Thimbleweed Park Podcast #32

by Ron Gilbert
Dec 06, 2015

Our podcast is now 32, which means it's starting to get depressed that it's no longer asked for id in bars.

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

- Ron

Carlo Valenti - Dec 06, 2015 at 16:36
I ALWAYS wanted to write the first comment.

jacopo - Dec 06, 2015 at 16:44
me more

Carlo Valenti - Dec 06, 2015 at 17:49
Then you are first.

Ema - Dec 06, 2015 at 16:45
And the meaning of my life was writing the second. Achieved.

Ema - Dec 06, 2015 at 16:46
I mean, the third. Darn. :-)

Jacopo - Dec 07, 2015 at 11:41
I think I achieved the meaning of your life

Grafekovic - Dec 06, 2015 at 17:03
Funny, that Ron mentioned Jumpman as his favourite game, because today I read through an old (24years) magazine where Ron list his top 5 games he would take on a lonely island. The list was:
Star Control
1 x Fantasy RPG
Star Control

Is this list still up to date and is Star Control this good, that it is mentioned twice in this list? Or was it a mistake?

Derrick Reisdorf - Dec 07, 2015 at 12:28
So sad I missed submitting a Friday question.  :(

I love going through old computer and video game magazines.  I suppose you wouldn't be able to share with us the entire article- perhaps by scanning it and posting a link?

There are too many great C64 games to just pick a few!  I do have a few favorites that are certainly underrated: The Goonies (which seems like an early predecessor to games like The Cave), Axe of Rage/Death Sword, and Ultimate Wizard.

Christopher Griffin - Dec 07, 2015 at 14:32
For anyone that would like a nice giant-sized slice of C64 nostalgia -- please head over to the Wayback Machine's complete archive of Compute!'s Gazette:

You're welcome!

Special D - Dec 06, 2015 at 17:36
Maybe I'm old-school, but for me innovation is less important for this sort of game... give me a great story and puzzles. Monkey Island 2 had perfect art, music, puzzles and humor--I think it still looks amazing--and I could happily consume game after game with that same formula. I think the peak of that Lucasarts formula was the incredible 'Day of the Tentacle'.. which admittedly did have great story/gameplay innovations.
But I was always annoyed when the interface was changed or they tried to add gimmicks.  I really like the verbs and being able to see the inventory icons. You don't need "fullscreen immersion" if the story/gameplay is good. It's like how when you read a good book you're not aware you're turning pages.

Lennart - Dec 06, 2015 at 17:45
Innovation doesn't have to be technical. There are a lot ways storytelling can be improved in adventure games, and there is a reason why Wadyet Eye is doing so well.

Grafekovic - Dec 06, 2015 at 17:55
I just played through "Life is strange". Though you may not see this as a typical adventure game, since it has no real puzzles, the storytelling and the charactes are outstanding. And I think the future of adventure games is, that the player is able to make some decision within the game and change the story by that, like in "Lif is Strange" or "Heavy Rain". That combined with real puzzles would be awesome!

Big Red Button - Dec 07, 2015 at 14:21
During the 90s all the adventure game developers tried different interfaces out, which they called 'innovations'. Though there hasn't been any single adventure game with a more ergonomic interface than yours!

Curse of Monkey Island for example is quite a good game and I coped well with its interface, but those full screen inventories are always a bad idea, as you aren't able to see the current room at the same time. If you want the player to get as immersed in your game as possible, you shouldn't pull him/her out of it by superimposing a full screen pop-up inventory.

If I remember correctly, Ron once criticized shortcuts via double-clicks in adventure games for the same reason. Therefore this would be another controvertible 'innovation' of CMI.

Carlo Valenti - Dec 06, 2015 at 18:07
I think these games are a form of Art, and these guys have demonstrated in the past that they are damn good at it. THIS is the reason I decided to support the game, because I truly believe what I am saying.

Art requires to experiment, and to experiment A LOT, yourself with new possibilities and choices. To hit your head on your faults, and improve.

I am not talking about 3D, headsets, smells, worldwide social game play, or anything which market will ask to produce so that it will be just consumed.
I like most Gregorian chant, classical music and Giotto's Scrovegni. But anything new which shows Art and Intelligence (SUPPORTED BY TECHNICAL SKILLS, the lack of which is too often hidden by the pretence of freedom and pure creativity) really deserves the passionate dedication of someone, and the attention of us all.

This is the innovation I will ask them after this TP milestone/restarting point.

