by Ron Gilbert
Mar 30, 2015

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how true to the classic adventures is Thimbleweed park going to be?

Maniac Mansion was filled with dead ends and death, are we going to have that? Monkey Island got rid of death and dead ends, but it was still a hard game filled with puzzles without a lot of clues.

The classic adventure games tended to push people into the deep end of the pool, sometimes with no lifeguard on duty. Are we going to do that?

How are we going to handle new and modern players? People who have never played an adventure game before? Are we going to hold their hand? Have a tutorial? IAP to buy your way past a puzzle? Is there going to be a hint system?

They are all interesting questions. We have no doubt that Thimbleweed Park will hit the hardcore adventure game players and they will like it for it's complexity and depth, but what about the other 99% of players? The ugly fact is, most of the hardcore crowd backed the game (and thank you!), so they have already paid their money.

Our main goal is to make a great adventure game for us and our backers, but our other goal is to make enough from Thimbleweed Park that we can make another 2D point & click adventure. It might not be a sequel, maybe a whole new game and maybe with a very different art style, but it would be nice to make another.

To do that, we're going to need to sell the game to people who didn't back the Kickstarter or contribute to the development via PayPal and to do that, we're going to need to appeal to (or at least not alienate) the new modern gamer.

But... we need to do that without distracting from what makes Thimbleweed Park the rebirth of a classic 2D point & click adventure game. It has to remain honest to it's roots, ourselves and to our backers.

It's another one of the interesting design challenges of this game.

Thimbleweed Park will not have the death and dead ends of Maniac Mansion. Those were born from ignorance more than a focused design decision. It will follow my rules of adventure game design, but we hope it will have something else, and that is clear feedback and not only clarity of goals, but also reiteration and reframing of those goals.

In Monkey Island 2, you needed to charter a ship from Kate Capsize. When you first talk to her, she gives you a wealth of information about what you need to do, why you need to do it, and how much it will cost you.

The problem is, when you go back to talk to her, she doesn't tell you much more than the cost to charter her ship. She doesn't allow you to ask her questions about the previous conversation or probe any deeper. If you talked to Kate, then stopped playing for a few weeks it was easy to forget what you were doing and be completely lost. 1-800-740-JEDI was your only option back then. $0.75 a minute, I might add.

I don't believe that modern gamers want easy games, but what they do want are goals that are clear. They want to know what they should be doing and then they don't mind if it's hard to actually do it or figure out how to do it. They just don't want to be lost. For an adventure game designer, you never want to hear "I have no idea what I should be doing."

Our goal for Thimbleweed Park is to create a true classic adventure game, but we do want to learn from our mistakes and use our knowledge and experience in the same way that Monkey Island refined the design of Maniac Mansion.

For Thimbleweed Park, it's about being clear what the player's goals are and (and this is important) allowing players to return to conversations and probe deeper. Maybe keep track of how long it's been since the last conversation, or if the player has visited a location, then let them ask some new questions. These questions don't need to be about the new location, it's just the game understanding you've been exploring and time has passed (you don't want players to be able just mine conversations).

It's not about giving away the solution, it's about being a little clearer.

It's also about letting players know they have accomplish something that is getting them closer to their goals and bringing the story to a conclusion. Players should feel a sense of accomplishment. They should know they are on the right track and feel good about what they are doing.

Casual games have this down to a science, but a lot of their praise and reward systems are "out of fantasy" and (for me) tend to be very patronizing, treating the player more like a child that got a gold star (sometimes literally).

We're not going to do that, but there are some great lessons to be learned. Be clear about player goals, reiterate goals and reward for completing goals (substitute "puzzles" for "goals").

All three of those can be accomplished completely "in fantasy", never taking the player out of the game for an annoying pop-up, and in the end, it will make the characters and the story stronger.


- Ron

Jeepika - Mar 30, 2015 at 14:28
It's challenging for a designer to keep the game's difficulty level high enough to suit the old hardcore family as well as a good playability level to tempt the newest gamers generation.  Let's hope sales will be higher than expected so we'll all have the sequel.  
Will you add some kind of checklist, like modern 3D games have in their inventory section for "to do" things and solved puzles? lol

Gordon - Mar 30, 2015 at 14:34
Interesting how closely some of your points parallel a lot of writing on SaaS product design and best practices user on-boarding.  I guess a game can be thought of like any other software product (or maybe you can think of a productivity application like a game?)

Christopher Griffin - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:00
Although what you're saying is true, I think it really has a great deal to do with good product design overall, and not anything specific to SaaS (software-as-a-service, if anyone else was wondering) products.

Gordon - Mar 31, 2015 at 14:09
Sure, I agree.  User-onboarding is a pretty hot topic in SaaS product design which is why I mentioned that specifically.  In any event I am now considering adding a voodoo lady in the bottom right hand corner of our application to give users hints.

Sebastian - Apr 02, 2015 at 03:26
Or use an animated, say, paper clip! That'd be awesome! And make it say really really helpful things - when the user least expects it! This added element of surprise gets you happy and loyal customers!

Kai - Mar 30, 2015 at 14:46
I think you mentioned a while ago that there will be a hard mode and an easy mode, like in MI2. Back then, easy mode simply meant that some of the puzzles would be skipped. The problem with that (for me) was it felt like you only got two thirds of a game when you played in easy mode. How about this time, in easy mode:

- The NPCs give you more detailed hints on how to solve a puzzle?

- You get some sort of automatic "puzzle journal" where you can always look up what you've done and what need to accomplish next, so it's easier to keep track of things? (Not sure how that would fit into the user interface, though.)

- You have a hotkey that highlights all items in a room that you can interact with?

Oh, and talking about modernizing, can we get an optional graphics filter that emulates EGA and CGA? Pretty please? And scanlines. And PC speaker audio. Well, make that AdLib.

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:04
I agree with you!

hodge - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:25
I'd love to see the EGA/CGA filters and PC speaker music. I'd even stick my hand up to convert the music for the PC speaker version :-).

Tomas - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:01
I think that was one of the brilliant parts of the difficulty in MI2:: I could first play the game unknowingly in easy mode (come on, I was like 10 years old back then and not a native english speaker), then later realise that I've played easy mode and get a surprisingly new experience playing the real game later on.

Manuel Quiñones - Mar 31, 2015 at 10:55
Tomas, I felt exactly the same with MI2 difficulty levels, it was rewarding to feel some progress in the lite version after I felt a bit frustrated with the full version. This also happened to me as a non-native speaker children.

@Ron, I think cutting the puzzle graphs to a "lite version" could be a design challenge, but is worth the effort.  Is a good way to handle casual users or children, or non-native speakers.  Even if the adventure is translated, there are always translation issues, being the words so important to solve the puzzles.

Emma - Mar 30, 2015 at 14:55
I see some potential in the fact that two of the characters are detectives—detectives tend to have notepads on them; why not having the ability to actually take notes in said notepad (either automagically during conversations or some form of free-form manual process)?

Christopher Griffin - Mar 30, 2015 at 14:57
I just want to give you an internet high five for the mention of not wanting to hear "I don't know what I should be doing."  There are a lot of games that still leave players like this today, despite vast advances in the graphical/UI departments.

