I'm Just Going to Write

by Ron Gilbert
Dec 01, 2015

Not sure what to write about this week. So much is happening, but so much of it is spoilers. I think this week I'll do a little free writing. As I type these very words, I have no idea what this post is going to be about.

We've done three playtests so far and all of them have produced great information. The most encouraging part is they are producing roughly the same results. Players are liking and getting stuck on the same things. Those are easy problems to fix.

We did a little redesigning of the first 15 minutes of the game and added a simple two character puzzle to help teach that you can switch characters and that it's needed, not just a fancy back of the box bullet point. It also makes the very beginning of the game a little more interesting because you're doing some simple puzzle solving before being plummeted into the story.

The other thing we learned is that some of  our dialogs are too long, so we're going through a pruning phase. Players thought the dialogs were funny and interesting, but there was too much information in there and it became easy to tune out. It doesn't matter how good, useful or funny your writing is if players are just skipping it faster then they can read it.

I half-expected this, but wanted to watch some players to make sure. I often know something is wrong, but I need to see it.

There is also a funny/creepy little gag that happens right at the beginning that everyone missed. If you miss it, the game becomes temporarily confusing, so we cut the gag. We'll probably reuse it later when it's not critical if players miss it.

David and I were chatting on Slack last night about keyboard controls. One of the questions raised during the playtest was if you'll be able to hit keys to select verbs. It was always our intention, but we hadn't figured out how to lay it out.

I as favoring a grid layout, where the top left verb was ‘Q' and the next over was ‘W', etc. David was arguing for Open being ‘O', Close being ‘C', use being ‘U", etc. Whenever these types of discussions happen was always ask "What would Lucasfilm Games do?", so we busted out the old Lucasfilm game manuals to take a look.  Turns out we did it both ways back then.

The first letter matching the verb has some issues, mainly Push, Pull and Pickup. It also has the translation problem. How did the translated versions of old Lucasfilm Games deal with that? Was it successful? What is your preferred approach to mapping keys to verbs? Do you care?

I'm the wrong person to ask, since I never use the keyboard. I was the only person in my World of Warcraft guild to do hardcore raiding and never use the keyboard. I am a mad mouse clicker. It's both a curse and blessing and a burden I live with.

Of course, the keyboard will be fully remappable, so you will be able to assign them to anything you want, but the default settings should feel good for most players.


- Ron

Henk - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:00
From what games are the manuals?

also: great post, need moar, need game now, blah blah etc etc :)

Ema - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:03
Don't ask him! He'll never reply... ;-)

You should ask it to the fans, you'd get a billion geeky replies!!! ;-D

PS (I'm pretty sure which game is the first, at least)

Ema - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:04
And also the second. There's an easy hint.

Zarbulonian - Dec 01, 2015 at 17:08

For the first, it's the only game to have "Turn on", "Turn off", but no "What is". Later versions of that game ditched the first two verbs as well.

The second game is the only one to have "Fix" and "Unlock".

Ema - Dec 02, 2015 at 13:13
Exactly :-)

Sushi - Dec 02, 2015 at 18:28
Don't forget "new kid" !!

paralax - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:06
Keyboard control sounds great. Please make sure that you're targeting scan codes instead of virtual key codes so users of e.g. German keyboards can still use the Y key for giving stuff away!

Brian S - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:08
I would vote for the grid layout.  I also was thinking it would be very helpful if you press one of the keys, like "Q", and held it down for a second, it would select show the key corresponding to each verb in the verb area of the screen. (Since I don't think you would want them there all the time, as they would clutter the verbs).

CaffeinePwrdAl - Dec 02, 2015 at 07:39
Your idea of holding down a key gave me an idea!

The verbs are in a 3x3 grid, but if you 'think' of it as a wheel instead of a grid, by holding down a combination of WSAD or arrow keys to select the cardinal direction of the verb. - so 'UP + LEFT' = top left verb, etc, you can select verbs without having to search for a particular key, or knowing where your fingers were in the grid layout.

I think it's a little more intuitive than requiring the use of 9 separate keys.

I've was even bored enough to make a prototype using JQuery - you can try it out on my website here: http://cyrus5.co.uk/verbselection/

Some food for thought :)

Juan - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:08
I think the grid layout would be easier to use without looking at the keyboard, plus it would work with any language. I played a spanish copy of Monkey Island and they didn't translate the keyboard commands. So if you wanted to "Dar" (Give) you had to press G, and to "Hablar" (Talk) you had to press T, which didn't make much sense to 8 year old me. So I just ended up pointing and clicking the whole thing.

Andy Roberts - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:12
I like the idea of using the QWE/ASD/ZXC block of keys as it's pretty universal; you could map those to the corresponding verbs as they appear on-screen (Q = Open, W= Pick up, E = Push, etc.).

vegetaman - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:13
I vote for the "grid" layout. It's much more akin to the "WASD" many of us are familiar with in games that use keys on the left hand side of the keyboard soas to not fight the mouse.

Ralph Egas - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:15
I'd opt for having first letter matching and accounting for multiple verbs mapping to the same first letter by pressing 1, 2 or 3 times to cycle through those variations as they become highlighted (visual cue).

Grid layout is of course simpler and easier and arguably more intuitive, however it's 'hardcore' I'd associate with fast-action strategy games, not with easy contemplation adventure games to be honest.

In general I do think keyboard makes sense although there's no need to shortcut for rapid action (as there's no rapid action involved in the game), but once you start iterating permutations (which is probably inevitable in P&C adventure games no matter how hard you try to avoid it) it becomes convenient to not have to travel your pointer across the grid in a random access fashion.


Ralph Egas - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:17
Also, to cover multiple languages I guess it wouldn't hurt to localize those verbs and corresponding first letters (keys). I mean, why not?

