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Tim Schafer

Tim Schafer
Tim Schafer at GDC 2011.
Born (1967-07-26) July 26, 1967
Sonoma, California
Occupation Game designer, Game programmer
Spouse(s) Rachael Schafer

Timothy John Schafer[1][2] (born July 26, 1967) is an American computer game designer. He founded Double Fine Productions in July 2000, after having spent over a decade at LucasArts. Schafer is best known as the designer of critically acclaimed games Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and Broken Age and co-designer of The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and Day of the Tentacle. He is well known in the video game industry for his storytelling and comedic writing style.[3]


  • Career 1
    • College and LucasArts (1989-2000) 1.1
    • Double Fine Productions (2000-present) 1.2
  • Influences and philosophy 2
  • Recognition 3
  • Works 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


College and LucasArts (1989-2000)

While studying computer science at UC Berkeley, Schafer became interested in writing, and took inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut, who while an engineer at General Electric wrote short stories in the evenings that he was able to sell for $300. Schafer opted for a similar course, interning to help develop databases for small companies while trying to position himself for an opening in a larger corporation such as Atari and Hewlett-Packard, but he was rejected by these.[4] He saw an offering at Lucasfilm Games, looking for programmers who could also write game dialog, which piqued his interest.[4] During his application process for the job, he had a somewhat disastrous phone interview with David Fox in which he mentioned being a fan of Ballblaster. Fox informed him that the Lucasfilm Games title was Ballblazer, and that only the pirated version was known as Ballblaster, but despite the misstep, Fox asked Schafer to submit his resume for further consideration.[4][5] To make up for the phone interview, Schafer sent in a comic of himself applying for and getting the job at Lucasfilm Games, drawn as a text adventure.[4][5][6]

Schafer was hired by LucasArts in 1989, and his first position was as a "scummlet", programmers that helped to implement features and ideas proposed by the lead game developers within the LucasArts SCUMM engine. He, alongside Dave Grossman, helped to playtest Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade action game and implement the NES version of Maniac Mansion. Schafer and Grossman, along with two others, were taught by Ron Gilbert as part of a "SCUMM University" on how to use the engine to set up rooms and puzzles.[4] Later, Gilbert approached Schafer and Grossman, offering them the chance to work on his new project, which would ultimately become the pirate-themed adventure game The Secret of Monkey Island.[4]

According to series creator Gilbert, Schafer and Grossman were responsible for about two thirds of the game's dialogue.[7] Monkey Island is noted for its humorous story, though it was originally conceived as having a more serious tone; Schafer and Grossman wrote much more humorous placeholder dialog, which persuaded Gilbert to turn it into a comedy. The Secret of Monkey Island became one of the most acclaimed games of its kind. The same team created the sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge.

In his first lead role on a game project, Schafer co-designed (with Dave Grossman) Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, a time-travel comedy adventure and the sequel to Ron Gilbert's Maniac Mansion. Schafer's first solo project, the biker adventure Full Throttle, was released in 1995. He went on to design the highly acclaimed Grim Fandango, a noir adventure game set in the Aztec afterlife featuring characters similar to the papier-mâché skeleton decorations from the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos. Grim Fandango won many awards, including GameSpot's Game of the Year award of 1998.[8]

Double Fine Productions (2000-present)

Schafer worked on an unannounced PlayStation 2 action-adventure game at LucasArts, but it never entered production.[3] Prior to his departure, a number of other developers were leaving LucasArts as the studio shifted away from adventure games. Schafer was approached by his colleagues with the idea of leaving the company to develop PlayStation 2 games on their own; Schafer was initially wary of this believing he felt secure in his position at LucasArts.[9] He left the company in January 2000,[10] to found Double Fine Productions, where he created the platform game Psychonauts.[3] The game was first released on Xbox in North America on April 19, 2005. It won much critical acclaim, including a Game of the Year award from Eurogamer.

On March 7, 2007, he hosted the annual Game Developers Choice Awards. He later hosted it again in 2009. To coincide, Double Fine released a free Flash minigame entitled Host Master and the Conquest of Humor, a pastiche of Schafer's LucasArts games in which the player takes on the role of Schafer backstage at the GDC Awards.

In fall 2009, Schafer completed a new game called Brütal Legend. The game was released on October 13, 2009, on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.[11] In an April 2009 interview on The Jace Hall Show, Schafer had this to say about Brütal Legend: "For Brütal Legend, I've always seen this overlap between medieval warfare and heavy metal. You see heavy metal singers and they'll have like a brace around their arm and they'll be singing about Orcs. So let's just make a world where that all happens. That all gets put together, the heavy metal, and the rock, and the battling, actually does happen. Let's not flirt around with this; let's just do it."[12]

Schafer and other game developers at a BAFTA event in Los Angeles in July 2011. From left: Rod Humble, Louis Castle, David Perry, Brenda Brathwaite, John Romero, Will Wright, Tim Schafer, Chris Hecker.

