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(Spoilers) TWP game ending

I’m not the first one to write about the ending of Thimbleweed Park, but I hope to be forgiven: I simply felt I had to.

I finished playing the game, and I had this sensation of being fooled.
Turns out indeed, that the whole game was a joke, like a bigger version of the many in-jokes placed all around the adventure… and I liked the in-jokes, in the same way I really liked motorway restaurant stops during a motorway travel (I mean, when I made such travels, in the pre-pandemics era), where the purpose of the travel was well beyond motorway service stations.
A writer tells a story, it could be a novel, a movie, a videogame, or whatever. And then there are the readers: book readers, movie watcers, or gamers… and the reader wants to be respected, as he (her) gives a lot of attention, consuming his (her) own lifetime, in order to give the writer the opportunity to tell a message, whatever an important message would be from the writer’s point of view. Now if the writer, at some point, brings the shutters down on the story, before the story is finished, it’s normal that a lot of readers would bring attention to him… that’s because they feel not respected.
About the way the game is finished, I’ve red the word “metaphor” many times, and I must say, if you allow me to broaden the conversation to rhetorical figures in general,
I liked “Synecdoche, New York”, a (very) dramatic movie, a masterpiece in a way. But in that case, the rethorical figure, which is about the entire life of the protagonist, is developed throughout the whole movie itself. And what to say about “Franklyn”, a fantasy movie, categorized and publicized as such, that turns out to be something very different… and again, in a way that makes the whole story balanced, and thus delivering a clear message to the watcher… or reader, to use the same word I already used.
In the case of TWP, we have four main characters with their own stories still open, and at some point, the shutter comes down by revealing that we are actually playing a video game. Who would have thought.
The automatic question is, so why even bother beginning to tell these stories at all?
I immediatly recalled Monkey Island 2, and I must say, I’m a huge fan of the series since I was I child, it’s probably the only adventure game I’ve played that many times even if the story is always the same. But I recalled it, because of the ending. And thanks to the internet, I’m aware I was not the only one :-).
I’ve also red the transcript of Ron’s keynote at PAX Australia 2013, where he explains that he didn’t have an ending for the game, started to panic (time running out if I understood correctly), and then came out with the actual game ending.
I cannot be certain this is the case with TWP, but I see that Franklin Edmund has a story finale without getting involved in this “we are all playing a game” revelation. While agent Reyes story finale, after the revelation, looks like it was done in the shortest way possible, actually an instant newspaper title, while the story itself was introduced in a very long way, step by step, with small hints. Finale seems to be shorthand, too fast, quite unbalanced.
Also Ray had quite a fascinating story, that gets even deeper when we see her on the coroner’s bed… was she maybe an AI controlled cyborg? This was the hypothesis I made, and I believe each one of us could have a slightly different hypothesis.
When we have an incredible story, each reader has its own guesses based on own’s fantasies, but at some point all has to converge, step by step, to the gran finale. And it’s not possible to completely meet everyone’s expectations. But still, the finale can be meaningful, and thus, appreciated by the readers. And when it is on top of an incredible story, the whole thing becomes an immortal masterpiece (to be honest, writing this part I was thinking about LoTR, to give you the gist).
In TWP, great story, incredible story, so it’s more difficult to satisfy everyone: but please, do not just chop it half way. I ask you please authors, do not just bring the shutters down. It’s a pity.
I understand it could be a matter of time, because you’ve done an incredible job on this videogame, and because you are human beings. And human beings have this problem with time: when it runs out, options run low.
After credits, game gets restarted, from a C64 console (wow, I used to play it with my older cousin), and that reminds me there are narrative means to bring the story back. Same consideration can be done thinking about Ray being uploaded out of the game itself. And thinking about game part Ten, freely playable Delores: the games was brought back indeed.
So dear authors, if you decide to bring the story back and converge it to a gran finale, also if it would take another entire game, I would feel respected as a reader (gamer), and be happy to give you my time in order to get your message. Maybe it could be an unbeeped message, I’ll take the risk.
Besides of that, considering the development of the story itself, finishing it properly could consacrate it as a masterpiece, at unparalleled levels for videogames.

If that won’t be the case, thanks anyway for bringing us TWP. :slight_smile:

Sincerely,
a fan of yours.

