Dialogs, Hints and more...

by Ron Gilbert
Jun 20, 2017

There is a new Thimbleweed Park update (Build 1388.918) that includes two major additions and several minor ones.  This build should be live on Steam and will be live on GOG in the next 24 hours.  Due to approvals and reviews, it will be a few weeks before it makes it to the App Store and Xbox.

The first big change is player character dialogs.  You can now TALK TO Delores, Ray, Reyes and Ransome.  There was no point in adding Franklin dialogs, since you can't really talk to him, and he had one-sided stubs for trying to talk to other players.

This was something I attempted during initial production but abandoned due to me being unable to think about it as anything more than an a overly complex hint system. It always felt to me that all you'd want to do was talk to the other characters and get hints, and the early iterations of the system really showed that, so I abandon it.  Time was also getting short and there was a lot of work to be done, so it wasn't matter of me writing player dialogs or hanging out at the beach.

This turned out to be a mistake. I should have pressed forward and implemented this.

Allowing the characters to talk to each other actually solved a bunch of problems. It was crystal clear (in our heads) why they were working together (or didn't care if they were), but that wasn't clear to players. This is especially true with Ransome. Ransome is an asshole. Why would he be helping?

Player character dialogs solved this problem. You now can chat amongst yourselves while spouting plot clarifying lines. If I had a few extra months I would have made them ever more complex, but maybe they don't need to be. I'm sure someone will complain that they didn't talk about X and that is plot critical. Maybe. Maybe not. I do think the dialogs help tremendously and I regret not pushing forward and implementing them from the get-go.

The other slightly related feature we implement was greetings.  When Ray walks by Delores, she will say a quick one line greeting, same for Reyes, Ransome and Delores. None of these are plot revealing, but do make the world feel more alive and real.

The biggest change was a new in-game hint system. I know this will cause the hardcore adventure gamer's blood to boil (as it does mine), but the lack of hints was widely criticized by some of the more casual press.  As we move to new and more casual platforms like iOS and Android, this becomes increasingly important. I guess it's a sad fact about not only modern gamers, but older gamers that just don't have 18 hours to spend on a game.

The first (failed) iteration of the design was based around a new object called the "HintTron 3000™".  You would find it alongside the road and pick it up.  You could then use it on any object in the game and it would give you a context appropriate hint.

On paper, it seemed like a good idea, until the first implementation and the problems came roaring out. The biggest problem was when you're stuck it's often at a conceptual level and you don't even know what object to click on. This could cause players to randomly click on stuff, hoping the get a hint with no real idea what they needed.

To stop non-stop hint-clicking, we added some friction in the form of a "cooldown", but it felt artificial and frustrating. We thought about adding a "currency" you find or earn (specks of dust), but these all ran into the issue os rarity and frustration when you can't find or earn them and you need a hint.

So we abandon the idea. David wrote a lot of code for this... so... a moment of silence.

To me, the most important part of any in-game hint system is making sure it feels like part of the world and game. I didn't want to do a hint system that was all UI based.

Back in the 80s, we had hint books with red gel, but we also had phone in hint lines.

Thimbleweed Park already has a working phone, so it seemed natural to just have a hint line number you could call and get a hint.

We once again toyed with the idea of a currency. You're using a phone, so finding money to use it made sense, but unfortunately, the phone is needed for other things and we didn't want to muck up all that with making them all pay phones, plus some of the phones are in the mansion and hotel. We beat it around for a bit, then just decided to making the hint line "free" to use.

Calling the phone provides some natural friction, in that you'd have to get to a phone (or switch to whoever had the cel phone) and make a call and trip down a hint tree.

The advantage we had over a true 80s hint line was that we know the context of where you are in the game, so the hint line can be smart and focus down to hints we know you might needed, and ignore spoilers and other distractions.

Jenn volunteered to take on the job, and we based it (with permission) on the existing online hints of Meghann O'Neill, so we had a good starting place.  It's a nice system and hopefully newer players find it fun and helpful.

