Wow! It Is That Time Again

Apr 01, 2017

What is bound to become the longest running gag on the internet, it's time to once again let everyone know that April Fools' Day is stupid.  Although, having April Fools' Day fall on a Saturday seems to keep the stupid to a lower level, or maybe everyone is realizing you and I any sane person knows.

And to show I truly have no shame, I'm going to use this unholy day to "hock my wears".

Thimbleweed Park, the project that has consumed my life for the past two years, and is the reason that the last post I did was exactly one year ago, has shipped.

Please go buy it on Steam or GOG or Xbox.  Please. No, serious, go buy it.

And here are some GIFs to prove how awesome it is.

P.S. April Fools' Day stinks.

Hey, guess what day it is...

Apr 01, 2016

That rights, it's the day the entire Internet magically thinks it's funny.

Pro-tip: You're not.

As Grumpy Gamer has been for going on twelve years, we're 100% April Fools' Day joke free.

I realize that's kind of ironic to say, since this blog is pretty-much everything free these days as I'm spending all my time blogging about Thimbleweed Park, the new point & click adventure game I'm working on.

And no, that is not a joke, check it out.

Happy Birthday Monkey Island

Sep 02, 2015

I guess Monkey Island turns 25 this month. It’s hard to tell.

Unlike today, you didn’t push a button and unleash your game to billions of people. It was a slow process of sending “gold master” floppies off to manufacturing, which was often overseas, then waiting for them to be shipped to stores and the first of the teaming masses to buy the game.

Of course, when that happened, you rarely heard about it. There was no Internet for players to jump onto and talk about the game.

There was CompuServe and Prodigy, but those catered to a very small group of very highly technical people.

Lucasfilm’s process for finalizing and shipping a game consisted of madly testing for several months while we fixed bugs, then 2 weeks before we were to send off the gold masters, the game would go into “lockdown testing”.  If any bug was found, there was a discussion with the team and management about if it was worth fixing.  “Worth Fixing” consisted of a lot of factors, including how difficult it was to fix and if the fix would likely introduce more bugs.

Also keep in mind that when I made a new build, I didn't just copy it to the network and let the testers at it, it had to be copied to four or five sets of floppy disk so it could be installed on each tester’s machine.  It was a time consuming and dangerous process. It was not uncommon for problems to creep up when I made the masters and have to start the whole process again. It could take several hours to make a new set of five testing disks.

It’s why we didn’t take getting bumped from test lightly.

During the 2nd week of “lockdown testing”, if a bug was found we had to bump the release date. We required that each game had one full week of testing on the build that was going to be released. Bugs found during this last week had to be crazy bad to fix.

When the release candidate passed testing, it would be sent off to manufacturing. Sometimes this was a crazy process. The builds destined for Europe were going to be duplicated in Europe and we needed to get the gold master over there, and if anything slipped there wasn’t enough time to mail them. So, we’d drive down to the airport and find a flight headed to London, go to the gate and ask a passenger if they would mind carry the floppy disks for us and someone would meet them at the gate.

Can you imagine doing that these days? You can’t even get to the gate, let alone find a person that would take a strange package on a flight for you. Different world.

After the gold masters were made, I’d archive all the source code. There was no version control back then, or even network storage, so archiving the source meant copying it to a set of floppy disks.

I made these disk on Sept 2nd, 1990 so the gold masters were sent off within a few days of that.  They have a 1.1 version due to Monkey Island being bumped from testing. I don’t remember if it was in the 1st or 2nd week of “lockdown”.

It hard to know when it first appeared in stores. It could have been late September or even October and happened without fanfare.  The gold masters were made on the 2nd, so that what I'm calling The Secret of Monkey Island's birthday.

Twenty Five years. That’s a long time.

It amazes me that people still play and love Monkey Island. I never would have believed it back then.

It’s hard for me to understand what Monkey Island means to people. I am always asked why I think it’s been such an enduring and important game. My answer is always “I have no idea.”

I really don’t.

I was very fortunate to have an incredible team. From Dave and Tim to Steve Purcell, Mark Ferrari, an amazing testing department and everyone else who touched the game's creation. And also a company management structure that knew to leave creative people alone and let them build great things.