Schafer announced in July 2010 that EA had canceled the sequel to Brütal Legend.[13] Instead of Brütal Legend 2, Double Fine had a period called "Amnesia Fortnight", where the team came up with prototype games that could be pitched to publishers. From these, four smaller games were made that for the first time in Double Fine's history had project leaders other than Schafer: Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade and Once upon a Monster.

On February 1, 2012, Schafer returned to the role of director in Double Fine Happy Action Theater, a game concept he devised in order to be able to play a game with his two-year-old daughter that she would be able to enjoy as well.[14]

On February 9, 2012, Schafer launched a crowdfunded project for an unnamed adventure game via The game and accompanying documentary were projected to cost US$400,000. Contributions exceeded that amount by more than three times in less than 24 hours, making it the first Kickstarter project to reach a $2 million figure, and the second most successful project on the website thus far.[15][16] When the project ended on March 13, funding reached a level of $3,336,371 in Kickstarter[17] with an additional $110,000 from premium pledges.[18]

Another title from the "Amnesia Fortnight" prototype session was developed into Double Fine's first free-to-play iOS title with funding from Dracogen. The game, titled Middle Manager of Justice, was accidentally released in all territories on September 5, 2012, but was quickly pulled. That build was later branded beta, with the final release coming later in 2012. Like the other four "Amnesia Fortnight" titles, Middle Manager of Justice had a project leader other than Tim Schafer.[19]

At PAX East on March 24, 2013, Double Fine revealed the Kickstarter project to be Broken Age, Schafer's first adventure game since Grim Fandango.[20]

A remastered version of Grim Fandango was announced by Double Fine Productions in June 2014, along with a remastered version of Day of the Tentacle, announced in December 2014; Double Fine was able to negotiate a deal with Disney for the remastered versions following the closure of LucasArts in 2013.[21][22][23][24]

On March 5, 2015, Schafer hosted the 2015 Game Developer’s Choice Awards where he received criticism from Gamergate supporters for making jokes perceived as an attack on the hashtag #NotYourShield while using a sock puppet as a prop.[25]

Schafer joined with other industry leaders with crowdfunding experience to help create the crowdfunding platform Fig in August 2015. Schafer currently sits on its advisory board to help curate which projects will be supported, and said that all future Double Fine projects will use Fig for funding.[26]

Influences and philosophy

In an interview at Game Developers Conference in 2003, Schafer stated that he strives for integrating story into the gameplay, setting a creative goal of someday creating a video game without any cutscenes at all.[27] Furthermore, he said he often sets a story in an established world:

"[O]ften, the world is the initial inspiration for the game. One day I was listening to someone tell me their stories of spending the summer in Alaska. They had hung around this one biker bar, with these people with names like Smilin' Rick and Big Phil. And I thought, 'Wow, what a crazy world that is.' It's so apart from everybody's life, and yet it's right there, it's so mundane in a way. And that's where Full Throttle came from."


  • The press first previewed Psychonauts at the E3 trade show of 2002, where it won the Game Critics Award for Best Original Game.[28]
  • An hour-long episode of Icons on the G4 Network documented the last week of Psychonauts' production and explored Tim Schafer's career. (Original airdate: April 28, 2005).[29]
  • At the 2006 Game Developers Choice Awards, Tim Schafer and Erik Wolpaw won the award for Best Writing for Psychonauts. Tim Schafer and Double Fine Executive Producer & COO Caroline Esmurdoc also won the award for Best New Studio.
  • In October 2006, Tim Schafer received a BAFTA video game Best Screenplay award for Psychonauts.[30]
  • In 2012, the [3]


Name Year Credited With Publisher
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Action Game 1989 tester[31] LucasArts
Maniac Mansion (NES port) 1990 tools programmer LucasArts
The Secret of Monkey Island 1990 co-writer, programmer, additional designer LucasArts
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge 1991 co-writer, programmer, additional designer LucasArts
Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle 1993 co-designer, co-producer, co-director, co-writer LucasArts
Full Throttle 1995 project leader, writer, designer LucasArts
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire 1996 "Never actively tried to sabotage the project"[32] LucasArts
The Curse of Monkey Island 1997 additional design LucasArts
Grim Fandango 1998 project leader, writer, designer, programmer LucasArts
Star Wars Episode I: Racer 1999 "Never actively tried to sabotage the project" [33] LucasArts
Psychonauts 2005 creative director, co-writer, designer Double Fine, Majesco
Brütal Legend 2009 creative director, writer, designer Double Fine, Electronic Arts
Costume Quest 2010 creative director, writer Double Fine, THQ
Stacking 2011 creative director Double Fine, THQ
Iron Brigade 2011 creative director Double Fine, Microsoft Studios
Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster 2011 creative director Double Fine, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Haunt 2012 voice actor[34] NanaOn-Sha, Zoë Mode, Microsoft Studios
Double Fine Happy Action Theater 2012 director Double Fine, Microsoft Studios
Middle Manager of Justice 2012 creative director Double Fine, Dracogen
Kinect Party 2012 creative director Double Fine, Microsoft Studios
The Cave 2013 studio creative director Double Fine, Sega
Dropchord 2013 creative director Double Fine, Dracogen
Broken Age 2014 director, writer Double Fine
Spacebase DF-9 2014 creative director Double Fine, Indie Fund
Grim Fandango Remastered 2015 creative director Double Fine
Massive Chalice 2015 creative director Double Fine


