Thimbleweed Park Podcast #nan

by Ron Gilbert
Nov 27, 2015

There will be no Thimbleweed Park Podcast this week as David, Gary and I are off enjoying Thanksgiving, but we'll be back next week with an episode guaranteed to be riveting as it will be the first podcast of the month and we'll be taking reader questions again.

I get asked a lot about when backers who get their name in the phonebook need to supplies details, including the VM message. That should all be set up by the end of the year and come January 1st, we'll be sending out an email with details. We look forward to our witty, insightful, boring or entertaining VM messages.

- Ron

Jammet - Nov 27, 2015 at 19:36
I loved the idea for the answering machines. Me and a buddy had the idea virtually at the same time as it was mentioned first in the kickstarter comments. Someone beat us to posting it, who cares -- we're absolutely delighted this is actually happening!

I wonder if you'll be encoding the voice files using an actual GSM codec or another (Ogg Vorbis?) in equivalent in quality. :) It would sound quite authenthic in terms of quality.

Carlo Valenti - Nov 27, 2015 at 20:27
Happy Thanksgiving!

To everyone's reading: why don't WE do the blog post this time?
I suggest this headline: Remote Virtual Fictitious Whateveryouwant Playtesting.

Everyone wants to be playtester: let's just do what we can from our houses!
For one time, let's NOT say "what a great game", "Ron you're so awesome", "you're gods".
They already know we're right :)

We could answer ALL/SOME/ONE of the following questions:
1) do we have any general feedback on the game, from what we have seen?
2) How would we describe the story and the characters in VERY SHORT from what we got?
3) Is there anything confusing from what we've seen until now?
4) Is there anything we don't like from what we see?

which are (shrinked) the after-playtest questions posted few days ago.

Just a suggestion. Carlo

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 28, 2015 at 01:43
Hi Carlo,
I personally don't want to know too much details if the game, before the time of the release. We already know the number of characters, their names and roles, we know the main structure of the plot, we know there will be fladhbacks, parts. Inside the posts of the first months of this year, there were a lot of information.

Anyway, for what I have seen (I stimate 1% of the total), I can say:
1) I feel the game will be exactly as I am expecting to be. Because users of this dev blog are interacting with the Creators, and they are listening to us, making changes to the game. I remember the questioning about the movement of the jawbone, for example. It's use was decided after our feedback. From the pictures of the last testing, I feel completely satisfied!

2) The story and the characters are thrilling, in Maniac Manson style or in X-Files style, and I loved both of them.

3) For what I have seen, there is nothing confusing. I have seen many little particulars which enrich the beauty of the game: objects referring to the past, color dithering... it's simply beautiful to see to me.

4) There is anything I don't like.


Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 28, 2015 at 01:47
Sorry for the typos I did in my post... I hope it is understandable anyway! I'm writing using my mobile in my bed and it's early morning now! :-)

Carlo Valenti - Nov 28, 2015 at 06:48

Carlo Valenti - Nov 27, 2015 at 20:50
I begin myself.

1) GENERAL FEEDBACK: until now, I've seen mostly parts from the town. The town looks to me like a set of very separate environments connected by empty roads. I don't have the feeling of a continuous world. Partly, I think this comes from not playing the game and just looking at pictures; but from the videos I still have a bit of this feeling.
2) DESCRIPTION OF STORY AND CHARACTERS: I understand there is a complex plot, made of apparently separate threads coming together. I find this very intriguing. Fact is, we are only seeing two playable characters up to now: may this indicate that the other characters are behind/lower in development? If so, are the two main detective characters sufficiently complementary to give movement to the interactions, or maybe you could just collapse them to one, and no one would notice?
3) CONFUSING? I don't know, I'm confused about this.
4) DON'T LIKE: while I like the arts in general, I never had the courage to tell this until now: I find the approach to the graphics of rooms/environments a bit too flat. I now, it's good old '80s, we all love pixel art, but must that be all so flat?

Hope you don't hate me for this :)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 28, 2015 at 12:50
4) I liked this 2-dimensional style. Never been fan of 3-d, I like very much this pixel art. The depth is made by the light effects and shadows. The missing parts must be replaced by your imagination, it's part of the fun.

Simon Simon - Nov 28, 2015 at 16:47
Can you elaborate a little bit what you mean with flat - because I am not sure if got it.
However I realize that probably all screenshots that we saw have a very similar, frontal perspective (just an observation, no opinion here). Other adventure games sometimes have pixel-art oblique views of buildings etc (e.g. you see a corner and two sides of a house). This has IMHO nothing to do with being more 3D, it is rather a question of vanishing points.
Maybe those rooms exist in the large parts of the game that we have not seen...?

Carlo Valenti - Nov 28, 2015 at 17:14
I also dislike 3D, and love pixel art.
In my commenti, please translate "flat" to "completely frontal perspective".
This, I am not enjoying too much.
I realize this is very Maniac-like, Zak like, but this is not what I appreciate most from those games. Rooms a la Indy/Monkey/Loom are what I really cannot forget.
It's just my opinion and taste. Thank you for asking clarifications.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 28, 2015 at 17:45
Oh, got it. Well, I don't care too much about it: I like either frontal perspective or other point of views, often seen in Monkey Island 2.
But if I remember correctly, in a previous post on this blog, there was a testing room with the purpose of testing lights, parallax and pixel resize of the characters, because of perspective, like Guybrush in Monkey Island 2 when he walks on the quayside.
Anyway, I really don't care too much about it. Even in Zak McKracken, there were some room with perspective (the outside of Zak's house, you could see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance :-) ).

