Characters! Characters! Characters!

by Gary Winnick
Mar 01, 2015

As Ron and I work through the design and associated character story arcs, in addition to the five main playable characters, we've determined there are around fifty more characters that live within the confines of the Thimbleweed Park universe.

Each of these requires a written description (approximately a paragraph or more) of their function within the game, personality and some amount of backstory so we can determine how they might behave within the perspective of the story. What are their likes and dislikes? Where might they have gone to school. Did they go to school? Do they have siblings? What scares them? What makes them happy?

I also need to make sure they are visually unique, consistent and iconic enough that a player can easily recognize them as they become familiar with the cast of characters and their settings. What's someone's profession? How would they dress? How do they interact with the other characters?

All this drives the character's visual design, also in case of creating this style of character (at least for me) I like to arrange everything I've done side by side in a single photoshop file as I create them so I can constantly compare and reference what I've done so far as part of an ongoing iterative process.

I also tend to use iconic items and clothing to reinforce personality and function, these can be a concept from out of my head or referenced from online. I usually use google image search and it's interesting that an iconic representation of an item wether it's a bottle, a phone or a pistol has pretty much remained the same over the last 50 years and that most players can immediately recognize an item even when it's reduced to a small number of pixels (I think the media has done an amazing job of getting our brains to recognize iconic representations on a screen) .

Once a character's front facing pose has been drawn it's fairly straight forward to create the matching side and back views, followed by walk cycle and any special animations it requires.

There are still quite a few left to do and some of them won't make the final cut and we'll play with skin tones, races and sex. It's all about exploration.

- Gary

Andrea_J_Rubino - Mar 02, 2015 at 10:48
Really really curious about pizza-man's backstory. Already a favorite! :D

Alpha - Mar 04, 2015 at 13:31
Never mind the pizza man, what about a giant pizza just being there?

Iron Curtain - Mar 02, 2015 at 10:51
Ron: Are you going to add or remove characters depending on their necessity to the plot or the gameplay of the game? That seems to be your philosophy…

Iron Curtain - Mar 02, 2015 at 10:51
Never mind, you already seemed to answer this…

Ron Gilbert - Mar 02, 2015 at 10:57
Yeah, it's not just my philosophy, it's part of any creative process. Nothing ever comes out fully formed. There are a lot of characters that never made it into Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island, because they just ended up being cruft. You cut things to make the game or story tighter. If Monkey Island has included every character we thought of, the game would have felt bloated and sluggish. It's a much better game without them, despite an individual character being interesting. There will be characters in Thimbleweed Park that Gary and I both like, but they will get cut. It's how it works.

Damian - Mar 02, 2015 at 11:00
Are those (older) Dave and Sandy on the lower right of the image?!
Do they own a café or something?
You two guys are going to make a cameo?
This looks awesome, btw. :D

Tomimt - Mar 04, 2015 at 05:33
Those totally are them. It looks like they both have entered the glamorous life of coffee shop owning.

It would be nice to see character cameos from Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken in the game, really.

Damian - Mar 02, 2015 at 11:03
I have another one: can we see a guy dressed as one of the tentacles at the Thimblecon?

Bobe - Mar 02, 2015 at 11:32
I can't stop seeing PEZ dispensers.

Hasteur - Mar 02, 2015 at 12:59
Nice how you snuck Spock into the characters.  Not sure if it was intentional, but great work

delMar - Mar 03, 2015 at 09:45
You must be mistaken, there is no Star Trek character on this picture :-D

LichiMan - Mar 02, 2015 at 13:12
Two of them look like Walter White and Jesse Pinkman :)

PrinzJohnny99 - Mar 02, 2015 at 13:12
Dave and Sandy. Interesting. "Maniac Mansion 3: Thimbleweed Park" confirmed.

Mario - Mar 02, 2015 at 14:08
i think its a "must", that David, Gary and Ron are characterized in the game. maybe for a special joke. this way you would make yourself more iconic. i think after these decades you earned it to show up  in that game ;-) . maybe you three guys just walk together along on the sidewalk in the city and say hello to one of the 5 playable characters.

Mario - Mar 02, 2015 at 14:10
oh yeah, and you could save some money for vocalizing yourself ;-)

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 02, 2015 at 16:01
I think that's a great idea! :-) I love your games by the way! ;-)

Dominik - Mar 02, 2015 at 16:46
A cool idea! But I would rather see them sitting in a cafe and having a lot of sarcastic comments about stuff you can show them - but nothing helpful whatsoever ;-)

Ron Gilbert - Mar 02, 2015 at 16:48
Oh,you mean like in real life.