Angelo - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:16
I'd rather use the grid layout. It's just more immediate and makes using the keyboard more comfortable for selecting verbs and dialogue choices.

I was wondering, would it be possible to map both the verbs and the dialogue choices to the numbers of the keypad? After all while you're talking you can't also be using verbs (or CAN YOU?). Just out of curiosity, I'm not sure I would even use it if it was available.

Chris Armstrong - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:16
I think the first letter version is a little more intuitive. The push/pull/pickup issue is a problem, but if you use the first letter of a synonym (i.e. 'shove' for push = s) at least there's some logic there that can jog my memory.

Mapping to QWERTY feels like it would work fine for options on the left edge, but I'd have to do a little calculation in my head each time for the others:
  "ok I want to unlock it, that's the second row, 3rd column..."
  *looks down to keyboard*
  "...ah ok it's D".
Doesn't feel like a shortcut, and are we going to be playing the game long enough to make it worthwhile learning random letter associations?

stderr - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:50
The trick is to NOT look at the keyboard, but just move your finger to the second row, 3rd column...

Huxi - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:23
Exactly And if you happen to press a wrong key you'll see that it happened and quickly press the key to the left or right to fix your mistake. It works very well.

Uli Kusterer - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:16
Apart from the translation issue being that the word for walk may start with a different letter in other language, keyboard layouts are also different between languages. E.g on a German keyboard, most keys are the same as in English, but Z and Y are swapped, so "Give" would have to be mapped to "Y". Similarly, In French, the first row is AZERT …

Personally, I think the positions of the verbs onscreen don't really make any intrinsic sense, so I would prefer mnemonic-based shortcuts for the default, and maybe a hint (e.g. hold down the command key or whatever and each verb gets a key cap with the key to press overlaid). If people prefer a physical arrangement, they can always customize it, but for most players it will just be: "The first letter, except Push and Pull, which are _S_hove and _Y_ank, and Turn Off and Turn On where it's the last letter."

In the end, you'll have to work this out with your localizers: "Pick keys easy to press on your keyboard, and if there are duplicates, use last letter or letters of similar words."

Uli Kusterer - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:23
That said, I wasn't even aware LucasArts offered the shortcuts, I generally used the mouse for point-and-clicks or games like Myst.

Although now I think about it some more, I think I may have seen them when playing Sam & max, but even there I didn't memorize them, and instead justused the mouse. I think you could use right-click to switch through the verbs, but that doesn't really scale well to more than 4.

TailsFox88 - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:18
Definitely Grid Layout. If you separate the buttons based on first letter, it creates a disjoint, because I have to stop and remember where that key is, which since you have one hand on the mouse, is really difficult for half the keyboard. Keeping them together means I can keep my keyboard hand in the same place, and map the buttons visually on the screen to which buttons I need to press, preventing having to think about the keyboard as a whole.

Andreas Gohr - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:19
Please remember that people will use different keyboard layouts. Letters that form a grid on an American Layout might not on a German Keyboard (Y and Z swap places).

Patrik Spacek - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:22
Keyboard control is needed... I play all lucasfilm adventure game with it. thanks

Justin Graham - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:22
I think the grid layout is simpler, but if you are offering key mapping, then you could localize the maps, and offer one for a grid layout as well.

stderr - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:59
Maybe it would be easier, if the users could decide their shortcuts themselves? A lot of games do that.

Brian S - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:19
He mentioned in the post that the keys would be fully remappable, he is just trying to decide on the defaults.

Colin - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:26
I think I'd expect a relationship between the key you push and the verb you want to select.

(I'd also expect that this way, you could give an on-screen hint as to what it is if you chose - say, by underlining the key which is the shortcut - like what Windows does)

I'm likely to switch between keyboard and mouse based on what seems right at the time. Most times I might click the verb, but sometimes push the letter. I'm only likely to push the letter if I can guess what it's going to be.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:33
I have played both English and Italian versions of our adventure games, and I can say it's better the GRID layout, because you better memorise the position of the keys than the initial letter.
Not to mention that, with verbs translated in Italian, the "first letter" making method is nonsense.
In Monkey Island, "Apri" was mapped to O (Open), "Raccogli" was mapped to P (pick up). There is not even a letter in common. I used the keyboard over the mouse for selecting verbs, because the mouse searches the objects in the scene, and the fingers type the verbs.

Please keep in mind that keyboard layout is not QWERTY everywhere. As mentioned before, German keyboard has Y changed, while French keyboard is QZERTY. But this is easy to fix: the languages are only five!

Thiezn - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:35
I'd vote for the first letter, easier to remember for me and genwrally i use the open/close/pickup/lookat commands the most

lemonCurd - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:39
After using the vi for a couple of years, I believe that it doesn't matter what letters you actually use. People will complain at first, then learn it, and then never want to change it.
So I would say go for the grid layout, but please keep in mind that some people have different keyboard layouts, some of them really weird.

Marcus Jota - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:46
I prefer the grid layout because I won't need to move my hand around and also not have to figure out which keys are used for "pull" and "push".

Christian - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:52
Once the game is released, please reveal what gag that was!

Also: grid layout is a no brainer: No translation problems, no p-issue and if remapping is available, everybody should be happy.

Rodrifra - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:53
I will use mouse too, but whenever I play a game and have to push any key I tend to use the first letter as a first try (I for inventory, L look, etc...). It is always my first guess, since I don't read any game's manual (except for those old flight simulators which were impossible to play without reading them).

So for me first letters (or last where verbs match as pick, pull push) would be a nice pick and Q-A seem great to skip forward/backward verbs.

And, hey, thanks for asking.

