Friday Questions #3

Jan 18, 2018

Yay, it's time for the answers to last Friday's Questions. I'm posting them a little early because I'm going skiing tomorrow. Yay! Skiing!

Let's get moving before global warming melts all the snow.

Romulus: What your programming environment looks like? Headphones and music while doing? How you divide your time between making games and living "real life" ?

I work on a Mac exclusively. When I need to compile a Windows or Linux build, I start up a VM. I can't listen to music while I program, I need complete quiet. When I write, music is helpful. Dividing my life between making games and real life is a struggle. I need to leave the house to fully disconnect. In the winters, I go skiing. I'm off skiing today.

Giorgio Novelli: Why did you leave Lucasfilm? I never found a satisfying answer on the internet and it still kind of haunts and confuses me.

I had worked at Lucasfilm for 8 years and learned a lot, not just about game design and programming, but also marketing, PR, and production and I felt like I needed to try it all for myself. I also had the idea of making adventure games for kids. I floated it by Lucasfilm Games and they weren't interested. It feels like the confusing thing for a lot of people about me leaving comes from them thinking I was leaving an amazingly successful franchise and why would I do that? That's because, at the time, Monkey Island wasn't. It sold well, but not amazingly well. Sierra Online was selling 10x the copies we were and it's was only 20 years later that Monkey Island has taken on this almost mythic nature in people's memories. That wasn't true back then.

PiecesOfKate: Considering the potential benefits of social media (such as Twitter) for promoting a game, versus your personal dislike of those channels - if you were to make another game would you rejoin, or avoid it? For clarity I'm referring to a personal Ron Gilbert presence, not the game brand.

I've thought about this a lot. If I was just releasing a new game, I don't think I would need to come back, but if I was doing a Kickstarter, it would be really hard to not leverage social media.

Gustavo: Hi Ron. I have always wondered about the "Extra 5 USD for Guilt Absolution" tier on the Kickstarter campaign that I and 3047 other people choose. Where did that idea come from? Did you expect to have so many people voluntarily choose to pay 5 USD more than the "standard" tier?

I don't remember who came up with this, but we knew it was going to be popular, and if not popular, then funny.

Nathan: Given the engine and assets of TWP, would a sequel be significantly cheaper / quicker to produce?

I don't think it would. The engine didn't add that much to the development time and cost. Maybe 20%, but saving 20% isn't significant and that savings would get eaten up in engine enhancements and me wanting to do more artistically with the presentation. Holding true to the spirit of Maniac Mansion (dollhouse view, no close-ups or cinematic presentation (think about the difference between Maniac Mansion and DotT)) saved us a lot. We could make a new game cheaper if it had the same look and feel, but that isn't creatively interesting for me. If I do another point-and-click, I want to push what a point-and-click can be, but still staying true to the form.

LostTrainDude: Where do you think improvement and evolution lie in the future of adventure games, considering their heavily-scripted nature? Is it in technology or in better design? What is it that you would like to see in an adventure game and didn't yet? This discussion rises from my curiosity in Chris Crawford's work on Interactive Storytelling (which you may be familiar with as well).

The future of interactive narrative is in true AI. I don't think AI will ever be able to tell compelling stories on its own (stories are compelling because they are soulful depictions of the human experience), but there is so much "filling" that goes on in an interactive story that AI would be perfect for. It's probably a couple of (human) generations away.

Zak Phoenix McKracken: Which are the most bizarre things you had to sign, to please your fans?

Some dude's breast.

MK8bit: Do you think Thimbleweed Park would make a good novel too and what are your opinions on TP fan fiction and its publishing (fair use okay, but make-a-dime-with-em and be cease and desist'ed)?

I don't think Thimbleweed Park would make a good novel. The whole story is about it's medium and just telling you about it (in novel form) removes you from the whole point. I'm fine with fan fiction and long as it stays "fan". It's not so much about making money as not turning it into an industry. There is a lot of Thimbleweed Park fan art (and even people selling it), and I don't have a problem as long as 1) You can't use our trademarks, 2) it's not confused with official/licensed merchandise, 3) you're not making too much. It's a big grey area and I'll know it when I see it.