Dominik - Mar 03, 2015 at 01:51
But in real life, David would go for tea. So, it's totally not the same ;-)

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 02, 2015 at 16:06
Looks good. I suspect that we can't find any murder weapon because the killer will be the new yellow tentacle...

Marco Lizza - Mar 02, 2015 at 16:07
Oh my gosh! Dave and Sandy! :D

Dominik - Mar 02, 2015 at 16:43
I love this mix of content: Programming, Art, Game Design! This blog with it's decivingly simple look has really a lot to offer for anyone interested in game development.

I hope there will be a poster or at least a wallpaper with a collage of all the final characters at some point, no?

th0mas - Mar 02, 2015 at 17:15
Will some characters be able to move within the game? I mean, not just within a room, but like Edna or Ed across the game. One thing which sold the mood of a consistently unsafe place in Maniac Mansion was the first encounter with Edna at the fridge with her following one through the kitchen. From that moment on, I expected something to happen every time I entered a new room or the frame scrolled.

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 02, 2015 at 22:50
I agree.

LogicDeLuxe - Mar 09, 2015 at 10:31
Seems odd, that Edna just teleports to her room, if you leave the kitchen fast enough. I wonder, was this a glitch, or was it intentional behavior? Would be more believable, if you had to walk out the house to escape her. Ed on the other hand had a supperior script, as he appears in every room between his room and the entrance when the door rings. Hit the bell several times for a cutscene showing him on his way down. That was a believable script.

Versions Smersions - Mar 02, 2015 at 20:19
I see that you went with green top Sandy, as opposed to yellow top Sandy.

Ron Gilbert - Mar 02, 2015 at 20:30
That's just a screen grab from Maniac Mansion.

Versions Smersions - Mar 03, 2015 at 00:32
So, in which version did Sandy have a green top; and in which did she have a yellow? I suppose only the C64 version really matters.

Lukas ThyWalls - Mar 03, 2015 at 07:21
Sandy with the green top is from Maniac Mansion enhanced version (DOS EGA/Amiga), and all the characters here seems like more full colored from that version than less detailed C64 versions. You can search throw internet and see it.

Versions Smersions - Mar 04, 2015 at 00:19
We can have Team Yellow Top Sandy, and Team Green Top Sandy. As a C64 fan, I'm on Team Yellow Top Sandy, naturally.

Leandro - Mar 02, 2015 at 21:47
I can totally picture Maniac Mansion and Zack Mac Cracken Characters Cameos in there ! XP

pumbaa - Mar 03, 2015 at 00:57
I really dislike two guys on top quite in the middle, the two lazy guys in the green and blue shirts.
They don't belong in the game. It's just distraction....

They should work really hard!!! :o)

Mike Pikowski - Mar 03, 2015 at 02:58
I really like Mr Spock and Batman :)


Joost - Mar 03, 2015 at 06:10
On a not even remotely related note, I came across this today. While a good read for developers, it may just spark an idea for a scene for GAME developers. I for one would be happy to shave a yak in Thimbleweed Park.

Pedram - Mar 03, 2015 at 15:37
Hi Ron,

this is off-topic, but I wouldn't know where to post else. This question bugs me for quite a while, so I hope you can enlighten me. Concerning the musical score of games: why is it that mostly all of the old adventure games had a theme song that had a memorable melody you could easily hum and remember? I am talking the Maniac Mansion, Zak Mckracken, Mokey Island tunes. Also I find the music from movies like India Jones, Star Wars, Ghostbusters etc. very catchy.

I was a little "disappointed", that Broken Age, although very atmospheric, didn't have a catchy tune. Also , I don't dare to say it, I would not be able to remember the Thimbleweed Park trailer tune.  Hope I am not stepping on toes here. Is this something that is decided or "just happens".



Ron Gilbert - Mar 03, 2015 at 15:45
Well, for Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, I'd say it "just happened". We didn't set out to have them be memorable tunes. It might have something do to with the simplicity of the audio of the time. It might have been easier to do these melodies because we lacked a lot of the ability to be subtile.  Of course, this is all said from someone that knows very little about music. I always trust my musicians.

I can't speak for Broken Age, but there is probably this desire to feel and sound more sophisticated in modern games, and that might drive people from simple, memorable melodies that sound like "video game music".  Just a guess, but it's great feedback on our music.

Dave's Theme - Mar 03, 2015 at 16:28
Let's all take a little break and listen to Dave's Theme, LIVE:

Tomimt - Mar 04, 2015 at 05:37
Al Lowe has a little story on how he came up with the theme for the first Larry game:

Basically he realized in the final stretches that he should make a tune and whipped up something quick. And that's, I think, is how most memorable tunes are born.

