 and Brutal) and would occupy most of the team at Double Fine during that time. That's a huge risk. If the game would fail to sell enough after that time it could be the final straw for the studio.

I also think it's probably wise that, if they did do another Amnesia Fortnight, they did it behind closed doors again. I love the audience participation and the madness during those weeks, but I also don't think that the audience participating in those things represent the gaming community at large. They (like me) are Double Fine fans - who tend to try anything with a DF-logo and are more willing to vote on the weirder concepts, not necessarily games that would do well on the market. Doing another public Fortnight would also lead to another string of 'unfinished' Double Fine games out in the wild, and considering the recent criticisms that might not be the smartest choice.

So yeah, another batch of smaller, polished, publisher-backed (a bit less high-concept) games like Costume Quest, Stacking and Iron Brigade might be the best course for Double Fine right now.

Also I'm just a guy on the internet and I know nothing about the business, so everything I said in my two posts could be complete nonsense.

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My point with all this is that Double Fine seems to have done the best when they did relatively straightforward interpretations of accessible gameplay systems...I think something like that would work best for DF's next project - something that's easy to grasp for audiences while still delivering on their trademark style/polish/comedy...I think it'll just be a lot safer to go with something that's a bit more familiar for modern audiences without trying to push the border of what game design can do (which is risky - both in the quality of the eventual product (as seen with Spacebase) or how large an audience there is for something like that). This might make it seem like I'm trying to limit the team's creative urges, but as Costume Quest and Psychonauts show - you can still deliver a very original, heartfelt and worthy game while staying within the limits of more familiar and popular genres. Keep the settings, artstyle, characters and all that as crazy as you want.

I would say that Steed could be that mix of familiar genre & gameplay with DF's trademark style meshed together quite naturally. I think it has the greatest possibility of attracting the widest audience of the other AF projects that have come to light.

The others I see as either being more niche in their appeal and/or involving so much work that I could see DF having an easier time raising the necessary money for Psychonauts or Brutal 2.

What they need more than anything are strong releases of Broken Age Pt. 2, Massive Chalice and Costume Quest 2.

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I think they might need to rethink the approach to Amnesia Fortnight, a little.

It's been an interesting experiment to hand over prototype decisions to the fans, and so far it's given us Hack 'n' Slash and Spacebase (still excited about that one, me) which is fiiiine

But I think Tim has good instincts in this area - to identify the Double-Finey games that are a really good fit for the studio. The user-selected prototypes are sort of big gambles. Interesting ideas, but ones that might not be the best ones for this particular studio to make at this particular time.

What I'd like to see if we get a look into AF again, is perhaps something like this:

2 prototypes chosen by public vote

1 prototype chosen by internal DF vote

1 'Tim's pick' prototype.

The studio would have a chance to rescue titles that aren't getting a lot of votes, but probably would be a really good fit, or have potential that perhaps isn't being seen by a simple vote because the idea doesn't 'stand out' in the same way. Like Dum Sim in the last round.

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Regarding the risk of a Psychonauts 2. The risk is of course that it wouldn't be a success for them and it would take years to develop.

That said, it is now one of DF's most bankable properties. With the possible exception of Costume Quest, which has gained a sort of nostalgia around it in the years since it came out, it's the only one of their games which has grown in popularity and 'legend' since it first game out. Brutal Legend has kinda maintained its smaller cult following but Psychonauts is a title that comes up again and again.

It's a bit like Grim Fandango in that way. GF: Remastered will sell more than GF did in its original run just on its reputation, plus nostalgia. Psychonauts 2 also has that hit potential, because now EVERYone knows about this game that was supposed to be great but didn't really sell much at a time, and the buzz around a sequel would be bigger than it ever was for the original.

So it's an interesting idea, I think. But yes, risky to dedicate so much of a studio for so long, and it would be a shame to lose ALL the smaller projects.

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The other nice thing they would get out of psychonauts 2 is an updated engine that they could use for future projects.

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The other nice thing they would get out of psychonauts 2 is an updated engine that they could use for future projects.

True, although I think the Buddha engine is still strong for them. It's up and running on Xbone and PS4 now and I think the sorts of small games they make don't necessarily need anything more complex right now. P2 might make that a different story, though.

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As I understand it, they've been adding new stuff and refining Buddha all the time. It's a significantly better engine today than it were when Brütal Legend was initially released. Remember how during AF14, they added a new lighting system to it just for Mnemonic? Or how they added Theora support for Little Pink Best Buds? It's been updated with what every game needs as that game is built. Well, probably not everything all games needed got fed back into the engine itself, but the crucial things. While Psychonauts 2 would probably need to update the engine as well, it's likely that everything would be done within the Buddha engine. Unless of course Psychonauts 2 would need something that Buddha is on a core architecture level not meant to be able to give. Things like needing progressive loading of maps to avoid load screens, whether you can fully utilise multicore CPUs or multi-GPU setups, whether you have stop-the-world memory management (usually done during a loading screen) are examples of why to switch engines. But usually most stuff you might need can be engineered into the engine, if you're the engine code's sole owner like Double Fine is.

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Got it. I was just assuming that they get more out of long term projects from a software development perspective. Something like psychonauts 2 would require lots of engine love and so they can spend lots of time in that area, as opposed to their AF/smaller projects where due to limited budgets they need to do more leveraging than adding.

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DF will always be in trouble as long as they continue with the bone-headed idea of being based in San Fran. A small indie developer cannot operate successfully on wages of $10,000 a month PER employee.

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DF will always be in trouble as long as they continue with the bone-headed idea of being based in San Fran. A small indie developer cannot operate successfully on wages of $10,000 a month PER employee.