Monkey Island was never a big hit. It sold well, but not nearly as well and anything Sierra released. I started working on Monkey Island II about a month after Monkey Island I went to manufacturing with no idea if the first game was going to do well or completely bomb. I think that was part of my strategy: start working on it before anyone could say “it’s not worth it, let's go make Star Wars games”.

There are two things in my career that I’m most proud of. Monkey Island is one of them and Humongous Entertainment is the other. They have both touched and influenced a lot of people. People will tell me that they learned english or how to read from playing Monkey Island. People have had Monkey Island weddings. Two people have asked me if it was OK to name their new child Guybrush. One person told me that he and his father fought and never got along, except for when they played Monkey Island together.

It makes me extremely proud and is very humbling.

I don’t know if I will ever get to make another Monkey Island. I always envisioned the game as a trilogy and I really hope I do, but I don’t know if it will ever happen. Monkey Island is now owned by Disney and they haven't shown any desire to sell me the IP. I don’t know if I could make Monkey Island 3a without complete control over what I was making and the only way to do that is to own it. Disney: Call me.

Maybe someday. Please don’t suggest I do a Kickstarter to get the money, that’s not possible without Disney first agreeing to sell it and they haven’t done that.


Happy Birthday to Monkey Island and a huge thanks to everyone who helped make it great and to everyone who kept it alive for Twenty Five years.

I thought I'd celebrate the occasion by making another point & click adventure, with verbs.

Once Again...

Apr 01, 2015

In what's become a global internet tradition that will be passed down for generations to come...

Grumpy Gamer is 100% April Fools' joke free because April Fools' Day is a stupid fucking tradition.  There.  I said what everyone is thinking.

Thimbleweed Park Dev Blog

Feb 20, 2015

If you're wondering why it's so quiet over here at Grumpy Gamer, rest assured, it has nothing to do with me not being grumpy anymore.

The mystery can be solved by heading on over to the Thimbleweed Park Dev Blog and following fun antics of making a game.

I Was A Teengage Lobot

Jan 09, 2015

This was the first design document I worked on while at Lucasfilm Games. It was just after Koronis Rift finished and I was really hoping I wouldn't get laid off.  When I first joined Lucasfilm, I was a contractor, not an employee. I don't remember why that was, but I wanted to get hired on full time. I guess I figured I'd show how indispensable I was by helping to churn out game design gold like this.

This is probably one of the first appearances of "Chuck", who would go on to "Chuck the Plant" fame.

You'll also notice the abundance of TM's all over the doc. That joke never gets old.  Right?

Many thanks to Aric Wilmunder for saving this document.

Shameless plug to visit the Thimbleweed Park Development Diary.

Thimbleweed Park Development Diary

Jan 01, 2015

The Thimbleweed Park Development Diary is now live. Updated at least every Monday, probably much more.

Happy Holidays

Dec 24, 2014


Dec 18, 2014

Thimbleweed Park was funded with all stretch goals met, from translations to iOS and Android versions. We can't even begin to thank everyone for all the support and backing.

You can read the backer update here.

Gary and I are going to take a break during the holidays, then we'll start working full time on the Jan 2nd.

There will be a dev blog on where we'll talk about the game's development. Our goal is to post at least once a week going over art, puzzles, characters, design and code.

Once everything has cleared, I'm going to do a detailed blog post about the ups, downs and surprises of running a Kickstarter.

Final Hours!

Dec 17, 2014

[Join us on Kickstarter]


Dec 14, 2014

Really excited we made the Talkies stretch goal. Knowing that an actor is going to read lines you wrote is always exciting.

To answer some questions a few backers (or potential backers) have asked...

Yes, you will be able to turn the talkies off and just read the text.  Yes, you will be able to display the text on screen and listen to the talkies, or not display the text and just listen to the talkies.  And, yes, you will be able to skip each line if you like hearing the voice, but read really fast.  Back in the SCUMM days, the '.' key would end the current line and I plan on implementing that in Thimbleweed Park.  It will cut off the audio, but that's OK because the player is doing it.

Thanks so much for everyone's support and belief in this project. It's going to be a really fun year! Gary and I can't wait to start up the dev blog and start talking about the game.