  1. ^ Schafer, Tim; Bush, Josh (March 23, 2014). DFGameClub - Broken Age, Act 1 (Podcast). Twitch. Event occurs at 1:27:30. Retrieved March 23, 2014. Like The Secret of Monkey Island, is it more exciting if I keep it a secret forever? Yeah, my full name is Timothy John Schafer. 
  2. ^ Schafer, Tim (March 23, 2014). Cheese talks to: Tim Schafer (as a part of the Double Fine Game Club). Interview with Josh Bush. DFGameClub. Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Let the Games Begin". Sunday Herald Sun (Australia). June 24, 2012. p. 12 - "Play" section. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Ringell, Jaz (2015-06-22). I Don’t Know if a Duck is Going to Swallow me Whole." The Tim Schafer Interview.""".  
  5. ^ a b Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts pg. 54
  6. ^ "Double Fine – Action News".  
  7. ^ "The Secret of Creating Monkey Island – An Interview With Ron Gilbert". LucasFilm Adventurer vol. 1, number 1 (online transcript). 1990. Retrieved December 24, 2006. 
  8. ^ "Best and Worst of 1998: Game of the Year".  
  9. ^ "10 years of Psychonauts – In conversation with Tim Schafer".  
  10. ^ Mullen, Michael (January 7, 2000). "Tim Schafer Leaves LucasArts".  
  11. ^ "Sierra Entertainment and Double Fine Productions unearth ancient tome and decrypt Brütal Legend" (Press release).  
  12. ^ "James Gunn & Brutal Legend". The Jace Hall Show. Season 2. Episode 5. 2009-04-16. 
  13. ^ "Tim Schafer confirms Brutal Legend 2 canceled, announces four games". November 5, 2014. 
  14. ^ Palacios, Tina (January 24, 2012). "Talking Happy Action Theater with Double Fine".  
  15. ^ "When making a game is a game in itself". February 10, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Double Fine Adventure". Kickstarter. 
  17. ^ "Double Fine Day". Kickstarter. 
  18. ^ "Double Fine™ - Action News". 
  19. ^ "Double Fine Blooper Becomes Middle Manager of Justice Beta".  
  20. ^ "PAX: Double Fine's adventure game is called Broken Age". November 5, 2014. 
  21. ^ Nunnely, Stephany (June 9, 2014). "Grim Fandango remastered coming to PlayStation".  
  22. ^ Gera, Emily (June 9, 2014). "Grim Fandango is coming to PS4 and PS Vita (update)".  
  23. ^ Siddiky, Asif (June 10, 2014). "A Closer Look at Grim Fandango’s Surprise Revival".  
  24. ^ Albert, Brian (December 6, 2014). "DAY OF THE TENTACLE SPECIAL EDITION ANNOUNCED".  
  25. ^ Griffin, Andrew (March 5, 2015). "GamerGate: developer Tim Schafer provokes rage with joke about online gaming activists at industry awards". The Independent. Retrieved March 8, 2015. 
  26. ^ Hall, Charlie (August 18, 2015). "What if Kickstarter let you profit from a game's success? Fig found a way, launches today".  
  27. ^ Celia Pearce (March 7, 2003). "A Conversation with Tim Schafer". Game Studies. Retrieved November 6, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Winners 2002". Game Critics Awards. Retrieved March 27, 2008. 
  29. ^ "Icons: Tim Schafer Recap".  
  30. ^ "Games Nominations 2006". BAFTA. Retrieved March 27, 2008. 
  31. ^ "Video Game History Month: Tim Schafer". Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Tim "The Raccoon King" Schafer Never Actively Tried to Sabotage The Development Of Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire".  
  33. ^ "Star Wars Episode 1 Racer for PC Credits". Retrieved September 21, 2014. 
  34. ^ Sheffield, Brandon (December 29, 2011). "NanaOn-Sha: Changing The World Of Games".  

External links

  • Tim Schafer at MobyGames
  • Double Fine Productions Schafer's game development studio
  • What does the game industry have against innovation? (a news feature centered on Psychonauts, with comments from Schafer)
  • "Tim Schafer on Taking Risks" (D.I.C.E. Summit 2005)
  • "Tim Schafer on Memorable Character Design" (GDC 2004, audio recording)
  • Tim Schafer on the WikiMonkey Island
  • Trip to Double Fine from The International House of Mojo
  • Return to Double Fine from The International House of Mojo
  • Millennium Gaming: 20 Gaming Visionaries Usher In The Next Millennium of Gaming at GameSpot (1999)
  • A Conversation with Tim Schafer by Celia Pearce at GameStudies (2003)
  • Rebel With a Cause: Traveling through the mind of Tim Schafer at (2006)
  • Tim Schafer's KickStarter Project Interview at DICE (2012)
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