That's not wages. That's total overhead to employ one person, so that will include wages, benefits, admin staff wages divided across everyone, bills, and any other associated costs involved with keeping that person hired.

Also, they've been in San Francisco for nearly 15 years, working on small projects for the last 4 and I don't think they've ever missed payroll. In all that time they've shipped 12 titles (13 in about a week 16 by around the end of the year), and several ports and smaller projects. So I don't see how you can make this assumption that they can't do it. They have done it, and are doing it, as we speak.

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The other problem with moving out of SF, is that people ignore the costs involved in doing that.

It costs a lot of money to relocate in the first place. Have to spend time researching new locations, then fitting them out, then moving everyone's stuff there, re-establishing yourself in the new location.

And not everyone will be in a position to move. Anyone with a partner who cannot move and other commitments may have to consider finding a job, which means they'll have to be replaced by a new, less experienced employee. Less experienced employees will need training and caretaking that wouldn't be needed for a more experienced employee. And of course it would be a great risk, losing talented staff. They're not disposable.

If they relocated, it would probably be years before the company was operating at a level of efficiency where they would start to see the savings, and in the mean time they would be operating with no percieved benefit, with a less experienced staff and in an unfamiliar environment.

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DF could relocate to, hmm ..., the Bikini Atoll.

A place with history, wonderful beaches, however, not this crowded and the USA most probably would pump in some serious cash too.

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DF could relocate to, hmm ..., the Bikini Atoll.

A place with history, wonderful beaches, however, not this crowded and the USA most probably would pump in some serious cash too.

I second this idea because... Scuba lunch breaks!

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I find trying to eat lunch while scuba diving is really hard... especially if the food is a soup!

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A small indie developer cannot operate successfully on wages of $10,000 a month PER employee.
Let's just say that was only an extremely rough estimate.

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And it was stated as development cost per employee on the project, not wages per employee.

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I just posted this on the Psychonauts subforum, but I figured it made sense to show it to you guys too:

So this may be nothing. Still, I think you guys might be interested to see this. I was watching the latest Massive Chalice team stream, and there is a Psychonauts poster I haven't seen before behind Brad, showing (a newer version of?) Raz along with, I think, a coffin. Could it be a poster indicating that they're going to build up hype for something to do with Psychonauts at the same time as Grim Fandango? It would make sense to do so, as they're both important high points from Tim's legacy.

Judge for yourself:

What do I win if I really discovered something here?

Edit: Just noticed the poster is in some of the older teamstreams as well, so maybe this is old as hell. Haven't watched all of the teamstreams before, even though I backed the game. The text above Raz says 'Welcome Psychonauts in training'.

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I just posted this on the Psychonauts subforum, but I figured it made sense to show it to you guys too:

So this may be nothing. Still, I think you guys might be interested to see this. I was watching the latest Massive Chalice team stream, and there is a Psychonauts poster I haven't seen before behind Brad, showing (a newer version of?) Raz along with, I think, a coffin. Could it be a poster indicating that they're going to build up hype for something to do with Psychonauts at the same time as Grim Fandango? It would make sense to do so, as they're both important high points from Tim's legacy.

Judge for yourself:

What do I win if I really discovered something here?

Edit: Just noticed the poster is in some of the older teamstreams as well, so maybe this is old as hell. Haven't watched all of the teamstreams before, even though I backed the game. The text above Raz says 'Welcome Psychonauts in training'.

Yeah, I was just going to say that this is pretty old by the looks of it. Also, I think a Grim Fandango coffin would look black and fancy like the ones in the game, rather than wooden.

I believe what we are looking at here is a door into the mind, like in Psychonauts :)

minddoor.PNG

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Yeah, I was just going to say that this is pretty old by the looks of it. Also, I think a Grim Fandango coffin would look black and fancy like the ones in the game, rather than wooden.

I believe what we are looking at here is a door into the mind, like in Psychonauts :)

minddoor.PNG

Ah, there goes my theory. You're probably right.

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Back on topic, I've been thinking about why Early Access hasn't really seemed to go very well for DF, purely from a sales perspective (Hack 'n' Slash just came out, but not very many people seem to be playing it which is a shame, because I think it's awesome, and it seems unlikely at this point that Spacebase will set the world on fire.)

What I seem to notice about Early Access is that it can be successful, but it's more polarised. In regular releasing there are games that flop, games that do okay and games that to well, and very well, etc.

With Early Access, unless your game has an extremely successful Early Access run where a lot of buzz has been generated about the game, then I feel like it knocks all the wind out of the sails at launch. You need tremendous momentum to launch a game that has already been launched and make the people who didn't care enough about it yet to NOW care about it. Some people won't buy Early Access on principle, but you can't rely on those people to carry the launch. It's just hard to sell a game that you've been selling already (albeit in unfinished form) for months.

Double Fine has never been a megahit producing studio, as much as they'd appreciate the extra financial freedom. And so Early Access turns into a false economy. If they'd found some other approach to finishing Hack 'n' Slash, I feel like it would have had a more successful launch right now.

Which brings us to this Friday, and the Massive Chalice Teamstream:

bmuu.PNG

They've talked about being in crunch mode now, and it's rare for Double Fine to have a really extended crunch time. So I think we're looking at a couple of months for the release. Seeing how far they've come in the last teamstream, I can believe they can work fast enough to achieve that.

So what I'm hoping for/expecting

1) No Early Access type thing. The public release will be the release, whenever it is.

2) Maybe a backer-only Beta period like with Broken Age Act 1, but a little longer

I can believe that in a month or so they'll have all the game features and content locked down, and then can dedicate a solid month to balance tweaks and remaining bugfixes.

And then that'll be another team in need of a new project to move onto.

...It still feels like they might finally be contemplating a larger project going into full production 2015. I don't know, though.

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