Pending PC Success, Brutal Legend Will Go On

By Nathan Grayson on February 19th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

Brutal Legend is coming to PC! With shiny, PC-only bells and whistles, no less. Be still, my barbed-wire-wrapped, blood-and-oil-coughing heart. Its arrival comes at a bit of an odd time, though, given that it’s been more than three years since Tim Schafer’s metal epic knee-slid into living rooms, spraying fireworks and Judas Priest references every which way. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. After all, the Double Fine of today and the Double Fine of yester-three-years-ago are very different companies. Back then, EA called the shots, and that ultimately resulted in a canceled Brutal Legend sequel. But now Schafer and co make their own destiny, and as it turns out, that could well involve more guitar axes, tree-necked headbangers, and Jack Blacks. But how many, exactly? That depends on a number of factors.

“I would love to [add more to Brutal Legend on PC],” Schafer told RPS as part of a recent interview. “It’s actually been fun to continue work on it. I mean, we have a wishlist from when we made this version. But since we are a small developer publishing it ourselves, we have to go with the best version we can make and then hope it’s successful so we can add more.”

Which is to be expected, given that Brutal Legend’s initial release was hobbled by dwindling publisher support and what Schafer fully admits was a “messaging problem” about its fusion of hack ‘n’ slash action and RTS. It was never quite able to ascend into the post-release Valhalla of endless(ly updated) battle that most modern games call home. Now, though, it has a very promising second chance, and that’s gotten Schafer’s gears churning.

“There’s a whole list of smaller ones to things like entire playable factions we didn’t get into the first game,” he explained. “Stuff like that. Depending on how much money we make, we can keep going with that.”

“I would love to do alternate gameplay modes in multiplayer. I’d like to bring in Lionwhyte as a playable faction. I’d like to bring in [another faction that was originally meant to be part of Brutal Legend's story]. There are some tweaks I’d like to do to give you more feedback about what your units are doing.”

And that whole “messaging problem”? Well, while Schafer thinks the best way to solve it is simply to start fresh, he’s not opposed to giving everyone what they thought they were getting in the first place. But, if that vision comes to fruition, it’ll be because he did it on his own terms.

“When people realized it was an RTS, they wanted to control it like StarCraft,” he chuckled. “But that wouldn’t be the optimal way to play it. If you controlled it like StarCraft, the balance and AI wouldn’t have worked. I tried to explain after it came out that it wasn’t meant to play like that, but if you ever try to tell people they’re playing something wrong, you just sound like a jerk.”

“But I think if we did [more traditional RTS-style controls], a fun way to approach it would be an extra mode. An advanced sort of feature we could add to the game later if it’s a big hit and we want to keep supporting it. We could do a version that’s like that.”

The next couple of tidbits he mentioned, however, were easily the most telling. First, the bad news: odds are, Brutal Legend on PC won’t see any new single-player content. Much as Schafer loves that universe and the characters that inhabit it, they don’t exactly come cheap.

“I think [mostly multiplayer stuff] is the most plausible to me,” he admitted. “Because single-player requires content, which means reengaging all the voice actors – which is something that was a lot easier for EA to pay for. Also, reengaging music licensing. I’d love to do that too, but I think that would involve more funding than we have cash on hand to do.”

Make no mistake, however: Double Fine still very much wants to make a Brutal Legend 2. But, as with Psychonauts 2, it’s a matter of waiting for the planets to align on a scale that even prog rock album covers couldn’t dream up. Then again, this is Double Fine we’re talking about. The same Double Fine that kicked off gaming’s obsession with Kickstarter and recently managed to sell a game jam. Crazier things have happened.

“I mean, it’s been longer since Psychonauts and we wouldn’t have to do any music licensing,” Schafer pointed out. “So we could probably afford to do it more if we got some funding. I feel like a Brutal sequel would cost twice as much as Psychonauts. It’s easier to imagine Double Fine doing a sequel to Psychonauts. But for creative reasons, there’s no preference of one over the other.”

And money’s certainly a problem, but it’s not by any means unsolvable. While nothing’s set in stone, Schafer’s not opposed to breaking outside of the box with Brutal Legend on PC – and maybe even making a few extra bucks off it.