Talkies First

Dec 08, 2014

We’re going to swap the Talkies™ and the iOS/Android stretch goals and here is our logic…

We've heard from a lot of our backers through the comments, private messages and emails who want full voice in Thimbleweed Park. It might be a vocal minority, but it’s a lot more than just a few people. Gary and I also want to do full voice. I love hearing characters come to life though a great actor, it makes the game a lot more accessible, and it’s just a lot of fun to do.

The other reason is that distributing mobile versions to backers is way more complicated than PC/Mac/Linux, so we’re stuck in this situation where backers might need to buy the mobile versions and that’s a little awkward. Plus mobile ports are something we can potentially fund later if we don't hit the stretch goal, but voices need to be done as part of the initial development.

So, for these reasons, we’re going to swap the stretch goals to put talkies first and the mobile ports second. Of course we could still make both goals, and I hope we do! But if we don't... well, it feels like our backers would rather have talkies.

We hope this doesn’t create too much confusion. We wanted to give you some insight into our thought process. Gary and I like to think stuff through and not be impulsive. We might be a little slow, but we try to be very steady and reliable and in the end that's why we'll hopefully make a great game that we all love.

This doesn't mean we won't have iOS/Android ports.  I do most of my gaming on mobile and it they are really important, but it felt like the Talkies™ should be integrated into the main development, plus mobile players will get to enjoy them as well.

If you haven't already, please join us on Kickstarter!

Congratulation to Ken and Roberta!

Dec 06, 2014

Congratulation to Ken and Roberta for their Industry Icon Award. Well deserved.

Over the years, I’ve given Sierra a lot of crap, but the honest fact is that without King's Quest, there would be no Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island. It really did set the template that we all followed.

I’ve told this story before, but you’re going to listen to it again…

A few months into Maniac Mansion, Gary and I had a bunch of fun ideas, some characters, and a creepy old mansion, but what we didn’t have was a game. There was nothing to hang any of our ideas on top of.

I was feeling a little lost. “There is no game”, I kept saying.

We had our christmas break and I went down to visit my Aunt and Uncle. My eight year old cousin was playing King's Quest I. I’d never seen the game before and I watched him for hours.  Everything Gary and I had been talking about suddenly made sense.  Maniac Mansion should be an adventure game.

Without King's Quest, I don’t know if that leap would have happened. No matter how innovative and new something is, it's always built on something else. Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island are built on King's Quest.

We always had a fun rivalry with Sierra and they always made us try harder and be better.

Thank you Ken and Roberta and everyone else at Sierra.

Maniac Mansion Used a Joystick

Dec 03, 2014

The C64 version of Maniac Mansion didn't use a mouse, it used one of these:

A year later we did the IBM PC version and it had keyboard support for moving the cursor because most PCs didn't have a mouse.  Monkey Island also had cursor key support because not everyone had a mouse.

Use the above facts to impress people at cocktail parties.

Translations Achieved!

Nov 30, 2014

Stretch Goals

Nov 22, 2014

We just announced stretch goals for Thimbleweed Park.

"What the hell is Thimbleweed Park?", I can hear you asking.

It's a Kickstarter for Gary Winnick and my all new classic point & click adventure game.

Now I hear you saying "What the hell are stretch goals?"

Look, there is way too much to explain, just roll with it and go back Thimbleweed Park.

Please Join Us On Kickstarter

Nov 18, 2014

I'm going to keep this short.

Several months ago, Gary Winnick and I were sitting around talking about Maniac Mansion, old-school point & click adventures, how much fun we had making them and how amazing it was to be at Lucasfilm Games during that era.  We chatted about the charm, simplicity and innocence of the classic graphic adventure games.

We had to call them "Graphic Adventures" because text adventures were still extremely popular. It was a time of innovation and taking risks.

"Wouldn't it be fun to make one of those again?", Gary said.

"Yeah", I replied as a small tear forming in the corner of my eye*.

A few seconds later I said "Let's do a Kickstarter!".

After a long pause, Gary said  "OK".

We immediately started building the world and the story, layering in the backbone puzzles and forming characters around them.  From the beginning, we knew we wanted to make something that was a satire of Twin Peaks, X-Files and True Detective.  It was ripe with flavor and plenty of things to poke fun at.

