by Ron Gilbert
Jul 27, 2016

We added a cemetery to the game. The decision was made a few months ago, but we only just got the art.  I thought I'd talk about why we added it so late and the decisions that lead up to that.

I'm going to dance around a few spoilers here, so bare (or is it bear... English is stupid) with me.

There are a lot of dead people in Thimbleweed Park, it's a twisty little mystery that begins with the body found in the river just outside of town.  A few days before our story gets started, the owner of the local pillow factory, beloved founding father of Thimbleweed Park, and Delores's Uncle, died of a heart attack. It's an important plot point, but just mentioning it in dialog wasn't getting the it across.

There is an old adage: show don't tell.  So what we decided to do was add a cemetery that you come across before entering the town that has a giant tomb, adorned with flowers from the recent funeral, for our beloved town leader.

Once we added the cemetery, other ideas started to pop up. There was a puzzle chain involving Franklin that always felt a little contrived, and now that we had a cemetery, we could adjust the puzzle to make it more interesting.

Franklin, being a ghost who's stuck in the hotel always limited his usefulness. Adding the cemetery provided a (logical) place that he could go beyond the hotel. So, we add another puzzle to allow him to move between the two places.

Another benefit of the cemetery was it made the reading of Delores's Uncle's will a lot more interesting, since it could take place in his tomb and added a new puzzle to get into the tomb.

The cemetery started out as an idea to solve a story issue, but blossomed into a great room that added several new and interesting puzzles.

Also, cemeteries are cool.

- Ron

sirlemonhead - Jul 27, 2016 at 13:49
Sneak in a Stan's previously used coffin somewhere? :)

Ema - Jul 27, 2016 at 13:54
Yes, they are. The one in MI2 is one of my favorite rooms in the game.

Giulio - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:06
Stan's previously used coffins or crypts, La Grande family tombs... I see tasty Easter Eggs coming!

Sebastian - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:39

"Here lies Nibbles the dog. He was a bad dog. We're glad he's dead."

"Here lies Orange Tentacle. It was never meant to be.'

'Grave of the unknown two-headed squirrel."

Perhaps Ron should start a contest to suggest some creative epitaphs.


Nor Treblig - Jul 27, 2016 at 16:17
Those are good ones!

I've stopped killing the two-headed squirrel after learning there is another way. But Sushi died a lot of deaths and in many different ways...

Steffen - Jul 27, 2016 at 19:17
Maybe some Easter Eggs depend on good mystique literature combined with epitaphs?
That would indeed be funny!

Soong - Jul 28, 2016 at 03:27
I love your suggestions!

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:58
I like the orange tentacle one.

Sewa-o-matic - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:07
Yes and when you die in MM you go to a grave.... so there is a Cemetery in MM too...

Ron Gilbert - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:09
I forgot about that.

Nor Treblig - Jul 27, 2016 at 16:18
But it's not an official one, they just dug a whole in front of the house... it probably conflicts with all kind of health regulations.

Big Red Button - Jul 27, 2016 at 17:40
I assume that Dr. Fred sh*** on health regulations. He would probably even lay a vegetable patch out on it. Also, it's a deterrence for other housebreakers.

Nor Treblig - Jul 27, 2016 at 20:28
He definitely doesn't like guests. But funny enough he is the only one in the mansion who won't kill you.

You can drown yourself, irradiate yourself, explode yourself(s), Weird Ed f*cks you up if you give him a certain present, Edna and Purple Tentacle would let you rot to death in the dungeon, Meteor gets serious quickly and Green Tentacle... well, he can actually kill you multiple ways (one of those being much worse than what Edna could ever do to you after chaining you to a bed).

Nor Treblig - Jul 27, 2016 at 20:44
Oh I forgot Ted: he is also merciful and won't kill you too much!

Mauro - Jul 28, 2016 at 01:05
The grave in MM is a symbolic RIP reference as you suddenly die and they bury you in there. You may also not die. Therefore the  mansion does not own a cemetery whereas the Town of Thimbleweed Park has one.

