There is a new interview in which Jenn Sandercock gives her point of view about adventure game design and how Thimbleweed Park is not just a throwback game.
I fully agree with her when she says that puzzles should advance the narrative and that older adventure games were frustrating because of design mistakes.
About the “nostalgia” element of the game, it’s difficult for me to concur that the whole project wasn’t mainly targeted at old-school adventure gamers from its beginning.
From a communication and marketing point of view, the Kickstarter campaign felt to me just that and sentences like “It’s like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered LucasArts adventure game you’ve never played before.” contributed a lot to that sensation.
Can I ask you to read Jenn’s interview and tell me if Thimbleweed Park felt to you mainly a “nostalgia operation”?
Nice interview. I don’t think I’ve read one before with just @jenn 's perspective. Thanks for the link.
To me, it is clear that the Kickstarter campaign was designed to appeal to oldschool gamers. The game was undoubtedly intended in part to satisfy those gamers, nostalgia being a major element in that. Who else is going to fund a game like this. But it was clear from early on, in my opinion, that Ron and team weren’t intending just to target old-school gamers. Not just for financial reasons, but because (in my opinion), they felt there was a magic in those games that’s missing today, and that people will appreciate if it’s presented to them in a new way. They designed those older games, but have stayed in the gaming industry, and like creating games for new audiences. I truly believe they wanted to pull the ‘charm’ from Maniac Mansion & Monkey Island, and apply it to a newer game, that would satisfy both the gamers who enjoyed those games from the late 80’s and early 90’s, but also to today’s gamers, who never experienced that.
I don’t think those words can have mattered that much. (Ron also clearly said that the purpose was to make a game as it should have been, not as it was.)
I think what signaled that the game was mainly a nostalgia based operation was something more visual. (Maybe that the kickstarter graphics resembled Maniac Mansion, or that it was low-res, or that the verbs were on screen.)
It felt like a “nostalgia operation” to ME, because I’m nostalgic of those kind of games. BUT I believe the nostalgia element is not necessary for newer players to enjoy TWP: it has enough modern characteristics to make it fun for them too, imho.
I didn’t have the chance (yet) to test this with players who are not familiar with old adventure games. And I must admit that marketing TWP to them must be much more difficult.
The way I see it, having followed the development of the project from the very beginning, it started as a “nostalgia operation,” which then was justified as a means to bring the old-school joy of classic adventure gamers to a new generation.
However, for all the talk about modern graphic techniques and multi-platform support, and larger market appeal, the project always felt to me rooted as a nostalgia-fueled fan service project.
All the in-jokes and LucasFilms references are testament to this, as is the significant effort put into Easter eggs which would have no meaning or appeal to anybody who didn’t grow up playing LucasFilms games.
At the end of the day, no matter how much they wished to appeal to a new audience, they dedicated most of the game to their fans – whether this was out of self-interest, to appease the backers, or just because they felt like it, that’s up to them.
I don’t think it matters, though. I think it matters to them because it seems that every time a reviewer says the game is a “love letter to classic adventure games” or a “throw back” to an older genre, they take it as some kind of insult – as if the game was somehow diminished by this.
It hurts sales. That is the issue. When reviewer says this, there a segment that tunes out. I am not personally insulted. It’s also a stigma that point and click games have and it would nice if people could get over that, but it’s easy to write headlines like this and doesn’t help the genera.
It’s a double edge sword. We needed that nostalgia to get the Kickstarter funded, but now it’s hurting sales. We tried our best to move the press beyond that, but were unsuccessful.
I think this is something that is faced by creators in music, movies, etc. as well.
It’s difficult to appeal to a core, loyal, hardcore audience AND appeal to a wider, more transient populist audience at the same time. You see this with bands a lot…
It’s a bit of a gamble… do they stick to the core audience who they know for sure will support them… they’ll probably never be millionaires, but lots of bands have great careers repeatedly giving their core supporters what they want. Those fans are a stable market they can keep going back to.
Or do they change their sound and make a bid for the mainstream… sometimes it works and they make the leap, but it’s not a sure thing… sometimes they fail to appeal to the mainstream AND lose their core audience at the same time. Also those fans are often a lot more fickle and even though they bought the hit single, you have to convince them again and again, because they have no attachment.
I understand and I agree with the sentiment. It does turn people off.
However, in my opinion, the pixelated graphics and the old-school verb interface does a lot of that “damage” already by confining the game to a very specific niche on first impression.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, I love the art style. I’m saying that to a lot of non-adventure gamers, that style already taints their opinions. I saw this with my nephew.
Of course, having a review that reinforces this mindset, does not help get past it.
That’s fair. The problem is that it may come across as “having your cake and eating it too,” which admittedly not every body is open to entertain. It may seem simplistic to treat it as a dichotomy (and it is), but to a lot of people it is hard to reconcile a game dedicated to hardcore fans but which should have appeal to a larger audience. It seems incompatible on the surface of it.
It’s definitely not fair, but such is life.
Personally, I find there is a lot to like about a Thimbleweed Park even for non-gamers. However, I too am at a loss as to how to convey this to my family and friends.
I was hoping for the iOS version to address a lot of this and to expand the market. I really had high hopes. But the price may be a large limiting factor there. That’s a separate discussion, though.
Agree. It was fun to do the verb interface, but I doubt I’ll ever do it again. It was probably our #1 problem. It’s also the problem with crowdfunding, you’re hands are tied. We couldn’t change too much without upsetting people. If the game had not been crowdfunded, there is a lot I would have changed.
I don’t regret any of the decision we made, they were the right decisions given the information we had.
Wasn’t that one of the reasons why you founded Humongous? And have you thought about creating adventure games for kids again? If the kids of the current generation grow up with adventures (like we did in the 80s and 90s), they will see adventures games different. And if they play these “adventures for kids” with their parents, maybe some more adults will buy other adventure games?
Can you give some examples?
And why haven’t you just wrote in the Kickstarter description a disclaimer, that everything could change? (That worked in the Tim Schafer Kickstarter too… ;))
I always found the verb interface very intuitive. Verb + Object = Action.
It’s simple to understand, and it’s not for nostalgic reason.
I have evidence also looking at boys of the new generation.
I wouldn’t change the interface, I believe it is the best way (seen so far) to do commands for this kind of games.