I hope nobody throws a brick at me, but my son and I are currently playing one of Telltale Games' episodes (Sam & Max: The Penal Zone) and for both of us, the only thing that makes the game possible is that they had the foresight to include the detective's notebook concept.  It's excellent, because it explains what the next "big thing" is, and by providing that, we always know what we're trying to achieve -- which is good since my son will sometimes skip a cut-scene.

Disclaimer: I'm a huge Steve Purcell fan, and Sam & Max is my IP-crush, I'll buy anything with the dog and rabbity thing on it.

Diduz - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:20
Don't worry, The Devil's Playhouse is one of the best adventure games I've ever played. :-)

Walt - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:13
I picked up Devils Playhouse and... umm.. the other one (the name escapes me right now) last week, haven't started them yet.

Never played a Sam and Max game before, looking forward to it

alone1982 - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:01
Dear Ron,

please be so kind and don't try to "design" the game for "any" generation.
Just do the game you want to do.
It's all about quality.
If the game is good, you will find enough people supporting it. Let's take MI1 & MI2 for an example : the game has been redesigned for the "next" gen & the depending audience. Not just for us golden-age-gamers. Nothing is new, it just looks "better" but it's just the same, spectacular quality served by you way back then.
I wish you all the best & all the succes you need!
Keep up the good work & thanks in advance for everything!

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:02
Ron, do you think a password based save function could work in this type of game?

Alex - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:08
As a hardcore fan, I hope to get stuck in this game.

One of my most lasting memories from the cave is being stuck in the time-traveller puzzle (yes, *that* one). Being stuck lets you wander around with your characters and appreciate the environments, voice acting, etc. It gives a strong sense of actually being inside the world, rather than just solving a collection of riddles.

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:26
That's an interesting insight.

Milo Casagrande - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:14
I would still love to see some hard, maybe a little bit non-sense, puzzles (mokey-wrench like) just for the fun of doing them. They might not even be tied to the story or be necessary to move forward in the game. Small side-track puzzles that can give a rewards (if on Steam systems) or something... Like there are Non-Player Character, there could be a sort of "Non-Playing Puzzles"... Just throwing non-sense over the Internet...

Keep the good post coming!

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Mar 31, 2015 at 06:38
[ITalian mode ON]
Complimenti per il tuo Avatar, quello è Max Pezzali dal video di Bella Vera :-) Grandeeeeeee!
[/ITalian mode OFF]

Diduz - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:26
I may be wrong, but I think Lee Petty's Stacking was an incredible modern way to mix clarity of goals and challenging puzzles. Maybe Thimbleweed Park is too different and this hint isn't really useful, but I really think Lee got many things right with that wonderful gem.
Telltale tried an intelligent "living hintline" system in Sam & Max Season Two: Max monitored players' attempts and said some jokes which could put you on the right track. You could also set the level and the quantity of his remarks.

pmarin - Mar 30, 2015 at 15:50
Maybe It's a crazy idea but depending of the level of dificulty the agents could write notes in those police  notepads that we see in  movies to keep tracking on the goal or steps to do and maybe these "notes" should be more detailed to the novice player.

badde - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:10
I´m not sure what would happen on a voting - I would like the difficulty.

Ron Gilbert - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:13
The game can still be difficult and be clear at the same time. If a game is getting it's difficulty from not giving the player information, then that's just bad game design. The only exception would be game who's purpose is to not give players information, but even in that case, you still give players information about not having information.

Pietz - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:44
I liked the way in indy 4when you were asked for the 3 different stories to play. just an idea, but you could make a hard way and a easy way which just misses hard puzzles and gives you necessary items easily.

it was just annoying in indy when you didn't know that the question is an important one and just continued playing. if you didn't savegame you had to play the intro all again. maybe a switch in thimbleweed park between your current easy-way and your current progress on your hard-way could be a neat solution?

Asterisk - Mar 31, 2015 at 15:34
I always regard the core gameplay mechanic in an adventure game as being puzzle-solving: the enjoyment comes from discovering the clues. thinking about them, and having that "eureka" moment of figuring out a solution, trying it, and seeing it work (or, if it doesn't work, then getting some additional clues that ultimately do lead you to a working solution).  

So I hope you don't give *too* much information to players, and only directly reveal the basic building blocks of a solution that still needs some effort of thought and creativity to discover.  There's always more satisfaction in solving complex puzzles relying only on esoteric clues and one's own ingineuity than by simply going through the motions of implementing a solution that the game is all but explicitly pointing you to.

Ricardo - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:13
I'm 100% behind the idea of layers of information based on how much the player seems stuck. Dialogs seem the perfect place for this, but items that would otherwise not appear could show up based on this idea. Maybe a book that falls out of a shelf if the cursor passed over there for the n-th time.

This could even lead to the desired "replayability" of the game. Maybe the easy mode would be the hard mode for expert players, in the sense that you would actually have to explore more and find all the newbie-easter-eggs. I'm sure these two ideas could be tied in nicely.

Dominik - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:18
Wow, this was an intersting and - thankfully - very open blog post.
For me this was exactly where Broken Age went wrong (for my taste - other people may like it): Making the game more appealing for a wider audience. While you openly wrote about making money from TP for a future project (which is totally understandable) they tried to hide this obvious reason behind a lot of blabbering.
Also you seem to come to the concusion that the game can and should still be difficult and want to make it simply more accessible, they made it simply easier. Two different things really.
While I do not object to your approach (making the game more accessible) I want to ask about your plan for a seond game: If the first one was financed (hopefully) completely by a kickstarter campaign, why do you see the neccessetiy of pleasing other people besides yourself and your backers to earn funds for a future game?
Why not simply say: I will cater & deliver only what I like and the people who backed this project want me to make. And for the next project I will simply do the same thing: Be clear about what the backers can expect and then try to deliver the very best way you can. Other studios (like inXile) seem to have a good thing going by sticking to this formula, so why shouldn't it work for you?
That's not to say you shouldn't make the game more accessible. But I want to say: Only make it more accessible if you think it will make it a better game for you and your backers. Don't do it to please an invisible future audience you don't even know is there.

Hodge - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:21
If you end up including the agents' badges as inventory items (R.E. the last post), maybe you could make it possible for the player to TALK TO the badge, which would make the character voice their thoughts on the current situation. If the player persists in TALKing TO the badge, eventually the character could give out specific hints/reminders relevant to that part of the game.

"Fine day for this time of year."

"This reminds me of that time I fell into a swimming pool full of chainsaw fuel. Crazy times!"

"UGH. This badge really needs a wash."

"How on earth will I ever beat the swordmaster of Melee Island? I wonder if that weirdo shopkeeper could help."

"You know, they call it Thimbleweed Park and I've yet to see a single thimbleweed!"

"This carpet is totally the exact same one my grandmother had. This place must be OLD."

"Damn, why are these queues are always so long?"

"I wonder if Wendy could help tidy up these memoirs I found? She's a much better writer than I am."

... and so on. It could be set up so that you'd have to spend a lot of time clicking before the obvious hints start appearing, and you could use the non-hinty responses as extra flavour text to fill out the characters' stories. And maybe include an option to turn the hints off altogether for people who don't want them.

Walt - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:28
Good thinking.

Kathrin - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:36
I also want to thank you for the post and the questions that you ponder.

I guess the best advice is: Make the game the way YOU want it to be made. This is what we paid for. There are still plenty people out there in the adventure community who don't support a project with kickstarter because they want to see a final game first.