“We don’t have anything like [free-to-play] or in-app purchases or anything like that, but I wonder how players would react to that. Like, what if we put in a little flag you could wear on your back that said, ‘We want Brutal Legend 2!’ And then, if we sold enough, we could make Brutal Legend 2. I think we’d have to sell a lot of flags,” he laughed.

Ultimately, though, Double Fine’s not out to cash in with this one. Schafer and co know that PC gamers, especially, are extremely wary of sudden, hungry advances, and they have no intention of rewarding patience with cold cynicism. Technical director Nathan Martz interjected:

“I started in the industry when people were like, ‘PC gaming is dead! Consoles are the future.’ And for people who stuck around through that time, they felt really abandoned. They felt like publishers and developers didn’t care. So I think a lot of that frustration and anger comes from this feeling of ‘I cared about this thing when you didn’t. And now you’re trying to take advantage of it. Do you actually even care?’ So we want to show people that we do care. We’re bound by the laws of physics and finance, so we can only do so many things. But we really, really want to respect the platform as much as those people do.”

Well, fine then. It had better be a really, really damn cool flag.

Keep your Internet tuned to RPS for the full Brutal Legend interview soon, wherein we discuss everything from the entire process of making the game, to working with aged rockstars, to what exactly a Brutal Legend sequel would look like, to so, so much Iron Maiden.

__________________

« | »

, , , .

63 Comments »

  1. chrisguitar says:

    …it’s a matter of waiting for the planets to align on a scale that even prog rock album covers couldn’t dream up.

    Nathan, you are a treasure.

  2. Lemming says:

    I still maintain it’s not a ‘messaging problem’. It’s a bad game design problem. The RTS-side couldn’t be controlled like a traditional RTS, true. But maybe it should have been. And maybe it should’ve been a separate game altogether to play alongside the single player 3rd person adventure, in a more tradtional RTS perspective.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      I wish Brutal was a straight action/adventure, Darksiders style. The strategy elements had a bit of depth but the learning curve was so high that it was just too much of a pain in the ass to master.

      • Lemming says:

        This. The learning curve was basically “you will get swarmed en mass. Deal with it”

      • Jekhar says:

        It also didn’t help that after playing the demo, one could think this would be a straight mash’em up like Darksiders, with bosses and everything. The strategy elements came out of nowhere. The first time it seemed like a fun diversion, but then you realized they were the norm, not the exception.

    • Magnusm1 says:

      I don’t even…

    • Pazguato says:

      I for one welcome a different approach to now traditional genres and subgenres. Action adventure with Real time strategy?! Great. Why not? At least is an original and imaginative move. Oh, and the involving RTS part was highly enjoyable and, yes, challenging.

      • Lemming says:

        I’m not knocking that genres were combined. I’m saying they didn’t implement it well. “Oh well, at least it’s original’ seems to be the primary argument of the defenders of this game. Original does not = good, every time.

        If, during the strategy parts, the camera zoomed out to an isometric perspective, and you still controlled the game the exact same way, it would’ve been 100% better. Trying to manage an army via your avatar while said avatar takes up a third of the screen is not the best way to accomplish this.

        • septimber says:

          The restriction was intentional and was part of the strategy. Similarly, in Sacrifice, you could only produce new troops one at a time, and you were locked in place while you did so: there was no facility to queue up some new units and then leave them to simmer while you went off elsewhere. It wasn’t an accidental glitch, it was an intentional design decision: making new troops took up time, so in a scuffle, could you afford to spend a few seconds to make a new guy, or would it be better to make do with what you had, and use the time to use one of your spells?

          It’s the same deal here. You need to balance your time between making the most of your action moves, and keeping an eye on what’s going on elsewhere. There’s no need to do precise micromanagement with your troops, so your argument about the avatar taking up a third of the screen doesn’t really hold water. Yes, it’s tense and stressful and fast-paced, but that’s the point. “I found it too hard” is not synonymous with “it is mechanically broken”. And if you were swarmed with enemies in the single player, it’s likely you were spending your whole time up in the sky, never actually landing and taking part in the battle. If you’re going to say that the game didn’t encourage this playstyle enough then I absolutely agree, but it’s not the functionality of the game that needs to change, it’s the tutorialisation.