So we're doing an Kickstarter for an all new classic point & click adventure game called "Thimbleweed Park". It will be like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered Lucasfilm graphic adventure game you’ve never played before. Good times for all.

Please join us on Kickstarter!

* The small tear in Ron's eye was added by the author for dramatic effect. No tear actually formed.


Nov 17, 2014


Nov 16, 2014


Nov 14, 2014


Nov 13, 2014


Nov 13, 2014

Blah Blah Blah

Oct 18, 2014

Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.

Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah!!!

Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah?  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah?

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah!


My Understanding Of Charts

Aug 27, 2014

Puzzle Dependency Charts

Aug 10, 2014

In part 1 of 1 in my series of articles on games design, let’s delve into one of the (if not THE) most useful tool for designing adventure games: The Puzzle Dependency Chart. Don’t confuse it with a flow chart, it’s not a flow chart and the subtle distinctions will hopefully become clear, for they are the key to it’s usefulness and raw pulsing design power.

There is some dispute in Lucasfilm Games circles over whether they were called Puzzle Dependency Charts or Puzzle Dependency Graphs, and on any given day I'll swear with complete conviction that is was Chart, then the next day swear with complete conviction that it was Graph. For this article, I'm going to go with Chart. It's Sunday.

Gary and I didn’t have Puzzle Dependency Charts for Maniac Mansion, and in a lot of ways it really shows. The game is full of dead end puzzles and the flow is uneven and gets bottlenecked too much.

Puzzle Dependency Charts would have solve most of these problems. I can’t remember when I first came up with the concept, it was probably right before or during the development of The Last Crusade adventure game and both David Fox and Noah Falstein contributed heavy to what they would become. They reached their full potential during Monkey Island where I relied on them for every aspect of the puzzle design.

A Puzzle Dependency Chart is a list of all the puzzles and steps for solving a puzzle in an adventure game. They are presented in the form of a Graph with each node connecting to the puzzle or puzzle steps that are need to get there.  They do not generally include story beats unless they are critical to solving a puzzle.

Let’s build one!

I always work backwards when designing an adventure game, not from the very end of the game, but from the end of puzzle chains.  I usually start with “The player needs to get into the basement”, not “Where should I hide a key to get into some place I haven’t figured out yet.”

I also like to work from left to right, other people like going top to bottom. My rational for left to right is I like to put them up on my office wall, wrapping the room with the game design.

So... first, we’ll need figure out what you need to get into the basement...

And we then draw a line connecting the two, showing the dependency. “Unlocking the door” is dependent on “Finding the Key”.  Again, it’s not flow, it’s dependency.

Now let’s add a new step to the puzzle called “Oil Hinges” on the door and it can happen in parallel to the "Finding the Key" puzzle...

We add two new puzzle nodes, one for the action “Oil Hinges” and it’s dependency “Find Oil Can”.  “Unlocking” the door is not dependent on “Oiling” the hinges, so there is no connection. They do connect into “Opening” the basement door since they both need to be done.

At this point, the chart is starting to get interesting and is showing us something important: The non-linearity of the design. There are two puzzles the player can be working on while trying to get the basement door open.

There is nothing (NOTHING!) worse than linear adventure games and these charts are a quick visual way to see where the design gets too linear or too unwieldy with choice (also bad).

Let's build it back a little more...

When you step back and look at a finished Puzzle Dependency Chart, you should this kind of overall pattern with a lot of little sub-diamond shaped expansion and contraction of puzzles.  Solving one puzzle should open up 2 or 3 new ones, and then those collapses down (but not necessarily at the same rate) to a single solution that then opens up more non-linear puzzles.

The game starts out with a simple choice, then the puzzles begin to expand out with more and more for the player to be doing in parallel, then collapse back in.

I tend to design adventures games in “acts”, where each act ends with a bottle neck to the next act. I like doing this because it gives players a sense of completion, and they can also file a bunch of knowledge away and (if need) the inventory can be culled).

Monkey Island would have looked something like this...

I don’t have the Puzzle Dependency Chart for Monkey Island, or I’d post it. I’ve seen some online, but they are more “flowcharts” and not “dependency charts”. I’ve had countless arguments with people over the differences and how dependency charts are not flowcharts, bla bla bla. They’re not. I don’t completely know why, but they are different.

