Lock-down in Seattle

Mar 22, 2020

Speaking with a friend the other day and I was talking about how being confided to my house doesn't really feel like much of a life or work change. I suppose that's a sad reflection on my life. I just don't go out much. I'm a life-long introvert, so I don't crave the company of groups or a wild social life. I have a few very close friends and we continue to talk.

There is a bi-weekly game prototype group I would meet-up with and I do miss that.

A few weeks ago I decided to completely rebuild the Thimbleweed Park engine, and I guess the timing was very auspicious given that it's been great at keeping me distracted and from reading the news non-stop.

It all started from having this idea about how to do a better point-and-click interface. As long-time readers will know, I'm not a big fan of the "poke" interface where you just "use" every object until something works. I've always felt there was a better way and I had an epiphany the other day which lead to rewriting the TWP engine.

I started to hack my new UI in but my OCD quickly took over and I just had to start over.

There is a lot of good code in the TWP engine and the goal was to sort that out and only take the good. I started with a new project and then slowly moved pieces of the old engine over rewriting it as I went.

At this point the engine is 100% working and it feels a lot better. It can't run TWP dues to a complete removal of the UI code from the engine.

About a year ago I removed squirrel from my code base and wrote a new custom scripting language called Dinky. It's 90% squirrel compatible but has a cleaner interface into the backend and the compiler generates much better code due to an optimizer pass.

Due to Dinky, I felt a lot more comfortable moving 100% of the UI code into script and out of the c++ engine. This follows the pattern of SCUMM where all the the UI was written in 6502 in Maniac Mansion and slowly moved to SCUMM code as the projects went by. By the time of MI2, most of the UI was done in script.

So anyway...

Most of the TWP engine is now back up and running and my new experiments with UI are 100% in script and so far I'm quite please with it.

One of the changes I made to the engine was severing it from pixel art. It can still do pixel art, but it's better at doing higher res formats and I implemented Spine as an option for character animations.

One of the problems with Spine is it's a lot harder to do "programmer art." I've been looking for some humanoid Spine animations in 4 or 8 directions. If anyone knows where to find something like this, please let me know.

I hope everyone out there is doing OK and this doesn't turn in to a full-scale Stephen King novel. I'm not sure how long I will last if the only thing I have to barter for food with is designing adventure games.

But so far, I'm healthy and safe, I hope you all are as well.

Emma Mar 23, 2020
Glad to hear you're healthy and safe, and keeping busy.  As a fellow introvert, I'm hoping for news that my office will close this week.  I have several projects I'd welcome some time for, and of course I'd like to be able to limit the potential for exposure to the virus!

Patricio Mar 23, 2020
Oh come on, I'm willing to supply you with some cans of peas, diapers, and a staple remover in exchange for a new adventure game. And you know that.

Simon Mar 23, 2020
I've never used Spine, so I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but there's a tutorial for an 8-direction character on the Spine site, and you can also download the project files:


Bobe Mar 23, 2020
I was doing my morning routine and thought of you. Good to hear you're OK. I think introverts (myself included) are going to come out of this just fine. We get to enjoy a rare moment when wanting to stay at home isn't stigmatized. I hope some of your work ethic rubs off on me, because I'd really like to make something worthwhile during all of this. Have a good day, Mr. Gilbert.

Ron Gilbert Mar 23, 2020
@Simon: Thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for.  Not sure how I missed that.

Eric Mar 23, 2020
I spent some time thinking about a GUI that would be better than the current one, removing the 'click until you get it' mechanic. I'm curious to see what you came up with!

And... it's kind of impressive you were able to rewrite the entire engine from scratch in about 2 weeks.

Last, but not least, while I'm glad you're brainstorming a new engine... I was secretly hoping you had an entire story already laid out, ready-to-go and you were about to announce a new adventure game shortly. (We never know with you) This makes me think we're quite a while away from that!

Wishing you the best, be safe!

Lancelot's Hangover Mar 23, 2020
Hey Ron! Glad to read you're safe and well. I'm curious: what's your goal with your new work on TWP's engine and the new features (like allowing higher res)? Are you planning to release the engine as an open-source project? (even if you already wrote open-source is way more work than just putting some code publicly). Selling licence to point&click adventure game teams and studios? Or just "I have no idea so far, I'm just doing it and we'll see where it goes"?

Simon Mar 23, 2020
@Ron: I'm glad I could be of help, and also can't wait to find out more about how you're going to put that new UI to use.

Big Red Button Mar 23, 2020
I'm glad to read about some new point & click adventure game related efforts of you - even though I know that this does not necessarily implicate an upcoming adventure game released by you. Particularly, we would have to wait pretty long for a release yet, if that was the beginning of your next official project.
Nonetheless this blog post strongly reminds me of the TWP development blog, which I enjoyed to follow by the way. As a layman, I do not understand everything above, but I'll never lose my interest in such blog entries by you.

In these days, it's good to be able to work at home. I'm currently hoping for being it as well soon.