Nikita Sokolov: Thanks for our childhood! And my question is - who is your character in World of Warcraft? Is it an elf? Or an orc? Or a pandaren may be?)) And what is your class? A Mage?

Depending on my role in the raid I will play a (Horde) Warlock, Death Knight or Shaman. That said, I haven't played in over 3 years. Blizzard locked my account due to someone trying to hack it and it hasn't been worth the effort to unlocked it. Thimbleweed Park was probably the better for it.

Erik: Would you consider going back in the direction of Humongous Entertainment by creating games that are solely aimed at kids rather than "grown ups"? Do you ever think about that segment of games?

The kids market has changed a lot in the last 15 years and I don't find it interesting anymore. It's all about licensed games, quick disposable mobile games, or these odd social website type games. What I loved about making games at Humongous Entertainment was telling stories as adventure games. I don't think there is a big market for that anymore.

Dryade: If you never manage to make Monkey Island 3, which would be a tragedy, will you divulge the secret of Monkey Island or will it just vanish with you and keep us all forever in anguish?

Here is the deal with the "secret" of Monkey Island: It's just not that interesting now (it was back then). But over the last 25 years, it's grown to almost mythic proportions. If I told you the secret, you'd go "Oh... that's kind of dumb". If I was ever to do Monkey Island 3a, the trick would be to take the core of the secret and build it into something that lived up to the hype. I would never create a new or different secret (that's unfair), rather, it would be about making it more meaningful, relevant, and build on the mythology. I have an idea on how to do that, but it's not fully formed and sorry to disappoint everyone, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it these days.

Lancelot's Hangover: After beta testing, what do you do if you realize a series of puzzles doesn't work. Do you cut off the whole series of the puzzles (meaning wasting time/art/effort)? Do you try to make those puzzles easier by giving more explicit hints through dialogs and hotspot/object descriptions? Do you keep most art and animations but rebuild the whole series of puzzle in a different way?

I assume you mean "playtesting" since we don't do beta testing. But, at any point in development, from playtesters, bug testers, or us playing the game, we're constantly finding puzzles that don't work. That's a normal part of the design process. Most of the time it's a simple tweak like adding or changing a line of dialog or moving a clue. Other times we've had to take the entire puzzle chain and move it to a different part of the game (we did this with the Pigeons in Thimbleweed Park) and this can involve doing new art or animation. There are other times where the core of the puzzle just doesn't work, so you just cut it and never look back. Ideally, your production process is such that most of this happens when you're still in a pre-production and making large changes doesn't cost that much, but occasionally, you're making big puzzle edits late in the process and you just take the hit. I'd rather throw out good work than leave it in and diminish the experience. I can't think of a single large puzzle we cut in Thimbleweed Park once we got out of pre-production.

If you have any riveting questions for next week, put them in the comments. Make sure you start it with Q:

Azrapse Jan 19, 2018
Q: In Thimbleweed Park, one of the (to me) most surprising changes/features added post release was the ability to remove the "Annoying in-jokes". Why did you feel that some jokes needed to be removed from the game? Did some people get offended and you had to self-censor, or perhaps you found they didn't really work post release for most players? Is the reason any similar to the "tunahead" incident in Maniac Mansion?

Kevinoooo Jan 19, 2018
Q: Sorry if you get this question a lot, but what's next for you? More TWP? A different game? Something that isn't a game at all?

Bosbeetle Jan 19, 2018
Q: As an "amature" programmer working in science, I tend to write my code just stumbling through my data discovering new things while programming. Did you ever stumble on something while making a game that added to your programming or that added to your game? And did such a thing ever change a game major game mechanic, or are the mechanics always completely premeditated?