BoTToX - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:55
In french, all old LucasFilms games had same keys that the English version.
Only Z and Y are reverse in SwissFrench keyboard (QWERTZ) i use but it's not a problem for me.
It could be some problems with French keyboard in AZERTY.

CookieRevised - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:55
Push/pull problem:
Are there any situations in this game where you can both push and pull at the same thing?
If not, wouldn't it be more intuitive to make that as 1 verb?

The same for Turn on/off: if something is turned on, why would you want to again turn it on?

Such verbs can easily (or with some small effort maybe) be made into 1 verb, or 'action' if you will. It will also free some 'slots' which you can use for other verbs if you will..... And, you don't have the problem of duplicated begin letters for keyboard control (and/or translations).

Ema - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:56
I use mainly the mouse too, but I remember that for some specific puzzles I found the help of the keyboard really useful.
Since I use it seldom, I always preferred those games in which "O" stands for "open" and so on, since it is difficult to look for the position of the key on the keyboard to match the position of the verb on the interface.

I have a question and maybe a suggestion about the "missing gag". One of the problems I often found in many point and click adventure games is that it is not clear what you are expected to do in the immediate. And often it is because you missed some key point.
So the suggestion is to find a way either to "force" the gag, or to explain to the players what he should do or what is happening in the plot in another way. So the gag will just be optional, like an easter egg.
The question, indeed, was: if missing the gag makes the game confusing, simply "cutting" it wouldn't make the game confusing as well? Maybe I didn't understand what you mean...

Ron Gilbert - Dec 01, 2015 at 13:59
The gag didn't work because it gave the player some conflicting information. Without the gag, everything was clear. The problem was the gag doesn't work unless it's giving conflicting information, that is the gag.  We're just going to move it. It's not worth spend time on to fix. It will be funny later as well.

Ema - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:29
Thanks a lot, much clearer now.
So it is confusing if you see the gag, not if you miss it. I didn't got it.

Ema - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:00
I wrote my comment before reading others. I see that most of the people prefers the grid layout.
What about making the layout selectable in the game options? It should be easy to achieve, a lot of games has key mapping....

Franklin - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:02
"Of course, the keyboard will be fully remappable, so you will be able to assign them to anything you want"

Ema - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:25
Sorry, missed it. Thank you

fuu - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:00
Make the controlls a grid layout. It matches the positioning on the screen and is very intuitiv. Also you can rest your hand on that part of the keyboard where the grid is located and do not have to move it around.

Most RTS  sequels today favour the grid layout over the old letter matching and it translates much better.
(For example DotA1(keys spread everywhere) -> Dota2(QWER))

Bottox - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:06
GRID layout is better, because it's easier to memorize the position of the keys than the initial letter.

Big Red Button - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:11
I've never used the keyboard for selecting verbs, too, so I don't have any empirical values for your question. But as the verbs are arranged in a 3x3 matrix on the screen, you could use the number pad as well for the allocation of the hotkeys.

CaffeinePwrdAl - Dec 02, 2015 at 04:57
Would only work as a second set of bindings as a lot of machines won't have a num-pad.

Andreas - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:11
Why not both for english?

If you rearrange Close and Push you can have the grid layout and the Letter matching as default.

[O]pen [P]ickUp [L]ookAt
[U]se Pu[s]h Pull(y)
[G]ive [T]alkTo [C]lose

Marc - Dec 03, 2015 at 14:31
S = Shove; Y = Yank

Matthew - Dec 03, 2015 at 22:01
This is my vote too. Just like Monkey Island did it.

Nicolas Rivas - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:18
Go for the grid! You can forget about the keyboard eventually with left hand on the grid and right hand on the mouse (as you will need the mouse anyway). Then it's just a little bit more inmersive

Avis - Dec 01, 2015 at 19:52
This is exactly how I always played these games - lest hand positioned over the grid, right moving the mouse.

Huxi - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:19
+1 for grid layout.
It keeps the left hand stationary above the keys while having the right hand for the mouse. You could consider adding a similar preset on the right side of the keyboard for lefties, I guess.

Beside the localization problem, the "O for Open" layout didn't ever really work for me because my none-mouse hand had to jump over the whole keyboard. "Walk" and "Open"/"Pick up" are way apart. I ultimately used the mouse for verb selection because of that. Sorry, David. :)

Kai - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:19
Grid layout by default, users can redefine it in the settings.

That way, you also don't have any problems when you change some verbs temporarily (i.e., in a shop, pick up and give become buy and sell, like in Zak) or for comic effect (Guybrush petting the bird in Meathook's house).

Personally, I use the mouse almost exclusively, but if there is a puzzle where you need to do the same action repeatedly, the keyboard can be very handy. The best example is Indy III, where you have to move the chair you are tied to across the room by pushing/pulling it.

Derrick Reisdorf - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:21
Both ways.  And, remappable.

Did you say you were going to implement verb-switching via mouse controls?  Right-click cycles through verb commands?  Mouse wheel scrolls inventory?
Have you given much more thought to how the game will control via touch screen?  Game controller?  Are you leaning towards implementing direct movement of the character with the controller stick (and use the other stick for mouse movement)?

On an unrelated side note: Have you or have you considered implementing distance-based conditions when interacting with objects?  Meaning, if you are farther away from a selected object, the results of your verb commands may be different.  Can you think of any interesting puzzles you could do with that?  Would you then have the need to implement a way to decide if the player would automatically walk to an object to interact with?  Just a thought.

