Early Brainstorm


Nov 10, 2015

During last weeks podcast, someone asked how we came up with the idea for Thimbleweed Park. Like all creative processes, it was messy and fought with twists, turns, false starts and really stupid ideas.

When Gary and I decided we should do a Kickstarter to try and rediscover the charm of the old classic point & click adventure games, we didn't have a clue as to what the game or story would be.

So our first step was to brainstorm ideas. Any ideas, no matter how stupid, just get them down and see where they go.

We spent about a week adding to this document...

Once we had all the ideas down, we each picked five we liked. There was a lot of overlap, but none of them felt strong enough to carry the whole game.

That's when I had the idea of taking a few of the ideas we liked and framing them in a larger story, that of the Detectives. Once we beat that idea around a bit and decided it was the right direction, we brainstormed some names for the game...

And then we did some art, wrote some stuff, launched a Kickstarted, did some more stuff, built an adventure game engine and started blogging about it in the desperate hopes that no one realizes we have no idea what we're doing.

Again.

- Ron



Lorfarius - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:24
Zombie Mall actually sounds amazing! I'd buy that. Not sure if that's just me.

urielz - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:06
Zombie Mall... can't stop thinking about that game. My office day is ruined. Thank you Mr. Gilbert.

LichiMan - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:27
Is it free of spoilers?
Thanks.

Ron Gilbert - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:33
Yes, 100% free of spoilers.

LichiMan - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:21
Great. I'm trying to watch my figure.
Thanks Ron.

Mattias Cedervall - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:31
Awesome ideas! :-)

Josejulio Martínez - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:33
Awesome, maybe after Thimbleweed Park™ you might pick other from the Story Brainstorm™ list.

John - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:41
What happened with game 31??

Ron Gilbert - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:45
You can't handle game 31.

hdort - Nov 10, 2015 at 15:22
Quick, someone register game31.com!

Marco Lizza - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:02
Apparently someone already did...

Zarbulonian - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:17
I'll take a guess, and say Gary and Ron leave a trailing number as a prompt to trick themselves into writing their next idea.

Or maybe we really can't handle #31.

I'm kinda partial to #41 personally: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Sk55fGpf9M

Their fanbase has a horrible reputation, which probably reflects badly on me, but hey, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:19
Arrgh, the board ate my underscores...

Big Red Button - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:27
Maybe it's *Monkey Island 3.1*? This would explain why the title and the description are missing.

Zarbulonian - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:42
Provided CoMI never called itself MI3, I'd argue that title is still availlable, hence no need for the ".1".

Grafekovic - Nov 11, 2015 at 16:54
The story of game 31 is on disc 22 of Thimbleweed Park.

Fredrik Sjöborg - Nov 13, 2015 at 13:03
I already made game 31, you can download it for free right here:

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:44
7. Pesto and Basil... AHAHAHAH!!! Did those aliens visit Genoa city?  :-D
10. RISE OF THE HAMSTERS: I like this idea! Thinking of the poor hamster in Maniac Mansion!
13. ODD THOUGHT: Very odd. No non-playable characters. Could open to many endings!
18. LOVE POTION #42 : "The answer of ultimate question of life, universe and everything" !!
19. MONKEY MANSION on MANIAC ISLAND: I bet this idea came from Ron Gilbert!
28. THE WILL: it's original, I can imagine each of you playing the main role...

thanks for sharing this doc with us!

Draxton - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:46
Lobots.!!
Darn it, we need it to happen.

Steffen - Nov 10, 2015 at 13:53
For some moments I wondered if you have an idea what you are doing. *joke*

No... what you're doing seems pretty well thought and structured. I'm really looking forward to the game hat to the feeling when playing it. Monkey Island was one of the best games I've ever played and Thimbleweed Park might bring back even these feelings from the early '90s.

Eric - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:02
I would play any of these.  So happy this game is being made!

Mark Pollock - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:02
Oh man, that list is fantastic. Zombie Mall is superb.

Michael - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:14
Plenty of funny and superb ideas in that list.
"Haunted Hotel" is really interesting.