I personally like the little improvements you want to make to the gameplay, like repeating the hints or not ending up dead in the gutter by making a wrong turn. Just make sure it doesn't happen that if you talk to a person she says "Hi, I am so-and-so, and since you talked to me I am giving you this item which will help you solve that puzzle and now-be-off, you will never need to talk to me again or even walk into this room!"

The puzzles can still be hard even when there are improvements along the way that you feel need to be made to bring the game further while keeping true to itself. But please make the game for yourself and your backers, and not some impulse-buyers who grabbed it at a steam-sale cause it was a buck.

Damian - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:38
It seems you have covered all the bases!
With each blog I'm more and more sure that this game is goint to be great. :)
Nice post!

Guybrush - Mar 30, 2015 at 16:48
Please do not the same mistakes like Tim Schafer did with Broken Age. He promised a Old-School-Point-of-Click-Adventure and then he gave us Broken Age.... I backed this but i will not play this... He tried do a game for the modern player, who don't like difficult but fair adventures....

The backers already paid, so give them, what you promised. And let your fans and backers pay for your next Adventure. (Perhaps the real Monkey Island 3 ;-))

Ben Henson - Mar 31, 2015 at 00:46
I agree 100% with this.

With DFA the Kickstarter promised a documentry about making a game and an old school adventure game. Then the Kickstarter went nuts and they raised much more money that they were expecting.

When the Kickstarter was over, all the sudden there was talk about DF becoming independent of publishers if the game sold well enough. As a result, much deisgn priority became 'how can we design a game that will be high sales'.

While this is understandable behaviour (I do not believe anyone involved was deliberately decieving anyone) and no matter how people may feel about the final game, the fact remains that DF took people's money and then went on to not deliver the product they promised.

I just had another look at the Kickstarter page of Thimbleweed Park. There is nothing in the pitch video, story page, faq or updates page about producing a game that raises enough money after being released to fund a second game. If that was always your intention, you should have been upfont about it while the Kiskstarter was going so people could have decided if they wanted to back a project with such parameters. I believe it is wrong to change the goal posts after accepting everyone's money.

If this post sounds harsh, I apologise. I don't mean it to be. I have not seen or read anything regarding this game that has me worried (including this blog post). And I'm aware it way seem like I an over-reacting and possibly missing the point of this blog post. But seeing how some other Kickstarter project have turned out, I think this is something that should be talked about.

You already got your sales. It's just you got them before making the game. Because people trust you. I personally would be thrilled if Thimbleweed Park was released and then sold enough extra copies to fund another game. BUT ONLY SO LONG AS THE BACKERS GET THE PRODUCT THEY PAID FOR.

No pressure guys. It's only your reputations at stake :)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Mar 31, 2015 at 06:55
I agree too.
When I backed for this game, I exlamed "FINALLY!!!!". Because adventure games were difficult, funny, memorable at the same time. You know, the equation "Adventure games" = "Lucas****" has been a fact.
In my opinion, you don't have to ask yourself: "what about the remaining 99% of players", but instead considerate this new game as a REFERENCE for a change of mind of those players. Games are not all equals. Yours have a precise design, humor, intelligence. Unfortunately, it appears that the Mindbenders have reached their goal to make people stupid than before, but you must not adequate to that level.

Iron Curtain - Mar 31, 2015 at 10:47
"While this is understandable behaviour (I do not believe anyone involved was deliberately decieving anyone) and no matter how people may feel about the final game, the fact remains that DF took people's money and then went on to not deliver the product they promised."

So many things wrong with that statement. So here goes:
1. The final game wasn't released; that was part 1. The final game will be released on April 26th.
2. They promised an adventure game. And we got an adventure game.
3. Part II of Broken Age is said to be harder, which remains to be seen.
4. When Double Fine ran out of money, they used their own money to complete the project.

I've been paying attention to the DF kickstarter, and so far, I'm satisfied. Everything seems to be on schedule. Please don't spread factual inaccuracies.

Dominik - Mar 31, 2015 at 11:10
Iron Curtain: "Everything seems to be on schedule."

Sorry, but DFA is in no imaginable way on schedule. It's more on the schedule that came after the schedule that came after the schedule.

Now, I don't want to bash the DFA kickstarter campaign - because I did enjoy the documentary, but the DFA project has budget and schedule problems that are simply there.

Regarding what was promised: In the pitch video they said old-school adventure game, showed a verb-interface and also hinted at an involvement of Ron (which has never happend besides a talk, and that even was pre-kickstarter). In the perks it even says: "$250: Double Fine Adventure Poster autographed by Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert, and the rest of the design team..." which openly says that Ron would be a part of the design team. None of these things happend.

Also there can be no doubt about the fact that Double Fine changed the direction of what the project should become after the kickstarter had ended (for better or worse, some people think better, I tend to think worse): Tim clearly said so in one of the documentary episodes. The original product would have been a much simpler game with a smaller scope. After they got that amount they changed the direction to make it a much bigger game that - and this was stated in the episodes - should make money afterwards and should help the company to get independent from publishers.

An understandable goal, but *for me* this is where the project got de-railed.

Now, an honest description of their Kickstarter would have been:
"We want to make a modern, accessible adventure game for a broad audience and film the process beginning to end."

Iron Curtain - Mar 31, 2015 at 21:24
"We want to make a modern, accessible adventure game for a broad audience and film the process beginning to end."

Tell me if you still think that way after Part 2 is completed. From what I gather, Act II is much harder than Act I. It could be complete bullshit, but we'll see once it comes out.

" In the pitch video they said old-school adventure game, showed a verb-interface and also hinted at an involvement of Ron (which has never happend [sic] besides a talk, and that even was pre-kickstarter)."

1. I NEVER thought Ron would be involved. Ron likes to do his own thing, and then leave. He's not necessarily a team player. Also, in the pitch video, he closes a door to Tim Schafer. That should've given a clue to his leave-me-alone type of work ethic.
2. The verb interface in the video didn't necessarily mean it would be in the game. The video didn't explicitly promise that.

Basically, you were reading things in the pitch video that weren't meant to be interpreted as they were.

Dominik - Apr 01, 2015 at 02:24
Well, of course I was reading something into the kickstarter pitch. As was the majority of media outlets - headlines in the like of "The new game of Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert" were all over the place. (See Rock Paper Shotgun for example - one of MANY). So don't tell me that I simply got it wrong. You are defending a project that has clearly gone waaaay beyond budget and waaay over schedule to produce something that is a nice little game but the adventure core is mediocre at best.

Also: The perk description is a fact that even you cannot dispute. There is nothing to interpret here. It is there plain as day.

I will give Act II the benefit of the doubt. But even if it is longer and the puzzles more difficult the game remains at best a half-and-half.

PrinzJohnny99 - Apr 01, 2015 at 07:22
My main issue with Broken Age is, that the story is just not interesting enough. The plot twist at the end of part one hasn't made it any better. I don't like the wold and places, I don't like the characters and I don't like how the story is told. So part two can be really hardcore, but if the premise of the game is so dull, it cannot save the game. This is also the first Tim Schafer game were this happened, usually I like his storys (Dott, Grim Fandango <- absolutely phantastic, Psychonauts).
I pitched the kickstarter to get a boxed copy of the game, but it's nothing I'm really looking forward to.

And that's the main difference to TP, exept the graphics and the interface. I really like the story premise. It is interesting enough to keep me curious. If the guys are able to keep it at this level (in which I am very confident) then I will be very satisfied.