Emmanuel - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:27
No matter what you pick, mapping things to keyboards is tricky. For complex (but good, I promise) reasons, I use the French legacy Dvorak keyboard layout <http://www.algo.be/ergo/disposition-dvorak-fr.htm>;. I really can't do much without it. Let's just say that there is not exactly a huge amount of people who use the same layout. In most cases it does not matter. I even use vi with this layout. (Yes, I use vi. Emacs fans go ahead and mock me. https://xkcd.com/378/)

The main problem is with games. Often, i start a game, then, if I need to use the keyboard, close it, switch to the US English keyboard and start the game again. Often, switching layouts once the game has started does not work. The worse, oddly enough, has recently been when I was using OS X Mavericks for VNC as a client to use Windows 8 remotely. Unless I switched back to the US keyboard, I simply had no access to digits at all.

Some games a programmed... How can I put this in a non-judgmental way..? Stupidly. They use the character on the keyboard. So "W" becomes "Z" in French and "W" becomes "Z" in German. SOME game companies (let's not name names and promote Valve like a shameless fanboy here) use character positions instead. So instead of using "W" for "forward" they use the character two positions left from tab. (I actually don't know the code for that. It must change from engine to engine and from OS to OS, but it exists. I've seen it.) It's a small thing but it makes life for people who don't use EXCLUSIVELY US keyboards so much more pleasant.

Emmanuel - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:31
Oops. That was "Y" becomes "Z" in German.

Philipp N. - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:30
This is the [p]erfect solution:

O[p]en  [P]ick Up  [P]ush
Close u[p]  Look U[p]on  [P]ull
[P]resent  S[p]eak  A[p]ply

Emmanuel - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:33
I get what you're trying to do, but with that system, how do you get to the letter "p" in sections with free text input?

Philipp N. - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:39
Well, no one uses this letter anyway. Look at the text you wrote: Would there be the letter "p" somewhere in there if you were not talking about it?

John - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:43

ZakMcGerman - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:41
Leave the keyboard functions off, it doesn't matter and saves your ressources - back in the ole dayz we were triggered to use sticks of Joy and later on mousepower :)

Arto - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:43
I'm not sure what this comment will be about, I'll just type.

Good post. You should do free writing more often.

"Players are liking ... the same things. Those are easy problems to fix." ;) That's good to hear. If players were getting constantly stuck on different things, the puzzles might be too difficult or illogical, which could mean bigger overhaul which could take resources from other things and potentially push back the launch.

Keyboard controls: do both and then some. There could maybe be three selectable mappings (e.g. QWEASDZXC, initials and numeric keyboard for those keyboards that has it), and option for user remappable keys. And maybe a text parser :) Personally, I'm not going to touch the keyboard. With the exception of full stop key to skip dialogs already read.

Mathias - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:48
I'd use the QWERT/ASDFG/ZXCVB layout by dividing the layout into the same rows as the gui. By doing so it would be easier to reach what you intend to do rather than looking all over the place on the keyboard for the shortcuts. Once the player has them down into musclememory such as the people you used to raid with they will get faster selecting what to do. The only reason it worked for you is the 1 sec global cooldown on spells which aren't there in Thimbleweed Park :) The main reason why people are biased against the clicking in WoW is probably the survival cooldowns that are off the gcd.

Ron Gilbert - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:54
Hmmm... global verb cooldown. I like it.

Mathias - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:41
Good one! That would be something in an adventure game.
Also, apologies for straying off-topic into WoW-details. The reason for my comment is basically down to personal preferences of having key-binds clumped up close by each other instead of spread out for efficiency.

Biggus Dickus - Dec 01, 2015 at 17:56
Microtransactions incomming!

urielz - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:00
Ok, here's my ideal setup:

One hand in the mouse for pixel hunting and point and click to move the character around and the other hand in the keyboard to select verbs. The problem with so many verbs is that one has to 'navigate the keyboard' to press the right key for the action. What I would like to is be able to quickly navigate the verbs on the screen with W A S D (or the arrow keys if you use the mouse with your left hand). I know this might not be for everyone but would love to see this as an option...

Thanks for asking for feedback on this Ron.

Marco Lizza - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:04
I clearly remember Maniac Mansion keyboard shortcuts to mimic the verb-UI layout. Being Thimbleweed Park its spiritual successor, I think it should use the same approach.

Quite frankly I don't I'll be using it, having a mouse. However, back on the C64 I used it, since the joystick movements were slower.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:46
... and the Verb "what is", useful to scan every nook and cranny of the room!!!

Mattias Cedervall - Dec 01, 2015 at 17:36
I just screamed at the screen hoping stuff would happen.

nom - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:07
The most important keyboard shortcut is "Win the game" (CTRL-W).

Max - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:43
Grids never did anything for me (I'm still struggling to find WASD direction and much prefer actual arrows whenewer possible), so my preference would be for mnemonic-based commands. I can find "G" for "give" much faster than I can map a command to a grid...

Damian - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:47
You should asign verb to the numbers in the numpad.

"Use the numpad, Luke".

hihp - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:47
My suggestion: make two default layouts, one with grid layout, one with initials (actually, the initials one should be language-dependent).

Then: the first time the player presses any key, present him with both layouts and let him choose one, and inform him that he can always change it later through the settings.

Andrew Herron - Dec 01, 2015 at 15:52
I don't like the grid at all. I don't remember playing any lucasfilm adventure games with that layout!

I don't have my manuals handy but as far as I recall all of the monkey island games and DOTT used the first letter (ish) layout.

It looks like the grid is from maniac mansion, which I played on NES, so maybe it was only used once and then abandoned?

Nor Treblig - Dec 02, 2015 at 00:21
Actually all the *Lucasfilm Games* adventures used grid based layout!
They changed it with later games like Monkey Island and DOTT but then the company was called LucasArts already.

Games like Maniac Mansion, Zak McKracken and Indy3 used grid based layout and there was not really another way to map ~15 verbs more easily.

Later games with reduced verbs made it more easy to use the other approach. (Nowadays there are many "adventure" games with two- or even one-lick interfaces...)