Matt - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:22
When can we expect the Zombie Mall Kickstarter!?
:)

Wetzer - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:26
I like 6.

count-thimbleweedpark.com@flatline.de - Dec 23, 2015 at 05:03
Me too. Pretty good fun so far.

Christopher Griffin - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:48
Number 28 sounds like the Season 3 Episode 20 of Community "Digital Estate Planning".  It was probably the single best episode of TV I have  ever seen.  People loved it so much, they made a game (https://projecthawkthorne.com) about it.

Petruza - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:50
Idea #1 is just excellent. That should be Thimbleweed II.

Michael - Nov 10, 2015 at 14:57
Wow, Zombie Mall sounds fantastic. Please do this game next : ) But Ron, I still remember a cool “maybe I do it in the future”-Game you told me about at “The Cave”-Event in Munich. You had the idea about a group of people in an confined space like a cruise ship or an island resort. A little bit like in “Clou”, you can choose to play different stereotype peops like a rich lady or an captain … and then: you have to kill somebody and need to try to get away with the murder while a private detective is investigating.

Lennart - Nov 10, 2015 at 15:06
I'm devastated you didn't even consider your old Murder House idea. Devastated as in ... devastated!

Just kidding. Very insightful post as usual!

Kim Jørgensen - Nov 10, 2015 at 15:28
I like number 3

Big Red Button - Nov 10, 2015 at 15:31
12. ABNORMAL REAL ESTATE is interesting.

Thorn - Nov 10, 2015 at 15:35
Maaaan... that Haunted Hotel idea kicks ass! It's kind of like a combination of Hotel Dusk and Ghost Trick. That would have been a totally wicked game. I'm now a little sad that doesn't exist.

Gins - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:04
Funny that "Devil's Triangle" is on the list of possible names, as that is the name of a Monkey Island fangame I once played haha.

Marco Lizza - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:05
To be honest, I really find idea #4 to be pretty cool and worth to be elaborated...

Alessander - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:11
Idea 6: at the end, the has-been game designers from the 80s fool the backers for two years with fake screenshots, videos and podcasts. They got their revenge for the death of adventure games.

Peter Campbell - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:28
Abnormal Real Estate sounds like an awesome idea for a game!  Regarding Rise of the Hamsters, South Park already did a similar thing when they did a parody of the movie Cloverfield, with giant hamsters or giant guinea pigs (forget which) running amok Godzilla style.

One question for Ron, Gary and David:  When you guys were finalizing your kickstarter pitch for TP and talking about how it was inspired by shows such as the X-Files, Twin Peaks, etc., did you know that both shows were making a comeback with most of the original lead cast returning?

Ron Gilbert - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:31
No. I'm pretty sure Twin Peaks and X-Files decided to do comebacks because of the success of our Kickstarter.

Peter Campbell - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:56
That could very well be lol.  I heard that David Lynch was quite flattered by Swery's game Deadly Premonition (a very weird, weird, weird, so bad it's good Twin Peaks-inspired 3D open-world game from last gen).  Perhaps that got the ball rolling again.  

Then the movie "Prisoners" with Jake Gyllenhal and Hugh Jackman from a few years ago was critically acclaimed and hugely commercially successful.  It was heavily inspired by Twin Peaks and that must've made Lynch feel really good about doing the show again.  

Then when tv executives weren't sure if it would be financially viable, they heard about the crowdfunding kickstarter success of Thimbleweed Park and that sealed the deal for the show's return =)

Hey, I just noticed that Twin Peaks and Thimbleweed Park both share the same initials lol.

Mister T - Nov 11, 2015 at 06:31
I always wanted to use that intellectual sounding german term, finally the opportunity is here:

Zeitgeist!

Diduz - Nov 10, 2015 at 16:53
Dorkapalozza Extravaganza must be the best title ever.

Nor Treblig - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:09
I liked the first one. Also: Lobots!

tomimt - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:13
There's a couple of ideas there which would make a pretty decent mini game or a small, fun time waster for mobile devices. And a couple which could be used as a basis for a strategy game.

That idea about playing ALL the characters in the game is interesting.  You could basically be planning puzzles for yourself and then solve them by using entirely different methods.

