State Of The Game

by Ron Gilbert
May 11, 2015

I think it's time for a quick state of the game post.

Thimbleweed Park began in earnest on Jan 2 and it's now May 11, that's a little over 4 months and our planned ship date is July 2016, so we have around 13 months left. It's safe to say the easy part is over.

How We Got Here

We got off to a slow start in January, mostly due to the amazing minutia involved in actually getting a company set up, getting contracts written, filing paperwork, setting up websites, and getting bank accounts established. If you're ever going to do a Kickstarter, don't underestimate the time this takes, especially if the burden is falling upon the same people that are actually going to be making the game.

I know it's not completely true, but it feels like nothing happened on the game during the entire maiden month of the year. I know this isn't true because we did a lot of design work and had some great brainstorm sessions and set the story firmly on it's current track. A lot happened, it just didn't feel like it at the time. You can go from feeling you have all the time in the world to feeling like you're hopelessly late in the blink of an eye. That event horizon always sneaks up on me and it surely shares many of the same qualities of falling into a black hole.

February and March were two great months. The engine made astounding progress and the solid first of the wire frame art started to show up.

Of all the important features of a game engine, none ranks second to a good art pipeline. The art assets of any game, especially an adventure game, can be staggering and it's important, nay required, that you have a fast and efficient way to track the art and get it into the game.  I'm a huge fan of automation. Humans are shitty at boring, repetitively detailed tasks. Our robot-computer friends excel at this and I am more than happy to put them to work.

Part of the success of February was getting a good art pipeline in place. When new art comes in, and more importantly, when old art changes, it's a couple pushes of a button and the typing of a command line and the new art is crunched, munged, processed and put into the game. The goal is a razor thin zone of possible human error. I like to have confidence art changes are quick, safe and painless to drop into the game.

March saw some good design progress. A lot of disjointed ideas came together in a nice cohesive story and puzzle structure. Based on this, the art moved forward driven by a nice concrete list of rooms and objects.

The engine sprinted along in April and David Fox came on part-time to help wire up rooms and stress test the scripting language and tools.  I spent a good deal of my early spring fixing bugs and adding features. I consider the engine to be minimal feature complete.

The art started to hit some bumps as we wrestled with issues with layout and re-did some of the early rooms. The rooms were starting to feel a little too boxy and flat so we spent a some more time experimenting with the look and some snazzy tech like parallaxing. The art needs to invoke the feel and authenticity of the classic adventure games, most notably Maniac Mansion, but it can't feel dated and long in the tooth, nor can it be hipster-pixel-chic.

It's fine line to walk and it's taken us a little longer than we hope to navigate the blocky waters of 1987 vs 2015.  We don't think this will impact the final date because once the style is finalized, the lost time can be made up through focus, persistence plus a little sweat.

Where We're Going

The plan was to start full production on June 1st, but realistically that won't happen until June 15 or more likely July 1st.  Production is defined as knowing everything you need to build and how your going to build it, so it's now just a matter of building it. It's not as easy as just starting a machine, it is a creative endeavor, so there is always a lot of adjustment and turning, plus you have new great ideas that beg to be implemented. There is a dance between implementing new great ideas and feature creep, a dance whose steps you never quite know or learn and it's mastery is defined by recovering from mistakes with grace and stealth.

I've never been a fan or admirer of giant design documents that are followed with a religious fervor, nor am I a fan of touchy-feely I'm done when I'm done production. I like to know where I'm going, when I'm going to get there, but also not be afraid to take a detour to make the journey and destination a little more exciting or interesting. I have a lot of respect for creative people who also get shit done.

So, production will start around a month late, but we don't see that moving the final date.

One aspect of the art that is still a little unknown is animation. We want to do a lot of what we called "special case animation", animations beyond the reusable walk/talk/reach animations. The original Maniac Mansion had none of these, most noticeably when anyone used the weight machine and flaccidly stands there while the machine magically moves up and down. Memory was tight. C64 Maniac Mansion had 19K of memory caching of game assets. K. K!

