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Thimbleweed Park is the new project from Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, two Lucasfilm Games veterans who worked for games such as Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion or Zak McKraken. They want to bring back the good old point and click adventure games feeling with Thimbleweed Park, a game that will be a spiritual successor to the classic and beloved Maniac Mansion.
I had the chance to meet Ron Gilbert on August 5, 2015 in Cologne, Germany at the gamescom and ask him some questions about the game.
Julien – My first question was what brought you to gamescom, but I got my answer seeing you yesterday at the Xbox gamescom conference. It ’s great to see your new game, Thimbleweed Park, appear on Xbox One. Was it scheduled in the Kickstarter ?
Ron – No it wasn’t, the Kickstarter was only for Windows, Mac and Linux. We had a stretch goal for iOS. After the Kickstarter we went to discuss with Microsoft , and they liked it. They’ve done a lot with indie developers.
J – How will you make Thimbleweed Park work with the Xbox controller?
R– (laughs) I have no idea !
J – I remember having played one of your old games on a pad before
R– Well Maniac Mansion on the Commodore 64 used a joystick, there was no mouse on C64.
J – Won’t it be difficult ?
R – I don’t know if just moving the cursor around is enough, but I don’t want to go to things like direct controls or spiral menus.
We will do a lot of experimenting, and we will talk a lot on the devblog about the things we are trying.
It will be fun to talk to people about all the different things we are trying.
J – You do have a very active community, I have just seen the fun suggestions you received for the books in one of the game’s bookstores.
R– I have done the initial calling and now there are more than 3000 books titles!
Half of them are probably junk, but still that ’s 1500 books in the bookstore. We will have to make the bookstore really tall to put all those books in there !
J – Your Kickstarter did much better than the requested amount, how did it go afterwards?
R – We are very happy, and people still go and buy on our site directly.
J – Will the Xbox announcement change anything in the game?
R – Some people might think we’re going to change the PC interface, but don’t worry we’re still going to do the standard point’n click stuff.
J – iOS seems a great place to put the point’n click games ?
R – Yes, though there’s a couple of issues , like just being able to scan the cursor around and not having a trigger thing. I have some ideas as to how we are going to handle that. But generally touch is going to be a lot easier than controllers.
J – How do you work with your team ? I see that it’s expanded a bit since the 2 of you started (Gary Winnick and you )
R – Yeah, Gary (Winnick), David Fox (who worked on Zak McKracken) and myself are doing game programming, Mark Ferrari (artist on Loom and Monkey Island) is doing background art and another friend of mine is doing kind of system level programming on part time, he is doing all the DirectX part of the Windows version and he is gonna do the Xbox One port
J – What software do you use? It’s not the original SCUMM?
R – I have written my own engine, and it’s so much easier with workflow or getting art in the game than it was back in the old days.
J – Regarding the date of release, I know you mentioned July 2016 on your Kickstarter, are you still on track ?
R– We are still on track, but software is always late, it could be a couple of months after that. I don’t want to rush something out but we can’t take forever either.
J – Will it be out at the same time on all support ?
R – It will be out on the PC, Mac, Linux and Xbox One at the same time. iOs will probably come a little bit later but not a lot, just like a month or so. Android I am not really sure yet, probably like a month or so later.
J – Will it be on Window phone ?
R – I don’t know, the deal with Microsoft doesn’t cover the phone.
J – Will the game be Cross – Play and Cross – Buy ?
R– I don’t know , I am gonna have to ask whether it will be Cross Play.
J – What about the saving system ?
R – It will be like the old SCUMM games with saves, there won’t be any checkpoints, you can save whenever you want.
Steam, Windows 10 and the Xbox One offers cloud save, we will definitely look at supporting all that stuff.
J – Will the game have similar difficulty as the old Lucasfilm games ?
R – Getting that difficulty is always a hard thing. Nobody played the game yet so it’s hard to see if the game is difficult or not . It’s not until you get play testers come in and play the game that you discover that this puzzle you think was really simple, is in fact really hard. But my goal is to make it around Monkey Island in terms of difficulty. And I think that a lot of modern gamers are going to be frustrated with that, they may be used to simpler games, having their hand held , pop ups saying « click on that », and I am not going to do any of that. I think a lot of the true adventure games fans will be very happy with the game and other people will think that the game is way too hard and that’s ok for me.
J – Influences – I heard about Twin Peaks, X Files, True Detective. Any other influence ?
R – It’s a lot of Twin Peaks, a lot of X-Files , there is also a bit like Stephen King in there. I really like the way he creates these strange worlds in his novels. There’s just a lot of weird stuff going on. And maybe a little bit of Supernatural.
J – What about the balance between the weird stuff and the funny side ?
R – There will definitely be a lot of jokes and humor but it’s probably a little bit darker than Monkey island, because there is mystery and murder, weird stuff going on. But it is very funny. It’s definitely a comedy.
J – I guess it will be impossible to lose like in your previous Lucasfilm Games.
R – Yeah , though there might some weird stuff like in Monkey Island where Guybrush could die if he stayed underwater for more than 10 minutes. There might be some weird stuff like that where you have to do purposely some bizarre thing.
J – Any new project after this one ?
R – Not for the time being
J – no hints in game about future projects (like the Loom advertisement in Monkey Island) ?
R – I think that what I would like is that enough people like this game so that we can decide to make another point and click adventure game.
J – What was it like to be working for Lucasfilm Games ?
R – It was a lot of fun ! When I started there, I think I was the seventh person. It was a very very small group of people. And when Gary and I did Manic Mansion we were eleven people in the group. And when I started Monkey island there was probably something like twenty people in the group. We had a lot of freedom. We didn’t have to run our designs by a marketing department or anything, we thought of great ideas and just made it. That was one of the things that made it so special.
Which is one of the reasons I really like working on Thimbleweed Park, there is just five of us and we just do whatever we think is fun. We want to put a weird bookstore with a thousand books in it, we just do it ! We don’t have to run it by a producer or marketing. and all that kind of stuff.
J – Will that change with the new deal with Microsoft ?
R – No , they don’t have any control on the game.
J – One last question, any chance to see a new Monkey Island?
R – I don’t have any idea. Disney owns Monkey Island, I would love to do a new one, but I would really like to own it: If I am gonna make a Monkey Island , I want the liberty to make the Monkey Island that I want.
J – That’s all for my questions, any plans for your stay in Cologne ?
R – I just want to go to the show, I have been told that gamescom tomorrow is really hectic, that there are a lot of people but I want to see the crowds.
J – Well good luck with that !
bonus : the latest trailer of Thimbleweed Park