Mattias Cedervall - Dec 07, 2015 at 03:48
Thank you for answering my question! :-)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 07, 2015 at 04:23
what a surprise on a foggy Monday morning! I listened to the Podcast before going to work !
Thank you for anwering my question about  "The Greatest Game of all times": I knew the site you mentioned (The Zak McKracken Archive -, a great resource! Well, I assume the "fun" page contains a lot of information on easter eggs, thanks.
Oh... I'm sure that Thimbleweed Park *is* the Second Greatest Game of all times! :-)

dada - Dec 07, 2015 at 06:57
Welcome to the depressive club podcast #32.

Although now that i think of it, i don't remember ever being asked for my id and i'm successfully drinking since i turned 16

Paulup - Dec 07, 2015 at 10:52
I think adventure games continued to innovate past the point that it was useful and that was part of what ran them into big trouble.
They found the sweet spot and then almost immediately ditched it for more and more experimentation.

There was an optimum combination for adventure games in terms of interface, graphics, puzzle style, etc. and the adventure games companies all reached that roughly around the same time, made a handful of revered games with that optimum combination, but then immediately cartwheeled onwards to less optimum combinations in an effort to keep innovating for the sake of it.

It's like designing a car and finally coming up with a standard design that involves having four wheels, a steering wheel to control direction, and pedals for acceleration and brake... but then only making a few cars like that and then insisting on "innovating" and so the next car has a cactus to steer with, gophers where the wheels should be, and you accelerate by screaming into a microphone.

It's like, no, you found the optimum several designs ago, now go and do variations and innovate WITHIN that format, don't start throwing out the parts that are working perfectly!

Mattias Cedervall - Dec 07, 2015 at 16:24
I totally agree with you! Well written!

Mister T - Dec 08, 2015 at 06:54
Indeed, there has been too much fiddling with new paradigms and too little refining of known game mechanics. But also the whole 3d craze proved a bit unconstructive, as 2d simply got out of fashion. It is difficult to sell a perfectly functional but conservative car, when the world has moved to fancy vehicles with painted bumpers, no matter how much better the previous concept has been. And look outside: the concept of a SUV in the city is completely moronic, still they are in fashion.

Paulup - Dec 09, 2015 at 10:08
Yeah, adventure games are subjected to this bizarre obsession with renewing them and starting from scratch with the basic format each time.
Other game genres don't do this... eg. first person shooters are always allowed to be a game where it's from a first-person perspective and you go around shooting stuff, the basic format has not changed since Wolfenstein 3D. The graphics and tasks get more complex, but WITHIN an established format.

But with adventure games, it's like the actual format is up in the air and the designers often seem to want to start from random places, like, "what is a modern adventure game? Maybe it's a movie where you try to convince the main character to do things by offering him cheese?"
And I sigh into my hands and say, no, that's a cheese-based movie game, adventure games already have a format that worked awesomely, like with the LucasArts and Sierra games, why throw away the format every time?

Nor Treblig - Dec 08, 2015 at 08:16
I think the problem is, that where this sweet spot is is very subjective.

Paulup - Dec 09, 2015 at 09:53
There is always room for personal preference, but in general it's pretty well established which adventure games are the most well received and were the most successful.
The sweet spot is pretty easy to find in each aspect -

1. Interface: at the one extreme there is a completely wide open interface where you can input anything (text parser) and at the other end is an incredibly narrow interface (just click on something and it will decide the correct input for you).
In the middle is the sweet spot, not so many inputs that you're trying to "guess the word" the designer thought of, but enough options to make it feel like you're actually interacting. Examples of the sweet spot are the LucasArts verbs and the Sierra right click icon choice (with eye, hand, nose, tongue, talk, etc. icons).

2. Graphics: at one end is no graphics (text adventure) and the other end is high def 3D graphics...
No graphics or very, very basic graphics makes it hard to imagine what the locations and characters are like, and extremely detailed 3D graphics tend to be very difficult to get right without looking terrible (I think it could be done well, but it would require a huge budget).
The sweet spot is in the middle, enough detail to conjure up the location and please the eye, but not so much detail and animation that you have to spend millions to get it looking decent.

3. Puzzles: at one end are puzzles that are so difficult that they make your brain cry and the other end are puzzles that are so easy that they can't really be called puzzles.
The sweet spot is right in the center, where there it's challenging, but there's no moon logic.

If you think about the most loved/successful games from the main games companies, they pretty much all fall within the sweet spots for all these things... Monkey Island, Fate of Atlantis, King's Quest 6, Space Quest 4, DOTT, etc.
Why is Simon the Sorcerer 3D not liked as much as the previous two Simon games? Because it didn't hit the graphics sweet spot.
Why is King's Quest 3 thought to be a pain in backside? Because it didn't hit the puzzle difficult sweet spot.