This is a low-risk issue, so we always knew we would wait until production started before exploring it fully.

We just started talking to some of the console manufacturers about bringing Thimbleweed Park to the consoles and handhelds, but those are long roads to travel. That's exciting.

We'll start thinking about music in September or October.

In the long term, Alpha is scheduled to start on Jan 1st. Alpha (for us) is defined as the whole game playable, but with a some amount of place holding unfinished art, a first pass at all the dialog and music.

Testing will also start in January where we're bring on a lead Tester, then slowing ramping up on 3 or 4 more paid testers. Beta testing will begin in May, although we don't know the extent of that yet.

Voice recording and translations will also happen May-ish. I know that's later than a lot of projects do voice, but I want to want until the last minute to maximize the time to edit, change and polish the text.

Things that scare me

The writing scares me in that I don't know if I'm going to do full dialog trees yet. They are a staggering amount of work and I won't be able to do that by myself, not with the bulk of the engine work falling on me as well. I would also like to hire a part-time engine programmer to help with DX, shaders and some lower level OpenGL tasks. It's going to be a balance of writing and engine work all dictated by if we can find the money in the budget.

Animation is worrisome, in that it can be a slippery slope (of awesome). We have a plan for a good amount of animation, but we also know how amazing it is to see once it goes in the game and scoping ourselves will be hard.

The Android port scares me. My engine already runs and cross compiles to iOS, but not Android and the little work I did on Android for Scurvy Scallywags was a hair-pulling experience. It's an area that I am going to need help on (please don't offer to help, that's a ways down the road). The mobile ports will be a few months out from the PC/Mac/Linux main Kickstarter versions so I have a little time before full-on panic sets in.

Managing the translations scares me. We don't have a "producer", so wrangling translators is going to fall to Gary, David or I and it's going to come at a stressful time in the project. We did budget for an audio/voice director/producer so at least we don't have to worry about that.  In retrospect, we should have budgeted for a part-time producer, although budgeting for and having the money for are different things.

And the last thing that scares me is all the stuff we probably haven't thought off yet and the weird stuff that always goes wrong.

But, that's part of what makes making games fun. They are a game unto themselves.

What does all this mean for the final ship date? Are we on track? What is our confidence level? It's hard to say, we feel good about it, but we'll know better a couple of months into production. We would love to have the money to hire another art and tech person to give us a little breathing room, but everything still feels good.

Well, that's the State of the Game and we'll do these once every 3 or 4 months.

- Ron

Mario - May 11, 2015 at 15:05
no panic. i guess all backers want to have that game, no matter if you are 1 or 4 months behind schedules release date.
We got the 3 best people on this project. noone else can pull that off better.

Tom - May 11, 2015 at 15:12
So I watched all the Broken Age videos and getting the voice so late seemed to be a major problem for complex animations.
Will the animations in TWP be so crude that VO won't make any difference?

BTW: These posts are great .. much better than anything 2Player did for DF IMHO.

Ron Gilbert - May 11, 2015 at 15:19
We're not doing hand-lipsyncing. I hate it for that reason alone. Our art is low-res enough that it won't matter at all, or a run-time solution with be indistinguishable from doing it all by hand, and one of the reasons I really like 8-bit art.

Lennart - May 11, 2015 at 15:50
I'd be more than satisfied with a two frame talk animation.

Jammet - May 11, 2015 at 16:06
Yeah, same here.

And I also always just adored these bouncing, twitching, bobbing heads when characters talked in the later SCUMM games. :)

Vegetaman - May 11, 2015 at 17:02
I really loved the way talking was done in Maniac Mansion (granted, there wasn't any voice over, just text -- but the way it was done still felt good).

Mattias Cedervall - May 12, 2015 at 17:03
I really loved Dragon Ball and the talking in Maniac Mansion.

Damian - May 11, 2015 at 15:13
Reading this, one part of me says "Oh! Poor guys, maybe you can offer some help to them..."
But then, a stronger voice says: "No way! You'll enjoy the game more if you know nothing about it in advace!"

