Best. Ending. Ever.

Jul 24, 2014

An email sent to me from LucasArts Marketing/Support letting me know they "finally" found some people who liked the ending to Monkey Island 2.



Maniac Mansion Design Doc

Jul 21, 2014

Even more crap from my Seattle storage unit!

Here is the original pitch document Gary and I used for Maniac Mansion. Gary had done some quick concepts, but we didn't have a real design, screen shots or any code. This was before I realized coding the whole game in 6502 was nuts and began working on the SCUMM system.

There was no official pitch process or "green lighting" at Lucasfilm Games. The main purpose of this document would have been to pass around to the other members of the games group and get feedback and build excitement.

I don't remember a point where the game was "OK'd".  It felt that Gary and I just started working on it and assumed we could.  It was just the two of us for a long time, so it's not like we were using up company resources.  Eventually David Fox would come on to help with SCUMM scripting.

Three people. The way games were meant to be made.

If this document (and the Monkey Island Design Notes) say anything, it's how much ideas change from initial concept to finished game. And that's a good thing. Never be afraid to change your ideas. Refine and edit. If your finished game looks just like your initial idea, then you haven't pushed and challenged yourself hard enough.

It's all part of the creative process. Creativity is a messy process. It wants to be messy and it needs to be messy.


Monkey Poster

Jul 18, 2014

More crap from my storage unit.

Print your own today!




Maniac Mansion Design Notes

Jul 16, 2014

While cleaning out my storage unit in Seattle, I came across a treasure trove of original documents and backup disks from the early days of Lucasfilm Games and Humongous Entertainment. I hadn't been to the unit in over 10 years and had no idea what was waiting for me.

Here is the first batch... get ready for a week of retro... Grumpy Gamer style...

First up...



A early mock-up of the Maniac Mansion UI. Gary had done a lot of art long before we had a running game, hence the near finished screen without the verbs.



A map of the mansion right after Gary and I did a big pass at cutting the design down.  Disk space was a bigger concern than production time. We had 320K. That's right. K.



Gary and I were trying to make sense of the mansion and how the puzzles flowed together. It wouldn't be until Monkey Island that the "puzzle dependency chart" would solve most of our adventure game design issues.



More design flow and ideas. The entire concept of getting characters to like you never really made it into the final game. Bobby, Joey and Greg would grow up and become Dave, Syd, Wendy, Bernard, etc..



A really early brainstorm of puzzle ideas. NASA O-ring was probably "too soon" and twenty-five years later the dumb waiter would finally make it into The Cave.


I'm still amazed Gary and I didn't get fired.





Ten Years Running!

Jul 15, 2014

Time flies. The gaming and internet institution known as the Grumpy Gamer Blog has been around for just over ten years.

My first story was posted in May of 2004. Two thousand and four. I'll let that date sink in. Ten years.

The old Grumpy Gamer website was feeling "long in the tooth" and it was starting to bug me that Grumpy Gamer was still using a CRT monitor. He should have been using a flat screen, or more likely, just a mobile phone, or maybe those Google smart contact lens. He would not have been using an Oculus Rift. Don't get me started.

I coded the original Grumpy Gamer from scratch and it was old and fragile and I dreaded every time I had to make a small change or wanted to add a feature.

A week ago I had an the odd idea of doing a Commodore 64 theme for the entire site, so I began anew. I could have used some off-the-shelf blogging tool or code base, but where's the fun in that. Born to program.

I'm slowly moving all the old articles over. I started with the ones with the most traffic and am working my way down. I fundamentally changed the markup format, so I can't just import everything. Plus, there is a lot of crap that doesn't want to be imported.  I still need to decide if I'm going to import all the comments. There are a crap-ton of them.

I'd also like to find a different C64 font. This one has kerning, but it lacks unicode characters, neither of which are truly "authentic", but, yeah, who cares.

But the honest truth is...

I've been in this creative funk since Scurvy Scallywags Android shipped and I find myself meandering from quick prototype to quick prototype. I'll work on something for a few days and then abandon it because it's pointless crap. I think I'm up to eight so far.

The most interesting prototype is about being lost in a cavern/cave/dungeon. The environment programmatically builds itself as you explore. There is no entrance and no exit. It is an exercise in the frustration of being lost. You can never find your way out. You just wander and the swearing gets worse and worse as you slowly give up all hope.

I have no sense of direction, so in some ways, maybe it was a little personal in the way I suppose art should be.

I worked on the game for about a week then gave up. Maybe the game was more about being lost than I thought.

Rebuilding Grumpy Gamer was a way to get my brain going again. It was a project with focus and an end. As the saying goes: Just ship something. So I did.

The other saying is: "The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before."

Create and all will follow. Something to always keep in mind.



Commodore 64

Jul 14, 2014









Monkey Bucks

Jul 10, 2014


Booty From My Seattle Storage Space!

Jul 10, 2014




Who Are These Pirates?

Apr 29, 2014

This has always bugged me. Now that I've pointed it out, it's going to bug you too.


What is an indie developer?

Apr 18, 2014

What makes a developer "indie"?

I'm not going to answer that question, instead, I'm just going to ask a lot more questions, mostly because I'm irritated and asking questions rather than answering them irritates people and as the saying goes: irritation makes great bedfellows.

What irritates me is this almost "snobbery" that seems to exist in some dev circles about what an "indie" is. I hear devs who call themselves "indie" roll their eyes at other devs who call themselves "indie" because they "clearly they aren't indie".