Now, we know it's not going to be for everyone, but it is 100% optional in that you just don't call it. But I know one's willpower can be weak.  If you set...

hintsEnabled: 0

When you call the hint line, the phone will just ring and ring.

One tricky issue is old save games. To fully implement the AI of the hintTron, we had to add some new variables to track game state. If you load an old savegame, those variables don't exist.  Jenn wrote some fancy code to try and predict an old savegame's state. It works 90% of the time, but if you load old games, hints might not be 100% accurate.

And lastly, I implemented some new keyboard commands.

1-6 will now selected dialog choices or they can be reassigned using...

keyChoice1: "1"
keyChoice2: "2"
keyChoice3: "3"
keyChoice4: "4"
keyChoice5: "5"
keyChoice6: "6"

You can assign keys to cycle through characters using...

keySelectNext: "0"
keySelectPrev: "9"

You can now disable initing of the controller by adding...

disableController: 1

If you don't have the willpower to avoid calling the new hint lines, you can add...

hintsEnabled: 0

There we more keyboard commands (like the numpad) that I ran out of time, but I'll save those for another update... because god knows, I can't stop working on this fucking game.

That arcade machines will make it into the next major update, probably when iOS and Android are released.

Come talk about it on the Official Thimbleweed Park Forums.

- Ron



Zak Phoenix McKracken - Jun 22, 2017 at 09:48
Reading this post was awesome.
About the hint system: I think it's OK this way. And its existance.
A millenial I know started to play TWP in casual mode, he liked the game and he is at Part 3, but now he's stuck (because he DOESN'T READ!). I think he will use the hint system, because I refused to give him the solution to the puzzles :-)

Jeremy Jaouen - Jun 22, 2017 at 10:40
Hi,
When will the Android version come out?

Regards,
Jeremy

Patrick Paquet - Jun 22, 2017 at 10:46
You guys are blowing my mind. Still working super hard on a successful title that already felt like a Masterpiece !  Hats off to you and your crazy hard work !!!

Miguel - Jun 22, 2017 at 11:27
Amazing update... I really think it makes the game more "round". Polishing all the rough edges that annoyed some users or reviewers is a good thing.

Someone - Jun 22, 2017 at 11:51
Wow! Amazing! Many thanks for the update! The telephone help is a great idea! (And now I have to replay the game another time... ;))
You guys and girls are awesome!

Steven Don - Jun 22, 2017 at 12:38
Yay. It's nice to see these seemingly simple touches (though in reality a lot of work) liven up the game world and giving the game even greater polish.

longuist - Jun 22, 2017 at 13:31
I don't want that people can talk to each other. It wasn't in there in the first place and changes scare me. Make it an option. Just kidding! <3

Thanks for the update, also for the writeup here on the good ol' blog. The forum is nice, but very time consuming. So its great to still get some updates at the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

p.s. at some time in the future you have to stop working on this game, George.
(hint: next game :)

Schnee - Jun 22, 2017 at 15:10
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

I tried having the characters talk to each other almost immediately when first playing the game, and was a bit disappointed that it didn't work. It wasn't a big issue, but I think it's excellent that this is going to change now -- and I'm squarely in the "why IS Ransome helping them" camp as well (Delores was less of an issue for me there, she's a nice girl after all), so I hope it's going to clear up a thing or two. (Until now I've simply assumed that, asshole or not, he realized that they had the same goal and that working with the others would be to his own benefit.)

And the hint line -- great idea. I've resisted using hints and spoilers, but I'm not a veteran puzzle solver, and sometimes I got stuck for a long time before figuring out the solution. Having the option to get hints for people who've got less time/patience can only be a good thing and make Thimbleweed Park accessible to a wider audience.  (And if anyone complains about the hint line's existence... just point 'em to Part IV of Monkey Island 2; that's prior art right there!)

TL;DR, here's a big "thank you" to the entire team for continuing to work on the game, adding to it and improving it even now. You rock!