Sorry guys... XDDD

(Tbh: I have faith in you. You'll do well). ;)

Jammet - May 11, 2015 at 15:28
Thanks for the update, Ron! It is a very interesting read! Let us all hope that while it's probably not going to be smooth sailing at all times, you'll get there with the goals you set yourself.

It probably doesn't help to tell you that I would happily wait "until it's done". But I know time is money. I know I will gladly give more, just because. I like to think you'll see a lot of heartfelt support from the gamers all throughout! Financially and otherwise! Maybe - just maybe - if it's enough money then to hire someone part-time who can help out, all the better.

Cheers! :)

Patrik Spacek - May 11, 2015 at 15:32
1. I can make a czech translations and voice overs for you for no cost. It just require new font sheet. I am part of the Voice overs group, who does Vo for games, commercials and tv shows.
2. I also know the struggling with lots of 2D animated sprites. There are limitations how many sprites can be used in browser, I think the limit is 10k. Sprite sheets will fix it. (just an example, I use 50 frames just for walk cycle in 512 pixels resolution :))  not talking about additional animations and other characters.
3. I know that money moves the world, but there are always true fans and professionals who helps for free.

Augusto - May 11, 2015 at 15:37
Great post! Nice to see this exercise of openness!

Tomimt - May 11, 2015 at 15:45
It'll be interesting to see how much things have progressed on the next "State of the Game" update. It's been inspiring to follow this project, as it seems to move forwards with steady pace and confidence.

MrPinsky - May 11, 2015 at 15:48
Consoles? Really? This type of game needs to be played with a mouse!

Jammet - May 11, 2015 at 16:08
Something with pen input like the 3DS or New-3DS would probably do awesomely! I'd love it on that, too.

Peter Campbell - May 11, 2015 at 18:55
The PS4 and XBone do have Wii-style motion controls which is somewhat similar to using a mouse.

MrPinsky - May 12, 2015 at 03:24
Let me elaborate a bit why I don't like the idea of console releases:

1) It almost necessarily means they have to dumb down the interface. Let's face it, you can't "click & point" with a gamepad. You can't click on small things, so hotspots will need to made much bigger. It also pretty much rules out timed puzzles where you have to click on things quickly/precisely. You need a mouse for that. As a desktop PC player, I am allergic to such interface changes because I have seen so many games in recent years being "simplified"(= dumbed down)  because of console restrictions.

2) They already have 5 platforms to deliver on, each with their own share of bugs and challenges. Considering how small their team is, I doubt whether it's wise to add even more to that. So we are up to 7 oder 8 platforms now? I kinda see how it could be neat on tablets, but consoles are just unneccessary. I'd personally wish they would focus on a few platforms and make sure everything is well polished and bug free there, rather than trying to release on every platform on the planet and end up shipping a half-baked thing everywhere.

3) Finally, it wasn't in the Kickstarter campaign. So technically, the backers' money shouldn't be used for it. It does change the scope of the project to some degree and has a potential for delaying it,, and it doesn't feel right to tell us about the change of plan so late.

In order not to sound overly negative, I should add that I liked everything I heard about Thimbleweed Park so far, with the exception of this.

JAVE - May 12, 2015 at 06:12
Well, the original Maniac Mansion & Monkey Island were played using a joystick instead of a mouse, and that didn't hamper us. (Actually, it was easier to use 'what is' to scan the screen with a joystick, where movement could be restricted to just 1 axis, making more precise sweeps possible...)

The interface is point & click, and as it's using the look of a C64, there aren't any really tiny action buttons to click either, so I think the interface is not the issue for console ports.

Now, the more platforms == more work is a valid one, especially combined with the kickstart money was (is) for the PC/Mac version of this game.

Ron Gilbert - May 12, 2015 at 10:40
1) We would not be dumbing down the interface. C64 Maniac Mansion and Zak HAD to be played with the joystick and PC Maniac Mansion through Monkey Island were mostly played with the keyboard (mice were not that popular then). The verb interface is quite conducive to joysticks and touch interfaces.