So what makes an indie developer "indie"?  Let's look at the word.

The word "indie" comes from (I assume) the word "independent".  I guess the first question we have to ask is: independent from what? I think most people would say "publishers".

Yet, I know of several devs who proudly call themselves "indie" when they are taking money from publishers (and big publishers at that) and other devs that would sneer at a dev taking publisher money and calling themselves "indie".

What about taking money from investors? If you take money are you not "indie"? What about money from friends or family? Or does it have to be VCs for you to lose "indie" status?

What about Kickstarter?  I guess it's OK for indies to take money from Kickstarter. But are you really "independent"?  3,000 backers who now feel a sense of entitlement might disagree. Devs who feel an intense sense of pressure from backers might also disagree.

Does being "indie" mean your idea is independent from mainstream thinking? Is being an "indie developer" just the new Punk Rock.

Does the type of game you're making define you as "indie"? If a dev is making a metrics driven F2P game, but they are doing it independent of a publisher, does that mean they are not "indie"?

This is one of the biggest areas I see "indie" snobbery kick in.  Snobby "indie" devs will look at an idea and proclaim it "not indie".

Do "indie" games have to be quirky and weird? Do "indie" games have to be about the "art".

What about the dev? Does that matter? Someone once told me I was not "indie" because I have an established name, despite the fact that the games I'm currently working on have taken no money from investors or publishers and are made by three people.

What if the game is hugely successful and makes a ton of money? Does that make it not "indie" anymore? Is being "indie" about being scrappy and clawing your way from nothing? Once you have success, are you no longer "indie"?  Is it like being an "indie band" where once they gain success, they are looked down on by the fans? Does success mean selling-out? Does selling-out revoke your "indie dev" card?

What if the "indie" developer already has lots of money? Does having millions of dollars make them not "indie"? What if they made the money before they went "indie" or even before they started making games or if they have a rich (dead) aunt? Does "indie" mean you have to starve?

Is it OK for an "indie" to hire top notch marketing and PR people? Or do "indies" have to scrape everything together themselves and use the grassroot network?

Or does "indie" just mean you're not owned by a publisher? How big of a publisher? It's easy to be a publisher these days, most indies who put their games up on Steam are "publishers". The definition of a publisher is that you're publishing the game and the goal of a lot of studios is to "self-publish".

Or does being "indie" just mean you came up with the idea?  The Cave was funded and published by SEGA, so was it an "indie" title? SEGA didn't come up with the idea and exerted no creative control, so does that make it an "indie" title?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions (and maybe there aren't any), but it irritates me that some devs (or fans) look down on devs because they are not "indie" or not "indie enough".

Or is being "indie" just another marketing term? Maybe that's all it means anymore. It's just part of the PR plan.




Monkey Island Design Notebook Scribblings

Apr 07, 2014

More scans from the Monkey Island Design Notebook. I'm glad I kept these notebooks, it's a good reminder of how ideas don't come out fully formed.  Creation is a messy process with lots of twisty turns and dead ends.  It's a little sad that so much is done digitally these days. Most of my design notes for The Cave were in Google Docs and I edited them as I went, so the process lost. Next game, I'm keeping an old fashion notebook.

Mark Ferrari or Steve Purcell must have done these. I can't draw this good!

A lot changed here!

Getting the Main Flow right is critical!



April Fool's Day is Stupid!

Mar 31, 2014

Wow! For ten years in a row, Grumpy Gamer has been completely April Fool's Day free.

If you need a break from the entire Internet waking up and thinking they are funny (they are not), then this is your sanctuary.

And as a reward for choosing Grumpy Gamer as your place of escape, here is a very early early page from the Monkey Island Design Notebook that features time travel! I discarded this very quickly, but I've always had a fascination with time travel in games.

You can see it in the premise Gary and I laid out for Day of the Tentacle, then again in Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, also in my un-released game Good & Evil, then again in DeathSpank (although not technically time travel) and finally in The Cave.

And in Monkey Island.


Even More Monkey Island Design Scribbles.

Mar 31, 2014

I am not going to throw these out! That was a joke! Several years ago they got water damaged, so now they are sealed in water proof wrapping and kept safe and insured for $1,000,000.

Also, this is not the "design document", they are just notes and ideas I'd jotted down.  There wasn't a formal design document for the game, just the large complete puzzle dependency chart I keep on my wall. I have no idea where that went to.

Many more to come. Posting these is easier then writing actual blob entries. I'm lazy.

Notes and ideas for Ghost ship and on Monkey Island.

The dream sequence had to wait until Monkey Island 2.

Room layout sketches.



More Tales From The Monkey Island Design Notebook

Mar 28, 2014

Very early brainstorming about ideas and story.

First pass at some puzzles on Monkey Island

Just writing ideas down. I'm surprised "get milk and bread" doesn't appear on this.

Map when ship sailing was more top-down and direct controlled.



Monkey Island Design Notebook #1

Mar 27, 2014

I'm doing some house cleaning and I came across my Monkey Island 1 and 2 design notebooks.  It's interesting to see what changed and what remained the same.

I'll post more... If I don't throw them out. They are smelling kind of musty and I'm running out of space.

My first sketch of Monkey Island

Early puzzle diagram for Largo (before he was named Largo LaGrande)



My 2013 year in review

Dec 30, 2013

I've never written one of these "year in review" posts before. They always seemed silly and the beginning of a new year is just an arbitrary milestone.