Tim Lammert - Jun 22, 2017 at 15:56
Thanks thanks thanks.
Just freaking awsome.
Makes me start all over again

Did I says Thanks? Thanks.
I will talk to everyone :)

Damn I hate hints, but I have to try this too.  :D

tomimt - Jun 22, 2017 at 16:06
It's awesome that you keep adding new stuff. While I was fine with no talking between the characters, it's nice that you've implemented it, as it was, as you said, a bit odd that Ransome of all people would decide to lend his hand on a quest like this.

Now, I do hope those playable arcade games are still in the works.

Firebird - Jun 22, 2017 at 17:10
Hi there, these are really cool additions to an already great game!
It's always a good feeling, when the developers of a game continue to care about it (and time and money allows you to do that)!

If I may add one suggestion for a future update:
Could you please enhance the save game dialog to allow players to create more save games?
Maybe add two clickable arrows to navigate through them page by page.
With that feature, after finishing the game without hints, I could load the different save games and call the help line. Just to see, what they are offering at the different stages of the game!

Greetings
Firebird

Ron Gilbert - Jun 22, 2017 at 17:12
It's on my list.  It's not super hard, but we still have a ton of work to do.  Hopefully.

Azrapse - Jun 22, 2017 at 18:53
I'm not sure if here is the right place, but I tried making Rey talk to Delores on the Main Street in front the Town Hall after loading a savegame when every character is wanting to get their ending, and I got a crash to desktop with a message saying that it was unable to find character 159 (can't remember) on that room. But after reloading and trying again, it worked...

Also... Did you add new lines to Sandy and Dave? After I left their restaurant, Sandy had some nice words for Dave, and I don't remember that from my previous play throughs.

Ron Gilbert - Jun 22, 2017 at 18:58
There was a bug when talking to Delores in the end game. It's been fixed and the build will go up tomorrow.

David Fox - Jun 22, 2017 at 23:31
The Sandy-Dave lines were always there, but we only trigger it under certain circumstances...

Arto - Jun 22, 2017 at 19:19
Thank you for these updates. I have scheduled TWP run 2 to my summer vacation, so this is a nice addition.

You know (too late to do anything now), Thimbleweed Park maybe could be even more interesting, if the game drive would come from playable characters interacting. You know, the puzzles could be pretty much the same, but the driving force could come from conversations between PCs and NPCs (as it is now) & especially PC and another PC. The conversations between playable characters could build the story and the gates to larger world and further puzzles could be opened only if characters would combine their knowledge of their findings. Would be more like in movies.

Barton Lynch - Jun 22, 2017 at 19:54
"in-game hint system. I know this will cause the hardcore adventure gamer's blood to boil"

BOILING!!! BOILING!!!

For the n00Bs, obviously. If you played adventure games in the 90's and use this 'feature', you have no soul nor ethics. You should be shun from gaming… and society in general.

Barton Lynch - Jun 22, 2017 at 20:02
Oh! The Arcade Machines! YES!

Finally after 30 years I'll find out how "DIE ENEMY, DIE" ends…

Tommy Thorn - Jun 22, 2017 at 20:22
Wow, just wow. My 8 yr old and I are very greatful for the continuing updates and can't wait to see the arcade (we are replaying on hard but I'll not tell him about the hints :). I'll certainly buy the iOS version too.

Mattias Cedervall - Jun 22, 2017 at 21:24
Great update! :-) I'm now waiting for the sentient arcade machines... Why didn't you contact me via e-mail when this blog was updated, Ron? :-(

Nor Treblig - Jun 23, 2017 at 06:16
Who is still using emails nowadays?
Switch to this new RSS thing which is what all the cool kids use!

Mattias Cedervall - Jun 24, 2017 at 08:08
No, I don't feel a need to use RSS. I'm a computer technician by the way so I could if I wanted to.

Dwergkees - Jun 23, 2017 at 03:39
Can it be that the new version is not available on GOG? I am using the GOG client (on mac)

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 04:41
I'm not using the GOG client but GOG needs some time to put the new versions online. So maybe this is valid for the client too...