P.S.: Seckrit Question three+three+two? I didn't know I had to study math to post here...

Iron Curtain - Apr 01, 2015 at 15:56
I disagree. I preferred the world and story of Broken Age (at least part I) to all of Grim Fandango. And I played both. But this is subjective.

Iron Curtain - Apr 01, 2015 at 08:37
"Well, of course I was reading something into the kickstarter pitch. As was the majority of media outlets - headlines in the like of "The new game of Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert" were all over the place. (See Rock Paper Shotgun for example - one of MANY). So don't tell me that I simply got it wrong."

Okay. You got it wrong. So did all those media outlets.

"You are defending a project that has clearly gone waaaay beyond budget and waaay over schedule to produce something that is a nice little game but the adventure core is mediocre at best."

I disagree. Act 1 of Broken Age was everything I wanted in an Adventure Game. This is entirely subjective, so just put this to rest.

"Also: The perk description is a fact that even you cannot dispute. There is nothing to interpret here. It is there plain as day."

Which is why I did not dispute it.

Grafekovic - Apr 01, 2015 at 12:10
Is this how you argue? At least you admit, that you are wrong.

Iron Curtain - Apr 01, 2015 at 15:53
I made no such admission. Where do you get that interpretation?

Iron Curtain - Apr 01, 2015 at 19:39
I found out it turns out we were both wrong: Double Fine never ran out of money:

Franklin - Mar 31, 2015 at 11:20
Tim Schafer stopping being a game design years ago. He spends all his time trying to be famous. He never met a video he didn't want to be in. DoTT was a great game, FT and Grim were funny and had great writing, but they were crappy adventure games. Tim does not know how to design a puzzle. Psychonauts was also funny with great writing, but it was also a crappy platformer. Don't even get me started on Brutal Legend.  Funny, great writing and a complete disaster of a game. Tim does an amazing job making everyone love him. I don't feel mislead by the DFA. Tim never told us what the game was. He said it was going to be an adventure game, and it is an adventure game. Maybe we should have asked more questions and not given Tim a 3.5M check to do anything he wanted. Tim can't manage money and he can't manage a project. But everyone loves him. Ron: Please don't do slick videos. Keep posting useful stuff that is a real look into making a adventure game.

Mattias Cedervall - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:04
Ron, I know that you in Maniac Mansion based some characters on actual real people. Did/will you do the same in Thimbleweed Park? If yes, will you later tell us which ones?

Ron Gilbert - Mar 31, 2015 at 14:15
No, the character in Thimbleweed Park aren't based on real people in the same way the Maniac Mansion ones were. Except for one, and when the game comes out, I'll let you decide which one that is.

Mattias Cedervall - Apr 01, 2015 at 06:24
Okay, I guess it will be a Kickstarter backer. Thank you so much for your reply, Ron! :-)

Adrian - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:28
"I don't believe that modern gamers want easy games, but what they do want are goals that are clear."

Us old-timers want that too! Well, we're middle-aged timers really. I always felt a bit cheated when games became arbitrarily hard for unrealistic reasons, like not being able to ask somebody something again that you missed or forgot. (Not quite the same, but worst of all was if you accidentally skipped the end of cut scene -- usually through impatient clicking through the first part of slow dialog -- only to realise you probably missed a clue, and with no way to re-play...) Another thing that bugged me was stuff that was easily to miss. It always struck me that it might be nice for the playable characters to point stuff out -- this was especially bad in some games where the clickable objects were barely distinguishable from the scenery. It'd have been nice for the game to realise you hadn't spotted some object and prompt you after a while. "Gee, that looks like a nice set of wax lips over there..."

Because of the remaster, I replayed Grim Fadango last month. That had so many terrible puzzles around the middle of the game. Some just made no sense at all, and the characters gave you no clues -- that crazy ticket machine puzzle, for instance (made worse by the hidden ticket window off screen)!!! Adventure games need to gently push the player towards finding the answer -- hopefully with an Aha! moment, and not leave you randomly trying every combination of item with every single object on every single screen...

But I know you know all of this, because that's exactly how MI 1 and 2 worked :)

Stefano - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:32
That's the kind of posts that makes this blog a must read. Personally I agree it's possible to make the game harder but still appealing a wide audience. As you mentioned, internet is here and there is no need to call 1-800-740-JEDI anymore. People who wants to finish the game and will get stuck will simply look on the internet and get a solution. Hard core backers will bang their heads on the desk until they find a way to proceed and feel so good after they did so. Personally I always liked games that offered in game notebook to help recapping what has been achieved so far - being a game with detectives, that seems a natural way of doing that, though I sense you are aiming to something deeper than that which is great!

Brian S - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:38
This is a fantastic post, Ron.

The kinds of changes you talk about are really just game improvements, in my opinion.   I believe it's the very rare person who really likes either (a) getting trapped into a dead end, or (b) missing/forgetting some key verbiage in a previous part of the game critical to solving a puzzle, and has no way other than a (hopefully relatively recent) game save to get back to that point.  These kinds of issues can be best addressed with good game and puzzle design, as you have stated.  You aren't talking about significantly reworking the graphics or GUI to make them more modern, just making it the best possible game.

However, it would be cool to have intentional consequences to poor or interesting player decisions, with workarounds that aren't too onerous.    For example, perhaps a player could die or lose necessary inventory item, but the game doesn't allow the player to continue unaware past that point, or makes it very clear the game is no longer winnable.  Perhaps an auto-save is implemented in those situations so recovery is automatic..  Exploring the results of "incorrect" player decisions can be fun and part of the game design.   I'm sure you know this well, as this was done in the Cave.

Dan - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:55
The most important thing when you are giving a hint is that it should be couched as precisely as necessary and as imprecisely as possible!

Due to the fact that nothing is more frustrating in an adventure game than having to repeat some actions, the game should provide an auto-save function that saves the game status whenever you are exiting/restarting the game or loading a savegame. Maybe with a time interval in addition. I speak from my own experience.

In my opinion TP doesn't need a tutorial for newbies, because the gameplay is self-explanatory. But maybe you could provide a clearly arranged chart in the help menu that explains the structure of the GUI.

I dont't think you could do anything wrong with crowdfunding your next game as well. At least it would provide you a calmative financial security which is a great basic condition for concentrating on the creative processes in the game development. By the way crowdfunding could increase the awareness level of a project.

Jalte Sørensen - Mar 30, 2015 at 17:59
Well, a hint system like the one your old buddy Dave Grosmann used on Tales of Monkey Island could be a good thing.

But personally i dont care. I usually do what I did back in the 90s when i got stuck. I looked it up. Back then it was in computer magazines. Today it is playthroughs on youtube or walktroughs in plain text on websites. I prefer this last option. But an inbuilt hint system wouldnt alienate me either. Because i tend to get stuck a lot, since i only have average intelligence.

jfrisby - Mar 30, 2015 at 21:39
I don't mind the 'attention check' of a miss-able hint, seems like that probably made for some nice puzzling now that you mention it.  :P

Peter Campbell - Mar 30, 2015 at 22:54
I prefer puzzles to be difficult so long as the solutions behind them are logical and/or there is enough information in the actual game so that the player knows what their goal is and they just have to use their wits to figure it out.  What I absolutely despise are completely obscure and illogical solutions to puzzles that the player would never even think to do,  such as in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest of having to kneel against the side of a mountain while holding a crystal and having a tornado magically appear and transport the player to a new area.  There's no way in the world anyone would think to do that without looking it up in Nintendo Power back in the day or checking the internet now because the game doesn't give any indication whatsoever that that's something the player should try or needs to figure out, and there's no logic behind it either.  Crap like that makes me end up hating a game and not wanting to play it anymore.

