The team at Double Fine appeared cool, calm and collected this week in a video tour of the first small playable section of Psychonauts 2. We’ve embedded the clip above. The nearly 15-minute production shows off an early draft of the game’s art style, animations and even its first cutscene.
Studio head Tim Schafer is on hand, standing in for the viewer, with project lead Zak McClendon at the controls. McClendon spends a bit of time early on in the clip defining exactly what it is viewers are looking at. This bowl-shaped mountain lake is part of the Psychonauts 2 hub world, which players will explore early in the game and then return to many times between missions.
It’s not done yet, but the team at Double Fine is using its creation as a test case for improving their processes in later sections of the game.
“This first-playable [version] is the first time we’ve taken a designed chunk of the game and tried to push it through the pipeline and get it fully art’d,” McClendon said. “It represents all of the gameplay systems, all of the art, and a few more new things.”
Fans will even find a sample of the game’s first cutscene, featuring a conversation between the main character Raz and Sasha Nein. That section currently includes placeholder voiceover work from Sasha’s character designer.
McClendon says that the entire chunk of gameplay is only about an hour and a half long, but the process of creating it will help set the tone for Double Fine’s work going forward. The next step is to create what the team is calling a “playthrough milestone.” That will include the first third of the game, but with much less fidelity overall. The goal is to have that third in-hand early on so that it can be used for testing the game’s narrative pace, and to work on the writing.
While this video shows lots of exterior areas, the team is already hard at work on the interior levels that will take place inside non-player characters’ minds. However, it will be a while before fans see any of those. McClendon said that Double Fine wants them to be a surprise for fans.
“We want you to discover them,” he said, “like Christmas morning.”
Psychonauts 2 was funded in part by a massive, $3.8 million equity crowdfunding campaign on the Fig platform, where Double Fine’s Schafer holds a seat on the advisory board. It took some time for Fig to get its feet under it, as it spent the better part of a year navigating an approval process with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). But, as of October 2016, Fig says it’s been able to collect all of the money it was expecting to receive from investors.
Despite the size of the Fig campaign, it represents only a portion of the game’s total budget. Schafer told Polygon in 2015 that figure was closer to $13.5 million, with the lion’s share coming from Double Fine itself and an anonymous investor.
In February 2017, Double Fine announced that Psychonauts 2 would receive an additional $8 million investment from Starbreeze, who would act as the game’s publisher.