Ralph Upton - Nov 28, 2015 at 00:51
Wasn't there a turkey / leftover Thanksgiving meal in Maniac Mansion?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 28, 2015 at 02:02
Ahah, the famous "old rotten turkey"! I tried a lot of objects on it!!!

Mattias Cedervall - Nov 28, 2015 at 08:04
Then why can I still hear voices...? :P

Michael - Nov 28, 2015 at 13:00
I completely forgot about the "old rotten turkey" jokes lmao. classic!!

Simon Simon - Nov 30, 2015 at 03:47
In the old days, how much about a game was known before its release?
I wonder how the promotion was back then, and the game announcements? Was it shortly before the release or long time in advance? More on the revealing side or more mysterious?
Maybe some of you remember these days and can write a little bit about it? (I was too young, my cousin had the games, and each one was a big surprise for me.)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 30, 2015 at 04:21
Hello Simon,
In the late '80s there were a few games magazines. The editor department could test the game before everyone else, so it was possible to write a game review, just before the game release.
That was the only *official* existing communication channel to know which games there were on the market.
As a reader, I loved two games magazines: "ZZAP!" and "THE GAMES MACHINE".
There were some *unofficial* channels. A smuggling ring of games. Once a month, for example, it was possible to get hunderds of games, paying a person, usually a teenager student.
In Italy, it was very common to get many games in that way, because it was the easiest way to get them. In the shops there were only about half of the available games.
There were no copyright laws on this computer sector until 1990, so it was legal to "pirate" copies of the games.

For me, it was thanks to this smuggling ring if I could know Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken. Otherwise I would not have ever known them, except, perhaps, through friends who had a Commodore 64.

When I finished Zak McKracken (1989), I was so happy and so proud of their creators that I felt compelled to buy a copy in a game shop. So I did it.
But that's another story :-)

stderr - Nov 30, 2015 at 11:38
"There were no copyright laws on this computer sector until 1990, so it was legal to "pirate" copies of the games."

If Italy had copyright laws on computer software after 1990, those laws were completely ignored. :-)

I visited Rome in 1993 or so and while I was there, I saw an Amiga store ad in a bus and decided to see what they got. What I found was row after row of pirated programs. If you wanted something, they would copy it while you waited.

This was a real shop with ads. Not some back alley "Hey, you want to buy a game? First one's free..." kind of thing.

A couple of years before, I had visited Hong Kong and seen the same thing there. The shop in HK was just a little more "professional". You would get a (black and white) photocopy of the manuals too.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 30, 2015 at 12:39
You are absolutely right. There was a sort of underground commerce. Many shops exposed original games but, with a minimal risk, often the shoppers offered a list if (copied) games. The punishment for breaking the law was only monetary. Only around 1997, with the explosion of mp3 songs, the law about copyright had also the imprisonment.

Grafekovic - Nov 30, 2015 at 05:46
I had a litte chitchat with Ron on twitter about this subject. There definitely was a coverage of upcomming games in german magazines and especially of Lucasfilm/-arts adventure games, since they were extremely popular here. I just found an old magazine with a preview of MI2 which was obviously an early stage. The background drawings were there as we know them, but Guybrush looked like he did in MI1.
But I clearly remember reviews of games like Loom, Indy 3+4, MI1+2 and so on and how excited I was. Playing Lucasfilm Adventures was like watching the latest Disney animated picture. Both were released once a year around Christmas (with some exceptions).

Arto - Nov 30, 2015 at 17:55
I remember there was quite big coverage of upcoming Lucas games in Finnish magazines, especially around 1991-1993. I remember MI2 having the most coverage, before and after release. I was very excited and anxious to play the game when I saw the first screens. On Pelit-lehti (Games Magazine in English) there was a big walkthrough of MI2 made entirely with screenshots (photographs...), which was unseen before.

EDIT: nope. I dug up my old Lucasfilm scrapbook I compiled almost quarter a century ago, and it seems most of previews there was from UK and US magazines. But Finnish reviews and walkthroughs were galore.

Sushi - Nov 30, 2015 at 13:18
Word of mouth at the school playground and monthly game magazines were our only sources! In the magazines you had pages listing prices of older games, which was a great resource to learn about the existence of older titles. And of course full page adds promoting new and upcoming releases. You can read some sample pages for free at
I do remember the developer blog in Zzap! by David Walker. Happy memories!

Simon Simon - Dec 01, 2015 at 12:01
Thank you all for those interesting insights. And the old magazine articles are really cool.
I do remember the Q-A-style hint section of some computer magazines where you could send a letter describing where you are stuck and would get an answer one month later.... are we all less patient nowadays?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Dec 01, 2015 at 12:41
Nowadays? I can bet on my grandfather's tombstone that the TP walkthrough will be published by someone the two days after the game release!!
Nowadays everything is fast, quick, speedy, hurry, I have finished the synonyms... users born after the internet explosion are more impatient than users born before it.
I remember the solution of Zak McKracken published in two issues of ZZap!, dated February  1989 and March 1989! Two months! And everyone was happy!

Derrick Reisdorf - Dec 01, 2015 at 14:03
Rubber turkey with a pulley in the middle...when a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle just isn't big enough.