Regarding balancing puzzle difficulty for both hardcore and casual players, there's games like "Fez" where a casual gamer can play through the entire game collecting enough of the mostly easy to get regular cubes to beat the game for the first time, and then the more hardcore players can go through the world again after getting the first ending, using the sunglasses to try and collect all of the much more difficult anti-cubes to fully complete the game and get the true ending.  While many of the anti-cube puzzles in Fez are annoying and ridiculously complex to figure out, at least they aren't necessary to beat the game the first time anyway.  It's nice when a game caters to both casual and hardcore gamers, whether it's through a new game+ type of mode for the more hardcore or just having two different difficulty modes.

Linus - Mar 31, 2015 at 02:21
I also think Broken Age was too easy, but right now at my current age and time constraints I don't want stupid hard like MM/M2 or Zak. I think Book oft unwritten tales 2 has perfect difficulty and goals.
Have you played it?

Soong - Apr 01, 2015 at 07:07
I don't think those three games have the same level of difficulty.

I would call Zak almost unplayable.  It was ok for the audience at the time and did a lot of things Lucas' competitors did.  However, compared to other Lucas adventures, this one is bad; too few clues, sometimes bad clues, illogical puzzles, dead-ends and so on.

Then there's Maniac Mansion.  It also has some flaws, but it feels more compact than Zak and is thus more approachable.  There are some dead-ends and the clues could have been better.  But it was the first game of its kind and also did a lot of things a lot better than the competitors.

Monkey Island 2 is a whole different thing altogether.  The puzzles and clues are generally great (except for the monkey wrench) and there are even two difficulty levels.  It's really close to a perfect game.  Of course, there's always room for improvement, so perfection cannot be achieved.

Natasha - Mar 31, 2015 at 03:23
Great post Ron! I want an hard andventrue game just like Monkey Island ( my favourite)!!

enthusi - Mar 31, 2015 at 05:09
I was wondering how you are planning to counteract the fact that there will be walkthroughs across the internet the very day/week the game gets out? I face that issue with a small game project of mine (maybe no one is gonna play it, which kinda is a solution to MY problem).
Do you intend to introduce random elements? Or really 'cloudy events' so it wont be clear for a long time when certain things are triggered as they depend on things like playing time, order of rooms entered, dice? :)
I think a modern game would benefit from keeping things mysterious (OR many many different solutions which probably is no option).

mr. T - Mar 31, 2015 at 06:56
Perhaps some ingenious product placement campaign or maybe somebody could ask Oprah to add Thimbleweed Park to her game of the month collection? In all honesty though, I think adventure games would be great for families with young kids. Not sure how much women play adventure games but I could imagine them being a left out audience. If so, why? Calling all female journalists to interview Ron!

I think the notebook idea that's been thrown around would be pretty natural. Getting back to old conversations would be nice as well. Even more cool when that would open up new opportunities and dialogue.

Pixel hunting in the old games could be a bit annoying but I think good graphic design helps a lot. In later adventure games it was easier to see which objects are interactionable. In TP however, I reckon the art style makes it harder to differentiate stuff. So a vote for items-in-the-room highlighting. Another option would be to have the character be able to "check" the room and tell you what interesting items he/she sees, but I guess the verbs are made up already. Still, I like the idea of a character mumbling to itself and effectively reporting the usable items (and people perhaps). Magical item highlighting is effective but mechanical, non-immersive and also reminds me about Diablo...

I would like to see a game with a natural hint system. I guess there was talk about this earlier. Gabriel Knight had a notebook thing which would magically reveal more hints if you wished but that made me feel stupid if I had to resort to those. I think it would be better if the game would measure if the player gets stuck (probably recording time and repeated actions, places, conversations) and trickle ideas to the player in the form of events (deja vu, seemingly random NPC giving you a hint or a meteor solving the puzzle in the end). It's also natural for people to have random heureka moments in odd situations so maybe the system could have that happen to the player who's stuck.

Maybe hardcore players could switch off the hint system or somehow have the option of not being helped in any way. I really hated the moments when I ended up in desperate try-anything-possible fu. Maybe with well designed and refined hint trickling that could be history. Of course Steven Spielberg wouldn't need any of that when he would just call you and ask for solution.

Roman - Mar 31, 2015 at 07:21
Dead ends aren't that bad if you know that you actually reached one...
Reactor blew starts, credits are shown...Good End
1 our of 3 characters died on Mars...hmmm...I can still walk around?..Hmm...can I still finish the game? well...ler's wait and see.. Bad End
(actually I don't fully remember if it was that way in both cases...but I guess you know what I try to explain)

Regarding a hint system...maybe I'm old fashined..but I hate them. Yeah sure...I won't peek.I won't use it.....I will try my best click click...3 more hints done....
I want a more natural or call it old-style-adventure way to get the clues. A character talking about a hint, a poster in a room...etc...Back in the time when I played Maniac Mansion on a C64 I had my friends at school....(who surprisely had the games, too)...or the neighbour...or the monthly computer magazin which had some information (I tried to skip over full walkthroughs..)'s somehow different to a real modern hint system....or just using google to find the next clue....

Tomimt - Mar 31, 2015 at 08:03
I like the idea of characters giving more info based on how long you've been stuck or how far you are in the game. The difficulty levels are also a good idea, and could be implemented so, that the puzzles are made easier for an example reducing steps, but not showing them for that later more difficult playthrough. Like for an example you need to adjust a nut with an adjustable spanner. In easy mode you just use the spanner on the nut, but in the hard mode you get a little extra puzzle where you need to actually adjust the spanner.

Another option could be some kind of in-game hint optio that bases its hinst on what you've done. The old Tex Murphy games had pretty good in-game hint systems like this, which kept record on what you had already done and gave you clues only about the next step you'd need to take. Though in this day and age something like that could be more work than it's worth.

Robert-Jan - Mar 31, 2015 at 08:19
Of course Ron can skip this ;-) but for us mere amateurs I enjoyed this article on fail-safe keeping-goals-clear-mechanics. It is no one size fits all solution but an interesting read anyway that may give you an idea or two on implementing clear goals.

Estranged2 - Mar 31, 2015 at 08:38
Even if you think that characters in adventure games must not die, I really liked the bad consequences for your actions in Zak and Maniac Mansion - losing items, being captured in prison, etc. It meant that the world is real and your actions matter.
I suppose you could still have that without dead ends or death.

BTW, the old adventure games are actually not that difficult. I think what made them difficult for us back then was that we were never exposed to the genre. Back when Maniac Mansion came out, we were children, and we didn't speak English. I went back to the game as an adult to finally finish it and it wasn't that hard. The only difficulty I had in MM is recognizing the painted wall as an important spot, and the only difficulty I had in Zak, is realizing that the screws on the Mars panel are actual screws and not bolts, which was difficult to see on this CGA resolution. People romanticize the difficulty of old adventure games, and like many other things in life, the magic of the "first time" can't truly be relived again.