Guga - Mar 05, 2015 at 02:28
That's a tune I'd like to hear sightread by Tom Brier!

Mario - Mar 03, 2015 at 15:38
look what i found: a green tentacle hoodie :

Pedram - Mar 03, 2015 at 17:13
Thanks for the answer, Ron. I'd love a catchy memorable tune for TP.

I propose a "lackmustest" for catchy tunes! Everything that translates easily to ASCII is proven to be catchy:

Indiana Jones: Daa Da Da Daaaaaaaaaaa, Daa Da Daaaaaaaaa
Imperial March: Dan Dan Dan Dandaran, Dandaran!

Pedram - Mar 03, 2015 at 17:15
Oooops. Didn't hook it into the thread above. Sorry. Also it's getting harder to do all that math late at night (germany).

Tradition - Mar 04, 2015 at 00:27
If licensing concerns prevent you from including Chuck the Plant, I propose that there be a red herring character, named Chuck, who is nothing more than a plant, and referred to, simply, as "Chuck the Plant." In the alternative, I propose an actual plant that can be chucked, the action being "chuck the plant."

Geoffrey Paulsen - Jun 27, 2016 at 22:19
I agree... MUST try to get Chuck the plant in there.   Ever since Maniac Mansion, I've always named my one and only house plant "Chuck".

longuist - Mar 04, 2015 at 09:48
Developers! Developers! Developers!

Mischa - Mar 04, 2015 at 11:03
May I propose names for the two guys in the green and blue shirts!?
I immediateley thought of Gilbert & Winny! :-)

Peter Campbell - Mar 04, 2015 at 18:19
The female clown (three characters to the left of the giant pizza) is creepy as hell 0_o

Betta - Mar 04, 2015 at 19:51
Is this Zak Mckracken on the right side?

MrY - Mar 05, 2015 at 10:11
Don't see that hot ivy league babe

troll - Mar 05, 2015 at 14:45
Y u no say name correctly???????????????

Joakim - Mar 05, 2015 at 16:37
I just can't wait to get my hands on this game. Boy does it take me back to the good ol days :) So happy you guys doing this!!!!

badde - Mar 06, 2015 at 13:09
the star wars man ist the best  ;  -)

MrY - Mar 06, 2015 at 16:13
gimmie the hot ivy league babe anytime

Bubble Ninja - Mar 06, 2015 at 14:47

what program did you use to make the characters???

can i help you? yes? yes? for the love to videogames :D

badde - Mar 06, 2015 at 15:03
time stemp wil be fine  ;- )

PUMBAA - Mar 06, 2015 at 15:57

Zombocast - Mar 08, 2015 at 03:18
The old Man with "White Hair" should be called: John Schmidt
His chatlines should consist of:

1.My brother, Jacob made a little jingle back home., la la la la, la la la
3. it's so popular, people shout his name.
4.excuse me? sorry, that's my name too.

Zombocast - Mar 08, 2015 at 03:42
The Hunter should be called: Richard
His chatlines should consist of:
1.I can't talk, i'm playing a game.
2.And the first rule is not to talk about it...
3.Care to join? i'll give you a 3 hour head start.
4.Some say it's the most dangerous of games.

Zombocast - Mar 08, 2015 at 05:27
The "Male Clown" should be called: Adolf

1. My parents once asked, what do you want to be when you grow up?  
2. TA-DA! People should not make career decisions at age 7.
3. I just read a book about a clown, Did not end well for him.
4. Despite the smile, I'm actually Red, White, and Blue... How patriotic.

The "Female Clown" should be called: Eva

1. This is a male-dominated field, I just trying to get my piece of the pie.
2. This makeup is like SPF 3000, SPF being: Single, Protection Factor.
3. Smart, Funny, and Good Looks. Can you guess what one i got?
4. Unlike some girls, I wear too much makeup and funny shoes on purpose.

ac - Mar 08, 2015 at 13:57
I'll list what characters I found likable at the bottom, if you want to skip the rant.

The depressing looking main character looks too much like I do. How can you get escapism if you're staring at your real life carton-copy?

If I was the designer here, I'd test removing the "staring straight to the camera" (staring at the player) as default pose except for when the character was truly talking to the player (or group conv), perhaps when making a joke about previous game or stuff. (default to slightly angled pose, then turn to face the player to make observations)

I'd also look at more ways to draw the mouth if faced to "camera". I'm very much like these characters - grumpy stares all over. That's why I prefer Zak who if stupidly grinning all the time. However if this was my game I'd have the character default to neutral stare and if the players idles too long not doing anything, and tell some insult and then briefly grin to the camera or whatever with some blink in the eye etc, or do some funny "impatient animation" or other kind of visual jokes. If the player idles still after few jokes put on a permanent grin but briefly flip it to frown just for laughs.