Charles - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:21
If that second animated GIF with the background rippling is an actual screen effect we're going to see in-game, then color me impressed!!!

entropy - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:27
Actually - PLEASE NO!

See my post below, if you care. :)

Matt - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:23
I gotta say... the coloring is just... superb.

entropy - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:26
Gorgeous! :)

The bottom animation: is this wobbling an
effect in the game or just added for this post?

It looks like this post-processing does not respect
the underlying pixel matrix resolution.
Not sure if you disagree, but I think this does not
works well with a consistent retro feeling of the game.

It's like some retro pixel games "feature" sprites
that can rotate arbitrary angles and scale independent
from the background resolution.

Charles - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:30
But it seems to "respect" the underlying pixel resolution, for example the ghost character's element, or "sprite" if you will, seems to swell and contract right along with the background...

entropy - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:36
No it does not respect the underlying pixel resolution.
Yes, you can clearly see pixels stretched and shifted.
That's my whole point.

The comment about the background might have
been a bit misleading (take it as a different example).

Big Red Button - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:57
If it doesn't, they can easily omit it in the retro pixel mode.

entropy - Jul 27, 2016 at 15:04
Yeah, my bad.

I didn't know this second mode will be available.

Ron Gilbert - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:53
As I've said before, there will be a pixel purist mode where all these effects are applied to 1-to-1 buffer (or just omitted).  As I've also said before, it looks like crap. We love the 8-bit aesthetic, but we want to move it forward and not be stuck with the technological limitations of 20 years ago. As Mark Ferrari so eloquently said: "You want to live in a renaissance fair, not in the actual renaissance."

Charles - Jul 27, 2016 at 15:01
"if that is an actual screen effect we're going to see in-game, then color me impressed!!!"


entropy - Jul 27, 2016 at 15:02
I must have missed that. :)

I'm perfectly fine with this.

If it looks like crap will be still a matter of taste, I guess.
And yes, this effect might jitter and flicker like hell when done pixel perfect.

Nor Treblig - Jul 27, 2016 at 20:38
It probably won't look that bad. Just a little blurry.

I've tried this: http://ezgif.com/resize?url=https://storage.googleapis.com/images.thimbleweedpark.com/franklin_cemetery.gif
Resize it to a height of 160 pixels and watch the result with an image viewer which doesn't use any filter when zoomed.

entropy - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:02
This is not about a potential scaling issue.

I don't know how to explain it properly. :)
If you look at the wobbling effect, you can see that
it is applied to a higher resolution (I guess display res) and,
thus, the pixels of the game are distorted (stretched and dislocated).

As Ron implied, doing the effect pixel perfect would
result in a significantly less smooth experience (but a more credible one *grin*).
Hence, it is great to hear that two modes will be available.

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 08:12
By scaling it down to the original resolution of the background it should somewhat resemble the pixel perfect mode.
But yes, as Big Red Button said there is a lot of anti-aliasing happening (but than on the other hand it already uses a lot more than 256 colours already).

Big Red Button - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:08
They could alternatively keep the original low resolution and use low-res anti-aliasing in order to make it look smoother, instead of using the above high-res effect with nearest neighbor interpolation.

Big Red Button - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:09
Though, I'm not sure if it would still have this 256 color charm, if there was anti-aliasing.

DZ-Jay - Jul 28, 2016 at 06:59
It's not a matter of being a pixel purist (at least not on my part), it's that the wobbling effect looks like crap.  It's just a cheesy bump map effect on a static background, like so many games had in the 1990s.  That's like living in the Renaissance right there.

If you were going for a soap-opera-flashback-ish "dream" sequence, or a spooky ambiance feel, then there are better effects that could be more effective.


Big Red Button - Jul 28, 2016 at 13:29
What kind of "better" effects are you thinking of? 2D games use to have static backgrounds. So, what do you expect?
Seeing the higher resolution, I wouldn't call it the actual renaissance. I'm convinced that this effect wouldn't remind you of the 90s any more, if you only watched it in fullscreen on a Full-HD (or even better a UHD) display.
I don't dislike the above effect. Though, I wonder if the wobbling wouldn't become annoying over the minutes/hours of playing, because it's perpetually in motion. Moreover, I would prefer an effect that could be used for the pixel purists mode as well.

