by Ron Gilbert
Nov 03, 2015

We just finished our first sprint. I know what you're thinking: "Don't you have a game to finish? Why are you out doing track and field? Worst Kickstarter ever!"

Oh sure, to the layman it might sound like we're running around the track, sprinting for the elusive 4 minute mile.  But rest assured, all of us are firmly planted behind our desks, sitting for 8 to 10 hours a day slowly developing heart disease. You Kickstarter dollars are hard at work (and slowly killing us).

In the parlance of game development, a sprint is where the entire team focuses on one small area for a few weeks, or maybe a month, striving to being it to a finished (or some other) state.

Sprints are nice because they give focus. With a large project (yes, Thimbleweed Park is a large project), it's easy to get lost in all the "stuff" that needs to be done. I find without that focus, I tend to flit around doing little tasks all over the place, and mostly tasks that I find interesting, not necessarily tasks that need to be done.

Sprints allow you to focus and also attended to details. It's easy to push off the little things in favor of large tasks, but a sprint gives you permission to attack the details.

Ideally, sprints should last less than a month. Any more than that, and you're back to being lost in the sea of tasks.  Sprints also help to give the team a sense of accomplishment. It's easy to see one section of the game go from raw to polished and it feels good.

This was our first sprint and the goal was to get beginning of the game and the town done and polished, at least up to the first choke point. It's a nice little section of the game and it served double duty in providing a nice demoable section of the game.

We're getting to the point where we need to have a publicly showable section of the game, and the town is perfect because it's also the intro and playing through it won't unveil any truly spoilerific details.  Keep in mind, this is not a demo we'll release, this is a demo we can show at events and start the long process of playtesting (as opposed to bugtesting, which has already begun).

We're aways from a releasable demo because the demo isn't hardened. Too many places it can go hopelessly awry. It's fine for controlled demos and playtesting, but not for releasing into the wild.

Thimbleweed Park is being divided up into seven sprints.

1 - Intro/town - Nov 1

2 - Circus (Normal and flashbacks) - Nov 25th

3 - County (Radio station and other misc locations - Dec 14

4 - Mansion - Jan 15

5 - Hotel - Feb 15

6 - Factory -  March 15

7 - Panic!

Then from March until ship, it's general polish, plus getting translations and voice recording done.

Steve Kirk just started on the music but his track isn't following the sprints due to the music being more global.

As I mention above, we're going to start playtesting in the next week and if you're in Seattle or the Bay Area, there might be an opportunity to sit down and play Thimbleweed Park while one of us stands over you in a white lab coat and a clipboard.

Stay tuned.

- Ron

P.S. There will be a separate post when we are looking for playtesters, so please don't post your information here, it will be ignored.

Natalija - Nov 03, 2015 at 12:51
I'm not in Seattle or Bay Area! I'm not even in the same continent! Tha's not fair.I can't do playtesting than ;(

LichiMan - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:14
Hopefully, you're in the same planet.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:19
You are not alone, Natalija... according to Google Maps, I live 8677 KM far from Seattle!!! :-(

Ashley B - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:38
Im 11,519 kms from Seattle. I wont be able to even volunteer my voice for a cool foreign accent sound.... :(

I wish i had Ferraris patience to make art like that.  Jawdropping.

Ashley B - Nov 09, 2015 at 21:48
The local airline company wants to charge mega bucks for an 11,000km journey for me to help test, so I will have to bail out.  I think I might go see if I can find methods of using a chainsaw in non-standard ways to take out my frustration.

Rum Rogers - Nov 03, 2015 at 12:55
Yummy graphics. Wow.

Yomismo - Nov 03, 2015 at 12:57
Damn! Would't a webcam behind my back serve the same purpose? I'm in a galaxy far far away (sorry that was an easy one) from Bay area, even far far away from USA :(

Mattias Cedervall - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:00
I don't feel guilty about Kickstarter dollars killing you because I didn't know about the Kickstarter campaign so I bought Thimbleweed Park using PayPal this year although I couldn't buy the soundtrack then so I wish to add 10 dollars so I get the soundtrack as well.

Number 5 the robot - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:05
Wasnt there also to be some kickstarter stuff in the game? Like someone being named after a plant and someones voice in phone book?

Derrick Reisdorf - Nov 03, 2015 at 16:42
As far as I know, they said anyone who backed the $50+ tiers would have their name in the phonebook and also be able to submit a voicemail message (*ahem*, answering machine message) to be used in the game.  Yikes!  That's 3,563 backers.  I wonder who's going to listen to all of those to make sure they're appropriate.

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 04, 2015 at 10:23
You can bet, I will listen to all of them!
It will be one of the most amusing part of the game!

Derrick Reisdorf - Nov 03, 2015 at 16:44

mook - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:12
Did you take the precaution in your will that in case of your death the Secret of Monkey Island will be revealed to the public?