Nor Treblig - Dec 10, 2015 at 02:48
I disagree. You can't really generalise it like that, there is just no sweet spot.

UI: I'm sure there are quite some people here who like a lot of verbs like it was in the days of Zak (~15 verbs). But this doesn't mean they can also perfectly enjoy an adventure game with two verbs only (e.g. use + look at), or even one verb (I do).

Graphics: This is the most subjective topic imho.
Regarding high vs. low end: A game like Last Door would be most likely considered low-end, yet there is nothing wrong with such game. On the other hand I played and enjoyed something like Riven which used prerendered 3D graphics which is a completely different thing. And then I also enjoyed something like Sam & Max from Telltale Games and Tales of Monkey Island which have more simple and inexpensive 3D graphics especially compared to AAA titles (I haven't played one of those for a long time).

Puzzles: One puzzle can be really easy for one person but a completely stumbling block for another one.
Of course this doesn't mean there are ridiculous easy ones and ridiculous unfair ones. But in between there is so much room!

In the end it's the overall experience which counts. And this is a mixture of points mentioned above + other things like story and its delivery, music etc., also gameplay though not so much for the adventure game genre.

Since you mentioned Simon 3D: The graphics aren't particular spectacular :-) but this isn't the real problem. The actual problem lies more in the gameplay: You have to traverse a huge and quite empty world with a lot of tedious backtracking. Otherwise the game isn't that bad, imo.

R.C.M. - Dec 08, 2015 at 18:40
I completely agree. While I understand the need for innovation, I'm a big believer in 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it". This is a lesson that companies like Nintendo need to learn ("Instead of pressing a button to jump, you shake this stick! Isn't that great and innovative? Button pressing was SO last century."). It's a bit like those 'molecular' chefs who care more about foams and microdots than making their food actually taste good.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 07, 2015 at 19:09
Hello everybody,
I want to share with you what happened to me a few hours ago. It's a story of life, affection, compassion and in my opinion a little miracle, involving the game of Monkey Island.

On September 25th, an 11-years-old boy I know (turning 12 in october) had an accident: he was hit by train while passing a level crossing on his bicycle, even though the barriers were down. He did it because he was late for school...
The result: one arm broken, multiple fractures on his hip, some internal organs damaged but still alive.
For two months he was recovered in the pediatric intensive care ward.
Last week he was moved to a single room at the hospital. He is in discrete conditions now. Yesterday I finally had the chance to pay him a visit.

He can't speak for now (tracheotomy) but he's conscious, he can stare at me and understand what I say.

Well... after an initial shock, I talked to him. But he looked very sad. So I wanted to distract him in some way.
I tried to look at some funny videos on YouTube, you know... the ones involving animals, babies, and so on... but they contains accidents: in that moment I have realised that it is funny to watch for me, for us... but not for him.
So I had an idea.
I tried something different.
Something he didn't know, but funny.
*I showed him the Monkey Island flash movie*
( for the English version, I showed him the Italian one).
After about one minute, he started to smile. A smile! He couldn't laugh, but he was happy! And until the end, he kept the smile. At the end, he closed his eyes and started to sleep...
It worked... it was a little relieved.

I know, maybe this is not the right place to tell stories like this one, please forgive me if I have bored you.
But I was happy to have helped a poor boy to smile again, and it was thanks to Monkey Island.

Have a nice day!

Mattias Cedervall - Dec 08, 2015 at 06:58
I'm glad Monkey Island helped him.

Ron Gilbert - Dec 08, 2015 at 09:21
I'm really sorry to hear about the accident, I can't even imagine. Glad Monkey Island could help, even in a small way.

Derrick Reisdorf - Dec 08, 2015 at 09:44
Thanks for sharing that story.  I've never seen that video before- it was pretty funny.  However, you probably wouldn't want to watch that video if you never played the game and planned to (because it's chock full of spoilers!).

Carlo Valenti - Dec 08, 2015 at 16:35
Thank you Zak!

Zombocast - Dec 07, 2015 at 19:36
Belated question:
1. Can we get an updated funds list?
Im curious to see how much Thimbleweed has earned after the initial crowd source from kickstarter, purely from word of mouth/publicity and conventions.
If not now, maybe next week.

Davanita - Dec 08, 2015 at 17:06
I'm 32 and I'm depressed too. I'm glad I can share this problem with the podcast.

Big Red Button - Dec 09, 2015 at 08:33
Don't let it get you down. Your life goes on!