By the way, up to now, I have assumed that the vintage film effect from the first trailer https://vimeo.com/157583742 at 0:25, when Ransome puts his false nose on, would have been the "flashback effect".

Sewa-o-matic - Jul 28, 2016 at 14:20
Or apply the definition of "retro" given by Gary Stern here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YhcjrrEj20  (min 33:35) talking about making pinball in theese days.

Big Red Button - Jul 28, 2016 at 14:35
I hope that this renaissance fair will last forever, so that it would become a renaissance amusement park. :)

Brian Small - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:28
Fantastic!  Looks and sounds like a great location.  It must have been fun to see a new idea fit into the TWP puzzle so well, late in the development cycle.  The wavy effect is really cool, that must have been fun to code into the graphics engine.

chesed - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:36
I hope someone's pants fall down, preferably while holding a shovel.

Christopher Griffin - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:36
Love that shader effect to create the dreamlike warbling!

Rum Rogers - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:42
The addition of the cemetery makes this game overflow with awesomeness.
Jokes aside, Ron's always been great when an adventure turns to creepy (it's one of my favorite aspects of MI2).

Gffp - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:48
Go Thimbleweed guys, put your hands into the matter, shake it shape it CREATE!!!! What an energetic thing is creative process I can hear the vibes!!! You're in all that, don't listen too much to our rational criticism, listen to your intuition and have no regrets! Cemeteries!!!! Yeeeeees! Wonderful.

Emmanuel - Jul 27, 2016 at 14:49
Cemeteries are very frequent in adventure games. I like to think it's because of adventure games connect so well with metaphysical issues, but I'm probably just fooling myself here. Sierra's cemeteries always had many witty epitaphs. It's really a very common adventure game trope.

Big Red Button - Jul 27, 2016 at 15:34
It looks fantastic! Whenever I see such a room, I recall the whistling melodies from the cemeteries in MI2 and CMI. Therefore, it would be nice if the TP soundtrack in those creepy rooms will be geared to them.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Jul 27, 2016 at 16:53
The time of the TP story, is set before, during or after the events of Maniac Mansion?

Arto - Jul 27, 2016 at 17:40
Sandy and Dave were teenagers in Maniac Mansion, and in Thimbleweed Park they (assuming they are same characters) run the S&D Diner (which has a logo with probably a meteor in it) and look older, so I would say Thimbleweed Park is set years later than MM. If MM was set in 1986, I would say TP is set in about 1990.

Big Red Button - Jul 27, 2016 at 17:48
Isn't it still set in '87, when MM was released?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:34
Good question... when is set Maniac Mansion?
1) There is a nuclear reactor "Made in Chernobyl", and the disaster occurred in April 1986, but this isn't an evidence that the story is set after 1986.
2) The intro starts with "Twenty years ago today..." but there is no date shown.
We assume that "today" is referred to the day the player is playing, that was 1987.

spiffy - Jul 30, 2016 at 17:29
"Twenty years ago today" is when the meteor crashed, not when Dave's rescue mission takes place. Dr. Fred has been under the meteor's influence for many years before he kidnapped Sandy.

Nor Treblig - Jul 30, 2016 at 18:55
I think that is what he meant.

Btw. I always thought 20 years is a ridiculous long time...

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Aug 01, 2016 at 16:31
Well, I have an idea.
I will ask the author this very question, for the upcoming Podcast Questions.

Nor Treblig - Aug 01, 2016 at 19:02
Good idea!
It would be also interesting to know how old they are, is this somewhere mentioned? Weird Ed could be maybe 30?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Aug 02, 2016 at 04:31
I will ask for when MM is set, and you will ask for the age of MM's characters.
One question per user...

Nor Treblig - Aug 02, 2016 at 09:01

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 07:14
I agree it's likely to be after Maniac Mansion, but unless they haven't changed this it's still in 1987 because there is ThimbleCon '87 (and I don't think it's happening during a flashback).