Also, it's hard to believe it is 2014. The 8 year old boy in me is disappointed that we don't have moon bases and flying cars, but I guess the Internet is pretty cool. Didn't see that one coming.

The Cave

First up is The Cave. It didn't burn up any sales records or get amazing reviews and was largely forgotten a month after it came out, but you know what? I don't care. It's a game I am incredibly proud of and the team at Double Fine did an amazing job and working on it was a lot of fun. I'll stand by the game until the end of time.

While snowboarding over Christmas, I rode the chairlift with a complete stranger who played and loved The Cave. Suck on that Metacritic.

Scurvy Scallywags

Next up is a iOS game called Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG (actual title) that I built with my good friend Clayton Kauzlaric. Another game that wasn't wildly successful but I'm extremely proud of.

Scurvy Scallywags is Candy Crush for smart people.

While the game didn't come close to making enough money to pay for the time and effort that went into it, Clayton and I decided to port it to Android, which should be out in early 2014.

I guess one of the personal triumphs of Scurvy Scallywags is that I've been in this wretched (I mean wonderful) industry for close to 30 years and I still make games and love it. Every morning I get up and program and design and write and build something. I'm very thankful for that. Maybe I'll die poor and in the streets, but at least I get to do what I love. I'll be the one holding the cardboard sign that says "Will Design Games for Food".

Got in shape

I lost over 75 pounds in the first half of 2013. I now run almost everyday and workout and am probably in the best shape and health of my adult life. It was a lot of work and I didn't use any silly gimmicks or diets, just exercise and completely changed the way I eat. Losing weight is really hard and I've struggled with it my whole life, but it's was rewarding and worth it.

Australia

I went to Australia for the first time and gave the keynote at PAX and made some great friends. I am terrified of public speaking, so I always consider it a win when I can stand up in front of thousands of people and not make a complete fool of myself. Or did I? Don't tell me! I did great, right? Holy crap, now I'm worried.

Snowboarding

I went snowboarding for the first time. I've been skiing since I was 6 (although not in the last 10 years), so I'm no stranger to the snow, but strapping both legs onto a board and sliding down a hill was terrifying. After four days it was starting to make sense and I was able to go where I wanted. I'm really looking forward to my next time.

I hope everyone has a great 2014. I might make a game or something.






My Worthless Souvenir From Australia

Aug 21, 2013

I am predisposed to a gambling addiction, that is one of the things I know about myself. Because of that, I never go to casinos unless it is a very special occasion, like a once every few years trip to Las Vegas with friends. I also know to set a firm gambling budget. A reasonable amount of money that I am comfortable losing, and I never go beyond that.

It's a demon that I keep it locked up.

My game of choice is roulette. Before you tell me how stupid roulette is, please remember that all the games are stupid, no game is more stupid than another. Your choice of game is all about how you want to lose your money and how slow or fast. Roulette can be a low game or a fast game.

Roulette pays 36 to 1 if you hit a number. 18 to 1 if you hit the edge and 9 to 1 on the corners of a number.

If you watch a roulette table, most people play by spreading chips all over the table in small stacks of one or two. This is the slow game. You win just enough to make your chips last. Using this technique you can play roulette hours.

I choose the fast game. It's the big wins I crave.

I pick a number and then put 8 chips on it, then 5 chips on all the edges and 3 chips on the corners. This creates a small pyramid of chips on the table. It's a odd strategy and I've ever seen anyone else use it. After I've placed my chips, it's not uncommon for other players to put a few chips on my number, looking for a little of my action.

A few years back in Las Vegas, I won over $6000 on a single spin of the wheel. I was only down a few hundred at the time, so this was big. I played two more losing spins, then cashed in all my chips and never gambled again on that trip. I knew that $6000 would be gone by the end of the night had I not. I have an addiction, but I also have willpower.

As it would happen, our hotel in Melbourne was connected to the largest casino in Australia. I knew this was going to be trouble. I managed to resist roulette for the first few nights and played the slots with my friend. I marked the 3rd night has the one I would finally hit the tables. My speech would be over and it was my reward.

I started with $150 in chips and burnt though those in less than 10 minutes. I got a hit on a corner, but that was it. I wanted to keep playing, but was done for the night.

I managed to stay away from the tables for the next few nights while I played some more light slots with my friend, but the tables never stopped calling me.

On our next to last night, I got $250 in chips and spent 20 minutes finding the right table.

Finding a table is part of the ritual for me and can take an hour before one feels right. I don't know why it feels right, I'm not looking for anything specific and I'm not superstitious. Part of it is the energy at the table. Too few people and it's boring, too many people and the game moves slow. The people need to be having fun.

I finally found my table and placed my first bet. I was feeling good, so I was betting a little more than usual, stacking the chips a little higher.

The first spin was a loss. Nothing hit. My stack of chips became smaller. Was this going to be another 10 minute night? Something about the table felt right.

I bet again, this time on the number 5. I was still feeling good, so I bet even more. Stacked on the number and all the edges and corners.

The ball began it's trip around the outer wheel and the dealer soon called no more bets. The ball slowed and then fell into the center of the wheel and began it's frantic bouncing as it started to settle on a number. My heart races at this point, it's the 3 seconds before the ball picks it's number that drives all my adrenaline and addiction.

The ball bounced, bounced again and then stop on the number 5. My number. It was a dead-on hit.