Danscro Jan 19, 2018
I'm surprised that people in the industry wouldn't recognise that a Gilbert-helmed Monkey Island game would get a lot of press/public attention and probably be quite successful.  It's not as if they'd have to invest an 'AAA' amount of money into it.

Q: What did you make of the new season of Twin Peaks?

Tom Jan 19, 2018
Q: I've been seeing Thimbleweed Park being referenced a few times in Twin Peaks discussion groups, but there was a specific claim that one of the reasons Thimbleweed Park ended up being the title was because it had the same abbreviation as Twin Peaks. Any truth to that?

I also read in your 2018 goals that you'd want to talk about "everything we screwed up with Thimbleweed Park" ... do you have an example or two you would like to share for curious minds?

Also, not a question, but a humble request. If you ever decide to create another adventure  game, please pleeeease do not ditch the verbs, or at least make them optional if the design would allow for it. Something just feels right about that sort of interface, so Thimbleweed Park was an appreciated effort not only because it was a nice trip memory lane combined with a few twists, but the game seriously filled a gap in the market for me and would love to see more of this type of games.

Paul Nicholas (@Liquidream) Jan 19, 2018
Q: Have you (or would you consider) ever entering into Game Development "Jam" contests (such as LDJam, etc.)?

I've only recently started doing Game Development (in my spare time), and I've personally  found Jams to be a mostly positive experience. Their short/capped work period (low # days, or low # weeks) has several advantages: focus the mind, limit scale of project from "ballooning", ideal for testing out new tools/engines.
Plus, I've created at least two Jam entries that I'd be happy to further develop into complete titles - they were ideas that I'd NEVER have found just thinking on my own, but came out of finding a game to fit a theme.
There are downsides; time being (ironically) one of them - as they tend to require short, but consistent time to work on.  But the flip-side to that is, if you run out of time - you can still finish at your own pace. Likewise, if the idea is going nowhere, you've only invested a small amount of time - so hopefully less "attachment" issues.
Anyway, just wondered whether they are anything you've ever considered/done?

Ayime Jan 19, 2018
Q: First of all, Thanks. Thanks for all the moments you give me. I love your work. You are  gorgeous!!!

Here are my questions:

Any news about your New RPG Project? Has Disney contacted with you? Any news about your MI & MM rights?  Are there any posibility to see you on Spain soon?

Greetings from Spain ;)

Leisure Suit Larry Jan 19, 2018
What would happen if someone were to lump millions and millions of dollars into a pot and put all the icons of adventure game history (Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, Tim Schafer, Roberta Williams and even Al Lowe) together? Would this result in a useful game, or would so many cooks spoil the broth?

Pixelated buddy Jan 19, 2018
What do you think is still technically possible to get out of Pixel-Art games? Have you seen "The Last Night" scheduled for release in 2018?

Benny Jan 19, 2018
If you were to banish the entire computer game branch from your life, what would you have become famous with? What were the other dreams of the young Grumpy Gamer?

Nils Jan 19, 2018
Q: Great news that you'r visiting Norway and Retrospillmessen this year. Will you be holding some sort of speech/presentation? And will there be TWP merch?

Peter L Jan 19, 2018
Q: What games engine you would recommend for building adventure games, I have been using Unity for almost a year for two other game projects at work but it doesn't feel right for an adventure game and the idea of building my own engine is frankly a terrifying notion, I am good with code but that is just scary. I want to start building a small adventure game that I have been designing on paper for a long time. (Insert crazed fan ramblings about MI and TWP here)

uriel Jan 19, 2018
Q: Do you have a list of 'features' you would like to add to your TWP engine? Can you name a few? Thanks, really enjoying Friday questions!

Lancelot's Hangover Jan 19, 2018
Thanks (again) for your answer, Ron. Not really a question, but a quick request: would you be OK to publish the complete PDC of TWP (or other game design docs)? According to last week's comments, it seems to interest a lot of us.