When the character has last walked left, I'd use "idle pose" like the woman at the bottom with hand not-straight and face turned at slight angle. If there was multiple characters in group conversation, then that might call for the front facing pose. I'd probably only do this for the main characters as they're the ones player sees the most and you want the player to want to be that character. (yeah maybe there's a lot of people who want their own face in the game but I've never been such and it just pisses me off to see someone so similar there and none of the main characters look anything I'd like to play with - so that's largely why I'm not handing my money - same argument with the LSL1 kickstarter -  the character just looked annoying and to top that off there was some sloppy animation and no one wanted LSL1 remade either - it barely got funded. If he'd made the missing LSL4 then I might've funded it despite some style issues. I told all this several times during the KS and then reviewers made same comments later. I'm half expecting Terrible Toybox to repeat same mistakes because stubborn & grumpy people like myself generally don't take any advice from similar people)

likable characters (from 1:1 scale character.png , just zooming it to 150% with bilinear fuzzy filtering caused some changes in what I felt from the characters)

row#, char# from Left or Right: (full size png)
100% zoom:
5,R5 (IE zoom to 150% or 200% ruined this due to some sort of blurrying filter effect - Crazy that 200% zoom causes that!)
Most likable of course is Spock (even ignoring the glued-earlobe look)

I'd probably like to play with my idle look as 1,L15 or the plumber wing dude or Spock. Last resort would be 3,L1 nerdy look.
One of the characters looks way much like Mr. Game Developer and coincidentally myself. Grumpy middle age guy. I really don't like to have that in my game as it ruins the whole escapism deal but I guess you're going to force it? Well I'm not buying the game then. I usually play as some hot chick but none of these are to my taste.

150% zoom
1,L16 (it seems all characters with some stuff on their head are somehow more likable to me - grumpy faces neutralized by the silliness?)
1,R1-2 (borderline likable)
1,R3 looks like bit as if she just commanded you to do THIS instead of whatever you were doing but might also be neutral pose for some people
1,R6 disappointed or frustrated? not neutral that's for sure - the strong contrast above eyes has something to do with this + the small black area in the mouth
2,R8 potential for likable but this face is "hey I'm busy (work related) what do you want?" Could go for some sort of stereotype senior police office worker or academia high official.
4,L1 neutral but the head ornament and symbolism brings it up to "wassup dude?" level
4,L3 "hey lets get this deal done with (my lawyers made it sure I win here)"
4,L5 The purple colors almost
6,R7 One tooth old hag. I might want this on my team so she could then be voice acted my some old one tooth hag throwing around some wisdom and references to things so old no one knows what she's on to.

(IE11-downscaled res thumbnail size, likable looks)
... I didn't go every row here as I figured the emotions would differ depending on scaling.

Christopher Griffin - Mar 08, 2015 at 14:37
I know Gary and Ron enjoy seeing our enthusiasm about their brainstorms and asset creation, but I do want to point out that the amount of effort in your post quite literally goes above and well-beyond what you can expect them to look into.  After all, despite being a kickstarter, unless we're specifically asked a question about the characters; listing out your likes and dislikes using some strange system based on zoom levels in Internet Explorer is probably a fruitless effort.

Also, the graphical style of this type of game doesn't lend itself well to isometric or views where the character isn't mugging directly into the camera.  Asking them to change that is somewhat akin to slapping their legacies in the face.  Everyone has an opinion, and yours certainly isn't wrong, it just leans quite heavily against the well-established grain of this genre.

I have to apologize now, because I'm a fan of these games too, and I'd be annoyed if somebody told me my post wasn't valued.  Of course, now I've misquoted myself, because the heart of my point is that you did a lot of work which probably didn't help anyone specifically.

ac - Mar 08, 2015 at 15:56
Lets walk through that reply:

1) I don't expect that and I stated that very early in the post
2) It was stated that I initially used other than 1:1 scale. I left the non 1:1 comments to illustrate how much difference few pixels make - I'm sure the artists found nothing new in my post beside the argument of the main character possibly shattering escapism/immersion for myself (perhaps escapism isn't the point of the game, I just don't know yet for sure) - I'm sure most of the "ideas" in the post were from past games the blog author was involved with and I just thought it would be fun if those features were present yet again