    • Godwhacker says:

      Nnngh.

      Just don’t play it like a standard RTS. You’re supposed to be part of the battle- occasionally you break out to organise things, build new units, or play a solo, but once you’ve done that you should head straight back in and keep fighting. All your units are stronger when you use their ‘double team’ attacks, so use those to get the upper hand. As long as you remember that, you’ll have a lot of fun- or at the very least, win the battles a lot faster.

    • goosnargh says:

      I just wish someone at Double Fine, during it’s early development, had played Dota.

  3. pakoito says:

    There has been 3rd person RTS games in the same vein as Brutal Legend, like Sacrifice. But unlike Sacrifice this game was quite lacking.

    I’d love to see it fixed :)

    • Magnusm1 says:

      Nope.

    • Beef says:

      Sacrifice still has a very special place in my cynical PC gamer heart.

      • pakoito says:

        I arrived late at the party and when I tried it glitched on my nVidia card, and my crapbook couldn’t play it.

        Also gameplay felt slow and the interface was clunky :( I have finished that tutorial like 10 times yet played no skirmishes or campaign missions.

        • et5387 says:

          You know, there’s this thing called science, and they quantified the shittyness of controllers quite well several times, one rather convincing case would be this, upon which they set a KB+M setup, Xbox 360 Controller and WiiMote to compete against one another, and they did this with test-people persons and calculated the average: http://gradworks.umi.com/14/67/1467132.html

    • Nintyuk says:

      The Battalion wars series (A home console spin-off of advance wars) was a RTS in this style to a degree. Except you could command any unit your self and when under your control it could be much more effective.

  4. I want to stab you to death and play around with your blood. says:

    Missing out on Brutal Legend when I still had a 360 was a big regret for me. Needless to say, I’m very excited about the PC release. Count me in for a sequel, too! As far as the music licensing, maybe they could explore using some lesser known bands. It would be cool to see some underground type metal.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      There’s hardly anything more underground than Angel Witch or Omen.

      • I want to stab you to death and play around with your blood. says:

        Nah, anyone who knows what NWOBHM stands for knows about Angel Witch. I guess what I meant was that they could skip the licensing of the multi-platinum artists altogether. Not that I wouldn’t love to see Ozzy again.

      • I want to stab you to death and play around with your blood. says:

        “There’s hardly anything more underground than Angel Witch or Omen.”
        .
        Some currently active underground acts: Manilla Road have released a new album. Voivod has a new one. Witchtrap from Columbia released my favorite metal album of 2012. Seeing King Diamond in the sequel would make my head explode. He’s already in Guitar Hero. Think about it, Tim!

      • Skull says:

        Man, Angel Witch were big things back in the day of real metal. Just because they only had one good album doesn’t make them any more underground than the likes of Diamond Head or Jaguar.

  5. Screamer says:

    I don’t really get what this game plays like. Is it like Sacrifice? Third person RTS?

    • Eclipse says:

      starts like an action game, then becomes a rather dull RTS, like Sacrifice yes, but without very interesting mechanics

      • septimber says:

        Having played both quite a bit, I’d say that Brutal Legend’s mechanics work a fair bit better than Sacrifice’s. Sacrifice was fun but it had a number of problems: the single player relied entirely on the player being outnumbered souls-wise and slowly winning them back, which worked fine, but didn’t lend itself to a balanced multiplayer game very well; the way that multiplayer maps were automatically littered with free souls which was a disastrous decision balance-wise, as it meant that the winner would inevitably be the one who was better at sprinting around and grabbing souls in the first thirty seconds; I mean in general the souls system was cool but really fucked with balance.

        Brutal Legend is, I think, much better designed in this regard. The restriction is shifted from producing creatures and collecting resources to scouting the battlefield and commanding troops, which works much more consistently and doesn’t mean the battles are so easily decided early on. The player combat options are much more interesting in BL and the double teams especially are a very interesting addition, making the options the player must weigh between into hacky-slashy-combat VS double teams VS guitar solos, as opposed to making troops VS gathering souls VS spells as it was in Sacrifice.