Jakob Jan 19, 2018
Q: Are you going to do some Twitch streams in 2018? I would love to watch you play some of your own games.

Giorgio Novelli Jan 19, 2018
I just want to thank you for your kind and complete answer.
Now I feel a bit like Rapp Scallion after making sure the gas is turned off, at peace with myself.

Xandro Vidal Jan 19, 2018
Q: What do you think about the possibility of making adventure games in VR?  I think this technique would allow the players to explore the enviroment in a very realistic way. Would you like to develop an VR adventure game?

Blombo Jan 19, 2018
Q: Hi Ron. Memory is hazy, but I recall a video in which you talked about some tech you used at LucasFilm that let you (I think) debug and/or run C64 programs on a mainframe. How did that work?
I'd love to hear some details about that. Thank you!

Something of the Head Jan 20, 2018
Q: In multicharacter adventures there are situations in which none of the characters has enough knowledge to solve a puzzle. Only the player, with all their info, can do it. There are examples of this in Maniac Mansion, The Cave and especially, because of the extreme incommunication, The Day of the Tentacle. While the player knows what he is doing, the characters seem to be acting randomly (like pushing a button to open a door to free a friend without even knowing that the friend is trapped). Some times even if you suppose they are sharing info behind the scenes the puzzle can't be solved without the magic of the God player. It's obvious you try to make puzzles that are fair for the player, but do you feel something is wrong when a puzzle is not fair for the characters? Or it's enough if the player can solve it and it is fun?

[Example of fair/unfair puzzle: Medieval setting (no cell phones, etc.). At one end of a forest there's a talking tree that tells a different password every 30 seconds. At the other end of the forest, there's a rock that will move, showing a passage, only if you say the current password. It can't be solved without the help of the player. The characters don't even know why they do what they do.

Example of fair/almost fair puzzle: The talking tree is on the top of a very high and noisy waterfall and the rock is at the bottom of it. One of the characters gets the password, writes it down and throws it inside a bottle. The other character takes the bottle from the shore and gets the password. It's only semi-random, because, even without talking to each other, the environment changes are convenient enough to solve the puzzle.]

Stephen Jan 20, 2018
Q: What does  day in the life of Ron Gilbert look like? Especially now that TWP is mostly finished and you don't have to publically talk about what you're doing all the time. Wake up, drink coffee, code stuff, blog, code more stuff?

Guga Jan 20, 2018
Q: will you ever release the TWP engine?

Christian Jan 20, 2018
Q: Following up on LostTrainDude's question about the evolution of adventure games: The thimbleweed park blog made it perfectly clear what went into shipping the game and you already said that it has the right size, etc. But imagine you had a very big budget and several years of time for Thimbleweed Park and could just be really really wasteful with all ressources: What could that have been? Especially when not using this budget and time on more animation etc. Would the world be much bigger? Would there be many random interactions depening on small choices like a butterfly effect?

Noah Jan 21, 2018
Q: If Monkey Island 3a was ever made, would you try and get Steve Purcell to do the box art and Michael Land the music?

LowLevel Jan 21, 2018
Q: Why in your opinion the adventure games developed at LucasFilm Games never sold as much as the Sierra adventure games?

Chris Ainsley Jan 21, 2018
What is your opinion on text adventures? Specifically, the old style 'colossal cave' style text adventures (rather than the more narrative IF titles)?  Has the introduction of Amazon Alexa and Google Home given you pause for though on this long dead genre?

Dyoghenes Jan 21, 2018
Q: Do you know about Four Last Things or have you played it? If yes, what do you think of it? It would be great to hear your remarks about that game because its official Steam pages states that it's "kind of like if Monkey Island had been made in 16th century Flanders, by a time-travelling Monty Python fanboy..."

Jack A Jan 22, 2018
Q: You are a Mac user exclusively from what I have read, why and when did you make the change to Apple based products/operating systems, what is it that interests you from a programming point of view on Apple OS?