The dealer seemed a little confused, like she has never happened before. The number of chips and edges and corners was staggering. She spent a few minutes trying to calculate my winnings and finally called the pit boss over to help and he ended up getting a calculator. The other four players were getting bored. No one bet with me, so I was the only winner and it was a big win. Always get in on the action of a big bet.

When everything was tallied, it won over $2000 on that one spin of the wheel. I played two more spins and didn't hit anything and quit for the night. Willpower. It's all about the willpower.

I got a $1000 chip in the payout and locked in the hotel room safe for the rest of the trip. What was I going to do with it? I could spend another night gambling it away. I could turn it into cash and waste it on food and shelter. Or... I could just keep the chip.

So I kept the chip. I now have a $1000 chip from an Australian casino that is, for all intents and purposes... worthless. There was something ironic and poetic about that.

I carry it around with me as my worthless souvenir from Australia. Ask too see it some time and I'll happily recite the tale.



Scurvy Scallywags iOS Reviews Are In

Jun 06, 2013

Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG is out on the App Store and the reviews have started pouring in and people seem to like it! WTF!

It's currently in the top 50 of paid games and the top 100 in all paid apps in the first 24 hours. WTF!

Who knew scurvy could be so much fun. Diseases involving bleeding gums and tooth loss get a bad rap.


"Scurvy Scallywags bleeds the charm and personality of Ron Gilbert's classics, and is something to appreciate in a landscape of games that often find themselves without an identity."

Touch Arcade Review

"[they have] taken a genre amalgam that's been dear to my heart since Puzzle Quest and injected a heavy dose of humor and a penchant for breaking into song. It's almost the perfect game."

Kotaku

"Scurvy Scallywags might be a match-three puzzler, but it's also a romp through a pirate musical, complete with spectacular sea shanties, vast ships, terrible nautical jokes, and a fiercely addictive central premise that takes the match-three template and shakes it until it's fun."

Pocket Gamer

"Scurvy Scallywags is an enormous breath of fresh air if you've been spending a bunch of time with the current generation of match-3 games."

Touch Arcade Hands On

"Scurvy Scallywags is a noteworthy game because of how different it is. I was skeptical at first that it could blend so many different genres and game mechanics together, but it did so with ease."

148Apps

"Here's our bold statement of the day: Scurvy Scallywags is what every puzzle game secretly wants to be like."

Jay is Games

"I don't know, I kind of like everything about it. This scream ten dollar game!"

IGN Video Review

"It's one of the best match-3 games we've played for ages and it has kept us entertained for hours at a time."

Entertainment Focus

"With addictive gameplay that kept me glued to my iPad and constantly coming back for more, I can't recommend Scurvy Scallywags enough."

Nerdy But Flirty

"I tried [it] out during one lazy afternoon at home. I eventually stopped playing and went outside only to discover that the authorities declared me legally dead. Then I thought, 'I have more time to play Scurvy Scallywags'"

Examiner

"All in all, Scurvy Scallywags is a breath of fresh air and with the iPhone/iPod retina display, it is a joy to play. Give it a shot even if you don't prefer this genre and you may love it as it's the modern match 3 game with RPG elements, a truly unique game."

Appsgoer

"Scurvy Scallywags manages to set itself apart from its competitors by featuring a genuinely amusing script, with charming music and artwork, and actually manages to breathe some new life into the genre of match three puzzle games."

NewbReviewer

"Scurvy Scallywags is hours of fun, and it can get quite addicting not just because of its gameplay, but also for its colorful personality."

EMGNow

"What sets Scurvy Scalllywags apart is its charming pirate story."

UniGameSity

"So if you like match 3 games with a little more depth than matching 3, like pirates, and hate hipsters, Scurvy Scallywags is definitely worth checking out."

Leviathyn

"Go give it a whirl, and kiss the next few hours goodbye. This is about as addictive as it gets, and probably a better choice than crack-cocaine."

International House of Mojo

"I don't remember the last time I was so enamored by a puzzle game, but this one has me wanted to play even as I write this review."

Arcade Sushi

If you know of any other reviews, post them in the comments and I'll add them to the ever growing list.


Got Scurvy?

Jun 04, 2013

I know what you're thinking. Finally! Making games can't be that hard and take that long, and you'd be right, I just spend too much time screwing around and surfing the web.

Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG will be out for iOS on June 6th!

Mark your calendars and stock up on lemons and oranges!




My Favorite Authors

May 28, 2013

My favorite authors in no particular order:

  • J. G. Ballard
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Dan Simmons
  • Stephen King


Scurvy Scallywags Is Almost Here!

May 16, 2013

I know everyone has been doing match-3 finger exercises and visual match training in preparation for Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short and it's almost here!

A build has been submitted to the App Store and now we wait. And wait. And wait.

But to make the waiting more bearable, here is the amazing game play trailer Clayton put together:

I feel Scurvy coming on!


More Scurvy Scallywags

Apr 22, 2013

Some more screen shots from Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short.  This time from the iPad version.  We now have close to 100 different hats, shirts, pants and heads to collect.  I know what you're thinking: "That's crazy!".  And you'd be right... we are crazy! It's probably from scurvy.




Just To Clarify Point Twelve...

Apr 16, 2013

I just wanted to clarify what I wrote in point Twelve because a lot of people have misunderstood it, probably because I did a crappy job of writing it.