Flowcharts are great if you’re trying to solve a game, dependency charts are great if you’re trying to design a game. That’s the best I can come up with.

Here is a page from my MI design notebook that shows a puzzle in the process of being created using Puzzle Dependency Charts. It’s the only way I know how to design an adventure game. I’d be lost without them.

So, how do you make these charts?

You'll need some software that automatically rebuilds the charts as you connect nodes. If you try and make these using a flowchart program, you’ll spend forever reordering the boxes and making sure lines don’t cross. It’s a frustrating and time consuming process and it gets in the way of using these as a quick tool for design.

Back at Lucasfilm Games, we used some software meant for project scheduling. I don’t remember the name of it, and I’m sure it’s long gone.

I’ve only modern program that does this well is OmniGraffle, but it only runs on the Mac. I’m sure there are others, but since OmniGraffle does exactly what I need, I haven’t look much deeper. I'm sure there are others.

OmniGraffle is built on top of the unix tool called graphviz. Graphviz is great, but you have to feed everything in as a text file. It’s a nerd level 8 program, but it’s what I used for DeathSpank.

You can take a look at the DeathSpank Puzzle Dependency Chart here, but I warn you, it's a big image, so get ready to zoom-n-scroll™. You can also see the graphviz file that produced it.

Hopefully this was interesting. I could spend all day long talking about Puzzle Dependency Charts. Yea, I'm a lot of fun on a first date.

SCUMM Notes From The C64

Aug 06, 2014

More crap that is quickly becoming a fire hazard. Some of my notes from building SCUMM on the C64 for Maniac Mansion.

I'm not sure who's phone number that is on the last page. I'm afraid to call it.

2D Point and Click Engine Recommendations

Aug 03, 2014

I’m looking for some good recommendations on modern 2D point-and-click adventure game engines. These should be complete engines, not just advice to use Lua or Pascal (it’s making a comeback). I want to look at the whole engine, not just the scripting language.  PC based is required. Mobile is a ok. HTML5 is not necessary. Screw JavaScript. Screw Lua too, but not as hard as JavaScript.

I’m not so much interested in using them, as I’d just like to dissect and deconstruct what the state of the art is today.

P.S. I don’t know why I hate Lua so much. I haven’t really used it other than hacking WoW UI mods, but there is something about the syntax that makes it feel like fingernails on a chalkboard.

P.P.S It's wonderful that "modern 2d point-and-click" isn't an oxymoron anymore.

P.P.P.S Big bonus points if you've actually used the engine. I do know how to use Google.

P.P.P.P.S I want engines that are made for adventure games, not general purpose game engines.

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.


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.


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."


"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."


"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'"


"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."


"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."


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


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


"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."


"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.

Archive List

Wow! It Is That Time Again - Apr 01, 2017

Hey, guess what day it is... - Apr 01, 2016

Happy Birthday Monkey Island - Sep 02, 2015

Once Again... - Apr 01, 2015

Thimbleweed Park Dev Blog - Feb 20, 2015

I Was A Teengage Lobot - Jan 09, 2015

Thimbleweed Park Development Diary - Jan 01, 2015

Happy Holidays - Dec 24, 2014

Funded! - Dec 18, 2014

Final Hours! - Dec 17, 2014

Talkies - Dec 14, 2014

Talkies First - Dec 08, 2014

Congratulation to Ken and Roberta! - Dec 06, 2014

Maniac Mansion Used a Joystick - Dec 03, 2014

Translations Achieved! - Nov 30, 2014

Stretch Goals - Nov 22, 2014

Please Join Us On Kickstarter - Nov 18, 2014

FYI - Nov 17, 2014

FYI - Nov 16, 2014

FYI - Nov 14, 2014

FYI - Nov 13, 2014

FYI - Nov 13, 2014

Blah Blah Blah - Oct 18, 2014

My Understanding Of Charts - Aug 27, 2014

Puzzle Dependency Charts - Aug 10, 2014

SCUMM Notes From The C64 - Aug 06, 2014

2D Point and Click Engine Recommendations - Aug 03, 2014

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