Thimbleweed Park Podcast #3

by Ron Gilbert
Apr 24, 2015

This week we are joined by David Fox as we do our weekly stand-up meeting.

You can also subscribe to the Thimbleweed Park Podcast RSS feed if that's 'your thing'.

- Ron

P.S. I wasn't standing.

badde - Apr 24, 2015 at 18:31
What ist better then 89?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Apr 25, 2015 at 02:16
Thank you guys!!! Max respect to all of you!! You are simply the best!

Peter Campbell - Apr 25, 2015 at 03:06
That is a very strange series of coincidences lol.  Someone sends Gary a fake bill in the mail trying to scam him out of money, the detective working for the police that Gary talks to had played MM and MI, he then proceeds to back TP which is about detectives in 1987 trying to solve a case lol.  Dunno how old the detective is, but maybe playing those old LucasArts games had a big influence on him if he was a kid and helped to inspire him into becoming a real life detective, who's now helping Gary who worked on those games who's now making a new old-school LucasArts type of point n click puzzle adventure game about detectives that the real life detective is going to play.  Life is imitating art, art is imitating life and what's old is new again lol.

One specific question about designing TP...
1) So is every room intended to have an item to acquire and/or a puzzle to solve?  Obviously no one wants to go into an almost entirely empty room with a lone weirdo npc standing inside who only says "I am error" when you talk to him, but I don't mind if a room exists just to have npcs to interact with who give out useful information about the town or hints about what to do next.

David Fox - Apr 25, 2015 at 04:37
Peter, even stranger if back in 1987, this detective actually found the Thimbleweed Park disk in his drawer, loved playing a detective in the game, grew up to be a real detective, then helped back the game in 2015!

Re your question 1, I think it's ok for some rooms not to have puzzles to solve if they're adding to the story/ambiance of the game. Always an opportunity to explore, get more info about the world, even if it's not required as part of the storyline. It's more about balance and storytelling and having fun while you're doing it. My 2 cents.

Ron Gilbert - Apr 25, 2015 at 10:16
Yeah, David's right. Every room has to have a purpose. That purpose can be a puzzle, meeting an important character, seeing a story element or just helping to define the world (in decreasing order of importance). It's better if a room's purpose is more than just one of those things and a perfect room does all 4. If you have to many rooms's that do only one of them, then the game starts to feel sparse. The goal is a tight game.

Rane - Apr 26, 2015 at 03:38
Easter eggs and/or references to other games you've done could also be a fun way of having empty rooms. I wouldnt mind at all going through a room that only had Chuck the Plant and a witty Look At comment implemented ;-)

Gv - Apr 25, 2015 at 21:39
I think of something even stranger. The detective has some input on the game, according to what he remembers the original 1987 game was, then he sends the disk back to 1987 via time machine. Who had the idea for those inputs?

Dan - Apr 25, 2015 at 16:53
I'll never forget the gap on Mêlée Island for example. It may have been a scene of the finale, too, but below the line its only real purpose was the introduction of the mysterious Sheriff Fester Shinetop, to the best of my remembrance. And it was greatly conducive to the atmosphere!
It makes a difference whether the sheriff debuts in his comfortable office in the afternoon or abruptly in a narrow and desolate alleyway in the night.

Okay, later in MI2 the gap appeared one more time, but again only for a short moment and it was rather a joke. The room was always just pure ambience.

DZ-Jay - Apr 25, 2015 at 07:02
I just listened to the podcast, I find these very interesting.  I find it unusually endearing that Ron talks about "the people" choosing their path across a room, when referring to in-game characters. :)

Keep it up, guys!


Mario - Apr 25, 2015 at 08:09
i know, that TP is a game on its's own,


somehow, this TP Game Project smells like a test environment and getting up all neccessary things for MI3 ;-)

oh wait a minute, what about a real true successor to Zak 2 ?

guys, i think your future salary is definitely save with upcoming kickstarter games.

Mattias Cedervall - Apr 25, 2015 at 09:30
This is the first time I've heard the voice of David Fox and I'll never forget it! Thank you for the interesting conversation.

Flowo1974 - Apr 25, 2015 at 10:33
Why can't I download it?

Ron Gilbert - Apr 25, 2015 at 10:43
You can now... forgot to check a box.

Flowo1974 - Apr 25, 2015 at 11:28
Thank you, sir!

Mattias Cedervall - Apr 25, 2015 at 15:05
Because downloading means piracy! :P

Dan - Apr 25, 2015 at 15:51
You talked about minor issues with the pathfinding inside walkboxes. You have most definitely a much wider experience of it than I, but as is generally known "motion planning" is also an important subject for robotics applications. And there are diverse approaches for implementing it. So maybe there are some inspirations or even some complete algorithms from the robotics that could help you out.

PS: I'm curious about the logo.

Dan - Apr 25, 2015 at 18:27

Ron Gilbert - Apr 25, 2015 at 18:48
Thanks for the link. That's interesting. The walk boxes are working enough for me to move on to the next task, but when I get back to them I'll be looking for good solution to path finding. It some ways it's a "solved problem", but it can get tricking, especially for someone who is as bad as I am at math.

mr. T - Apr 29, 2015 at 13:22
You probably are familiar with this but here's a shoutout to Dijkstra's shortest path algorithm with pseudocode and nifty gif animation to boot:

...for times when walkboxes just don't cut it™.

Robert Megone - Apr 25, 2015 at 17:09
Aah, BBEdit. - The editor of the Gods.

I love the language module feature of BBEdit, what a productivity booster.

Glad to hear that things are going so well! These updates are the weekly dose of awesome that I need!

Ron, your point about the 'Give' function is an interesting one. If I understood correctly, three states to add and check for an object seems like a lot of fiddly implementation. Wouldn't it be easier to simply only implement the scripts that you need for giving and object to a specific character.

Have you considered a default 'fallback' style give scripts that would be used if no specific one existed? I imagined it would include a few stock refusal responses for each player character.

I'm interested in seeing a list of the current script commands that are available care to share?

Ron Gilbert - Apr 25, 2015 at 17:28
It is a little complex, but it allows for maximum flexibility. You don't need to implement all of the verbs for each object. If you don't care if the object is passed from actor to actor, then don't define any of the give verbs and it will just be passed without questions. But if you do care, you can intercept the give at three different places (giver, receiver, object). For example, no one would want to give Ransome the Can of Gas, so you can just put that code in the Can of Gas, but maybe the Detectives don't want to give Ransome anything, so you would put that code in the Detective actors, rather than having it exist in all objects. This is probably more complex than it needs to be, but that complexity only comes into play if you want it. If you don't care, just let things happen naturally. Much of this comes from remembering all the crazy stuff that had to happen back in SCUMM if we didn't want actions to happen.