Twelve - It would be called Monkey Island 3a.  All the games after Monkey Island 2 don't exist in my Monkey Island universe. My apologies to the all talented people who worked on them and the people who loved them, but I'd want to pick up where I left off.  Free of baggage.  In a carnival.  That doesn't mean I won't steal some good ideas or characters from other games. I'm not above that.

I loved Curse of Monkey Island.  Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern did a masterful job on the game, which is quite a feat given the ending I left them with.  They - and the game - showed nothing but pure respect for the world, and they created some new characters that are just as memorable as the ones in Monkey Island 1 and 2.

When I said "but I'd want to pick up where I left off.  Free of baggage.  In a carnival.",  I meant the very literally.  My story for Monkey Island 3a takes places 2 minutes after the end of Monkey Island 2.  Free of baggage was not meant to imply that I felt Curse of Monkey Island was "baggage", but rather, as I (hypothetically) designed and (hypothetically) wrote Monkey Island 3a, I'd want to be free to take the story where I wanted it to go and not feel compelled to adhere to the games that followed.  If I end up being able to make this game at some point, we all might find that it fits nicely in between Monkey Island 2 and Curse of Monkey Island.

The only thing I objected to in the games that followed was Guybrush and Elaine getting married.  She is too smart for that.

I hope this clarifies what I wrote.


If I Made Another Monkey Island

Apr 14, 2013

Yeah, I know, that sounds like the title of the O.J. Simpson book. I realized that after I typed it, but I'm not going to change it.

So, before I get into this fanciful post, I want to make one thing perfectly clear... actually, I'm just going to make it my first point.  It's probably the most important one.  Actually, I'll make it the first two points.

One - I am not making another Monkey Island. I have no plans to make another Monkey Island. I am not formulating plans to make another Monkey Island.

Two - Let me say that again.  There is no new Monkey Island in works and I have no plans to make one.  I'm just thinking and dreaming and inviting you come along with me.  Please your keep your hands inside the boat at all times.  No standing or you might get wet.

But, If I made another Monkey Island...

Three - It would be a retro game that harkened back to Monkey Island 1 and 2.  I'd do it as "enhanced low-res".  Nice crisp retro art, but augmented by the hardware we have today: parallaxing, depth of field, warm glows, etc.  All the stuff we wanted to do back in 1990 but couldn't.  Monkey Island deserves that.  It's authentic.  It doesn't need 3D.  Yes, I've seen the video, it's very cool, but Monkey Island wants to be what it is.  I would want the game to be how we all remember Monkey Island.

Four - It would be a hardcore adventure game driven by what made that era so great. No tutorials or hint systems or pansy-assed puzzles or catering to the mass-market or modernizing.  It would be an adventure game for the hardcore.  You're going to get stuck.  You're going to be frustrated.  Some puzzles will be hard, but all the puzzles will be fair.  It's one aspect of Monkey Island I am very proud of.  Read this.

Five - I would lose the verbs.  I love the verbs, I really do, and they would be hard to lose, but they are cruft.  It's not as scary as it sounds.  I haven't fully worked it out (not that I am working it out, but if I was working it out, which I'm not, I wouldn't have it fully worked out).  I might change my mind, but probably not.  Mmmmm... verbs.

Six - Full-on inventory.  Nice big juicy icons full of pixels.  The first version of Monkey Island 1 had text for inventory, a later release and Monkey Island 2 had huge inventory icons and it was nirvana.  They will be so nice you'll want to lick them. That's a bullet-point for the box.

Seven - There would be a box. I imagine most copies would be sold digitally, but sometimes you just want to roll around in all your adventure game boxes. I know I do.  Besides, where would you store the code wheel?

Eight - There would be dialog puzzles.  They weren't really puzzles, but that's what we called them.  Being able to tell four jokes at once and meander and getting lost in the humor of a conversation is the staple of Monkey Island.  No one has done it better since.  Just my opinion.

Nine - I would rebuild SCUMM.  Not SCUMM as in the exact same language, but what SCUMM brought to those games. It was a language built around making adventure games and rapid iteration.  It did things Lua could never dream of.  When Lua was in High School, SCUMM beat it up for lunch money.  True story.  SCUMM lived and breathed adventure games.  I'd build an engine and a language where funny ideas can be laughed about at lunch and be in the game that afternoon.  SCUMM did that. It's something that is getting lost today.

Ten - It would be made with a very small team.  Not 30 or 20, but 10 or less.  It means the game would take longer, but it would be more personal and crafted with love. Monkey love. Wait... that's not what I meant...

Eleven - The only way I would or could make another Monkey Island is if I owned the IP.  I've spent too much of my life creating and making things other people own.  Not only would I allow you to make Monkey Island fan games, but I would encourage it.  Label them as such, respect the world and the characters and don't claim they are canon.  Of course, once the lawyers get ahold of that last sentence it will be seven pages long.

Twelve - It would be called Monkey Island 3a.  All the games after Monkey Island 2 don't exist in my Monkey Island universe. My apologies to the all talented people who worked on them and the people who loved them, but I'd want to pick up where I left off.  Free of baggage.  In a carnival.  That doesn't mean I won't steal some good ideas or characters from other games. I'm not above that.

Thirteen - It won't be the Monkey Island 3 I was going to make in 1992. I'm not the same person I was back then. I could never make that game now.  It is lost to time.  Hopefully this one would be better.