3) A misunderstanding I need to correct in your reply is what I said about the character facing the camera. To state what I said in other words: I know the characters are going to face the camera just like in say Maniac Mansion etc,  however they can still be drawn at any angle out of 360 degrees. I think it would look better if they faced at 0 degree angle (straight looking into eyes of the player) only when making remarks or talking to the player. When idle, if they could be drawn at say -20 or +20 degrees or whatever.

ac - Mar 08, 2015 at 16:01
typo - "When idle, they could be drawn at say -20 or +20 degrees". 20 degrees here means just "any value between 20 and 50 degrees" - there's an example of this in the characters.png bottom which I pointed out, I just don't know what exact angle it is.

ac - Mar 08, 2015 at 16:08
Ok I get what you mean now - The girl with glasses at the bottom of the character poster is still "facing at 0 degrees/straight" but her head suggests she's looking elsewhere and the glasses are obscuring where she is really looking. Whether that can be drawn for every of the main characters likely comes down to the final resolution. At 320x200 I could imagine it to be challenging at the classic size of characters.

ac - Mar 08, 2015 at 16:32
When I posted that I only looked at the faces. Now I notice there are also angled looks.

1,L15 (the guy on the top of the blog header) - his feet are suggesting that he's not facing straight to the player but his face and eyes are.

So which is better idle look? This or the one where the face is also at an angle? Well maybe it depends on the character. But I just noticed I don't like if both the feet and eyes are suggesting straight "in your face staring". Some people take that as a challenge coming from strangers.

MrY - Mar 08, 2015 at 23:51
Hmm still unconvinced. Can you provide more detail for your choice of 1,L15?

ac - Mar 09, 2015 at 19:34
I suppose it's because I'm pretty serious dude and after Spock, 1,L15 (same as in the blog banner) is not a bad choice imo. Many of the early screenies show cased the middle age dev guy (just like me) and I just got my panties in a bunch over the thought I'd have to see that guy - so much so that I wouldn't buy the game if he was a main character. I only buy entertainment with characters I like and while I would like to have a clone army of myself to build help with my own projects I suspect those clones would have their own ~extremely important~ projects too and would refuse to help me.

Farooq - Mar 09, 2015 at 04:32
Going swift and lovely. Any chance Threep going to make a cameo in this? :)

Farooq - Mar 09, 2015 at 04:34
sorry i meant THREEPWOOD.

MrY - Mar 09, 2015 at 08:31
I want Mancomb Seepgood!!!

delMar - Mar 09, 2015 at 10:32
no update for eight days...
Are you guys broke already?

Just joking!

This must be the best devblog ever, so I'm really just looking forward to the next update!

Keep going!

Oliver Bachmann - Mar 10, 2015 at 13:43

Oliver Bachmann - Mar 10, 2015 at 13:47

Oliver Bachmann - Mar 11, 2015 at 07:21
You may also call here Lilo if you like :D

Brian Ruff - Mar 10, 2015 at 13:59
Hi Ron, as a music lover it would be great to see some music production happenongs in the dev blog, and even some demo tracks if possible.

ac - Apr 22, 2015 at 15:42
I think the guy on the right would make a character.

Aubrey - Feb 23, 2017 at 14:30
Whats the total number of characters?

Nor Treblig - Feb 23, 2017 at 18:07
5 playable characters (
47 speaking roles (,
Mare than 80 NPCs in the circus scene alone according to Big Red Button (
More than 26000 characters on this page.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Feb 27, 2017 at 07:07
Welcome back to "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"!
Tonight, Nor Treblig. He has reached the "500,000 copies" goal, and he's going for the final goal: "1,000,000 copies".
There are no choices for the last question.

Here it is, Mr. Nor Treblig:

How many distinct users, based on the names appeared on the Blog, have written on the Development Blog of Thimbleweed Park, so far (Feb 27th, 2017) ?

Nor Treblig - Feb 27, 2017 at 22:34
Stats until 2017-02-28 (UTC) excluding this day, including special blog posts (FAQ, Phone FAQ, Support Us):

Congratulations, you won!

longuist - Feb 28, 2017 at 01:31
Yay, i managed to have an weighted blog post / comment count. Is there something left to win?

Nor Treblig - Feb 28, 2017 at 04:33
Your consistency is appreciated. You get one (weighted) cookie.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Feb 28, 2017 at 07:13
Congratulations, YOU WIN!!
...I have written over 1300 comments?!? What a spammer I am!!! :-D

longuist - Mar 01, 2017 at 15:09
You lose :P

longuist - Mar 01, 2017 at 15:07
Will share it with my companion..b

Nor Treblig - Apr 01, 2017 at 09:53
Stats until 2017-04-01 (UTC) excluding this day, including special blog posts (old FAQ, Phone FAQ, Support Us):