I definitely prefer grid because I don't like to have to move my hand all over the keyboard (e.g. W - walk, O - open, C - close)

agent069 - Dec 01, 2015 at 16:24
I vote for #2. When I type, I use both hands, but when I play a p&c game, I usually have my right hand glued to the mouse, so there's only the left hand left, so I'd rather have keys in the left side of the keyboard that match the interface than the other solution. But the best solution would be to just leave the player the options, I don't think it would be too much work to have key binding. It could be really usefull to toy arround with usual controlers. Isn't what PC is all about? Messing around with hardware?

Amb - Dec 01, 2015 at 16:29
I'm a keyboard fanatic.  I know every obscure keyboard control there is.  As a software developer, one of our tests for our software is to actively throw the mouse behind the computer and make sure our interface can be quickly and easily navigated by keyboard.  It's a fail, for any function,  if it a) Can't be done  or b) Cant be done easily without memorising obscure combinations.  Part of the reason for this is that we do software that is used by call centre staff.  It has to be fast, and making users use a mouse is much slower in comparison to pressing keys.  It's a shame you aren't a keyboard user, as it will increase your speed in coding too.  There are a lot of great short cuts in every IDE out there that make developing much more fun, because you can concentrate on the logic flow rather than where the blasted right click option actually is etc.  

Re cutting down dialogue, I wish the makes of Flight of the Amazon Queen had done this.  The game was let down by the annoying dialogue.  There was also a discworld game back in the 90s.  This was even worse because you couldn't skip dialogue / cutscenes at all.  And those scenes were just not funny.  At all.  Attempts at humour that aren't funny are worse than boring dialogue.  I doubt you are at risk of this however, because,  Monkey Island didn't suffer from this at all.  And I usually am not a fan of American comedy.

Jaap - Dec 01, 2015 at 17:10
I can't remember ever using the keyboard in point & click adventure games (except for hitting F1 or ESC to go to the menu), since I loved to just lean back in my easy chair and lazily click around and be hypnotized by the flickering crosshair hovering over objects for inspection.

For me one of the attractions to the genre is the fact that you can just play it with a mouse, reclinin' away.

BTW: Any chance of doing an experimental setup with voice commands or e.g. Kinect input? You could then e.g. advertise the game in a late eighties kind of way, similar to e.g. the Nintendo Power Glove. I would totally buy that ;-)

Mattias Cedervall - Dec 01, 2015 at 17:35
I hope you will reuse the  funny/creepy little gag that happens right at the beginning that everyone missed.

I agree that the dialogs shouldn't be too long.

Zarbulonian - Dec 01, 2015 at 18:05
I'd go for the grid layout as well.

The [ E R T / D F G / C V B ] block for verbs, coupled with [ S / X ] for scrolling the inventory, works on QWERTY, QWERTZ, ans AZERTY.

If you keep a 4x2 inventory, you could use [ YZ U I O / H J K L ] for the objects. You must bind both Z and Y to the first object for that layout to be universal. It can be a peculiarity of the default bindings, there's no need to allow users to specify more than one key if they customize it (For Dvorak and other alternative layout users, mostly... Or and [O]pen, [U]se, etc. lovers...).

Depending on the number of dialog choices, you could map them as well, or not....

Using the numbers for the inventory doesn't work well on AZERTY because you must use SHIFT to produce numbers. I used the keyboard shortcuts as much as possible back then (even though they were a bit arbitrary in French, and AZERTY) but I never discovered that the inventory was available that way in MI (but then, I didn't have the booklet, maybe I should have bought the game :-).

Alternatively, you can offer presets for major variations. But then, please keep it to the alphabetical keys. For example, the Belgian keyboard uses AZERTY like the French one, but the non-alphabetical keys are shuffled.


At last, you could rely on scancodes for the default configuration. They are layout independent, but

1) I think there are differences between Macs and PCs (and aparently between AT/PS2 and USB keyboards),
2) I think SDL dropped scan code support when v2 came out,
3) It makes it hard to build a consistent UI for describing and customizing them (unless you use [ert dfg cvb s x] and the number keys,  which would work fine if you used scan codes).

DOSBox, which is still using the SDL 1.x branch normalizes the scan codes across platforms to provide them as DOS apps expect them, and it's open source. There may be wisdom to be gleaned from there. If you want, I know the authors and I can ask them for help navigating the source.

Zarbulonian - Dec 01, 2015 at 18:17
I'd add that it was most important before I got a mouse (obviously), and that I mostly used the verb and scrolling shortcuts.

Replies are the only interactive items during dialogs, shortcuts are less important there.

Brian - Dec 01, 2015 at 18:19
Grid layout all the way!

Carlo Valenti - Dec 01, 2015 at 18:33
I would use/invent some fast universal references rather than specific letters:
PICK UP: BackSpace
USE: Enter
WALK: SpaceBar
TALK TO: any letter

Carlo Valenti - Dec 01, 2015 at 18:40
Note: if any key is already in use, there are still PgUp, PgDn, Esc, and maybe @ and .

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 02, 2015 at 09:34
I feel you will use the "custom keymapping" feature... I prefer the fixed grid layout instead. I grown up with Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken using the grid...

Carlo Valenti - Dec 02, 2015 at 17:15
Just a thought! I never used keyboard in adventure games :)

Ema - Dec 02, 2015 at 16:48
mhmm... intuitive... :-/

Marc - Dec 03, 2015 at 14:35
My keyboard doesn't have a numeric keypad, so * / - + are a pain to use.

Matt - Dec 01, 2015 at 19:05
I think if possible it's always best to have a customisation option. Have a default (or couple of presets) but have key mapping in the options to allow us to choose which keys we want mapped to the verbs as long as they're not keys assigned to quiting the game or something generic like that. I know it's more to do but it makes it easy if you change your mind especially as everyone has their own preferences.