Ron Gilbert - Jun 23, 2017 at 09:50
We found some small bugs yesterday, and we're fixing them before pushing to GOG.

Antonio - Jun 23, 2017 at 11:25
Yesterday I updated my GOG's DRM free Linux version-a-boo, but strangely nothing seems to have changed.

Thanks!

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 13:45
Ehrm... You have read Ron's comment? If you have updated the Linux version then you worked/played with an outdated version before.

Ron Gilbert - Jun 23, 2017 at 13:47
The GOG builds have been pushed. I don't know how long it takes to work though their system.  Looks for build number 919 on the bottom of the options menu.

Antonio - Jun 26, 2017 at 14:26
Great Ron, now is working, tks!

Nina - Jun 23, 2017 at 06:22
It seems natural to just have a hint line number! This is epic!

Dean - Jun 23, 2017 at 11:13
This is an awesome addition and will break open the world of Thimbleweed Park for so many users, old and new.

I've noticed on Twitter that you (Ron) are amazed how other devs can up and go vacation once the product ships ( night in the woods ) but your commitment to this - however much of a hell it must seem to you, only sets in stone your legacy.

That might not convert into dollars, no meritocracy in game devs such is the shame, however you are touching thousands of peoples lives with this whole project.

It won't pay the bills, but that *must* be worth something.

End sycophantic ramblings.

You *bleeping* rock Mr Ron Gilbert.

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 13:43
"I've noticed on Twitter that you (Ron) are amazed how other devs can up and go vacation once the product ships ( night in the woods ) but your commitment to this - however much of a hell it must seem to you, only sets in stone your legacy."

These are exceptions. I had no vacation since 3 years. (And that last vacation was only a week in a big city...) So, Ron: You are not alone! :)

Desn - Jun 23, 2017 at 16:49
Yo Someone,

What game did you work on? Seen you on these blogs etc, what advice would you give to Ron David Gary, Jess et al for the aftefwork of making a game?

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:04
"What game did you work on?"

Sorry, I would like to remain anonymous. (I'm too easy to find on the internet. And probably you would be disappointed...)

"what advice would you give to Ron David Gary, Jess et al for the aftefwork of making a game?"

Include the work needed after publishing the game *and* the vacations in the schedule when starting the development. Convert vacations into deadlines. It doesn't matter if a small bug stays in the game for a week. If someone is complaining about the bug, let David/Gary/Jenn/someone/mail-a-tron3000  answer "we are working on it".

Beside that, Ron et al seem to have a far better time management then I have. ;)

Dean - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:31
Woah s$#@ that sounds like you have an awful lot to do.

Buy the way, my comments were never aimed as a negatory on you.

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:37
"Woah s$#@ that sounds like you have an awful lot to do."

Yep. :-) But my work is fun. No, it's even better: I get payed for having fun. ;)

"Buy the way, my comments were never aimed as a negatory on you."

My answer wasn't meant harsh or negatory either. :) I just want to remain anonymous at the moment.

Nor Treblig - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:54
> But my work is fun.
That's great! I wish everyone could say that, but I can't complain.

> I get payed for having fun.
Oh, so you aren't working in the games industry.

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:57
"That's great! I wish everyone could say that, but I can't complain."

If you turn your hobby into your (daily) work, you don't have to work anymore. ;)

Weird Ed - Jul 13, 2017 at 11:55
Roberta Williams, is that you???

Nor Treblig - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:34
They did what?? A first public release normally means support hell!

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:42
Yep. But maybe they have found a perfect automatic test method. Or an incredibly cheap flight to Hawaii...

Nor Treblig - Jun 23, 2017 at 18:56
They must have outsourced support!

Someone - Jun 23, 2017 at 19:00
You mean, to a cheap indian call centre?

Someone - Jun 24, 2017 at 04:17
A only one-headed monkey?

Bobe - Jun 23, 2017 at 13:12
Are you rendering the audio of the hint system in real time using some kind of text-to-speech plugin or is it pre-rendered?