@ everyone: Keep well and fit.

Zak Phoenix McKracken Mar 23, 2020
Hi there,
Here in Italy the situation is very serious. I'm fine, so it's my family, but I'm surrounded by positive cases.
I've lost 3 acquaintances last week, in 3 days.
I tell you just because the virus is spreading inn America inn these days, please DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE RISK.
To stay safe, you must shelter in home.
Pay games. Do fitness are home. Read. Watch movies. But avoid human contacts.
Glad to hear that Ron is safe and sound.
We can't wait to see TWP with the new engine, when ready!

Zak Phoenix McKracken Mar 23, 2020
Please forgive me, too many typos in my previous message. I didn't proof read it.

Andrew Goulding Mar 24, 2020
I mainly use the "Spine boy" for Spine testing. I dunno how else you get it except for the Unity package. Maybe there are other engines you could pull it from. Unfortunately it's only left and right, but it gets something animated on screen.

Evan Mar 24, 2020
I would be happy to barter with you to keep you running. Adventure games are an essential service!

Steve Brown Mar 24, 2020
No meaningful change here, aside from a sudden stress about when I'll be able to buy some more toilet paper, lamentations over not having ordered a big box of toilet paper from Amazon when I was thinking about it a month ago, irritation that I have a (sibling) mooch across the hallway who's nearly used up my last 1yr supply of toilet paper in a third that time, further irritation that said (sibling) mooch is only here because he reacted to his wife leaving him by buying a BWM he couldn't afford, that sort of thing.
But I've been doing classes entirely online for 15mo now, so my routine of "stuff for classes, video game breaks, Taco Bell at 12:30am" hasn't changed.

Another introvert Mar 26, 2020
Sad reflection of what? At most is just a testament of everything you can accomplish when you're not small-talking with people all the time.

Evan Z Mar 26, 2020
I live in Santa Clara county.  It's been tough, I'm under lock down with my wife and toddler.  We are both splitting the day up into block of 2 hours so one can work while the other watches my daughter. It's exhausting, I try to work on games at night to keep me sane but I'm usually to tired and just sink into my switch on the couch.

Stay safe everyone.

Matt Mar 27, 2020
You are wrong about it being a sad reflection of your life.  Most people from my age group are such huge fans of you that you can barely do any wrong in our eyes.

Sigurd Thomassen Mar 28, 2020
Love your games.  I actually look at them as art, and just like a great book or film i come back and play them every 4 og 5 years.  Cant wait for more games from you!  Stay safe, greetings from norway

Ivan Braidi Mar 29, 2020
Hi Ron,

really interesting news. Have you still in mind to make the engine open source one day? I remember something about this from the TWP dev blog times.

Can't wait to see one new game from you! Big hug!

Antony Williams Mar 30, 2020
Will you share what the plan is for this?
I can't imagine you'd want to release an update to TWP with the new engine (though who of us wouldn't love that!). Is it for a new game, or purely a side project for fun with no current known purpose?

Johan Windh Mar 31, 2020
Thanks Ron. I play MI2 now, again. For the Nth time. It still makes me happy.

Matthew Mather Apr 10, 2020
So is this going to be released as an update to TWP? Or maybe use it in a new game?

Don Duvall Apr 20, 2020
@grumpygamer, would you be willing to share the source of Dinky? I am a language design/implementation nut and would love to see how you implemented it. I have used Squirrel in a few projects, and thought it was nifty how they sort of extended Lua (not really, but feels like it a little). However always thought their implementation felt a little clunky to me. And worst, it was rather slow for any real computational loads. Anyway, glad to hear you are still creating awesome things.

frisby May 03, 2020
I'm late to this, but I've got 20 rolls of TP and 25lbs of rice and beans, in exchange for a certain secret (you know which one).

Krampus May 13, 2020
Well, come on. Start selling your engine already. Why not? Do you need to clean the UI? Nobody cares! Functionality over Aesthetics foreva!!

Axl May 20, 2020
Posting something on Mister Gilbert's blog is like going back into my own childhood where I still believed in Santa Threepwood's existence. Miss those times where I first played The Secret of Monkey Island with our Atari ST 520. The 11 or 12 years old child I was was discovering a kind of game which never should be sold more than 20 bucks. And it felt amazing! With all these stars in my eyes! I was both amazed by the game and by the machine itself. Look, when I push this "mouse" this way, the pointer, on the screen, is going the same way! Incredible. Ah, childhood's innocence, feeling overpowered by using the first mouse generation, the one with this little ball inside, taking dirt as time pass using it, then clean the ball to gain precision back. Now I'm 40 and I know that Guybrush Klaus isn't a real person. Learning it was so painful. But Mister Ron Gilbert (as I believe it, at least) is indeed and I'm glad to say you're one of my heroes because thanks to you the child inside never totally died. And I'll make sure it will remain the same until the end, or the next life, who knows. Thank you, Mister Gilbert. Should you sell your next adventure game more than 20 bucks, I'll buy it anyway. One of your fans.