Reload - Mar 31, 2015 at 10:53
I liked the prison part in Zak, when you messed up, you did not die, but you went through something really annoying. I liked the same in Maniac Mansion, when you got caught. Being out of money in Zak wasn't fun.

Maybe different paths as in Indy 4 (wits path, "permadeath" path?) could  please all of us?

Petruza - Mar 31, 2015 at 11:30
The obvious solution would be offering two game modes; newbie and retro old-school hardcore adventure gamer.
The newbie mode could add tips, checklists, auto generated maps (because we all know maps have to be drawn by hand)

For the conversations, it would be a good idea to have some kind of "remember conversation" action by which you could see like a log of every conversation you had with each character.

Gins - Mar 31, 2015 at 12:06
I wonder if it would make sense to borrow a page from the Professor Layton games.

In them, the player can find "hint coins" by tapping specific regions in a scene. Then these hint coins can be spent inside the puzzles, giving you you up to three hints. It's a very satisfying mechanic, especially for casual players who love "hidden object" games.

In an adventure game such as Thimbleweed Park, this would help with multiple problems:
1) Casual players would enjoy it because of the satisfaction of finding stuff, and then they could trade their coins for hints when they're stuck.
2) Casual players wouldn't want to waste coins, as hints are limited, but there would always be enough coins to find.
3) Hardcore players would also enjoy the mechanic, as they tend to be completionists. They'll want to FIND all the hint coins but avoid SPENDING any of them.
4) The mechanic would naturally encourage players new to a new room to explore the room. Even if you don't know what to do in the room yet, you always know that you can hunt for those hint coins.
5) Players would be less likely to FEEL stuck, as solving puzzles is no longer the only way to have "success" in the game. Finding hint coins in between puzzles keeps the feeling of recent success fresh.
6) You could seamlessly integrate the mechanic into a character in the game, e.g. a fortune teller who only accepts "hint coins" as payment.
7) You could use these hint coins for unlockables, e.g. artwork, dev commentary, audio library, etc. etc.

Brian S - Mar 31, 2015 at 19:27
I would like this kind of system if it were well integrated into the game.  Like you say, you find some sort of currency (weird voodoo objects or something), you could later trade with some stoner dude in the occult shop for palm reading, or something like that.    Oh wait, I finally read #6 in your post - and this is what you suggested :)  Oh well, I'll post anyway, since I already got my slide rule out for the Seckrit Question.  Wait, didn't Monkey Island do something like this with the Voodoo Lady?

Hmm.. Maybe you could find dimes and save enough to call the home office long distance for advice, using a telephone booth.

schala - Apr 09, 2015 at 03:25
The main thing that bugged me about the hint coins in Layton was that they interrupted the flow of the game. First thing you do when you enter a screen? Tap madly around for hint coins. And it drove me nuts in the earlier games when it would bring up dialogue EVERY SINGLE TIME you tapped on something that elicited comments from the characters. It was worse when I found out that more hint coins appear after you hit certain points in the game -- which makes sense, but still, that meant you had to tap, tap, tap a lot. I'm not too crazy about the idea being used in TP, at least if it follows the Layton style...I'd like to spare my fingers the pain of too much constant mouse-clicking.

And as a tangent to "constant mouse-clicking," I do like someone else's suggestion that highlights appear around items that can be interacted with when you mouse over them. Maybe if that were combined with hint coins, that'd be acceptable.

I've said on other forums that I like the hint system used in "The Room" game series, where additional hints would become available after a certain time has passed. If a hint system is included in TP, I'd like it to be similar to that.

An option to completely turn off hints would be good, to appeal to the seriously hard-core audience. (I get frustrated more quickly these days so I personally would keep hints on, heh.)

Christian - Mar 31, 2015 at 13:00
Perfect attitude towards a "modern" adventure! I'm completely on your side: a problem/puzzle may be hard, if I'm clearly told what the goal is and if I'm encouraged, when I have started work on the puzzle :-)

prbalbontin - Mar 31, 2015 at 15:41
I wonder if 1-800-740-JEDI is already in the Thimbleweed Park phonebook.

Pedram - Mar 31, 2015 at 17:02
You totally nailed it. That is the exact feeling I had when games turned stupid. Getting stuck is part of the experience, but you shouldn't get stuck because the puzzle is stupid. One of the stupid puzzles in adventure games was the monkey wrench thing in MI2 or picking up the dog, which went into the inventory (although the animation was cool).

One of the most logic adventure games in my opinion was Grim Fandango, especially the puzzle where you had to get a ticket for a race on a specific week, day and race number. Those three numbers could be derived from clues. This was a puzzle you could not solve by trial and error. For me it was really rewarding, but on forums many people didn't like it.

I also loved the amount of dialogue that was put into the games. When I got stuck I chatted with the characters for fun and sometimes was rewarded with a clue. Nice.

Pedram - Mar 31, 2015 at 17:08
@Ron: I'd like to hear you opinion on puzzles that require the right character to use an inventory item on an object. I don't really remember it too vividly, but I think in Maniac Mansion you sometimes had to make the playable characters meet in a room, so one could give an inventory item to the other, so e.g. the engineer could change the tube in a radio, because the others didn't know how to do it.

People might argue, that this would make puzzle solving too hard, because you'd need to try an idea with both characters and on top exchange inventory items between the playable ones. In my opinion it would only rule out the "try every item with every object" approach to only try things you actually thought about. What's your take?

Ron Gilbert - Mar 31, 2015 at 17:18
I think it's great, as long as it makes sense. Bernard was the only one that could fix the radio, you you had to give him the radio tube. It would be a bad puzzle if there was not reason why one could and one could not use the object.

Brian S - Mar 31, 2015 at 18:23
I agree, I would find that kind of puzzle OK - but for me, I would prefer a subtle hint in addition to it just making sense.  For example, if the wrong character tried it, a response like : "I wish I had gone to radio school, so I could fix this radio." or something significantly more subtle and clever in the same vein.

Ron Gilbert - Mar 31, 2015 at 18:25
I think Maniac Mansion does that, or at least in some limited situations, but I totally agree with you.

Tomimt - Mar 31, 2015 at 18:33
To my recollection Maniac Mansion was fairly intuitive about the character specific tasks, like the reporter knew how to write in order to better the manuscript or the photo geek knew how to develop photos.

Something like that would be great in Thimbleweed as well. It would be great if the detectives themselves would have strenghts and weaknesses, like one is a smooth talker, other knows how to use tools etc.

longuist - Mar 31, 2015 at 18:17
Hope this blog will stay 100% April Fools' Day Joke free!!

Brian S - Mar 31, 2015 at 18:25
I'd settle for 75% April Fools Joke Free.  I mean, who doesn't like a good joke.

PrinzJohnny99 - Apr 01, 2015 at 07:08
I agree with you, except April Fools jokes are never good or even funny. That's the reason, why is always April Fools Joke free.

Estranged2 - Mar 31, 2015 at 18:34
BTW I read the title as "Monetizing". Obviously, my consciousness has been irreversibly deformed.