Ron Gilbert - Jun 23, 2017 at 13:12
Pre-rendered.

Benjamin - Jun 24, 2017 at 11:35
this is great, but I think there should be an option in the menu to permanently turn off hints, or maybe just decide whether or not you want to use hints in the initial difficulty select screen.

Ron Gilbert - Jun 24, 2017 at 11:50
Why is not calling them enough? Serious question. It takes some effort to get them, but not like they just show up.

You can set...

hintsEnabled: 0

...in your Prefs file and the phone will just ring and ring when called.

Nathan - Jun 24, 2017 at 12:40
:)

Once you open Pandora's Jar...

Dominik - Jun 24, 2017 at 12:14
Thanks for this great after-sales support of TWP! And also for adding the "Greetings" . I can't wait for Ransome to tell people to "*beep* yourself" when walking by :-)

One thing: Could you inform us via a blog post when the Xbox update ist online?

Assaf - Jun 24, 2017 at 12:46
Good update. The lack of chars talking to each other was really off putting. This will give much more life to the game.
Also I lamented the lack of keyboard support for dialogs. So nice to see it's implemented.
And the hints couldn't hurt.

Cheers.

Matteo - Jun 25, 2017 at 06:48
Great, great news. The added dialogue is gold. I regret already completing the game, now.
I would have personally made the hint line a paid DLC, not for cash grabbing, but because that would have reflected more how hint books actually worked in real life.
Also to discourage people from actually using them. As an old gamer, even the "to do" list in the inventory of the characters was a bit too streamlining, for me, but whatever.

Cheers,
Matteo

Mathias - Jun 25, 2017 at 08:34
Hello, nice job on that marvelous game
I may have encounter a bug due to this last update... the number given in the flyer for the secret meeting in my saved game starts with the 4 digit of the hint line...when i try to enter the 6 digits in the keypad of the electrified gate i can only enter the first four (4468) but not the last two.... is that due to the link between the keypad and phone... or am i missing something ?
Cheers,

Nor Treblig - Jun 25, 2017 at 08:45
Yes this is a bug. The chances were 1 in 10000, you are the lucky winner!

You either have to wait for a bugfix or you could restart the game since this code is randomly generated.

Ron Gilbert - Jun 25, 2017 at 09:11
Yikes! Nice find.  Contact support@thimbleweedpark.com and we can fix it for you, if you want to continue playing with that savegame. We'll fix it globally in the next patch.

Mathias - Jun 25, 2017 at 11:02
Thanks for the quick answer, I just sent an email.
I'm glad this discover can help for the next patch :)

Andi - Jun 26, 2017 at 05:20
What is up with GOG? Still only providing 1343.881  in the download section.Please.... I .... need ... to ... talk... to the characters...

Ron Gilbert - Jun 26, 2017 at 10:50
I'll check.

Andi - Jun 27, 2017 at 05:35
Thanks! As pointed out by Nor Treblig, it also works for me now. Awesome.

Nor Treblig - Jun 26, 2017 at 15:06
It's updated now!

They don't work over the weekend, if you want new versions immediately you have to download them using GOG Galaxy.

Andi - Jun 27, 2017 at 05:47
Thanks!

Giovanni Verrua - Jun 28, 2017 at 10:37
Ron & friends,
you are some *beep* geniuses, this adventure was probably the best I played until now (and I played a lot of adventures)!
I loved it, maybe more than Monkey Island. Well, sort of. I'm not sure, really, because I love Monkey Island too, LOL.
Well, I just wish you to know that.

Please, don't stop now...  give us more adventures!  And do it soon, we aren't young anymore, we can't wait a long time for it ^_^  

Giovi

p.s. I bought (not pirated) the game. I also bought (most of ;-) the Lucas adventures I played, in the past, including M.I.
p.p.s. next time I will be a backer (what a shame, I wasn't a Thimbleweed Park backer!)