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Personally, as much as I loved the rest of the game, the ending wasn’t for me. It’s not that it seemed rushed or random, just a bit tropey, like a vaguely modern version of “it was all just a dream” or something.

I didn’t know the anecdote that you mentioned about MI2’s ending so I googled it and came upon this old thread: Ron Gilbert about art and bad endings where Ron made some insightful posts.

Of most interest to me from the PAX speech, though:

I’m not saying that creating something everyone loves is easy but in some ways it really is the easy way out. If you want to create something everybody likes, take a picture of a cute puppy and a kitten.

So then one morning I was laying in bed and I was just staring at the ceiling and the ending to Monkey Island 2 just hit me. Not with all the details like the Star Wars parody but the basic gist of it and it just felt absolutely perfect; it was odd and it was strange and I knew a lot of people would have just hated it.

That’s why I loved MI2’s ending so much. It just went straight off the rails. Even today I don’t know what ‘really’ happened. TWP stayed on the rails and sort of recursively joined the rails back into a loop which was not as exciting for me. But I’m sure Ron expected such a reaction and isn’t too peeved.

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I thought it was one of the best endings ever. But by ending I mean the whole of the endgame (e.g., the wireframe world as an absolute delight), not some micro-aspect of it.

I can understand why the ending leaves people disappointed.

But I also think that the ending needs to be put in the right context. Not of the plot itself, but the story of the game. Thimbleweed Park is incomplete if you just take it as a standalone game. You need to consider everything, from the Kickstarter campaign to the development blog and the forum.

TWP was a love letter to the fans from the beginning. “It’s like finding a long-lost game in your drawers” was their pitch. It moved a bit away from that, getting a more modern look, but still this is something that shouldn’t be forgotten: the game was meant to be a revival of the old-school games for old-school gamers.

Fans could follow the development in the blog, seeing the game slowly come to life. We saw some parts of the wireframe, how Ransome got its design, all ideas that had been considered for the plot, we formed a community and we were an integral part of it, not only with the backer items, but also with the books in the library and the book titles.

In that sense, the TWP universe was already very strongly tied with the real world. And the ending just acknowledges that. It sends you to the Kickstarter video (I’m sure most of the regulars on this forum didn’t even need to watch it again to know what to do with the balloon), it lets you walk through the wireframe… as a backer and a person who “lived” this game from its inception, this felt awesome. I wasn’t just a player anymore, I was a character in the “upper universe”. My comments to the development blog that had an influence in the game had a sense also plot-wise. And that’s cool as *beep*. It was the perfect ending for its years-long history.

If you just take the game and play it… well, yes, it’s a disappointing ending. I agree. But context matters.

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the ending as a concept is nice… but all the characters stories get chopped away, except for Franklin and in a way, Delores. The characters stories are not micro-aspects, they are the main plot of the game.

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Well said. Thank you.
That’s mostly what I’ve felt. :slight_smile:

My initial gut reaction to the ending was disappointment. I’d invested something in those characters, only for it to become a “they weren’t real after all” kind of deal.

But over time I’ve come to appreciate it a little more; whether or not it was deliberate, the ending to TWP kind of reminded me of the feeling I always get when I’ve just finished a game I’ve invested a lot of time and joy into: sadness, the feeling that the game’s world has been ripped from you, or unplugged. The ending felt like a metaphor for this experience.

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I just think it’s reductive to say that Agent Ray’s ending was slightly disappointing therefore the ending is disappointing. Other than that I don’t recognize what you’re saying at all. :slight_smile:

It may be that I very much like what you dislike about it, I don’t know.

I need to comment not just on the ending, but the game itself too.
I grew up with Rons and the other Lucasfilm/Lucasarts adventure games and I absolutely loved most of them. And I still do.
I loved Manic, Zak and I eventually got the biggest fan after Monkey 1 and finally 2 came out.
I played all of them for hours and hours alone and with friends and replayed them a lot. And I still do every few years.

When the kickstarter came up, I was hyped and all in immediately. I´m in the tip jar, the phonebook and I still hate me for not submitting a book. (Why did I skip that???)
The TWP Blog was my daily website to vistit for the whole development time. It was fantastic and I learned about a lot of wonderfull people that feel and think like me about all of this.

