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The Calavera Chronicles

Everyone in the world – yes, everyone – emailed us about this, but in our post-colonies jetlag we got confused about who was going to post it, so no-one did. Hooray! Too many cooks spoil the blog…. Hopefully it’s not so late that you’ve all read it already, anyway. What ‘it’ is is Double Fine headchap Tim Schaefer releasing the extensive design documents for Grim Fandango: an illuminating Making Of / What If in handy PDF form.
Grim Fandango’s one of those games I don’t quite dare go back to: I adored it at the time, its bittersweet plotting and art deco / Mexican mash-up stylings placing it as the most grown-up of the classics Lucasarts’ stable. I was moved by it, big girl’s blouse that I am. If I went back now, I worry the obtuse puzzles and annoying control system would smash right through my comfy nostalgia. Schaefer references the former in his short post about the design doc:

People said the puzzles in Grim were super hard, and I’ve always maintained that this was due to a deep character flaw or mental illness on the part of the player. But now, reading this again, I’ve realized that holy smokes–Some of them puzzles were nuts. Obscure. Mean, even. I blame Peter Chan, because he will never read this post to know that I blamed him.

Damn straight. I still suffer occasional night terrors about the cat racing puzzle.

The document’s incredibly detailed, a glimpse into just how elborately planned an adventure game this was. That really is a lot of flow charts. Fortunately, there’s also a bunch of concept art, typically witty asides from Schaefer and even a few scenes and puzzles that didn’t make it into the eventual game. Man, I hope there’s a whole slew of these things out there for all manner of old games, and releasing them becomes something of a trend. This sort of unexpected insight is mana from developer heaven.

Ah, beautiful Grim Fandango. Dare I visit you one more time?

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Alec Meer

Senior Editor

Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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