        I just think people are being too quick to write this off based on their experiences in the single player. I’ll be the first to admit that the campaign of this game wasn’t particularly well designed. The battles it contains are too easy and winnable by spamming (not to mention too infrequent and somewhat poorly taught) for the single player to be an effective multiplayer tutorial. On the other hand, the presence of complex strategic battles in an otherwise simple, easy open world action game makes it too fiddly and stressful to be an enjoyable as a story exposition. But between two people who know what they’re doing, there really is a great deal of potential in the multiplayer battles, it’s not just unique but it’s very well done too.

  6. Eclipse says:

    As third person adventure\hack and slash this was going to be the best game ever, with great visuals, funny story, awesome setting. All those screenshots and videos before release had me wanting for an epic heavy metal adventure. But no, they had to do an RTS out of it….

    • Magnusm1 says:

      Sounds like you haven’t played it.

      • MrMud says:

        I played it and it was great until they started forcing you to do the RTS bits. It then quickly became very bland and I promptly quit.

      • Flappybat says:

        The RTS parts felt like they realised they didn’t have the budget to continue a full third person adventure game and desperately tried to cover with repetitive, RTS battles. Then the game suddenly stopped before the final third regardless!

        “Oh you’re meant to play the RTS like sacrifice blahdy blah”. If someone takes a crap on my ice cream I’m not going to be chuffed because it’s technically still ice cream.

        • SurprisedMan says:

          Actually the game design started out as as the hybrid-RTS, and as they started to expand single player, more of the open world elements started to be introduced. This is pretty well documented.

          Personally I enjoyed both, but I would say the RTS sections didn’t do a very good job of teaching you how to play it. For example, I found good use of rally points made the sections a million times less frustrating, but I only understood that after quite a lot of failing and not really knowing why. That’s a bit of a shame because I think if certain key concepts were better explained, people would have found the sections more fun.

          But even then, I felt that I spent 80% of the game, playing around in a fun-to-explore open fantasy world, and 20% in the stage battles, so I don’t quite understand why some people find them to be SUCH an imposition.

      • megazver says:

        I’ve beat the game and the RTS bits were pretty meh. Which was most of the game.

        • Excelle says:

          I beat the game on the 360. The RTS bits were OK, and they were such a small portion of the game, it didn’t really matter. I guess I spent more time driving around the open world listening to the metal than most ;)

    • Buemba says:

      The third person action part would need a complete overhaul if it was going to sustain an entire game. I don’t think the RTS stages were amazing, but they were still much more interesting that the basic hack and slash bits.

      If they ever make a sequel (And by Ormagöden I hope they do) they should take inspiration from DOTA. Brutal Legend plays much better if you approach it like a MOBA where you have a bit more control over your creeps.

  7. Skiv says:

    So, the more we buy the game the more likely there will be a BL2? EPIC!

  8. dftaylor says:

    I think Brutal Legend is self-indulgent twaddle. Slack, lifeless controls, a terrible story and the rts sections are just irritating. Why do people give Double Fine such credit for making average games?

    Full Throttle was a long time ago.

    • MrMud says:

      Because they made Psychonauts…

    • The First Door says:

      Because they have made some brilliant games which loads of people love!

      If that doesn’t work for you, then because they at least make interesting games and try new things, even if they aren’t always perfect.

      Also, Stacking is adorable.

    • Maniac says:

      Average games? Sure, they’ve made a bunch of those. Great, legendary, epic cult-hit games? They’ve made a lot. Costume Quest was a fun, cute and enjoyable game. Stacking? I fucking loved it, and it is cute and adorable as hell.. Psychonauts? Nearly everyone loves it, and its become a huge cult hit. Adventure is looking like it’ll be nothing short of great. Grim Fandango? Legen, wait for it… Dary, and it too has become a major cult hit. Sure, it wasnt released when they’d pretty much reformed under that name & banner, but it still counts, really. As does Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island.
      So please dont tell us that they havent made any average games, or for that matter excellently epic games. Cause they’ve created lots in both categories.

      • dftaylor says:

        Neither Full Throttle nor Grim Fandango were Double Fine games, incredible as both are. Psychonauts was average – interesting ideas and poor execution. Stacking, etc all minor league. Novel, cute but shallow as a puddle.

        Schaefer and co come up with great ideas and deliver them in a shonky, half-assed way.