2-3) We would get addition funds to make the console versions, the cost would not come out of the KS money. They are a lot of work and I don't have the expertise to port them, plus they'll need a lot of testing, etc. Doing the console version won't impact the PC builds, they will be gravy.

Dan - May 13, 2015 at 18:41
It would be more retro than mouse control.
And the main thing is that it would be point & click as well, so that the player wouldn't need to navigate the character directly.
Having to steer the character manually is very annoying in an adventure game, I think. Especially in 3D adventure games such as Grim Fandango.

Nuno - May 11, 2015 at 15:59
Hi :)

Keep up the good work, I'm pretty sure you'll make it and it will be awesome.

I've seen plenty of people offering (myself included) to do translations to several languages for free, and I really think that you could use this volunteer work for the end game, making it accessible to everyone. There are online platforms to manage translations and if needed building a simple one is not that hard, so please count on me (us) to make it happen if needed.

The same would probably be true for alpha/beta testing the game.

Thanks for the insights and the great post.


Brian S - May 11, 2015 at 16:24
Thanks for posting this update.  It means a lot that you are willing to analyze the current state of development relative to the overall schedule regularly during the project.  I wish best of luck to the entire team.  Know we are here to support you when you need our help.

PrinzJohnny99 - May 11, 2015 at 17:00
I know you don't like Microsoft, but is it possible that TP will also make it on XONE? Or do you rule it out from the beginning and don't even ask them?

Ron Gilbert - May 11, 2015 at 17:02
Who says I don't like MS?

PrinzJohnny99 - May 12, 2015 at 12:01
I read it between the lines, since don't use Windows (and I think you also said that it's not your cup of tea) and you once wrote that Skype got worse since MS bought it.
If I'm wrong with my assumption, then I apologize and assert the opposite.

Iron Curtain - May 12, 2015 at 18:23
I complain a lot about Apple yet I use their products (I have an iPod Touch and a Mac Pro tower).

Criticizing a company's practices does not always mean you hold a grudge against them.

Lukas - May 19, 2015 at 13:51
Well, Skype *did* get worse in the last few years. That's just an objective fact :-)

Peter Campbell - May 11, 2015 at 18:53
I was going to comment much earlier but my head was still exploding from learning about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Castlevania spiritual successor) which just launched on kickstarter.  

Anyway now that I've calmed down a little bit..

Ron, you are being way too transparent and honest lol.  Game developers aren't supposed to tell the public about delays and any issues that have arisen during development, it's supposed to be "We are so happy with the progress of the game.  Everything is going swimmingly, exactly as planned and everything is on track exactly the way we've been hoping." lol.  But seriously, I absolutely commend you, David and Gary for this dev diary, it's absolutely fascinating to follow from week to week and to read about how everything is coming along.  

Regarding the release date of the game, there is nothing worse than shortcoming a game in order to meet the original release schedule imo.  The final product is really all that matters, because not only is a more polished game going to sell better and get better reviews from both the media and the public, but a more polished game also creates greater demand for future titles from the developer which leads to a 2nd kickstarter campaign being successful as well.  Timing is important too, as I wouldn't want to have to compete on kickstarter right now with Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained happening concurrently lol.

Obviously the game is limited to it's budget, but as Shovel Knight has proven, if devs forego some of their paid wages/salary in order to use the money withheld to pay for additional development on the game to make it a better product, then after launch of the game use the money received from game sales to fulfill payment to whoever is owed money, pretty much everyone wins.  

Is Beta testing going to be open to the public in any limited manner or is it all in-house?

Ron Gilbert - May 11, 2015 at 19:01
Make no mistake, our primary goal is to make a great game and if slipping is the best way to accomplish that, we will slip the date. But, I am a firm believer that you have to set ship dates and drive towards them, otherwise you just got lost and directionless. Set a date, drive towards it and adjust in the projects best interest.

