Sometimes some puzzle pieces suddenly fall into place. This was also the case with the development of Psychonauts 2, where two main plots seem to be key. The first part was Microsoft’s expansion plans. The console builder bought developer Double Fine in 2019, removing the studio’s reliance on the fundraising campaign it had started in 2015. It allowed Double Fine to make Psychonauts 2 more than the games it launched itself. They were often very nice, but sometimes felt unfinished. It was clear that many Double Fine games had to be on a tight budget. Microsoft changed that, and Psychonauts 2 was the first game in which Double Fine was able to pull from Microsoft’s deep pockets.
The second puzzle piece also came from Seattle, but is of a completely different order. Double Fine was able to take advantage of developments at Valve. Since the studio behind Half-Life doesn’t make many games anymore, a few leaders have left. Among the people who have turned their backs on Valve is Erik Wolpaw, who has been an important link at Valve in the development of both Portal games. Together with Chet Faliszek, he wrote the story and especially the wonderful dialogues for both games. With the new portal looking far away, Wolpaw returned to the studio where he began his writing career: Double Fine. At Double Fine, he only worked on Psychonauts, the first game in the series released in 2005. In doing so, he formed a writing duo with Tim Schafer, founder of Double Fine. However, the Psychonauts were not successful and Wolpaw left for Valve, later joining Double Fine.
With Wolpaw back at Double Fine, the path was clear for a full successor to the Psychonauts, who could also be made on a much bigger budget. That budget was spent on a much longer development process. Where the game was originally supposed to be released in 2018, the release moved first into 2020 and later into 2021. That’s a good thing, because it produced a great game that largely lacks the traditional rough edges of Double Fine.
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