Adventure-Treff: How did it come about that you and Gary Winnick would do an oldschool graphic adventure game together again?
Ron Gilbert: Mostly from sitting around chatting about how much fun it was make Maniac Mansion. There was a charm and innocence to those old games and we’ve always wondered if recreating that ourselves would translate into a new game. To really get back to the basics of the adventure game design, focusing on characters, story and puzzles.
AT: It seems to be getting more and more difficult to fund projects via Kickstarter. Over the past few months we've seen promising projects that didn't manage to reach their funding goals. What made you start a Kickstarter in times like these?
Ron: It’s true, the gold rush days of Kickstarter for games seem to be over, but it’s still a great way to raise money for niche projects. It’s great when you can go right to the people who love what you’re making and not have a 3rd party filter. Hopefully people will follow Thimbleweed Park’s development on our website and maybe get a raw look into what goes into making an adventure game. Although, there are players who might want to stay away due to spoilers since we do plan on talking about how and why we’re making design decisions.
AT: Ron's last significant project "The Cave" was no classic adventure (although it featured some adventure elements). Why are you turning back towards a classic adventure now?
Gary: Both Ron and I have done a lot of work in the gaming, comics and other entertainment over the last 25 years, but nothing has given me the same creative satisfaction on so many levels as Maniac Mansion. It was truly a time of creative innovation for us as it was the first game we actually designed on our own. We were free to try out any idea we had and it really led to an affinity with the style that we’re now calling ‘classic adventure gaming’.
AT: What made you decide to create the game in this particular style of graphics? Among the many classics of LucasArts, there are some considered more beautiful, yet still in 2D... Was a reason for choosing this style of graphics the reduced costs in production as well?
Gary: Aside from being nostalgic, we think those graphics are really charming and can engage the player like playing a game with colorful animated icons - where players themselves use their own imagination to fill in much of the detail of the world, and make it their own. Additionally, as we’ve stated, we really do want to evoke the feeling you might have finding and playing a ‘lost’ game from that era. As far as cost goes, given our experience it is easier to predict and manage the art development because we clearly know the scope and do understand what this will cost.
AT: Even today, games considered to be classical adventure games offer comfort features, like a hotspot finder. How will you handle such features in Thimbleweed Park?
Ron: It will be an old school adventure, with verbs and everything, but we do plan on improving how that interface works in a more “modern” era, while also keeping what made it so charming. Things like mouse-overs, dragging and dropping, etc. will be used to speed things up. We’ll do things that we might have done back then if we’d thought of it. The smoothness of interaction will be more like what I did in Monkey Island than the original Maniac Mansion.
AT: Will you be able to buy the box version of the game as a standalone product later on, or will it be a backer-only content?
Ron: I’m sure we will offer the boxed version later on, but we want to keep something special about the Kickstarter edition. These are the people that believed in us and are helping the game become real.
AT: Did you make up your minds about the technical platform or engine already? Few weeks ago you asked about current adventure engines on your Grumpy Gamer-blog - coincidence?
Ron: No, not a coincidence at all. :-) I have not decided on all the details of the engine yet. I’ve done all the prototyping in my own engine and it’s working out well, plus it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. I don’t really have a scripting language yet, but those are fun to write.
AT: Will the resolution adapt to current displays or do you really want to release the game just like in the VGA times?
Ron: The resolution will be 640x480(ish), but it will scale correctly for modern machines, be wide-screen and include some nice effects that use the hardware. We want it to be authentic, but still modern. It’s more like how you remember those games, not so much as how they really were. If that makes sense.
(auf dem Game Forum Germany 2011)" />AT: Has Boris Schneider-Johne, the German translator for a lot of your games, already contacted you?
Ron: We just announced some stretch goals for translating into German, Spanish, French and Italian, and yes, Boris is doing the German. We’re thrilled.
AT: In 2013 you left Double Fine, only a few months after the very successful Broken Age Kickstarter project. What led to this decision?
Ron: I was at Double Fine to make The Cave, it was never going to be a long term stint. The Cave finished and then I wrapped up some of my work on the ports.
AT: How do you judge the development of Broken Age so far?
Ron: Making games is hard. Broken Age was a very ambitious project and it turned out beautiful. After the unprecedented success of the Double Fine Adventure on Kickstarter, there was an amazing amount of pressure that I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with. There is a lot of second-guessing of what Double Fine did, but they were breaking a lot of new ground with crowdfunding and I admire Tim for doing that. It’s hard being first.
AT: In the Kickstarter video, Tim Schafer promised you would help them with it. Was he lying or would you do it?
Ron: I don’t think Tim promised I would help other than the joke at the end of the video. I was deep in The Cave (no pun intended) at that point and it was never the plan for me to do any real work on the project.
AT: Tell us another little funny anecdote from the development of Maniac Mansion! As you might know, adventure gamers love stories from the past. Did you already sort out all the things from your long forgotten Seattle storage unit?