Me - Dec 01, 2015 at 19:07
I prefer without any doubt the 'o - open', 'w - walk' commands. I've played several times the old Lucas adventures and the 'o - open' mode feels much more organic than the grid.

B - Dec 01, 2015 at 19:49
I think that the shortcuts should be made in a way that combinations of them spell obscene remarks.  In addition, there should be a keyboard shortcut history that can be called up to see just how obscenely a person has typed.  One could even be rated on the degree of obscenity.

F- Turn Off; U - Unlock; K - Look at; C - Close

Or grid.  Grid works.

Michael - Dec 01, 2015 at 20:50
Why not use completely different layouts? Here are 2 more examples:

1. Use the Numpad as a grid for verbs (789, 456, 123), nr for conversation selection (1-6)
2. select the verbs with only 3 keys: 1 times q = open, 2 times q = pick up, 3 times q = push, ... -> less keys in use and faster :) just cycle through the verbs

Stupid ideas? It's late :) But as most people mentioned I would prefer the grid idea as well: translation of verbs and "english" layout for keys does not match very good.

jfrisby - Dec 01, 2015 at 20:56
I've never met an adventure gamer who used keyboard shortcuts for that UI..   And who are these people skipping dialogue!?!

jfrisby - Dec 01, 2015 at 21:01

Kenney - Dec 01, 2015 at 21:25
Visually, I feel the default controls should correspond with the grid placement of the verbs and items on screen so you don't need to look away from the screen.
Does that make sense?

Orcan Ogetbil - Dec 01, 2015 at 21:35
As an emacs fan, I obviously like keyboard shortcuts. If I had to make a choice for the default, I wouldn't create a QWERT style mapping, unless I want to support different keyboard layouts (= lots of boring work). People use different layouts: German, DVORAK, COLEMAK etc. Something tells me exotic keyboard layout usage is more common in the target audience of this game than in the general population.

Mahaku - Dec 01, 2015 at 23:00
After some reflection I give +1 for grids. In our mixed family we always have the default nonv-Dvorak layouts for German, Spanish, Dutch, US and Japanese  available for context switching, even though only one will match the actual printed layout (for obvious reasons). To make matters worse, US keyboards tend to have a fewer special character keys than their European counterparts, so sticking to the top left non-numeric area of any keyboard "out there" should give the most straightforward result. Compact laptops habe no numpad, tablet thingies are on-screen only and often enough different beasts altogether, F-keys get killed for hardware control shortcuts, etc. etc.

Matthias - Dec 02, 2015 at 00:45
The mouse is my tool for adventuring. So no keyboard-support ist needed. I guess you hated the Grimm Fandango  interface as much as i did then. Curse you 3D in gamegenres where you dont belong! (Adventures, Sidescrollers, etc.)

Óscar - Dec 02, 2015 at 03:41

At the beggining of game you can show a selector with both images of key mappings and let the user decide. Even you can add one option more that says:
"Fuck! These mappings are a piece of shit. Let me to decide!"

Iron Curtain - Dec 02, 2015 at 08:12
Agreed. There should be options, such as
1. Capital (e.g. P = pick up, W = Walk to, L = Look at, etc.)
2. Keyboard Layout (the second option Ron Gilbert was talking about where the keyboard visually matched the verbs layout)
3. Custom (whatever you want)

I think this will be the best option.

Soren Ladegaard - Dec 02, 2015 at 03:42
Regarding overly long dialogues.

If the dialogues seem overly long to native English speaking people they most certainly are to non-English speaking people.

I live in Denmark. I prefer puzzles that are mainly item/inventory based. Of course we need dialogue to move the story forward. But if the story is complex with lots of dialogue with many of the puzzles "hidden" in the story they "vanish" due to the language barrier.

Danish is a small language so we never get to see movies in the cinema with dubbed sound. It's all original audio and Danish subtitles. That makes us rather good at speaking English.

Many people would say "I can easily watch an american film and not read the subtitles". But it often turns out that if you actually do watch a movie without subtitles you loose a lot of info if the plot is just a little complicated.

Yes, there are subtitles in Thimbleweed Park but they are English too. That's fine. I really like them and they make sure I understand the voiceover completely. But still. It's a foreign language.

Please make sure not to do overly long dialogues.

Can't wait to play the game. It's going to be THE game of the year!

Fnord Prefect - Dec 02, 2015 at 04:11
Please make the keyboard shortcuts as complicated and cumbersome as possible.  Ctrl+Shift+F12 for 'open', Ctrl+Alt+Win+ScrollLock for 'pick up', LShift-RShift-Esc three times sequentially for 'use', and so on.

finc - Dec 02, 2015 at 12:43
Agreed, in fact I firmly believe they should make the game so it's only compatible with DVORAK keyboards.

CaffeinePwrdAl - Dec 02, 2015 at 04:52
"I was the only person in my World of Warcraft guild to do hardcore raiding and never use the keyboard"

If you weren't the demi-god of point-and-click I'd have not believed you :D

Soong - Dec 02, 2015 at 05:49
I also prefer the grid layout.  The games that didn't use the grid layout always confused me, especially when I played them in the German translation.

unwesen - Dec 02, 2015 at 06:12
Keyboard commands: matter when you need to hit keys quickly, which in most adventure games I've played (except: MI2, the ending, which was annoying for this erason) rarely needs to happen. Usually you have enough time to figure out what to do.

Keyboard controls: mnemonic controls (first letter, or first distinct letter) matter for accessibility reasons.