We will not be doing an open beta, but we will probably be doing a smaller curated beta. When the time comes, you will read about it here.

Peter Campbell - May 11, 2015 at 20:20
I completely agree with you on the importance of aiming early on during development for a specific month of release, especially when on a very calculated budget.  Bioshock Infinite was delayed repeatedly and ended up costing nearly twice as much to develop because the lead designer couldn't make up his mind on anything and kept making his team redo most of their work, and even though the game sold something like 6 million copies the company actually lost money after the disastrous development costs coupled with what was spent on advertising.  Maybe the lead designer thought he was James Cameron making Titanic, and while Bioshock Infinite is a great game, it lost the company money and the Bioshock team was dissolved and left unemployed afterwards because of it.

But anyway, glad to hear that should the game not be quite where you want it at with the release date nearby, that you are willing to iron those things out and push the game back a bit so that the final version of the game is up to your standard.

Peter Campbell - May 11, 2015 at 20:30
Also, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a perfect example of a game getting "lost and directionless".  By the time the game was finished, it was a complete mess because their was so much in-fighting of the dev team on what to do with the game, they ran way over the budget, it wasn't anywhere near as good as the first one, nobody really cared about the game by the time it did get finalized and the guys who worked on the game are now out of work lol.

DZ-Jay - May 12, 2015 at 05:49
Hi, Ron,

Thanks for taking the time to post this thorough treatment on the project's scope and plan.  It is very reassuring that you seem to have a gift for keep your lofty goals and production scope grounded in reality so early in the process.  I sincerely admire that.

This is contrary to other similar passion projects, such as what I consider your direct "competition" (that is, in the classic "Sierra On-Line vs. Lucasfilm Games" death-match way):  Space Venture, from the guys who brought us good old Space Quest.

That project has gone through so many scope revisions, engine changes, and story and direction adjustments; that after three years, it still feels like it'll take another three.  Like it, many over-funded projects fall in the trap of "wow! now we can REALLY do everything!!!"... and unfortunately they try to, losing direction and focus on what is really important and what really attracted the backers in the first place.

This is not to say that the final results of Space Venture will be crap, but with every month that passes beyond the original one-year projected release date--and with every new unfocused feature addition--I lose more and more hope that it will be anything reminiscing what was originally envisioned and promised.  Well, at least I did during the first two years.  Right now, I just hope they ship something eventually.

I sincerely hope Thimbleweed Park adroitly avoids this trap, and so far it seems you are acutely aware of it and actively steering around it, which is a good thing.  I highly commend you and your team for this.

Good luck to you and your team; here's wishing for a fantastic adventure game in the spirit of the old classics that addicted us to the genre in the first place.  Just do what you do best, trust in your instincts and original vision, and bring it home.  It'll be great, and I can't wait.


Peter Brodersen - May 11, 2015 at 19:00
Reading about testers made me think about TesterTron3000 (not that they can replace each other):

Are you running several instances of TesterTron3000 when auto-testing? I guess one could run thousands of instances for even more of those hard to find cases.

This made me think of system requirements. Some things have changed, e.g. storage for save games really is not an issue anymore but do you have any kind of memory footprint target otherwise? And simply out of development curiosity, what is the current usage? Not that it in any way represents anything of the final product.

Ron Gilbert - May 11, 2015 at 19:05
I only run one instance to TesterTron3000 since it's so early in the project. When it goes into Alpha we will run several on each machine at night. The save game foot print is likely to be very small. Maybe a 100K, but that's a complete guess. The memory footprint is about 40M right now, but nothing is optimized and I am loading everything at boot and freeing nothing. That will change at some point.

Peter Campbell - May 11, 2015 at 19:06
I've been curious about this too lol.  My guess is recommended system requirements are something like 32MB of Ram with a 400mhz processor lol.

Colin - May 11, 2015 at 19:33
What a brilliant post. Thank you for being so open. It's exciting to hear about everything that's happening, and fascinating to hear about the details behind the scenes too. It's a long wait, but it feels very worth it :)

Brendan - May 11, 2015 at 19:45
CrowdIn is pretty hand for managing crowd-sourced translations.