Gv - Nov 11, 2015 at 11:14
It would be great to have a game that allows you to create a game, choosing props from your inventory and placing them in the scene, chatting with the actors, instructing them what to say, like a film director.

jck - Nov 10, 2015 at 17:59
Were illicit drugs used during this creative processes

Steve - Nov 10, 2015 at 18:01
Where did the name Thimbleweed Park come from? Seems pretty random to me :)

Christian - Nov 10, 2015 at 18:26
I would love to play an adventure game where one has to do a heist. Working with explosives, trickery, etc. Also I would be nice to play as a bad person

Helge Frisenette - Nov 10, 2015 at 21:33
I really like how you took the time to photograph each printed page, instead of just putting up the text file.

Stick to ideas that are inspired by stuff before 1993, that's were the last treads of zeitgeist started in the 80's petered out and the hellhole of popculture of today took its beginning.

Ashley B - Nov 10, 2015 at 21:45
Now I wish I had the time and energy to make a game myself.....  all those awesome ideas :)

Orcan Ogetbil - Nov 11, 2015 at 01:07
Which one was the second most probable candidate for the main theme?
I think 26 would be interesting. Call it Ocean's Limbo!

Alex - Nov 11, 2015 at 02:55
Zombie Mall is the next game! I decided! :)
a.

Big Red Button - Nov 11, 2015 at 03:49
Zombie Mall would have been partly a business simulation game. Not sure if this would have been funny enough in the long term.

R.C.M. - Nov 11, 2015 at 05:33
I rather like #4. In this era of generic 'kill everything' games, it would be a nice change of pace.

Mario - Nov 11, 2015 at 05:58
a story like the movie "Murder by Death" would be cool too. but it looks like TP is based on that somehow.

Michael Zier - Nov 11, 2015 at 08:41
I'd love to see someone develop #21... and as for all the comments loving Zombie Mall, that would work better Sims-style or top-down GTA, I think.

Seth - Nov 11, 2015 at 10:28
Thanks for sharing Ron & Gary. I didn't know it was possible to be nostalgic for games that haven't been made, but that's exactly how these make me feel!

tbn - Nov 11, 2015 at 12:00
I really liked 23. The random part sounds like fun.

Brett - Nov 11, 2015 at 12:34
I would totally buy Haunted Hotel if you ever get around to making that one. The Shining vibe plus possessing animals to interact with the living world sound awesome.

Bobe - Nov 11, 2015 at 13:40
I took you for a LaTeX guy.

Gv - Nov 11, 2015 at 14:13
I like the idea of a random detective game.

jalcazo - Nov 11, 2015 at 14:57
Wow the first one is simply amazing, it reminds me of Elvira 2, where you were also trapped in a studio lot. Great game.

SirVanilla - Nov 11, 2015 at 16:32
I could totally see Zombie Mall as a ftp/freemium mobile game, maybe along the lines of Fallout Shelter? I would totally buy it!

Zak - Nov 11, 2015 at 17:11
Where is Zak McKracken 2?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 12, 2015 at 03:10
Here! (April 1st, 1999)
Italian only, maybe you can use an online translator, it's worth it.
http://devilmaster.altervista.org/zak2.html

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 12, 2015 at 03:12
I mean: April 1st, *1989* !

Okona - Nov 12, 2015 at 05:57
There is a nice continuation available at:

http://www.mckracken.net/

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 12, 2015 at 09:00
Thank you.
I have downloaded it the day it was published, some months ago, but I haven't finished yet.
After the initial enthusiasm, I slowly stopped playing it. Maybe I'll play later...
It's beautiful, but there is something missing... or maybe, it's just me!

Jeffry Houser - Nov 11, 2015 at 21:21
"The Will" sounds a lot like Hollywood Hijinx; an old Infocom game...

Peter Campbell - Nov 12, 2015 at 01:08
So I finally took the time to read everything (work has been totally exhausting) and as mentioned in the last podcast, I definitely see how Thimbleweed Park became very much a culmination of many of these brainstorm ideas.  I love that Thimbleweed Park doesn't just simply take place in one location, or just run on one theme or plot point.  To have an entire town to explore with so many different weird things going on makes for all sorts of possibilities and really keeps things varied and interesting.  