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 28, 2016 at 06:00
I too wonder that... Maybe one year after?

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 27, 2016 at 17:08
Ron, can you please put my name on one of the tombstones? I do feel dead inside.

Nor Treblig - Jul 27, 2016 at 19:44
For this comment alone you deserve a tombstone! (I hope this doesn't sound cruel)

Btw. the sound quality on that Vevo channel kills at least my ears...

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:58
Thank you! :-)

I'm sorry to hear about your biological microphones... :-(

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Jul 28, 2016 at 05:37
And now, a new contest:
"Would you like your name in the TP Cemetery™ ?
- $10 : your name written on the ground
- $25 : your name written on a little tombstone
- $50 : you deserve a big tombstone with your name, date of birth and date of death
- $200 : Hi Stan, how are you?

Mattias Cedervall - Jul 28, 2016 at 06:02
Sounds like a winner. :-)

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 08:04
Now I finally understand how and why people are falling for microtransactions!

Assaf - Jul 27, 2016 at 17:15
(Yay! A text post!)

longuist - Jul 31, 2016 at 18:17

Luis Couto - Jul 27, 2016 at 17:40
Just great news! No adventure game is complete without a cemetery! Really excited to start playing this gem!

Manny - Jul 27, 2016 at 18:43
I love you Ron.

You make my life so much more interesting with your adventure games (not so much strike 3 games).

Steffen - Jul 27, 2016 at 19:29
I like the fine differences between both pictures: the ghost world in bluish looks more monochrome, more cold and more dead. Very cool (in both senses)!
I am really excited about playing the game...

Iron Curtain - Jul 27, 2016 at 20:49
"I'm going to dance around a few spoilers here, so bare (or is it bear... English is stupid) with me."

It's "bear with me". As in "carry a metaphorical burden with me".

Arto - Jul 28, 2016 at 04:43
It starts with "beer with me", and evolves to "bare with me". If I've consumed too much beer, the next stage is "bear with me".

DZ-Jay - Jul 28, 2016 at 07:02
When in doubt, add a growl for effect.  As in, "bear with me. Roaaaar!!!"

Jammet - Jul 27, 2016 at 20:54
Graves or even entire Graveyards have always been some of the most atmospheric locations in several Lucasfilm/LucasArts games. The cemetery on Scabb Island is unforgettable, really. It was *very* creepy too, especially once you entered the tomb and revived somebody in a crypt. I'm glad Thimbleweed has a location like that!

Zombocast - Jul 28, 2016 at 00:05
Ron, i'm having trouble naming all the Parkémon.

1. Ray (Female Agent)
2. Antonio Rayes (Male Agent)
3. Delores (young game designer girl)
4. Franklin (the ghost)
5. Ransome (Clown)

6. Chet (Pizza guy, survivalist)
7. Sandy (Diner Girl)
8. Dave (Diner Guy)
9/10. Pigeon Brothers (Small Pigeon, Big Pigeon)
11. Willie (Town Bum)
12. Madame Morena (Old lady)
13. Ms Cole (Bank teller)
14. Mr Cruffman (Safely first manager)
15. Natalie (Nickel News journalist)
16. Margie (Delores sister)
17. Carney Joe (Carnival guy)

18. Ransoms lawyer
19. Postal worker
20. Sheriff
21. Coroner
22. Hotel Manager

Mauro - Jul 28, 2016 at 00:42
aha awesome dude, Thimble Parkemon!

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 07:56
You could also add evolutions, e.g. Young Ransome who involves into Permament Makeup Ransome!

Btw. the male agent is called Reyes.

Zombocast - Jul 28, 2016 at 23:20
23. Leonard (Quickie pal)

Elior - Jul 28, 2016 at 03:01
I feel like before a sate with a hot chick !

Bring it on ! I can't wait !

Soong - Jul 28, 2016 at 03:31
Awesome!  I love seeing new art here and explanations for how your decisions were made.  This blog is almost like a little adventure of its own.