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:20
Wow, the second image is the famous "Park Arcade" mentioned in the Podcast #28?

spitmaster - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:25
Wasn't the bank called "Safely First Savings" in earlier screenshots? Not "SafeTy First ..."

Iron Curtain - Nov 03, 2015 at 17:18
I think Mark Ferrari stated in a podcast that it was a mistake and he's going to fix that.

Brian Ruff - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:33
I'd love to help with play testing the Bay Area. I did play testing at TellTale for the Strong Bad adventure game.

Assaf - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:37
Sprinting for 4 months straight sounds exhausting... :) Take it easy guys. I don't know if you committed to a date and can't back out. Personally I don't mind waiting more. But anyway I hope you will get a positive experience when working. And won't kill yourselves.

Ron Gilbert - Nov 03, 2015 at 13:39
We're still trying to work 40 hours/week, so it's not that exhausting, it's about focus.

Assaf - Nov 03, 2015 at 18:20
Cool, good to hear.

Gzurl - Nov 03, 2015 at 14:06
Ron, sprints are usually related to the scrum agile methodology. Is that what you mean?

Also, the podcast are awesome but maybe it's time to go for the next step forward: www.livecoding.tv.
Backers and fans would love to see you, Gary or David "in action" :-)

Ron Gilbert - Nov 03, 2015 at 14:56
Not a big fan of Scrum. It gets silly at some point. User Stories? WTF.

Manimal fan - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:09
User Stories are an okay tool if you work in a bigger and more diverse team, in terms of technical and cultural background. It is a tool that make sure that all on the team share the same vision of what the boring business type of software we are working for should do for the end-user.

Estranged2 - Nov 03, 2015 at 17:11
Nothing can replace people in the team actually talking to each other and caring about the project. These "user stories" were like some religious ritual, just like the SCRUM meetings every morning - "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". When I saw Double Fine doing Scrum meetings I was like "Ooooh nooo, I can't even watch a video without running into a Scrum meeting". The only thing these meetings do is that they give incentive to lazy people to come up every morning with a creative description / disguise of how they actually did nothing yesterday.

Gzurl - Nov 05, 2015 at 18:33
Of course you are not. Scrum vs. Scumm, User Stories vs. Pirates Stories... there is no discussion :-)

Paulup - Nov 03, 2015 at 14:55
Great art as usual, the dude's new suit looks awesome...

I assume the arcade has fancy lighting that turns on and off...

arvenius - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:12
I want to use this opportunity to once again tell you just how awesome Marks background art is.
If the music and writing follows the trend this will be hyped into oblivion nearing release.
Oh i forgot, writing isnt really your biggest area of expertise ;-)

ac - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:20
Came across this wonderful stream of mostly about paint.tech. for landscapes/mountains/trees http://www.twitch.tv/bobross

He said he's done over 20000 of them paintings.

.txt - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:29
What instructions did you give Steve Kirk on the musical style?

entropy - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:38
Does '7' include the voice mail reward? :D
Just curious about when we need to get our stuff ready for submission.

Ron Gilbert - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:47
As the FAQ says, not until Jan 2016.

entropy - Nov 03, 2015 at 16:04
Oh. Errmmm. Thanks!
Hey, that was easy to miss. :D

Arto - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:47
I read the first sentence, and thought "Don't you have a game to finish? Why are you out doing track and field? Worst Kickstarter ever!". But then I read on.

Latest studies show, that sitting isn't killing us after all.

Also, there have been no studies that would show a correlation between heart diseases and Kickstarter dollars.

Sprints are a good idea, as it helps to outline the project better. And least it sounds like it. But you guys may be getting forgetful, as you did the Mansion already back in 1986 or 1987.

Peter - Nov 03, 2015 at 15:47
I always like the Screenshots of Marks Backgrounds, they look great - like the original Monkey Island Stuff on Meele Island, that I remember from my childhood. I like the first screenshot in the article. He looks really great, but the second screenshot, the Arcade Screenshot is not really beautiful in sense of painting. It needs something to make the screenshot a little bit more complex. Maybe a tree ?

Compare to that:


A tree would be great, especially a Weeping tree like in the Monkey Island Example:


Mark, could you add a tree to the Arcade ??? Pines would also look super -great in contrast to the night sky: (i remember a lot of trees in Meele Island Forest):


nikola - Nov 03, 2015 at 16:42
I think the second screenshot will gain when seen in motion. The building is definitely animated.

Big Red Button - Nov 03, 2015 at 18:00
I wouldn't add anything in front of the arcade. Maybe a hydrant and some wheels: Two bicycles, a coupe/convertible/Jeep and an off-road motorcycle in front of the fence, but nothing more.

Fangelo - Nov 03, 2015 at 16:29
"By el trok"? That must be some obscure referente that i'm not getting..