There's really something for everyone in this game and you really don't know where the story is going to go or what to expect and that makes it much more fun to want to progress further and further into the game.  I also love that each playable character is important, whereas in Maniac Mansion while there were some minor changes to the game depending on who you chose to play as, it didn't really make that much of a difference.

One thing that I think would be pretty cool is if there is a sequel to TP, to have a "Return to Thimbleweed Park" sequel that takes place in the current year.  I'd like to see the same art style used because it's just so good, but the main thing would just be to have the town transformed to what it would look like in 2017 or 2018 or whatever year, or even have it take place around 1998 or something.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 12, 2015 at 03:41
I like your idea, I would place the game in the near future, for example 40 year after (1987 -> 2027), that is about 10 years from the current present... more or less the same amount of time that existed when the first Zak McKracken was released (1988 -> 1997)
The near future tickles the player's imagination, better than the current present!
At least, that was what I felt when I played Zak McKracken as a kid...

Arto - Nov 12, 2015 at 14:30
I like the idea as well. I'd like to see the same town after 30 years, so it would be 2017? And same characters (only 30 years older, of course), if they survived the first adventure. Technological advances should be something that would've been envisioned 1987. The case should be tied to the case in first game. Would be kind of like Twin Peaks continuum.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 12, 2015 at 17:07
...and the name for this new adventure could be:
THIMBLEWEED MANSION in MONKEY PARK

Peter Campbell - Nov 12, 2015 at 19:05
I think we have a nominee for best game title ever =)

Big Red Button - Nov 12, 2015 at 18:55
I would prefer a time travel story with a journey into a near 'future', which lies behind us, and a return to the 'present' (good old 80s) at the end of the game. If the agents were old in the sequel it would be difficult to create a second sequel as it would have to take place in an even later time.

Besides I think that a successor wouldn't necessarily have to be a sequel of TP since there are really interesting ideas above which would also work standing alone.

Derrick Reisdorf - Nov 13, 2015 at 10:33
I think it would be kind of funny if the next game Ron makes stayed with the theme of a lost game of the 80s, hidden in a drawer, only to be discovered today.  It could be called Prophecy: Year 2017 (or whatever year this game would be released).
The game would obviously have retro graphics (and, preferably, sound).
Since the game is being portrayed as being made in the 80s (again), the gameplay would feature predicted technologies of the "future", the year 2017.  Of course, the game would feature flying cars, holograms, VR, robot helpers, and other clichés of near-future-prediction, as seen in movies (and other media) of the 80s (and/or 70s or 90s).
However, the game will feature "future"-alternate versions of celebrities and culture of present day, as prophesized by the game back in the 80s .  A "hip" bishop in sunglasses named Frank who longs to be Pope (he's not really cool, but he likes to think he is- he secretly spends a lot of free time writing raps and often moonlights as a DJ.  His peers wonder why he is often tired.); a "supreme leader" of a fictitious Asian country, simply named Kong, who is very hell-bent on power and world domination, but is young and child-like with a well-known affinity for American culture (basketball, movies, video games); three daughters of a high-profile criminal lawyer- Kathy, Krissi, and Kate- who have become reality television celebrities; a healthy fast food alternate spokesperson who has been framed of a nasty crime by a rival (not-so-healthy) fast food conglomerate.  And, so on.

Derrick Reisdorf - Nov 13, 2015 at 10:50
The game will be prefaced by an introduction from Ron Gilbert, who describes himself as a 20-something programming genius, and that the following game is based off of a series of lucid visions that came to him in his dreams.

ldgonza - Nov 12, 2015 at 23:19
Damn, now I want to see almost all of those ideas turned into actual games.

Paulup - Nov 13, 2015 at 10:04
Here are my random thoughts...

These are the ones I liked the most:
--"Everyone Hates a Clown" - I love everything about this, how it would create some really interesting and odd locations to explore and it sounds like it could have the spooky/horror vibe of The Dig, but with comedic elements too..
--"Monkey Mansion/Maniac Island" - This also sounds great, lots of room for bizarre happenings, interesting characters, etc.
--"Space Party Aliens" - really depends where this one goes, but it could make for some incredible locations and planets and alieny things.