        • MOKKA says:

          I don’t know about you but I’d rather have games which are based on great ideas, even if they fall short execution wise, then having unimaginative games which are nicely executed.
          Of course we all want excellently made games based on original ideas, but life isn’t perfect.

        • Urthman says:

          Psychonauts having “average” execution? Nonsense. Name a 3D platformer with better platforming action. I can’t think of anything that compares with zipping around on that ball, bouncing up into the air, floating across a gap on your bubble, then slamming your giant hand down on an enemy. The level where you play as a giant, actually makes you feel like a giant, unlike pretty much every game that tries that sort of thing. The Psi powers give you much more ways to interact with the world and fight enemies than most 3D platformers. And the creativity of the level design is unparalleled. And the game is actually consistently funny. And the crazy amount of details — like many of these games you have tons of collectables, but unlike other games, every single one of them is unique! Every character has a unique reaction to each of your powers (with the clairvoyance power giving you a hilarious glimpse of how every other character sees the protagonist). The game is extremely well crafted and well executed.

          • MondSemmel says:

            The platforming in Psychonauts was not frustration-free for me, but I still consider it an absolutely outstanding game. I initially bought the game after seeing the intro video on YouTube, and my initial impression – a game of _playing_ a (Pixar/Disney) movie – was fully met. (That said, I don’t watch many movies, so this was more of a ‘I imagine playing a movie would feel like this’ kind of thing.)
            How anyone could describe this as average is something I don’t understand.
            That said, I totally bounced off of Stacking, so sure, criticizing Double Fine is double fine – but I don’t understand why that criticism includes Psychonauts.

        • Acorino says:

          If Psychonauts is average, then I guess there aren’t any good games.

  9. Sic says:

    Can someone give me a coherent run down on what the actual problems with the RTS mechanics were?

    All I’m hearing is whining about it being hard. That’s not a very compelling argument.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      I mentioned this above, but I think the mechanics are actually pretty solid, but the way they’re introduced to you it’s easy to miss that certain things are important, so there can be a frustrating period where you’re doing badly and not really entirely clear about why, or how to fix it.

      I found that at a certain point, sticking with it, there was an ‘a-ha!’ moment of realising what the game wanted from me, and from that point the battles were rather approachable and fun, and also never went on for too long.

    • Aerothorn says:

      For the record, I am NOT good at RTS games, but didn’t have any difficulty with this at all. Almost never lost a battle and it all felt intuitive to me. I don’t really understand the criticism. I think it’s mostly an issue of people trying to make the game conform to their previous playing style and becoming frustrated when that doesn’t work.

    • Ninja Dodo says:

      Personally I liked the strategy parts but the there was just no learning curve at all. Got stuck at the 2nd (?) Drowning Doom battle initially. Kept getting killed. The “You’re doing it wrong” post by Schafer actually helped a lot, but that was also a sign that the game did not do a good job of teaching you how to play effectively. Like if they’d had a Valve style one-new-thing-to-understand-at-a-time ramp up it would’ve been fine.

      It starts out gradual enough, but once you get to the asymmetrical opponents it’s like BOOM here’s ten different unknown enemy units: FIGURE IT OUT.

      • OfficerMeatbeef says:

        Unquestionably, the tutorializing of the RTS fell short. Particularly on the very first Drowning Doom fight, I got swamped pretty quickly and destroyed several times. After a few defeats on that I sorted things out. Later fights would continue that but I also learned a lot quicker too, particularly about counters etc.

        It’s an interesting angle really; I don’t know about Starcraft having never played it, but certainly the BL campaign makes me think of Warcraft 2 in that it introduces new units/concepts to you but doesn’t necessarily spell out all the various mechanics explicitly as it does so. I don’t recall anyone ever giving Warcraft/Starcraft any shit for that though?

        Does the Starcraft 1 (or 2, for that matter) campaign really adequately prepare you for real multiplayer battles? This is a sincere question; the only RTS I’ve fully played through campaign-wise was Company of Heroes and that most definitely did not prepare for MP in any but the barest ways.

