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Brütal Legend

Tim Schafer on RAWK and making love to centaurs

Brütal Legend is the last piece of puzzle left over from Vivendi's merger with Activision, which left a dozen top game projects as refugees last year.

... and we're still scratching our chins over Acti-Blizz's decision. Brutal Legend is an energetic, hilarious, Jack Black-voiced romp through the world of rock and metal. And with the team who made the excellent Psychonauts pulling the levers, it's hard not to get excited for EA's new baby.

We recently sat down with Brütal Legend's mastermind Tim Schafer to have a chat. For your protection, we've edited the swear words...


Vivendi, your publisher, merged with Activision and it decided to drop Brütal Legend. Were you worried that the game might never come out?

Schafer: No. It's always gotten a lot of support and we got a lot of interest from other publishers. In that period when we were changing publishers we got so much attention. We had this game that we could show in a very finished state so we always had someone who wanted to publish it.

As soon as we heard the word "merger" we knew shenanigans were going to follow. We've had such a great time with EA and they're very supportive of the game. They're exposing us to a lot more people - sitting here talking to you guys - it's support we're not used to. It's been a lot of fun.

A lot of the other ex-Vivendi games like Riddick and Ghostbusters have benefited from being dropped via extra development time. Would you say Brütal Legend's benefited from the situation?

Schafer: We worked out our final ship date with EA and it was different from our original date. And the game's been a little more polished because of that.

So you'd say there was a silver lining on the cloud?

Schafer: Oh yeah, definitely. I'm trying to think of other silver linings I can mention without getting sued...

Why do you think now is the time for the world's first metal game?

Schafer: It definitely seems to be rising in the consciousness. When we were pitching the game, the idea was on paper before the first Guitar Hero game was even announced. People were like, 'are you sure you want to make it rock and metal? Maybe hip hop or country would be better...' and we were like, 'no...' There's nothing wrong with that kind of music but it doesn't have the lore that metal has in terms of Norse mythology and all the great stories that are mentioned in that.

But then after Guitar Hero came out suddenly the younger generation were finding all of these great songs and knowing about then. So by the time we were pitching it the second time it was a totally different reaction.

Did you have Jack Black interested from the very start?

Schafer: No. We didn't think we'd get someone of that calibre in the game. We were inspired by him. When I saw School of Rock it reminded me why I've wanted to make this game for years with that character who loves metal and how sincere he was.

So we were inspired by Jack Black and then when it came to doing a voice we thought, 'maybe an imitator...' Then we heard second hand information that [Jack Black] really liked Psychonauts, so we tried to get in touch with him. We showed him the game and he loved it and signed the contract. So we're really happy.

He's a big metal fan too, obviously. Did he have any input on what you should put in the game?

Schafer: He definitely inspires a lot of the more outrageous elements in the game. He had some suggestions, like at one point he wanted to make love to a centaur. We don't have that in... maybe in the sequel. He had lots of ideas like that that we tried to use. He's very improvisational and he comes up with lots of dialogue for the character - we use a lot of that.

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