Arto - Nov 03, 2015 at 17:32
That's "By ELT Ron", where ELT could be "English Language Teaching". Or "Extremely Lucrative Treasurer". Go figure.

Mattias Cedervall - Nov 03, 2015 at 16:36
I just got an idea! People have been asking if it's gonna be possible to die in Thimbleweed Park like it was in Maniac Mansion. If it's not possible to die in Thimbleweed Park, I suggest a bonus flashback after you've finished the game: You get to play as the killer and kill the victim.

Disclaimer: I'm usually against killing in real life!

Uli Kusterer - Nov 04, 2015 at 08:25
Usually? So sometimes you are OK with killing in real life? :-o

Big Red Button - Nov 03, 2015 at 18:08
It's hard to wait for the final version of the game, while you're showing us those awesome screenshots!

The playtesters are going to be lucky. But on the other hand not being a playtester might save you from a lot of spoilers.

Zombocast - Nov 03, 2015 at 19:12
One option is to compile the game and host the application exicutible. That way more people can play test without the need for a full build, or threat of people copying the game and backwards engineering it.

Ron Gilbert - Nov 03, 2015 at 19:39
When I do early stage playtesting, I want to be in the room with the person and be able to sit down and chat after. I'm a face-to-face person. I hate talking on phones.

Malcolm - Nov 03, 2015 at 21:46
It's also easier to slap people around the head when they do something you weren't expecting and break things.

Peter Campbell - Nov 04, 2015 at 09:43
You should sit uncomfortably close to some of the playtesters and without saying anything, just awkwardly stare directly at them the entire time they're playing and see how they react =)

andoband - Nov 03, 2015 at 19:33
A nice thing about sprints is that you typically choose the scope of the sprint, i.e., what you'll accomplish during that sprint, at the beginning of the sprint...not several months beforehand.   You choose things that are of highest priority at that time.  Since things rarely go according to plan when creating software, a sprint is a nice, agile way to keep your team focused on what matters today based on how things have gone so far.  But yeah, each team should tweak the meaning of "sprint" to how their team operates best.  And you DO need to have milestones for the more distant future.  Love the blog and podcasts!

Thomas Knox - Nov 03, 2015 at 21:00
I'm in the Bay Area. I'd really love to try the demo! :)

mr. T - Nov 04, 2015 at 02:11
A clever tactic to disguise the fact that the team has been secretly doing track and field all this time! Steve Kirk and his music is just way too rad for that stuff. Well played.

Ok back to serious. "Forever sorry": loved that at first but then started to think it sounds like something a bearded hipster or an internet kid would say nowadays, maybe less so in '87? Sorry, I know it's nitpicking and/or probably just me. Maybe the storekeeper WAS a hipster from the future, whoa! :O

Dave - Nov 04, 2015 at 06:13
I guess it means “[Closed] Forever, sorry”. With a comma and referring to the “closed” sign.

Grafekovic - Nov 04, 2015 at 06:46
I really love the upper picter, but the lower one with Agent Ray looks like a downsized hirez background. Is this final art?
And I love the new style of Agent Ray. Doesn't look like a priest anymore.

tomimt - Nov 04, 2015 at 09:26
As it often is, I get my full story  by only reading the headline, not the body, so I assume the game is out by spring and that Usain Bolt will be joining the team?

Mattias Cedervall - Nov 04, 2015 at 11:52
How many story ideas did Ron and Gary toss out before settling upon this detective story? Were there any other close contenders?

Bill - Nov 05, 2015 at 17:42
You're killing me with the hints as to content! I understand and respect others' aversion to actual spoilers, but non-spoiler hints (like  mentioning specific locations such as the occult bookstore, the newspaper office, post office, and mansion, and circus [past AND present, no less!]) really whet my appetite for the actual story to be revealed; and whenever you guys actually release the game, I plan to sit down and play it through end-to-end nonstop, like I tried to do with the classic old Lucas{Film,Arts} games...

Bill - Nov 05, 2015 at 17:44
Going back and re-reading my last comment really makes me wish (not for the first time) for the ability to edit existing comments. But sorry, I don't want to distract from game-making...

Zombocast - Nov 05, 2015 at 22:12
Parallaxing distorted the image in November 4ths post.
I'd almost say it looks better having the eyes 2 pixels tall.

Steve - Nov 07, 2015 at 04:24
The dates are wrong. 15 must be 16 and 14 must be 15

delMar - Nov 12, 2015 at 09:43
What's BYEL TRON for?
Because, ya know, there's the GameTron 3000 for example.
Or the TesterTron 3000.

C'mon, that's no coincidence.
The letters you left on the sign are there for a reason.

Cody Trotter - Nov 22, 2015 at 19:27
So excited for this project! Is it too late to see if you need testers in Seattle, I just read this update (I'm so terribly behind, I know!)