Steffen - Jun 29, 2017 at 18:44
I agree with every sentence - even if it's hard to state "we aren't young anymore, we can't wait a long time for it" - .if anything  it's just physical. Everybody who's loving adventure games is young at heart at least!   :-)

Lebostein - Jun 29, 2017 at 14:52
The right click actions on Mac OS don't work with the newest update:
1. Some right click actions seems wrong (highlighted action is "talk", but I get a "look" if I click right on aperson for example)
2. If the character starts to talk after a right click action, then in 80 % of the cases the character stops talking in the middle of the sentence

Lebostein - Jun 29, 2017 at 15:03
What an annoying bug! If I look things in my inventory with a right click for example, each started line of text is canceled in the middle of the speech output.

Ron Gilbert - Jun 29, 2017 at 15:14
Right-clicking on actors has been fixed, and the patch just went up on Steam. As for the dialog being interrupted, I've never seen that before, and I just tried it and it seems to work. If you're still having issues after this patch (Build 921), contract support.  Did you get it from Steam, GOG or the Mac App Store?

Lebostein - Jun 29, 2017 at 15:15
Other mouse pointer bug: Sometimes the left click turns on permanently! The character follows the mouse cursor but I don't click!

Ron Gilbert - Jun 29, 2017 at 15:17
Contact support, you will get better help there.

DrJ - Jun 30, 2017 at 12:16
Still adding more content to TP is cool. Cheers.

Tarek Soliman - Jun 30, 2017 at 14:30
Thank you for adding the 1-6 keys for dialogue!

John clevin - Jul 01, 2017 at 07:21
Did you cleared that buy of GOG? Still not looking good here. Though very nice update.

Pamela Halpert - Jul 05, 2017 at 14:22
Finally had a chance to test out the update and I'm really enjoying it!  Thanks for being so dedicated to keeping TP growing

Mister T - Jul 06, 2017 at 07:15
All the things which were not in the initial release just add replay value for me (although switching on the inside jokes on the second playthrough would have made more sense than switching them off... but I'll try that anyway!).

On a side note - not sure someone already mentioned it in the forum: Judith Holofernes has released a video for her song Analogpunk which references several computer games, including Thimbleweed's signature shot at the bridge.

Félix - Jul 07, 2017 at 05:01
As a new dad, I want to thank you for the hint system addon :)

Also, just discovered your tweet about the switch port, so I'll halt my gameplay and wait for it (the convenience of the portability si soooo big :D).

backpatcher - Jul 15, 2017 at 21:40
Audio no longer crackling on my soundblaster after installing this version of the game. Big thank you!

Chessie - Jul 17, 2017 at 12:17
So that's what happened! I played through twice (once easy, once hard) in May, and immensely enjoyed both plays. Husband is now playing with me cuddled next to him on the couch, and me sometimes saying, "Really, you want to do that?" It's wonderfully fun couple time. I was so surprised that characters could dialogue with one another. I honestly believed that maybe I never tried it, and he found something that had been available all along. So glad I'm not crazy after all. As not crazy as grown-ups can be watching someone else play a game already twice-beaten.

Matthias - Sep 18, 2017 at 17:15
If only my playthrough had that hint system... I really like how you long-term support the game.

Patricio Martinotti - Sep 24, 2017 at 11:28
A wonderful game. Please, Ron, Gary and David, tell us what is the next!

Peter - Sep 25, 2017 at 09:07
Have been waiting for this game since it was first announced, then with the release of Nintendo Switch had to wait a little longer.  I can say it has been completely worth the wait and I think the Switch is the perfect console to play it on.  I forgot how much I enjoyed the point and click genre and the cheesy dialogue you just don't find in games anymore..!!

Look forward to your next title!!

Dylan Thomas - Oct 15, 2017 at 22:20
Just reading through the last few posts of the blog catching up on all the stuff that's been happening in the TWP world for the past few months.  So glad that the Hints and Dialog finally made it in.  Reading these posts is a really cool behind the scenes look at what goes in to developing a game at this scale.  Keep up the good work!
what is two + two?