Alejandro - Mar 31, 2015 at 19:04
No red herring items please. Nothing is more annoying than an inventory cluttered with useless items. Also items that have no further use should be dropped automatically so as to not lead players to an incorrect solution.

longuist - Mar 31, 2015 at 19:48
At least one almost useless item should be included, with no purpose but for getting "interesting" feedback when used or shared. But as far as i remember prior LA adventures Ron was involved with does not have that amount of useless items that the inventory got cluttered. (Ok, it got a bit cluttered with items not needed for the main story, no problem for me though)
Btw Ron, do you consider to add an optional (!)  full screen inventory to show all items at once?

iPadCary - Mar 31, 2015 at 23:09
Oh my dear Lord ....
I just found out about TP a few minutes ago!
And I just finished "The Secret Of Monkey Island" yesterday! lol
Plus there's gonna be an iOS version, too?!?  Glory Hallelujah!

Natalija - Apr 01, 2015 at 04:04
I got one question Ron: Can I play Monkey island on android? Is it possible to play it on phone using scumm?

Rmn - Apr 01, 2015 at 05:47
There is ScummVM in Google's Play Store. You can use it to run the original games.

However, you still need to have a copy of the game of which you can get the game files.

John - Apr 01, 2015 at 05:15
I not sure if other adventure games have already done this, but the RPG  journal/quest log has always seemed like a useful reminder of what you are meant to be doing.

If this can be added into an adventure game UI without feeling out of place, it could help with returning after a break from the game.  Maybe the detectives could refer to their notebooks?

NylonGamer - Apr 01, 2015 at 05:32
wait a second this sounds awesome. great idea i hope they read this.

NylonGamer - Apr 01, 2015 at 05:31
if i had to guess id say you will mess it up completely and your game will become something crazy between point and click adventure and fps. no just joking you guys will do a great job.

Soong - Apr 01, 2015 at 06:41
I think letting the player know what to do is a very good thing as long as it is not too obvious.  For example, in Monkey Island 2 you know that you need a voodoo doll for Largo and you know the ingredients.  However, you don't know the exact ingredients.  Something from the head could be something you need from Largo directly, it could be in his room, or it could be at the drycleaner's.  This is the perfect amount of detail.

More detail can hurt the gaming experience.  For instance, in Monkey Island the concierge in front of Largo's room could be very specific about what you need to do to get him out of the room.  I have played adventure games that gave clues like that.  And then it becomes a matter of just finding the correct items (knife) to do what the guy told you.  If I then cannot get the guy out of the room because I just can't find the item, it makes me feel stupid.  "I know exactly what to do, but I can't do it."  This would be an example of too much detail hurting.

As for the easy mode giving more hints:  This is not a bad idea, but ideally, an easy mode would be similar to Monkey Island 2.  It was the second adventure game I played (after Fate of Atlantis) and the first one I finished.  Because Fate of Atlantis was so hard and I handn't finished it, I played the easy mode first.  After finishing easy mode, I played it on normal and instead of it being just a small step up, playing easy mode first made the game a whole new, harder experience because the solutions from easy mode were interfering with my ability to come up with new solutions.  So if you have the time, please have and easy mode with different solutions.

I AM ERROR - Apr 01, 2015 at 14:25
Here’s what I think of a Hint-System in an adventure game in general: It shouldn’t be necessary!

As Ron Gilbert once said: „Adventure games are all about not knowing where to go, and not knowing what to do.“ And that’s the whole point of playing an adventure game in the first place. At least to me: You find yourself emersed in an unknown world that you have to explore. You can find out where to go or what to do by either talking to people, looking at objects or trying stuff. So basically, each of these entities (People, Objects, Events) are in fact „hint-systems.“ Even the player-controlled character itself is usually a „hint-system“ by commenting on the players actions with either less helpful statements like the all-too-familiar „That doesn’t seem to work.“ or more helpful statements like: „That’s basically a good idea, but mabye I should do XY first.“ The hints in an adventure game should come naturally and be an experience in itself and the more the game pulls you into its world, the better said experience will be. All a hint-system does is take you out of the experience and destroy all suspension of disbelief. Cut-scenes are another perfect example for giving vital info to the player naturally.

Adding a hint-system to a game genre where all its entities are „hint-systems in disguise“ reduces playing said game genre to absurdity.

Imagine the first puzzle of Maniac Mansion™ with a hint system: you are in front of the edison mansion and you don’t know how to get in. You click the HINT-Button and it tells you: „Hint 1: You are in front of a big mansion. You have to open the door somehow.“ You try commands like „open door“, „use door“ or „push door“ and none of them work so you click the hint button again and it tells you: „Hint 2: You need to find the key.“ After searching around for a while you click the HINT-Button again and it tells you: „Hint 3: Where do some people hide their spare keys? Think, you can do it!“ You pull the bushes and behind them you find… no key. So you click the hint button once again and it finally tells you: „Hint 4: Do you see the DOOR-mat in front of the DOOR? Maybe there is something underneath it.“

My only comment: STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!

If you wanted to implement all these hints naturally into the game you could have Dave - or whatever character you controlled - look at the door and have him say.: „Shit, the door is locked. Maybe there’s a key around here somewhere.“ Or you could let Dave talk to any of the other kids and ask: „Ok shitheads, any ideas how to get in?“

P.S.: I am aware that neither of the commands „Look at“ or „Talk to“ are available in the original MM but this is just an example so people, please: don’t be TUNA heads.

Momomomo - Apr 01, 2015 at 14:28
Lately I've been playing Monkey 1 SE with my wife on iPad... I remember almost every puzzle from memory but it's her first time, and when buying the ship at Stan's something like what you are commenting happened too.

Stan hints you, to take a job, or if someone could give you a credit loan, like the storekeeper, between other options. But my wife missed the hint. So a bit later we talked again to Stan... but he never repeat the storekeeper line, only that we could find an "alternative" payment. This kind of thing happens generally... the voodoo lady has told you to find a crew, a ship, etc... but if you forgot your goals (weeks could have passed since last play) and come back to talk to her... she is not there anymore.

So yes... it's not that you have to show the golden path or puzzle solutions, players want to feel smart anyway, it would be enough if your goals are clear.

About new customers (that 99%)... well that's something to talk about... Let's role as a producer... you have this kind of product:

Product type: A videogame
Genre: Classic adventure game (like 1987!) with verbs!
First look? : hardcore retro pixel style.

So... you are not selling Cokes. You are selling a really niche game. If you really think you could grab that other 99% of candy crush+call of duty+console game players, sorry... you are nuts :P maybe a % of the nostalgia players, between steam sales and humble bundles, and a % of hidden object gamers.

And the problem of kickstarter is that you have already SOLD your game to the most part of your audience. But are you sure you did that? What is your target audience? Mostly once adventure gamers... How many of them are out there nowadays? And still play?... and would buy your game? and trust (again?) a kickstarter since DFA?

It's hard to find current adventure game sale figures to know the market size, but you already have 15,623 backers. How many backers
reached other adventure kickstarters?

Double fine = 87,142 backers (2012)
Jane Jensen Moebious = 5,836 backers (2012)
Dreamfall Chapters = 21,858 backers (2013)
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 = 3,446 backers (2014)

You did quite well @Ron ;)

Other sales figures? Dave Gilbert, from Wadjet Eye Games said Gemini Rue sold 20,000 copies from iPad only, and that the nº was lower than that from PC... so we could estimate a minimum of 40K copies (price around 9€). I would like to know Daedalic games' figures, but I couldn't find any. And well, Telltale sold 28 million episodes when on 2º season... but that's episodes, 5 per season 2 seasons... so that's 2.8 million of full season copies (30$ per season?). I would like to know their figures when they were doing real adventure games, or without a mainstream IP and consoles... anyway...