Fourteen - The press won't get advanced copies.  I know all the reasons they want to get a game in advance, and they are all valid, but I feel they should play it at the same time you do.  I hope they won't be mad at me.  My Metacritic score hopes they won't be mad it me.

Fifteen - It would have full voice.  It's something we dreamed of back then and we can do it now.

Sixteen - If I used Kickstarter, there would be no fancy videos of me trying to look charming (as if I could).  No concept art or lofty promises or crazy stretch goals or ridiculous reward tiers.  It would be raw and honest.  It would be free of hype and distractions that keep me from making the best game I could.  True, I wouldn't raise huge sums of money or break any records, but that's not what I want to do. I want to make a game.

Seventeen - The game would be the game I wanted to make.  I don't want the pressure of trying to make the game you want me to make.  I would vanish for long periods of time. I would not constantly keep you up-to-date or be feeding the hype-machine.  I'd show stuff that excited me or amused me.  If you let me do those things, you will love the game. That, I promise.

I hope you've had as much fun reading this as I had writing it.






ASM

Apr 11, 2013

I first learned to program on a TI-59 programmable calculator.  My dad "the physicist" would bring it home on weekends and I would monopolize it for the next two days.  I'd make games and type in programs from Byte magazine.  It was a magical device. I don't know what it was about programming that enthralled me, but I was obsessed with it.  It was an odd skill to have back then, even at the level of programmable calculators.  Computers were still the stuff of science fiction or only owned by huge companies or universities and housed large noisy air conditioned rooms with punch-card machines.

One summer the college got two Commodore Pet computers that were destine for the local High School.  My friend, Tom McFarlane and I spent that entire summer in the computer lab programming those Commodore Pet computers.

It was my first experience with BASIC and it blew the socks off of the TI-59.  Tom and I devoured everything about those Commodore Pet computers.  We wrote every game we would could think of from Space Invaders to Astroids to Space Wars to little platformers (although we didn't know that's what they were called).  We challenged and pushed each other and became masters of the PEEK and the POKE.

I do blame the Commodore Pet from one nasty habit that's followed me for over 30 years.  Tom and I realized that if we removed all the comments (the REM statements) from our BASIC code, the game would run significantly faster.  To this day, I find myself deleting comments or whitespace under some misguided pavlovian notion that my code will run faster.

The summer ended and the Commodore Pets made their way to the High School, were I was starting as a freshmen.

As I continued to read about programming and computers (mostly in Byte magazine) this odd and strange concept kept coming up: Assembly Language.  What was it?  How did it work?  And more importantly, what could it do for me?

I started to realize that assembly language was real programming.  BASIC was just an imitation of programming.  A layer that sat on top of this thing called Assembly Language.  You weren't really programming the computer if you weren't programming it in assembly language.  That was getting right down to the metal and I had to know what it was.

Lore said it was fast.  Faster than BASIC and this was very appealing to me.  We were pushing the limits of BASIC, removing features from our games just to speed them up.  If assembly language could help with that, even a little, then it was something I had to learn.

Armed with the knowledge that the Commodore Pet used a 6502, I spent the weekend hand writing this program that would fill the screen with @-signs.  I wanted to see how fast this assembly language really was.  I wrote the same program in BASIC.  I needed a baseline.

After class on Monday, I headed to the computer room and found a free Pet computer and typed in the BASIC program. It filled the screen in a little over 1 second.  Fast.  Could assembly language top that?

I typed in my little assembly language program and entered the SYS command to start it executing... and... nothing.  The machine locked up.  No error message, it just locked up.  Odd.  I power cycled the Commodore Pet, started over and soon found my mistake.  Program entered.

My finger poised above the ENTER key.  I was trying to remember how fast the BASIC program filled the screen. I need to be able to tell if assembly language was faster.  I might need to run several tests, maybe add a timer, just to be sure.

I hit the ENTER key.

The screen instantly filled with @-signs.  Instantly.  So fast that I could not even begin to see them being drawn on the screen.  One moment the screen was blank, then next instant it was full of @-signs.  Instantly.

I just stood there.  "Holy shit" I said to myself.  My heart was pounding.

This truly was a religious experience.  Someone had pulled back the curtain to heaven and given me a glimpse of God.  The speed was staggering.  Stunning.  I had no words for it.

That was the last day I ever programmed in BASIC.  Assembly language was my savior.  I gave into it completely.

I was changed forever.








Goodbye Lucasfilm Games

Apr 02, 2013

It will always be Lucasfilm Games(tm) to me, never LucasArts.  They changed the name a year or so before I left when they rolled a bunch of divisions into this new company called LucasArts and the games group was one of them.  Many years later, all that was left in LucasArts was the old games group, so the name became synonymous with games.

It's hard for me not to be sad. I haven't worked there since 1992, but it was still home to me. I grew up there. I learned just about everything I know about designing games there.  I became a real programmer there.  I made lifelong friends there.  Eight of the most memorable and influential years of my life were spent there.  I would not be who I am today without Lucasfilm Games.

I was hired at Lucasfilm Games by Noah Falstein as a Commodore 64 programmer porting his game Koronis Rift from the Atari 800.

I had just been laid off from a company called Human Engineered Software (my first job) and had moved back to Oregon and was about ready to start college again when the phone rang.