I'd therefore always choose mnemonic keyboard controls in this kind of game, unless there's an action-packed sequence. In that case, it might be best to turn it into a non-standard minigame (think the hovercraft sequence in *cough*space quest*cough*), where the controls are tuned to the minigame.

Robert Megone - Dec 02, 2015 at 07:30
I certainly prefer the first letter approach but there are complications with duplicate letters and translations. I think my head just instantly connects the first letter to the verb. Maybe I'm just lazy.

In terms of translation, I think it's better not to introduce this kind of complexity. Nobody wants to be diving in to code they have forgotten about when it comes around to doing additional translations down the line. Translations should be text only, not key mapping.

The grid option obviously comes in tops in terms of logical use but what about a third option, a single key that cycles through the verbs?

Snarky - Dec 02, 2015 at 08:08
They shouldn't need to write any new code for different key mappings in other languages. The mapping is configurable anyway, so you just provide a different default mapping with the translated versions.

Snarky - Dec 02, 2015 at 08:06
I see that I'm in a minority, but I much prefer the initial letter system, which works much better mnemonically (even if you have to remember "Shove/Yank" instead of "Push/Pull") and doesn't require me to memorize or always keep looking over at the verb grid.

And I did play the old LucasArts games using keyboard shortcuts, so I could probably still do it by memory. (All the ones I played back then, Monkey Island 1 & 2, Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, used the initial system.)

Greg - Dec 02, 2015 at 08:14
for me (german player from the old days) keyboard commands doesn't interesst me a lot. When i'am playing a classic adventure the mouse is the form of controll i will use.
So, nice to have for others maybe.
I would implement it as in the classics to avoid frustration and give the (oldschool)-players what they expecting or familiar with.

Nor Treblig - Dec 02, 2015 at 18:33
When I played Maniac Mansion (back in the good ol'days) I didn't even have a mouse. I used the Numpad to move the cursor around and to position the cursor near the corners.
I used the keyboard shortcuts to select verbs, scrolled through the inventory etc. because moving the cursor from and to the verb section all the time wasn't efficient.

Hodge - Dec 02, 2015 at 08:25
Another vote for grid layout here, preferably with the game detecting which keyboard layout the computer's on and adjusting to suit (e.g. for AZERTY and DVORAK people).

I like the idea of the onscreen verbs having tool-tips (or similar) indicating which key is mapped to each verb. Pressing one of the mapped keys would make the tips appear, and clicking on one of the on-screen verbs would switch them off again, so they adjust to what the player's doing (or they could be set to always on or off in the options).

Ironicus - Dec 02, 2015 at 10:06
The qwert system is far more practical, and an interface has to be easy to use before anything else.

Gffp - Dec 02, 2015 at 10:12
Hi Ron,  hi David, hi Robert, hi everyone and thank you for asking. To me the best would be: a set of three configurations. The first is a first letter layout in English language (T_alk, O_pen etc...) .  The second is a grid layout with a 3x3 table of keys (qwe - asd- zxc).  The third is another grid which consists of the numpad (123-456-789)I think this is the best among the three in the layout set).  If someone wants something different he can easily remap in the way he prefers.
The numpad layout is very useful because you can keep the gui image in your mind and your fingers will find exactly the same image on the keyboard in the minimum space. The first letter layout will be good for nostalgic and words lovers and the qwe asd zxc grid will work for keyboards without numpad.  And you don't have to translate anything!!! Ehehe

Matthias B - Dec 02, 2015 at 10:13
I think the easiest way to deal with this issue is to have no presets at all. When the user presses an unassigned key, pop up a key assignment dialog that includes all the verbs and inventory items the player has. If the player selects something in this dialog and exits with Ok rather than cancel, the key becomes assigned. The settings dialog should only list assigned keys and have a remove assignment button for each. This complete eliminates all translation issues, handling of different keyboard types, heated discussions about the right presets etc.

Gffp - Dec 02, 2015 at 10:29
Uh and about the mouse: you could use left button to "walk to" when there's no action selected; right mouse button to de-select action, and mouse wheel (Robert I'm answering to your question here) to scroll the nine action verbs (and you will see a rectangular shape in a different color on that specific verb in the gui).

Ema - Dec 02, 2015 at 16:46
Sorry man, but I HATED this interface. It has been extensively used in all adventure games after DOTT, and I never got used to it.
They chose it to eliminate verbs, but this is an "adventure WITH verbs". So why add also that awkward UI which is typical of adventures with no verbs? If you want to play TP, you have to play with verbs, not with scrolling icons or moving rectangular shapes.

Arto - Dec 02, 2015 at 11:05
Funny coincidence: Ron's post is titled "I'm Just Going to Write", and now we mostly discuss about keyboard controls.
Or is it?

Estranged2 - Dec 02, 2015 at 11:07
I liked the letter mapping one. But this is because I type without looking at the keyboard and this method was the most intuitive to me. The grid-like one was less intuitive, but more consistent in the long run. I think you should just include the two layouts as selectable options.

Brett - Dec 02, 2015 at 11:55
I think the first letter system for verbs is much more intuitive and therefore will be what people try whether it's in the game or not. I also like the suggestion above to leave P for Pick Up and use synonyms for Push and Pull for mapping reasons. Not sure if this would hurt the nostalgia too much or not though for little gain with new players. Even if they have to memorize two or three odd keys it is a lot easier then memorizing every single verb command in a grid system.

CaffeinePwrdAl - Dec 02, 2015 at 12:00
Use the arrow keys (or WSAD) to select a verb by direction in the 3x3 grid, click on the object uses the selected verb. For example holding down up and left at the same time selects 'Open'.

Quick Javascript Prototype: http://cyrus5.co.uk/pages/verb-selection.html

Gets around the localisation problem, key searching, or not knowing where your fingers are in the 3x3 grid.