        I really feel what it comes down to with Brutal is that when people see RTS-style mechanics they immediately try to play it like how they think RTSs should play, then get upset when that doesn’t really work. I do think the game should very much have more explicitly said “Hey, this has a lot of RTS mechanics but you still need to play it as an essential unit at all times!” somewhere in there, but that absolutely doesn’t mean that what it does is a failure any more than CoH is a failure for not really prepping you for most of the MP mechanics.

  10. MadTinkerer says:

    Well I bought it on PC, already loved the PS3 version, and am crossing my fingers for a sequel / expansion / thingy.

  11. NachoPiggy says:

    Last game I remembered that had something of a third person action adventure merged with real time strategy was Giants Citizen Kabuto, it was pretty cool. Essentially a bare-bones like structure of an RTS in 3rd person, resource gathering, building and unit production. Though there wasn’t any much for combat on unit production aside from hunting animals for even more food and resources, but it was a fun little element alongside the shooting and jetpacking action. And you could control a giant and eat stuff too.

    • PointyShinyBurning says:

      Kabuto was amazing and the multi-player was hilarious. Three completely different teams made the games very frenetic/controlled-chaos-y and the balance of power could shift at any moment.

  12. Durandir says:

    Hell yeah! I am one of those who loved every minute of Brütal Legend, even the RTS, and I don’t really understand what people hate so much about it. It’s different, so of course you cannot expect it to play exactly like a Warcraft or a Empire Earth. Heck, I thought it was pretty fun to be an actual Commander Unit who could order people around as well as use them in different ways .

    So I would buy that flag, Mr Schafer!

    (A small aside and after-credits spoiler here: this is the only game I can think of that has a believably affectionate romantic scene. More or less every other game that has tried to do romance falls short in some way, while this after-credit scene just works. I don’t want to spoil more, so I won’t put in a link, but there are YT videos of this scene. So kudos to you Double Fine! You rock!)

  13. Suits says:

    … The metal will live on

  14. megazver says:

    I so wish there was an action/adventure or an open world RPG Brutal Legend. The setting screams for either of these. The RTS? The RTS was eeeeehhhhhhh.

  15. D3xter says:

    They seem to be working on a lot of outstanding issues and fixes to get ready for release date (and likely after), there’s two threads going on the Steam forums about upcoming fixes and stuff:
    http://steamcommunity.com/app/225260/discussions/0/846945411122720849/
    http://steamcommunity.com/app/225260/discussions/0/846945411136957220/

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      They better fix the graphics glitches. Shadows and Shaders are a bloody mess and I can see through mountains.

      • Illessa says:

        If you have an nVidia 8000/9000/200 series and most of the terrain is transparent with a weird speckling to it, there’s supposed to be a patch to fix that coming today; I really hope so anyway cause I’d like to play without going crosseyed some time. No idea if it’ll fix shadows blocking ambient light or the Drowning Doom leader’s smoke effects just being flat black planes, I hope so.

        Alternatively if the terrain is pretty much invisible, check your graphics card doesn’t have MSAA forced on, DF’s engine doesn’t get on with it.

  16. Treebard says:

    Count me as another in the “I don’t get the RTS hate” crowd. Because you’re controlling an individual character that issues commands, it instantly reminded me of Pikmin, and anything that reminds me of Pikmin is aces.

    Also, Brutal Legend still has one of my favorite world designs to date, and the obvious love for metal is way more nuanced than the skin-deep “fuck yeah METAL!” you usually see out of something like this. (Although there’s plenty of that, too, because fuck yeah METAL!)

    Really, the game just needed a better map, and some more interesting side quests, but those are minor complaints.

  17. Treebard says:

    Oh, also: I wish there was a way to wave my arms and say, “Hey Double Fine, I bought Brutal Legend for full price the first time around!” I’d love to see a sequel, but I’m not sure I can justify buying it again…although I guess that’s what a Steam sale is for?

  18. malkav11 says:

    I can understand why singleplayer content would cost too much to add, but I can’t say as multiplayer content interests me in the slightest. Maybe they could add the feature Tim discussed in some interview or podcast or something where they had thought about being able to pass strategic control of the RTS battles over to an AI and just stick to playing the game like the action adventure game it initially presents as? I bet that would help the game sell and presumably wouldn’t require them to license any new music or bring in famous people to do voice acting.