It was someone (I don't remember who) from Lucasfilm Games and they were looking for a Commodore 64 programmer and wanted to know if I was interesting in coming in for an interview.  Holy Crap I said/thought/shouted to myself.  I didn't even know Lucasfilm made games.  Lucasfilm as Star Wars and the foundation of my childhood.  I idealized George Lucas and ILM.  I said I could come in for an interview that week and immediately packed my car and moved back to California.  I just moved back.  There was no way I wasn't going to get that job.

I vividly remember interviewing in an office with Noah and Aric Wilmunder explaining the way you wrote pixels to the C64 screen using their screwed up memory mapping.  They seemed impressed.  Or confused.  Either way as long as I got the job.

My first week at Lucasfilm Games was mind blowing. I had never met a smarter group of people in my life. From Noah to Aric to Gary Winnick to David Fox to Chip Morningstar to Doug Crockford.  I had so much to learn.

The first time I met George Lucas was kind of a disappointment. It was the 10 year anniversary of Star Wars and he and Steven Spielberg and shaved their beards to sneak into a show.  I wanted to met the iconic George Lucas with a beard.

When that person from Lucasfilm first called I almost didn't answer the phone. I was on my way out to met a friend for lunch and had just locked the front door and was halfway to my car. I don't know what caused me to go back inside and answer the phone.  If I hadn't, I would have had a very very very different life.

I still have hope that I might get the rights to Monkey Island back someday. LucasArts shutting down doesn't change anything since Disney bought them back in Oct.  Maybe there will be less of an emotional attachment to it for them.  Who knows.  Not me.

I'm the opposite of a Pack Rat. I don't know if there is a catchy word for that, but that's what I am. I get antsy if I can't move from one place to another by throwing everything I own into the back of my car. Gee, I wonder why?

This is the sum-total of my collection of the games I have worked on over the past 20+ years.  So many missing ones.  Nothing from the years at Humongous Entertainment. No Monkey Island 2. At least they are all still in shrink wrap.

Goodbye Lucasfilm Games.





Screw April Fool's Day

Apr 01, 2013

There, I said what everyone is thinking.  April Fool's Day is an idiotic tradition and Grumpy Gamer is proud to report that it's been completely April Fool's Day free for nine years running.

Please enjoy this cute picture of a puppy and a kitten while you seek refuge from the stupidity of the day.  See you back on the Internet tomorrow.



Scurvy Scallywags

Mar 18, 2013

Here are some screen shots from Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short. It will be coming out for the iPhone and iPad in a couple of months.  I might have found a way to get xcode to build objective-c for Android, if so, we'll port it there.

I've always loved match-3 games, there is something zen-like about playing them.  Seems like whenever I'm testing out a new engine or code base, I always create a quick match-3 game.

A few years back, Clayton and I made a match-3 game called Realms of Gold that had a interesting way the board collapsed.

In traditional match-3 games like Bejeweled, when you match three shapes they disappear and the gap is filled by pieces falling in from the top.  In Realms of Gold, the piece could come in from the sides or even the bottom depending on the type of match you did.

It was fun, but it was also a little confusing.  The game was a RPG, but we were told by the publisher that no one wanted to play a match-3 RPG, so that part of the game was watered down.  Of course, a year later Puzzle Quests comes out and sells a billion copies.

A little over a year ago I pulled a match-3 prototype out of the closest and started working on it.  There was something about the way the board collapsed in Realms of Gold that I really liked.  Clayton and I screwed around with it for a bit, then he hit upon a way to make the collapsing work a lot better.  Rather than the type of match you made dictating the direction the board collapsed, have the board collapse in the direction you swiped.  I made this change and it felt fantastic and very intuitive.

An odd side effect of doing this was you could move pieces around the board.  So unlike Puzzle Quest - and just about every other match-3 RPG that sprang up after it - in Scurvy Scallywags you actually move your hero/pirate around the board and position her/him next to enemies to do battle.  It creates this new layer to the matching that is a lot of fun.

We have close to one hundred different hats, shirts, heads, swords, etc you find and use to dress up your pirate.  There are also ten different ships to build, plus a sea shanty you collect that is sung by real life pirate singers (they work for grog, quite inexpensive).

With any luck, it will be out in the next month or so.

You can also follow @ScurvyGit on twitter to see my live git commit messages.





Deep Inside The Cave - Part 2

Mar 16, 2013

Here are some behind the scenes photos taken during The Cave's early development.

Each of our design weeks would focus on one area of the game.  The first day was just to talk about overarching ideas, the character's backstory, the purpose of the area and what the main goal of the player/character was.  During that first day we'd just throw out wild ideas and see what stuck.

The next day we'd take all those crazy ideas and try to arrive on the core puzzles.  We'd also start to sketch out what the area looked like and where the puzzles might go.

On the third day we'd look at what we had and make refinements.  It was common to have most everything figure out by the end of the second day, with just one or two issues remaining.  On day three we'd resolve those and have a day four if needed.  We tried to design for only three days a week to let our minds rest (as well as get everything else done that needed doing).

This is Dave Gardner mapping out The Scientist area during one of our design meetings.

This is a shot of the whiteboard for The Miner's area during day two.

Once the area had been designed, a quick grey-box was made using Maya.  At this point we could run around using the game's engine and see how it felt.  This is a picture taken during one of our team walk-throughs of The Scientist's area.

The camera is pulled all the way out so we can see the whole thing.  You'll notice the red text that calling out objects and the locations of puzzles.  At this point, none of the logic for the puzzles is working, we're just running around.

This is a picture of the beginning of The Island with The Hillbilly.