Ron Gilbert - May 11, 2015 at 20:30
I'm not a huge fan of crowd sourced translations for a couple of reasons. First, it's hard to regulate quality, especially since they are going to be in languages that we don't speak. The second is that it means every bit of dialog and spoilers will be leaked to the internet before launch. And 3rd it's really hard to do proper translations without context that near impossible without being able to play the game.

What are planning, is once the game is out, fans will be able to do their own translations in any languages they want and upload them for all to use.

Marco Lizza - May 12, 2015 at 03:42
I second Ron for (almost) every highlighted aspect.

I've collaborated to some crowd-based translations, mostly for utilities not games, and the single most difficult aspect was to adopt a *coherent* style. It's not easy across distinct languages, each with peculiar idioms and tones.

In the case of an adventure-game to deliver the exact meaning the creators intend *require* the game to be played and quite a bit of chit-chat to clarify the semantic.

Quite unpractical, to be honest.

Peter Campbell - May 12, 2015 at 08:53
It's especially critical for a puzzle adventure game to have extremely accurate translations for those who aren't fluid in English since the gameplay is hugely dependent on text information and if the words and sentences aren't translated correctly, it can be gamebreaking.  Even a single small mistake in a translation can make the difference between a puzzle being solvable and the player not being able to understand what they need to do leading the player to being stuck.

Marco Lizza - May 12, 2015 at 18:42
Just as a minor side-note, the late-eighties/early-nineties were ominously famous here in Italy with regards to the game manuals translations. Well, to be honest IT in general was still a "new and unknown land" and people translating game and programming manuals didn't have any clue on what they were doing.

From time to time with catastrophic (albeit hilarious) results.

Guga - May 12, 2015 at 06:04
I agree, my wife had to do translations for a software company and it was near to impossible to have something coherent just by looking at a list of words or sentences. She constantly needed to speak with the programmers in order to know the context and the use for each entry.

Przemek - May 12, 2015 at 11:34
Awesome idea!

Skittles63 - May 11, 2015 at 20:07
No dialogue trees? What?! 0_0

Peter Campbell - May 11, 2015 at 20:21
Maniac Mansion didn't have them.

Petruza - May 11, 2015 at 21:03
Man, Gary and you wrote the graphic adventure history. You take as long as you need, we've waited decades, we're not going to care about how long Thimbleweed actually takes. Relax, take your time, do it right, we'll be here waiting.

wedge - May 12, 2015 at 02:26
For French sub you may get in touch with Words of Magic, they've been doing translations for several adventure games I've backed as well as many other from editors like Daedalic Entertainment. So they would be a very good choice. Though I don't know their price ;)

Mike Pikowski - May 12, 2015 at 03:02
I don´t know what the others think about it but i wouldn´t mind if you just don´t make a mobile version.

Most Mobile Ports from PC games are just crap und mostly unplayable.

My opinion: just take the Money and use it for improvements for the normal Game !


Peter Campbell - May 12, 2015 at 08:17
Mobile support was one of the stretch goals from the kickstarter campaign (it was originally the $525,000 stretch goal but was switched with the $625,000 voice acting stretch goal due to  popular demand), and probably 1 out of every 8 people who backed the game on kickstarter would not have done so if it didn't get a mobile port, so it's pretty much something that has to be done.

Estranged2 - May 12, 2015 at 04:08
I am one of the people who doesn't need dialogue trees. I'd prefer puzzles and NPC characters who react, move around and do stuff like in MM and Zak. This is simpler to script and more interesting IMO.

Mattias Cedervall - May 12, 2015 at 05:04
Same here.

thom-22 - May 14, 2015 at 21:27
Agree. I would not miss dialog trees in the slightest.

Mattias Cedervall - May 12, 2015 at 05:02
Ron, what do you think of this quote from the worlds greatest game designer Shigeru Miyamoto?
“A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.”