Mister T - Jul 28, 2016 at 06:31
Have you considered giving the characters a shadow? It is less obvious when there is less contrast, but with the white shoes it feels strange, a bit like floating (well, not in direct comparison to the ghost, which is actually floating... but still, maybe just two or three lines of half-opaque dark pixels mirroring the characters feet make a difference... or is that on the agenda already?).

Tsa Tsa Lopy - Jul 28, 2016 at 07:37
Considering a Thimbleweed Park population auf 81 and thousands of phonebook entrys..... there has to be MANY dead people on this graveyard. Would give the opportunity for gigant tombstone maze... ;-)

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 07:57
Moar mazes, yay!

Dominik - Jul 28, 2016 at 08:30
I'd like to see - NAY! - I demand in the name of all humanity that there will be digging and shameless grave robbing.

It's one of the 10 commandments of adventure games.

Like hiding treasures behind a waterfall...

Alessander - Jul 28, 2016 at 10:29
It is always nice to have a cemetery in a game! I always loved the intro of Syberia: nothing better than a rainy funeral to start a mystery game!

As a suggestion of intro for Thimbleweed Park, maybe agents Ray and Rayes could be surprised by the funeral of Delores' uncle as they go see the body in the river. And it should be raining!


Capitan Catarro - Jul 28, 2016 at 10:45
Hi Ron,

but there is a daylight part in TP or all the game will be in just one night?


It's 10 o clcok :D

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 15:45
Don't know if there won't be ANY daylight parts, but originally some flashbacks should have been during daytime which was dropped due to budget reasons (so the art assets could be easily reused with the main story line).
So there probably won't be any daytime in the main part of the game.

eMaze - Jul 28, 2016 at 14:30
It's bear, my dear. A dancing bear.

EdoBvd - Jul 28, 2016 at 15:09
funny, everybody focuses on the second image, with the wobbly effect.
but Franklin actually appears in both images :-)

a cemetery, by definition, is a place to remember people and their stories
since an adventure games are about telling stories, it's a perfect
especially with dead people in the story

Ron, I really like the idea that you're exploring new territories -- "renaissance" thingy
even if it means taking risks; Art is about taking risks
in most cases, we forget about the bad experiments, and only remember the great ones
Go go go!

PS: still waiting for a blog-post by busy-bee Mark :-)

Nor Treblig - Jul 28, 2016 at 15:46
When I read the article the first time I didn't see him (sneaky!), I discovered him only later when studying the images in more detail :-)

Brian Small - Jul 28, 2016 at 18:51
Nice! Very observant.

Big Red Button - Jul 28, 2016 at 20:22
Talking about a possible blog post by Mark, I don't know whether you've already watched this extensive lecture by Mark:
In my opinion, he tells and explains so much there that he doesn't leave any question unanswered.

Big Red Button - Jul 28, 2016 at 20:26
As I just noticed, you even commented this link back then. Well, I still understand your curiosity, even though Mark has already told very much.

Mario F. - Jul 29, 2016 at 07:54
OMG. Mark is spoiling so many GFX there. haha.

Derrick P Reisdorf - Jul 28, 2016 at 22:05
Okay...what is that wavy wobbly effect supposed to be?  It's like the scene is underwater.  If it's a flashback, just use the wavys as a transition.  Present scene...wavys gradually start, then get faster. While that is going on, the scene fades/dissolves into the flashback scene, and then the wavys slow to a stop.  If you want something to designate that it's a flashback the whole time while playing it then maybe subdue the color a tad maybe with amber "filter"; maybe at some subtle film grain.
Of course, we are only seeing a very short clip here, so maybe it odd just the short transition to a flashback.

Nor Treblig - Jul 29, 2016 at 13:46
It's just a ghost messing around. You can't tell him what's the best way to haunt you, it will make your life just worse...

Derrick Reisdorf - Aug 01, 2016 at 14:57
Ah.  You know what would be kind of cool, whether it's applicable to what's being done....
Is just apply this effect to only one of the layers- like just the trees in the background, for example.

Not sure if it'd be fitting, but I just think it would look cool.

Ian / Nihil Quest - Jul 31, 2016 at 22:01
I love graveyards in adventure games! That's were the interaction with people is most realistic.