I myself have been using Mac exclusively for music/video production since 2012

Something of the Head Jan 23, 2018
Q: When designing a clue system, how do you choose the right info you must give to the player in his current state? How can you know what the player knows or intuits? For example, in a straight chain of puzzles, where the last ones are rather the real objectives of the game and the first ones are the latest obstacles the player found and the most immediate problems to solve, do you tell him something closer to the end (which the player can find useless if he had already understood his final objective) or closer to the beginning (which can be illogical actions to him if he had not understood the bigger objectives)? Or do you choose a vague clue that covers part of the chain of puzzles?

Dryade Jan 24, 2018
Pardon me if this is a touchy question, but your input would be most appreciated as it seems you have first hand experience with this.

Q: From the pictures that can be seen of you in the recent years, versus the older ones, it seems you have become a lot healthier individual. Do you attribute this to a change in diet or do you allocate more time of your schedule for physical activity, or both? Losing weight is something I and many of the people in the industry struggle with as our jobs involve sitting for hours on end in front of a machine. What was your secret to healthiness and to stay motivated? Thank you for sharing if you choose to and congratulations, you look fantastic!

Randal Jan 26, 2018
Can you expand on that neural network quote?

Samuel Abram Jan 28, 2018
Why aren't you going to release the WIMPY engine code in some capacity? It was paid for by Kickstarter backers (and a tiny bit by Microsoft, but only for the XBox One version to get a head start), so there's no reason why you should keep the engine code locked up. If you need money to hire an attorney to draft up a license, couldn't you crowdfund that too?

Samuel S Abram Jan 28, 2018
Sorry, my last comment should have started with a "Q:"

Diego S. Jan 29, 2018
Q: did you get inspiration from the movie "The thirteenth floor" to create Thimbleweed Park? That bar in the last chapter looks familiar, and the 4th wall break too

Rado Jan 30, 2018
Q: What are your thoughts on "Grim Fandango"?

Diego Feb 07, 2018
When I was a kid in the 80s/90s what I most liked from adventute games was spending hours on trying to solve a puzzle, and If i couldn't do it then I had to wait until the next day to talk to some friend in school and together. In some extreme cases I wolud talk on the phone tp someone who had already got past it. If no one knew how to beat that puzzle I had to wait  for the walkthroug to be published on a magazine (calling to the 0800 hint line was not an option).
Nowadays, that information flows almost instantly through the internet, it fells different, if you got stuck you can google. It just sucks big time.
I believe that the lack of online help was what made those games so legendary.

Q: Have you ever thougth about this? If the whole genre of point and click adventures didn't exists and someone created it today, even the same games, Would those games be remembered as classics in the 2030s/40s?

Pittsburgh Pete Feb 13, 2018
Q: Would you be into doing a game set in medieval times?

Hamid Mar 03, 2018
Dear Mr. Gilbert

My name is Hamid and I am 30. All off my childhood was covered with Monkey island series and I have played them more than 5 times!!! Is there any chance for monkey island 6 in 2018 or later?!! Thimbelweed park is nice but monkey island is something else!!!

Hamid Mar 03, 2018
Q:My name is Hamid and I am 30. All off my childhood was covered with Monkey island series and I have played them more than 5 times!!! Is there any chance for monkey island 6 in 2018 or later?!! Thimbelweed park is nice but monkey island is something else!!!

DasGehPunkt Apr 11, 2018
Q: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

The Isle of Acidophilus Complex May 31, 2018
Q: As someone with no programming or visual art skills, is it possible to  make a career as solely a writer (story and puzzles) for adventute games? I don't mean as my main source of a living, but just the opportunity. Also, are there any developers that make adventure games that would have internships for someone like me that has no programming backround or schooling?



Pedro Ignacio Principi Sep 04, 2019
Q: A few years ago, during your stay in Argentina, you said that if you could resume Monkey Island you would do everything that happens after version 2 was a nightmare. If Disney made you an offer to make a new delivery, would you still think the same?