Peter Campbell - May 12, 2015 at 09:39
By no means am I bashing Miyamoto, he's the greatest game designer ever and I do agree with the latter half of his quote (Duke Nuke'em Forever is a perfect example of why i don't really agree with the first half, unless he meant to say "It's better to delay a game to make it good, than have a bad game be bad forever" in which i would completely agree), but Miyamoto has had the luxury (and he's earned it) to be able to make games with a practically unlimited budget for much of his career and he largely carries Nintendo and it's consoles on his shoulders so his games absolutely need to be made to perfection even if delayed by a year or two.  If a game has problems, a developer should fix them and push the release date back should they need to, but most game companies and developers do have to make development sacrifices with their games and can't make their game as perfect as they would like them to be.

Ron Gilbert - May 12, 2015 at 11:07
Making sacrifices can be a good thing. It forces you to exam when you're making and pick what's important. Cutting and editing is one of the most important things you can do. I've had to cut a lot of out games and I don't regret any of it. When you cut, your art becomes more focused and tighter. Cut cut cut. Learn to cut. Get good at cutting.

A common problem is having to cut B because you spend way too much time on A because you didn't plan or schedule it. That is the main reason to we are quickly doing the wire frame game, then slowly and evenly polishing Thimbleweed Park in layers. It means the odds of having to cut something because we ran out of time is much lower.  We've already cur several rooms and the time invested in those rooms can be measured in hours, not days, weeks or month. We cut them because they were not needed, not because we ran out of time.

Peter Campbell - May 12, 2015 at 11:23
What you say about cutting and editing is exactly why I find so many open world sandbox games to be incredibly boring.  There's usually way too much filler, way too much of nothing interesting that needs to be done or can be done for prolonged periods of time, of over 100 hours that can be spent playing many of these games only about 20 hours are actually entertaining while the other 80 hours feel like a boring chore.  Not all open world games are like this, some are absolutely fantastic at making exploring and goofing around fun, it's a very tricky game design to master, but most imo fail hard at this.

Mattias Cedervall - May 12, 2015 at 16:58
Shigeru-san's words was translated from Japanese, but I'm sure he meant that it's better to delay a game to make it good and so on...

Ron Gilbert - May 12, 2015 at 10:57
Has a whole, game developers are just crappy at scheduling, planning and getting anything done on time. There are lots of good reasons for that, and lots of lame excuses. One issue is that we don't have the tools or standardized practices the movie people do. It's hard (but getting easier) to hire people to are fully trained in the tools you'e using. If you're running late, you want to hire a few more people and have them be productive from the start. Games are also a new art form, there is a lot we still haven't figured out. But, we need to get a lot better and planning and scheduling. I'm crap at it as well, and it's one of the reasons I'm very cautious and worry all the time.

One issue with Kickstart projects is that they make you pick a ship date before you've ever started. If Thimbleweed Park wasn't a Kickstarted game, we might have announced it, but we would not have announced a ship date, then 6 months before release announce the date. Movies and AAA games do this all the time and there's a reason. It doesn't mean you should pick a ship date from the start and drive towards it, you absolutely should. Also, get better at planning and scheduling. Also, get good producers. There are good reasons for a game to be late, not being able to mange your time is not one of them.

Mattias Cedervall - May 12, 2015 at 17:36
You are a very wise man, Ron. If I didn't know any better I would say that you are a wise guy. Thank you so much for your reply! :-)

Morphez - May 12, 2015 at 07:12
Like others mentioned before me, please take your time.
As far as the dialog trees go, if you do them please do them yourself and get some help with the engine work if necessary as we'll definately need your humor in the conversations.

Dan - May 12, 2015 at 12:55
I agree with that. In case of a lack of time/budget, just do without dialogs. But don't leave the dialogs to chance.
In Monkey Island 1 & 2 the dialogs were part of the essentials and especially enhanced the game's humor. So if there will be dialogs in TP, you should include them in your team's creative thinking-processes.

sushi - May 12, 2015 at 18:45
in comparison, how long did development on Maniac Mansion or Zak last? Or MI, which is probably more comparable in length?