So I knew what the game was about from the very beginning. Nervertheless, when I was finaly able to play it, it just did not suck me in like the others from back then did. Of course since I was a lot younger too back then. But mainly because of it´s setting.
What I loved about the old games, besides their humor, puzzles and grafics, was they all brought a huge adventure to me or better said, they brought me into a huge adventure. I was a kid that saved a girl from a crazy family and a meteor, I traveled the world to find artefacts and even flew to the mars. I got a pirate, visited so many islands and found so many hilariours things on my way.

This time I was “just” an agent that had to solve a murder. In a small town.
It was just that I didn´t get that “I´m going on a huge adventure feeling” because for me , that was kind of normal not an adventure. I loved X-Files, but was never a fan of Twin Peeks back then. But that are just my personal preferences.

Nevertheless, because of it´s fun and hilarious characters and puzzles I enjoyed the game a lot to the point I loved it too. I still wasn´t on that huge adventure I was hoping for, and it will never kick Monkey Island I+II from it´s place as my favority games of all time, but I loved the game for what it was. I tried to extend the playtime as much as possible in the first playthrough and therefore even enjoyed to be stuck here and there.
I got a connection to the characters and had my favorites that I played the most.

The Ending

For me it was both, very cool and a let down too.
From the point of view that I did not get sucked in the game as much as I was hoping for: It was cool. It was just something completely different, like the game itself too. And brought some playable things which I already knew from the development. And it´s a huge plot twist which I in general like.

From my build up connection to the characters - view, it was a let down. All got vanished while I was hoping for some sort of happy end for all of them.

Even the both loved an hated end of MI2 deliverd both to me, a happy end (Ha, I melted Le Chuck- whoohoooo) and a plot twist (but only after that).
I did not get that feeling in TWP. I could not finish the character stories and was thrown out of this world . I get kicked before I´m able to finish what I´d like to finish.

So in general I like the “Ron-Style” Ending. But I hate that it cut´s me off before finishing what I build up.

I´m not sure if I should blur anything else here :thinking:

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This was the same for me, I think the ending is fine and never really had any problem with it, while my main qualm was that the setting wasn’t as fantastical as previous classics…
At the point where we briefly go underground, then I though, ok, this is where things get interesting, we get to see the hidden parts of this town, but it was only for one small scene…

I think because during the game it kept suggesting, “there is more to this town than meets the eye,” “there is a hidden secret to this town”, that sort of thing that I was like, “show me! I want to see the crazy hidden secret parts of this town!”
So the big hidden secret of the town is the ending twist, so I guess the ending did feel like a let down in that respect, because I wanted there to be more to the game’s setting than there was.

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I think context is important, as Guga mentioned.
The only thing I was a little disappointed in was

not having very many interactions inside the factory. It took so long to get there, and you mostly just walk through to get to the end.

But Ron specifically addressed that point in the podcast, saying playtesting led them to keep the pacing short so close to the end.

Also, after two years of development I’m sure they were ready for a break! Not to mention it was done on a kickstarter budget. So as much as they maybe could have kept going with the some of the plot lines, the plug has to be pulled at some point.

I really don’t fault Ron and crew for anything. All things considered, they did an amazing job.

Personally I don’t think I could work on any project for as long as they did without getting completely sick.

Btw, love your screen name @Zlorfik

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Gonna chime in here and say I think context absolutely does not matter, necessarily, in the case of literature. Knowing the time period literature was written in? Ok sure. But I don’t need a books life story and business model in order to appreciate it. That’s bonkers.

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Incidentally, I had no context. I read the dev blog afterward because I liked the game and that’s how I found out why the bookstore and the library were so amazing, for example. I’m definitely not saying that I like the ending in context. I’m saying I like the ending.

I love the game from the first Kickstarter video all the way through development and playing and the end, through the blog and this forum with all you nice people here as well. I have nothing to be disappointed about. I love everything about it. I’m sorry that not everybody feels the same way. :heart_eyes:

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Similiar to @bongobrain I don’t think that you can presuppose the context or put the game in that context.

For example the game was made for a wider audience, not just only for the Kickstarter backers (thus the “better” graphics and some other design decisions). So the game itself has to tell/give the right context. But that doesn’t happen. There is only one small connection to the Kickstarter campaign. IMHO that isn’t enough to deduce that the game has to be set into that context.

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