I also quite liked "Pie Wars", "Back to School Time", and "The Will", all of which could be hilarious, though they don't seem to have as much scope as the ones above.

I'm not so keen on ones like the film students, the making people happy game, the love potion game, or the trailer park game - they seem a bit restrained in how they're set in a "normal" world pretty much... I kinda want adventure games to transport me to more bizarre places like a pirate world or a world run by tentacles or a Twin Peaks-esque world, etc.

The zombie game, heist game, and superheroes game all sound ok, but a little bit... generic, maybe? I feel like adventure games can really push the boundaries more storywise, so I wouldn't really want to see ones that fall back on those kinds of ideas.

Haunted Hotel sounds like an idea that's interesting initially, but would run out of steam as an idea if the whole game revolved around it. It feels kinda "small" as a game idea... kinda the same with Bummer Down Under a bit, it feels like it would be limited in a way to just things that could occur underground (though maybe I'm wrong about Bummer Down Under, maybe it would have loads of crazy stuff in it).

Cryptozoology and Abnormal Real Estate seem a mix of interesting stuff (mythological creatures, ghosts) and kinda uninteresting (running from tabloid guys, selling real estate).

Rise of the Hamsters sounds a bit too Day of the Tentacle-ish so would maybe come off a bit of a rehash? Could be good though.

Odd Thought to me sounds like it would be too complex... I think once you get past a certain number of characters, it's kinda diminishing returns of "this is interestingly deep" to "this is too confusing/complicated". Same with Tuna Head Hamsters, seems like a lot of variables, but I guess some people do really dig that kind of variation.

It sounds like you nailed the combination of things with Thimbleweed Park, though I would still really like to see the clown game, maybe as a spin-off of Thimbleweed Park...

Siegfried - Nov 13, 2015 at 10:51
hello,
could you maybe write a post about walking implementation? I would really appreciate it ;)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 13, 2015 at 13:03
Hello,
I remember some posts about what you are asking, written in the first months of 2015.
Try to search in the blog's archive, near the month of march. I remember it was also published a video about walking areas.

Andy Roberts - Nov 13, 2015 at 12:06
Love Haunted Hotel - sounds like it could be an interesting concept (especially if ghosts can only communicate with each other, can't pick up objects, but can influence real-world objects and events in the poltergeist stylee. Maybe a ghost teams up with a real-life paranormal investigator (al la Randall & Hopkirk).

Biggus Dickus - Nov 13, 2015 at 15:46
Quote from Rons at Spieleveteranenpodcast in 2013: "I think gamers today ... want things to move forward and so what I wanted to do with The Cave is to make this moment to moment gameplay fun. ... And even when your sitting there thinking about a puzzle, if you watch players, their characteer isn't just standing there. It's jumping around the screen which is kind of half of the players brain engaging with just jumping the character on screen and the other half of the brain is solving the puzzle."

So the big question is: Will there be a jump button in Thimbleweed Park, at last for the Xbox version?

Incontinentia Buttocks - Nov 13, 2015 at 17:12
Its more likely there will be a "grump" button :) Was that inappropriate?

badde - Nov 13, 2015 at 19:15
I watch for the dog ! That's the crux of the matter - later perhaps ?!

wanted - Nov 14, 2015 at 17:39
gold post

mr. T - Nov 17, 2015 at 16:18
Dear Santa: please sprinkle some magic (green) dust on Ron et al. so we'd get

1  1980's Russian Spy Game
1  Great Heist Game
and
1  Maniac Island Game

Thank You

Bt519 - Nov 18, 2015 at 11:33
I love the "Play as ALL characters" game idea.  It would be neat, for instance, to play MM as Dr. Fred.

gauss - Aug 22, 2016 at 05:55
#5 mad me laugh heavily :-)
I would like #1 and #19 and yes i must admit i would like to see a protoype of
zombiMall.
Why are we so obsessed with the zombie genre? Hm....

Thanks for the list and insight into the brainstorming Ron.
what is three + one?