On the subject of user translations: how the hell would one translate names like "thimbleweed park" or "Ransome the clown"? creepy name, even for a clown...

David Fox - May 13, 2015 at 14:49
Zak took about 9 months from design through completion. We had the huge added bonuses of an existing engine (SCUMM) that already went through extensive play testing, plus my already being familiar with scripting in it. Ron did add several new SCUMM features just for Zak, but that was way easier than creating the system from scratch.

In terms of resources, we had two full-time scripters (me and Matthew Kane), and two artists (Martin Cameron on backgrounds, Gary Winnick on character animation, though I think Gary did some backgrounds as well). Zak is probably a smaller game than Thimbleweed, and we didn't have voice, multiple platforms at release (just C64), any special animations, etc.

Sushi - May 14, 2015 at 01:23
Thanks David!
I can also imagine that back then there was a push to not keep games too long in production phase to avoid looking like a 1987 game, ironically.
6 to 9 months projects make perfect sense for multiple reasons, in almost any business or art form. Take the time you need guys, we're no impatient little kids anymore :)

Iron Curtain - May 13, 2015 at 20:58
This is what Wikipedia has for "Thimbleweed":

The definition for "Ransom" is this:

Sushi - May 14, 2015 at 01:36
Exactly! What twisted parent would call its son "Ransom"? :D
Apart from that, it still sounds like a name, while most translations won't. So probably it is better to not translate names, but then subtle jokes might get lost. At first I thought thimbleweed was just Ron's poor spelling take in tumbleweed! But now I know what a thimble is.

Mathieu "Zorch" Martin - May 12, 2015 at 20:02
Ron, I have been intently following this blog and I cant thank you enough for the amount of transparency you have been demonstrating.  I only wish that all Kickstarter projects would follow your example.

Also, I wish more companies shared your value for "creative people who get things done".  More often than not developers seem to hire people with great artistic skills and no regard for deadlines.  It might seem like a good idea in the beginning, but it has been proven time and again that this mode of thinking is completely unrealistic and unsustainable.  If I had to pick between a talented artist with no concept of time, and a mediocre one who always did what they were asked and consistently delivered, I can tell you which one I would value more!

Fan-tastic! - May 12, 2015 at 20:05
You've waited 27 YEARS. You've gone through 6 JOBS, 3 HOUSE MOVES, 2 DIVORCES!

But now the WAIT IS OVER!


commando85 - May 13, 2015 at 03:23
Actually just went through one divorce since the '80s hehe

Peter Campbell - May 13, 2015 at 11:20
I'm going to one-up you; I've never even been married lol.  Al Bundy has taught me well =)

Mattias Cedervall - May 14, 2015 at 17:46
Good! Al Bundy is a hero! :-)

Geoff Paulsen - May 13, 2015 at 10:09
Sometime whenever you run out of fun things to talk about (is that possible?), I would find it particularly interesting to hear your personal background story with Gary, how you met, how you came to agree to do this game, and how you timed it relative to your other works.  My gut says that you've been sitting on the idea of Thimbleweed from back before the Cave at least, but were just waiting for the right time.

Phill IP - May 13, 2015 at 15:33
I understand people who want this game translated in his/her language and offer themselves to do it for free, but please, the team specified in the Kickstarter that they are going to localize the game with PROFESSIONAL translators (and later they will allow fans to upload their own translations).

Actually, there are people who study and work hard every day to be professional game localizers, they earn a living translating games with accuracy and creativeness, and not everyone can do this, believe me, I work in game localization and sometimes it is not that easy. For example, Wasteland 2 used fan translation even having reached 2.933.252 $ in their Kickstarter... They had 160 translators working for some languages! Result? Zero consistency in the dialogs/story, game-code broken (several weapons cannot be unlocked due to this, bugs within the game and so on), etc.

There are several options to do a good translation using localization providers or contacting directly with freelancers. =)