I think the max number of new customer you'll have will be something between pixelart retro games audience (Wadjet Eye), kickstarters (max nº), minus your actual backer nº (+resell on mobile), plus you being Ron Gilbert, the well known Monkey Island god...

So... how about 65K new sales over time? Maybe reach 100K? What would be your expectations?

PS. Have you try reading the blog on iPhone?... the comments are cut the more they go left on every reply and they can't be read!!

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 00:32
I think some key areas of adventure in general (whether in point n click or GTA series):
1) exploratory actions (go to new location or try things out, hopefully with funny/interesting consequences )
2) ???

I think the death is only a problem if it results in something else that seeing something funny/interesting/surprising happen and then going back to exactly the point before you did that thing. If death in casual adventure results in serious setback then it's not casual adventure. That kind of scenario to me is more suitable to hardcore rpg where you want there to be some consequence so as to preserve some sort of role play instead of just "oh well doing this silly thing I wouldn't really do if I were in the characters shoes won't have any consequence so might as well do it for kicks". (of course if someone wants to go all silly then they can save just before doing so)

I would say I didn't like the Sierra style deaths, they weren't that interesting or dramatical. For adventure like of Another World/Out of this world, you died a plenty but didn't lose that much play and I think the challenge was just fine. I finished it as 10 year old no cheats or hints.

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 00:39
I'll clarify this a bit: If Another World, action adventure, the risk of death was something that suited the game - you were in a dangerous situation through the game.

In Sierra games, death tended to come from situations which player didn't really have proper clues to anticipate as being dangerous.

Note- I didn't play the fantasy Sierra games beyond quickly trying KQ1-3 (should have returned it to store after I found the death issue). For SQ/PQ series the possible dangerous situations were a bit more obvious so I managed to get through them with some hints.

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 00:48
On separate note, I haven't yet backed because it's not really clear what this game is going to be yet (and even if it was clear, I'd want big box and cloth or t-shirt if I was unsure about the final quality of the game itself - same rule for all game kickstarters- easier to do boxes and cloth maps/shirts right than a game, so if the game stinks, I won't feel so bad and thus the risk is mitigated).

Also I agree that if you're going to target modern casual, player then having something like the Monkey Island 2 deal where there's ability to tell the game what kind of player you are would make sense, otherwise telling about a big change in plans like you just did here, as if knowing that the backers of this game won't be around to back the next game, seems bit arrogant to be blunt.

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 00:54
Incase anyone was wondering, I only read the blog this far:

"The ugly fact is, most of the hardcore crowd backed the game (and thank you!), so they have already paid their money.. ...  we're going to need to appeal to (or at least not alienate) the new modern gamer."

When you drop such a bomb shell it's hard to get to the end of the post w/o commenting unless it was posted on April Fool's day (which it wasn't).

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 01:03
Also some may wonder why am I "mitigating risk" when there's all sort of early access stuff selling in Steam etc. Well thing is, I have a rule to not buy stuff that's not finished. I try to buy only stuff I know I will finish or play seriously. I didn't like that people bought pre-order games and now the industry has just gone further into this direction.

I would much rather that people save up their money and buy only couple games a year and those games were both uncrackable (custom DRM) and had production values that made Terminator 2 look cheap. And I'd like those games to still be casual adventure games with perhaps optional action thrown in to mix things up, not FPS.

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 01:12
By "casual adventure with optional action" I meant like Star Control 2 or Mass Effect 1 which a kid could stand a chance to finish with minimal hints. Mass Effect didn't have the optional action but if you put AI in the players place for combat sequences like was possible in SC2, then it would have been casual action adventure/light RPG and not FPS.

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 01:34
To explain the DRM part:

If you want Star Control 2 with Mass Effect (nevermind Terminator 2) production values as single player off-line game, who is going to finance that? It's going to cost $100M easily if made in US. The audience for this kind half-serious sci-fi is largely people who know how to download it for free if they so wish. I strongly believe that true casual game market (like Hidden Object) is much less likely to pirate the game than some off-line RPG. The reasons for this are obvious even if some want to deny it. Smart opportunists don't pay unless they have to if they know to get around it (and in 90's atleast it was not illegal to download stuff if you didn't distribute, now I believe it is). If your target market is kids or adults then piracy is probably not that big concern.

No doubt the readers of this blog are paid enough to afford this game but if I want to pitch my own game visions, I need to be able to think like a publisher and figure out the answers to any concerns they have. I'm not interested in these $3 games. I'd like to see a "games hollywood" in my country with plenty of local artists and the kind of AAA games that haven't been done before because it is obvious from the draft that they're going to be high cost and big bust if pirated. (eg. if 90% of target market is pirates as some figures have suggested for this type of games)

ac - Apr 02, 2015 at 03:24
"production values that made Terminator 2 look cheap"

I need to clarify here that I don't think that throwing $ into a project is automatically going to give anything stunning. I think it has more to do with having the time and the right people. Having lot of $ ensures you are able to secure the time and the people and don't need to rush the thing and burn out talent. EA has lot of $ but they wanted to rush ME sequels to market and as result I didn't play ME3 more than 5 minutes as it was agonizingly clear the design, animation, colors, audio, story etc was either rushed or talent had burned out/left or both. If one develops reputation for that then securing the right talent would become a problem and the existing talent would have issues if the producers had a hurry to finalize work that artist was not yet happy with (I mean, it's the job of the producer to not yet be happy with a supposedly finished asset - if artist is not yet happy to take pride then the quality is so low that the public will take notice).

I hope ME4 is going back to looking at what ME1 did right and add in some actual space combat there and actually flying a space ship around but I doubt it because it seems the games are now all about interracial ding dong 69 stuff. I don't really see the appeal there, you can get that by walking to a bar surely?

Lukas - Apr 05, 2015 at 07:26
Some stuff I like:

- An in-game system that keeps track of conversations; they're detectives, maybe they have a notebook or a voice recorder in their inventory that allows you to replay past conversations (it often happened to me in Adventure games that I start skimming stuff in deep dialog trees, only to notice after-the-fact that somebody just gave me an important clue, and I completely missed it).
- A hint system that doesn't outright solve the puzzle, but gives you an idea of where to look if you're stuck (e.g. like the new Broken Sword has)

Stuff I don't like:

- A hint system that's completely divorced from the actual gameplay. Maybe in this game, there could be a payphone in the city where you call your superiors, and they could respond with "some new clues we have found suggest that you should investigate the local diner" — something along those lines, just less cumbersome. Or just use the in-game payphone to call 1-800-740-JEDI :-)
- "Free" hints. Using a hint should have some cost to the player. Maybe that could tie in with the payphone, where you have a limited amount of money to spend on calls.

Lukas - Apr 25, 2015 at 10:45
I just remembered something else. I think the Zelda games (and I guess Paper Mario) do hints really well. If you pick up a Zelda game and don't remember where to go, or you didn't catch the hint that told you what to do, you can visit the Oracle, which will "tell your future" by telling you where you will go in the game's actual future (provided you continue playing the game). It's completely built into the game, people might not even realize it's a hint system, but it's there if you need it.

Joshua H. - Apr 07, 2015 at 22:34
Wasn´t it 1-900-740-JEDI?!