I already posted this as a reply earlier, but the conversation seems to be in bottom posting :)

Santi Ontanon - Dec 02, 2015 at 12:51
Nice prototype!

But it does not work for me for 2 main reasons: 1) you need to "hold" the keys rather than just one quick press, which is a bit annoying, and 2) the center verb selection is not very intuitive.

So, I still think a simple grid would work better

longuist - Dec 02, 2015 at 17:21
Despite i will either use the mouse or the pen, i like how this works. This is the mode to bait 1stPerson shooter players.

Robert Megone - Dec 08, 2015 at 02:32
Whoa, nice! :)

MichaelL - Dec 02, 2015 at 12:03
I'm all for the default keyboard setting as long as I can remap if I feel the need.

Zombocast - Dec 02, 2015 at 12:39
Canr we just use the Mouse  Scroll  Theel to tab Though the verbs.

urielz - Dec 02, 2015 at 13:23
Yes, I second this. I commented above that I would like to navigate the verbs as well..

tomimt - Dec 02, 2015 at 13:40
Personally I've never used keyboard shortcuts myself. But what would be nice is the use of mouse scroll wheel to rotate through commands.

Geoffrey Paulsen - Dec 02, 2015 at 15:40
Please allow for full key-binding.  Whenever I play a game on a PC (yes even a point and click), I first go to main menu, then to options, and select all of my key bindings for the game.  I use various funky keyboards, some of which don't have keys where the developers expect them.

I'd even like there to be a key for walk left / right / up / down.  (and separate key bindings for move cursor left/right/up/down).  Not that I'd use that that much, but for the moments when I'm taking a drink with might right hand, could make a little progress.  That's multi-tasking!  :)

sven - Dec 02, 2015 at 17:55
offer two default settings, i would suggest.

i prefer grid because you have short ways for the fingers and you can do it without looking on the keyboard.

Sushi - Dec 02, 2015 at 18:25
@zak Phoenix McKracken:
The walk through on Zak actually appeared in Zzap!64 magazine in July and October 1989. The review was in March issue.
(See previous post comments for context)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 03, 2015 at 12:47
Sorry, I was talking about the italian version of ZZap!, which took the UK version and published the same articles, translated, one or two months later.

Gregor - Dec 02, 2015 at 20:03
I prefer first letter for keys.

mr. T - Dec 03, 2015 at 04:35
I'd prefer the first letter way to be the default. If some letters overlap, more used verb gets the key (pick up would get the p). I would put the grid way as an option with custom remapping option as well. It would be good to see the shortcut key slightly highlighted on a verb (no highlight if the key is remapped to a key that is not a character in the verb).

Jammet - Dec 03, 2015 at 06:54
Grid is absolutely the way to go. You sould be able to just define which keys, but grid makes just plain a lot more sense to me.

Stefan Vogt - Dec 03, 2015 at 07:48
I would definitely go for the grid layout. Q is the top left verb, W the next in line and so on.

Mario Torre - Dec 03, 2015 at 11:34
The grid makes sense, because it can map visually to what you see in the bottom screen where those controls are. For example, if the first verb is open and the second use, you can map q to open and w to use, there's no need to translate them and the user can visually remember what is what. With a system that can offer the best default action for what's under the mouse, there's little of no reason to use the keyboard (accessibility is one reason of course, but doing this right is a whole world of new problems). BTW, I don't remember to have ever used the keyboard with the old Lucas games, and I definitely played most of your games on Amiga and 386 :)

Pedro - Dec 03, 2015 at 12:41
Another vote for grid here. It seems the most intuitive and easiest to visualize for me. Click on the key that corresponds to the location of the verb on the screen. Plus, like you said, simplifies internationalization issues. I suppose you can also do what is suggested above, have grid default, have "first letter" as another premapped alternate layout option, and then "custom" for your third one. I've seen a few games do it this way, where theres a couple of pre-programmed keymaps to choose from, and a custom option for those who really want to roll their own.

Pedro - Dec 03, 2015 at 12:49
Also, I actually had no idea you could use the keys in any of the old Lucasfilm games. That's what I get for not reading the manual or *cough* the dox files on games that were passed on through the neighborhood growing up. (Hey! I have absolution, according to my Kickstarter donation.)

Meanwhile, while visiting the in-laws in the Phoenix area, I had to do a double take when I came across this sign while out for a run:

Marc - Dec 03, 2015 at 14:39
ALT = Open, CTRL = Talk, DEL = Walk?

Or ALT =Pull, F4 = Push. Try Pull and Push together.

lx - Dec 03, 2015 at 18:04
Please add in bash-style tab-auto-complete.
For the commandline lovers :)

Pretty please? With sugar on top?

It could be an additional turn-on/turn-off feature and would be awesome.
And it's open source, copy-paste ; ))

Necrosis Thanatos - Dec 03, 2015 at 20:45
It's a "point-and-click" adventure game.  That doesn't mean "point at a key on the keyboard and then hit it."  It means "point your mouse cursor at a spot on the screen and then click the left mouse button."  I'll only be using a mouse to play, thank you very much!   :-)

Alex - Dec 05, 2015 at 07:16
Ditto I  agree with comment above point and click use the mouse cursor . I get u need to figure out a away for the old school key board  route. But. Which ever you choose will be fine. I'm hoping above all hope it  will be  like maniac mansion  but more over used on new system controller layouts such as xbox one. ,360,)ps4 ,ps3. I be leave the hardcore adventure nut such as my self will seek that version over the PC version that's just my  opinion. The cave was  awesome as well  I have total faith in you  mr Gilbert.  Stay cool make us proud

Monkey Wrench puzzle - Dec 09, 2015 at 15:34
Getting stuck in a point and click game is a problem needing a fix?