Double Fine Adventure (Documentary) Review


Screenshot from Double Fine Adventure documentary
In the 7th episode of Double Fine Adventure titled "We'll Handle It", tough decisions are made with respect to splitting the game into separate acts

  • Developer: 2 Player Productions/Double Fine
  • Publisher: 2 Player Productions/Double Fine
  • Release Date: 2 October 2015
  • Time watched: 15.5 hours

The game known as Broken Age by Double Fine was originally known by the not-very-creative name of “Double Fine Adventure", at least to the public. I say “at least to the public" since if you actually watch the documentary which also became known as just “Double Fine Adventure" , the internal codename for the Broken Age project was actually “Reds" (Tim Schafer names all his projects at Double Fine after bars in San Francisco’s Chinatown, now there’s a bit of random trivia for you)! Okay, so just to be sure you understand what’s going on here: this is a review of the video documentary about Broken Age’s development and the documentary is called “Double Fine Adventure". It is not a review of Broken Age. If you want a review for Broken Age, go here.

Anyway, being a backer of Broken Age meant I was entitled to a few extras; one of these extras was a Steam key for this documentary I am reviewing now. I never got around to watching the documentary when it originally aired or even when it was originally released. Most of my limited time is usually spent playing games or reviewing them, not watching videos about them. So what changed? Two words: Steam Link.

For my birthday, I managed to get a Steam Link and while sitting on the couch feeding my baby daughter with not much to watch except commercial TV (yuck) or the news (which is okay sometimes unless it’s a slow news day), I had an epiphany: I realised that I actually had videos in my Steam library and since I had a Steam Link I now had something interesting to watch.

I’ve always been interested in what goes into the game development process and I’ve also been a big fan of some of Tim Schafer’s previous work at Lucasarts such as Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. So watching “Double Fine Adventure" seemed like a no-brainer as not only does it give the audience insight into the development of a modern, graphical point ‘n’ click adventure game, it also has plenty of interviews with veterans of the industry such as Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert, Peter McConnell, Peter Chan and the rest of the Double Fine team.

The documentary is broken up into 20 Streaming video episodes that are about 30-45 minutes in length: they tell a candid story of Broken Age’s development from 2012-2015.

What I like:


The inside story of Broken Age

This is probably the main reason people want to check out this documentary: what actually happened during the development of Broken Age? Why did Tim Schafer decide to split the game into two acts? How could he possibly have blown more than $3 million and still needed money to finish the game? Etc. etc. For anybody who is curious why the game was delayed, what was actually happening behind the scenes and how Double Fine came to the heartbreaking decision to split the game in half, “Double Fine Adventure" answers those questions and more!

The challenges of game development

All the challenges of game development (and software development in general) come to the fore in “Double Fine Adventure" including classics like scope creep, underbudgeting, dealing with PR disasters and a studio juggling multiple projects at once.

Lucasarts alumni!

You’ll get to hear from Peter McConnell, Ron Gilbert, Peter Chan, Khris Brown and of course, Tim Schafer when you watch “Double Fine Adventure". Each of them talk a bit about their backgrounds and how they work; it’s a treasure trove of random trivia such as Tim Schafer’s preference to picture games visually and how he really can dwell on picking the perfect name of a game. You’ll learn about Peter Chan and Peter McConnell’s communing with nature in order to get their inspiration, and you’ll learn how Ron Gilbert acted as a sort of big brother figure to Tim Schafer. There’s a lot here for a Lucasarts fan to sink their teeth into.

Lots of other celebrities

Besides the Lucasarts alumni there are also many other celebrities, and not just gaming celebrities like John Romero, but actors such as Elijah Wood, Jack Black and one of the most prolific voice actors out there, Jennifer Hale (aka Femshep 😝).

Faces to names

Besides all the celebrities, you also learn a lot more about the Broken Age team in general and what roles each of them played. It’s always nice putting a face to a name.

Decent number of episodes

The documentary spans over 20 episodes and it took me over 15 hours to watch the thing from start to finish (although the actual duration according to IMDB is 12 hours 4 minutes)

Are those subtitles?

Subtitles are very handy when you have noisy distractions or when it’s difficult to decipher what a particular person in the film is saying. So I’m very glad that the documentary has subtitles for the main series (it doesn’t for the bonus videos but that’s a story for another time).

STRAYA

Australia even gets a mention in this documentary, thanks to the efforts of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing the score.

Steam Trading Cards... whaaaat?

I’m serious: you can actually generate Steam Trading Cards while watching this series!

What I dislike:


It’s not for everybody

The subject matter is going to be dry for some since a lot of terms are programming related or game related. You really have to be a gamer and an adventure gamer at that to appreciate this.

Actually free

As one Steam reviewer was keen to point out you can actually watch a 720p version of this documentary for free off YouTube. So if you can’t afford to buy this series or you’d rather be viewing it on something besides your PC and/or Steam Link, you could always check it out there. You won’t get the 1080p version that you get on Steam though.

Would’ve liked epilogue on how well game did

Considering how transparent Double Fine was about, well, just about everything in terms of the game’s development, I was hoping they’d also give some insight on how well the game did commercially just following the release of Act 2 of Broken Age.

No standard duration for episodes

The duration of episodes varies which makes it difficult if you try to schedule watching this documentary during a certain time slot. If you only leave yourself 30 minutes free to watch the episodes or sometimes even 45 minutes, you’ll find that it’s simply not enough.

Score – 7/10 (Good)

A documentary about video games isn’t for everyone so it might be worth watching the documentary for free on YouTube in 720p before deciding whether you want to take the plunge and spend 20 U.S. bucks on the 1080p version on Steam. I quite enjoyed the convenience of watching the documentary on the Steam Link and it was very entertaining for a fan of oldschool Lucasarts adventures such as myself. Recommended if you’re into watching movies about game development or simply wanting to know what the hell happened to Broken Age during its development.

Is the documentary worth $19.99 USD?: No. Despite you getting access to 1080p versions of the videos and being able to watch the thing on Steam Link, paying $26 AUD for a documentary is a little bit steep, especially considering you can get the 720p version of it for free on YouTube. Be sure to check it out if it ever goes on sale though.

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[ LINK: IMDB – Double Fine Adventure ]




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