Gary: I remember that Ron and I were very proud when we were done working the packaging for the box, one of the things we had done, which we thought was humorous, was to put a list of words on the back of the box – it read ‘Maniac Mansion a story of: Love, Lust Power, Greed’ – followed by a long list of things we thought were pretty funny. When it made it to the stores of one of our biggest retailers, a customer read the back of the box and complained about the word ‘Lust’ being there, as a result we had to pull all the games from shelves and redo the box before they would sell it again. So that original packaging is definitely a collector’s item now.Ron: I still have a pile of stuff from the storage unit I need to go though. I have some old fan letters I’d like to post and some more documents on the SCUMM system, but I don’t know how interested people are in 1986 tech specs. :-)
AT: In Germany there is a large fan project with a lot of new episodes from the Maniac Mansion. 'Maniac Mansion Mania' extended the games universe with new characters and completely new locations. Even the houses of Bernard and so on have been included there. That's why a couple of our readers might have thought about a new Maniac Mansion Mania episode rather then an all new game once the saw the screenshots. Do you know this fan project and what do you think about it?
Ron: I think it’s amazing! “Gezeigt wird das Innere des LaGrande Hotels in Ronville.” I just wish they ran on the Mac so I could play them more easily. It’s always amazing to see something to be created with a life of it’s own and see where other people take it.Gary: I agree with Ron, I just recently discovered the fan series and was amazed by the detail and number of episodes.
AT: We offered some of our users the possibility to ask questions themselves. Here is one from our user AT-AK-Rätsler: Will there be voice-over or probably a German localization? Are the stretch goals at hand?
Ron: We've added stretch goals for translations, mobile versions and full voice acting. They were the three things people were asking for the most.
AT: Here are some questions from our User MMFan: Was the game already envisioned during the times at LucasFilm or LucasArts or is it something new? Do you consider more adventures like this if it's successful?
Ron: Thimbleweed Park is an all-new adventure game. Over the years, Gary and I have collected a huge brainful of ideas and I’m sure a lot of them will finally make it into this game.Gary: If this game is successful, we’ll make more of them.Ron: Just try and stop us.
AT: How do you evaluate the current adventure market? How important is Germany? Do you know the German adventures, like Deponia?
Ron: I think the adventure game market is very strong. While not a true point & click game, adventure games like Kentucky Route Zero have done extremely well. Germany has always been very important. When Monkey Island came out, it did well, but it wasn’t a huge hit until it took off in Germany, where it gained a massive following to spread to the rest of the world.
AT: MMFan is even more curious: Looking at the graphics, could you imagine creating a C64-Version of the game?
Ron: I don’t know if it’s technically possible. Putting Maniac Mansion on the C64 was a fun, but painful experience. Modern machines are nice to work with because for a game like Thimbleweed Park, you basically have infinite memory. It’s nice to not have to worry about trimming one frame out of an animation just so it will fit in memory or on a disk. We can go crazy with stuff we could only have dreamed of back then.
AT: And of course, he's also asking the most important question: When will Monkey Island 3 (Ron Gilbert Edition) be released?
Ron: HA. You need to convince Disney to sell me the IP so I can make the game I truly want to.
AT: Aeyol wants to know: Which is your favorite adventure game ever (so far)? And why?
Gary: Actually really do like all the LucasArts games that came from that area and have really enjoyed playing them even recently on SCUMMVM. I also enjoyed Limbo, I really liked its art style.
AT: I've seen some "modern" smooth gradients in the trailer - so, will the graphics be a mix of good old pixel art and timesaving tricks of today's tools?
Ron: Yes, there are some technical modernizations and doing limited gradients is one of them. We don’t want to use them everywhere, but they are nice for sky and other places that you need to convey a sense of light. We will also be using the hardware to do some nice, yet subtle things that don’t distract from the retro-ness of the game.Gary: We’ve envisioned this game having the look and feel of an undiscovered game of the era, but that being said, we will be doing some experimentation within those bounds to develop the best graphical presentation, to add some more subtle variations that will help keep the look interesting and unique while staying with the overall feelings we want to evoke in the player.Ron: In a way, it’s about using modern hardware to create a game that is how your “remember” those old games being, not so much exactly how they were.
AT: What came first - the idea (story, characters) or the wish to make a game like this again? And why haven't you started this earlier?
Gary: Ron and I have stayed in touch and recently both finished up the products we were working on around the same time – which was a bit unusual – so we decided it would be great to do something together. At that time we did brainstorm a few different ideas and ultimately this is the one that had the most interest for both of us.
AT: A question from our user Loma: In the last years you heard a lot of things like 'adventures are dead', 'you have to keep up with the times', 'adventure games must have modern graphics and rather simple puzzles', and so on. And now just an extreme retro game (even some adventure gamers are considering it as too much retro) seems to be successful on Kickstarter. So, is the classic adventure game more popular than assumed, is it nostalgia or just your famous name?
Ron: I think it’s a combination of all three. Adventure games are more popular than people realize, they have just changed over time. There is also a big component of nostalgia, both players and for Gary and me. It’s the nostalgia of the feeling of making adventure games at Lucasfilm, as well as playing them. A lot of people played these games when they were kids and it gave them a very special feeling, and as the designers, we want to relive that too. There is no doubt that our names help and are critical to the response the Kickstarter has gotten. We both feel very fortunate to have such a great group of backers.
AT: Ron and Gary, thank you very much for your time and answering our questions. All the best for Thimbleweed Park!