Deep Inside The Cave - Part 1

Mar 14, 2013

As promised, here are some behind the scene images from designing The Cave.  J.P. LeBreton, Dave Gardner and I spent several months in a back room designing all the area and puzzles of the game.  I have to say, it was the most fun I've had designing in a long time.  J.P and Dave where amazing to work with.

This is an early layout for the Intro section.  It's much bigger than we ended up with and you will notice we had areas where players would be required to use each character's special ability.  This was also back when The CIA agent and The Mobster were still in the game.  This didn't make it past the greybox stage.  After running around, it was clear it was way too big.  We also felt requiring the training of the special abilities was not really needed.

This was an entire section that we cut.  The original game was about twice the size of what we ended up with and this was one of the sections that didn't make the cut.  It never made it out of the paper stage.



Archive List

Best. Ending. Ever. - Jul 24, 2014

Maniac Mansion Design Doc - Jul 21, 2014

Monkey Poster - Jul 18, 2014

Maniac Mansion Design Notes - Jul 16, 2014

Ten Years Running! - Jul 15, 2014

Commodore 64 - Jul 14, 2014

Monkey Bucks - Jul 10, 2014

Booty From My Seattle Storage Space! - Jul 10, 2014

Who Are These Pirates? - Apr 29, 2014

What is an indie developer? - Apr 18, 2014

Monkey Island Design Notebook Scribblings - Apr 07, 2014

April Fool's Day is Stupid! - Mar 31, 2014

Even More Monkey Island Design Scribbles. - Mar 31, 2014

More Tales From The Monkey Island Design Notebook - Mar 28, 2014

Monkey Island Design Notebook #1 - Mar 27, 2014

My 2013 year in review - Dec 30, 2013

My Worthless Souvenir From Australia - Aug 21, 2013

Scurvy Scallywags iOS Reviews Are In - Jun 06, 2013

Got Scurvy? - Jun 04, 2013

My Favorite Authors - May 28, 2013

Scurvy Scallywags Is Almost Here! - May 16, 2013

More Scurvy Scallywags - Apr 22, 2013

Just To Clarify Point Twelve... - Apr 16, 2013

If I Made Another Monkey Island - Apr 14, 2013

ASM - Apr 11, 2013

Goodbye Lucasfilm Games - Apr 02, 2013

Screw April Fool's Day - Apr 01, 2013

Scurvy Scallywags - Mar 18, 2013

Deep Inside The Cave - Part 2 - Mar 16, 2013

Deep Inside The Cave - Part 1 - Mar 14, 2013

A Complete Map Of The Cave And Other News... - Mar 11, 2013

Progress Bar Porn - Feb 06, 2013

The Cave Is Out! The Cave Is Out! The Cave Is Out! - Jan 23, 2013

The Cave Is Coming! The Cave Is Coming! - Jan 16, 2013

More The Cave Art - Dec 19, 2012

The New The Cave The Trailer - Nov 30, 2012

More Caveshots - Aug 31, 2012

WTF! More Screenshots from The Cave! - Aug 30, 2012

New Screenshot From The Cave - Aug 29, 2012

The Big Big Castle! - Jul 09, 2012

The Color of Money - Jul 01, 2012

The Cave - May 23, 2012

The Explorers - May 23, 2012

The Twins - May 22, 2012

The Knight - May 21, 2012

The Scientist - May 20, 2012

The Adventurer - May 19, 2012

The Time Traveler - May 18, 2012

The Hillbilly - May 17, 2012

The Monk - May 16, 2012

Welcome to the Stupidest Day of the Year - Apr 01, 2012

What My Father Meant To Me - Feb 29, 2012

More Concept Art - Feb 23, 2012

What is an Adventure Game? - Jan 22, 2012

First Concept Art - Nov 28, 2011

Meeting Steve Jobs - Oct 06, 2011

The Vertical Slice - Jul 09, 2011

April Fools' Day #7 - Apr 01, 2011

The Making of Maniac Mansion - Jan 10, 2011

Monkey Island 2 Bug Report - Nov 16, 2010

Game Designer+Artist or Game Designer+Programmer - Jun 01, 2010

Roger, Roger, Roger - Apr 16, 2010

April Fools - Apr 01, 2010

The Tale of the Scurvy Raider - Aug 05, 2009

Stuff and Things and Monkey Island - Jun 01, 2009

April Fools' Day #5 - Apr 01, 2009

Studs Terkel Passes Away - Nov 01, 2008

April Fools' Day #4 - Mar 31, 2008

20 Years of SCUMM - Apr 27, 2007

April Fool's Day - Apr 01, 2006

Grumpy Gamer #9 - Dec 18, 2005

Gilligan Is On The Roof - Sep 07, 2005

Failing at your Entertainment - May 20, 2005

100% April Fools' Joke Free - Apr 01, 2005

World! Of! Warcraft! - Feb 15, 2005

Grumpy Gamer #8 - Feb 01, 2005

Lord of the Rings - Jan 27, 2005

The Twelve Days of Crunch Time - Dec 25, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #7 - Nov 15, 2004

The Economics of a 2D Adventure Today - Oct 19, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #6 - Oct 04, 2004

On Stranger Tides - Sep 20, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #5 - Sep 16, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #4 - Sep 09, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #3 - Sep 01, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #2 - Aug 26, 2004

Grumpy Gamer #1 - Aug 21, 2004

Why Adventure Games Suck - May 13, 2004