Thimbleweed Park Podcast #10
“WTF!?! Someone start a Kickstarter to stop these podcasts!”
Original airdate June 20, 2015
Transcribed by Sushi
(Ron:) Hi, I’m Ron Gilbert and welcome to the Thimbleweed Park stand-up meeting podcast and today, as usual, I am joined by David Fox…
(Ron:) …and Gary Winnick.
(Gary:) Hey there!
(Ron:) Someday I’ll invite Mark [Ferrari] to join us. I think that’ll be a lot of fun. And as other people get added to the team we’ll also invite them to join as well. But right now it’s just a team of three.
So what we do each week is we go through very quickly what we did last week and what we’re gonna do next week and I guess any other interesting things that happened. And this week let’s start with mr. Winnick!
(Gary:) OK… since my father’s not here I guess that’s me… anyway, [I] have been working on continuing to get art with Mark scheduled. In fact, it’s shocking but Ron is actually probably one of the better schedulers and budgeters I’ve ever worked with -which is really frightening to me- but Ron is really on top of that stuff and in turn he also has us all going through and doing a lot of spreadsheets and stuff. So one thing that’s nice is we are pretty well tracking everything as we start to move into production by next month.
(Ron:) I think you’re a real task master on spread sheets!
(Gary:) Yeah, well… you know, it makes sense except your math kind of sucks sometimes.
(Ron:) I do suck at math! I totally, completely suck at math.
(Gary:) But everything is on the spreadsheets and most things have dates and good tracking information associated with them, particularly -as I said before- the bug reports as well. So all of that’s been real helpful because I’ve been working with Mark in terms of specific schedules for finishing up all the wireframe rooms and he’s doing really great work. People will be seeing some of that hopefully soon.
(Ron:) We should post some of his newer stuff up on the blog.
(Gary:) I think that would be nice.
And then I’ve also been finishing a number of close-ups and objects. I’ve been working on some objects with David.
And then the other thing I’ve been doing, is doing some tests in terms of just making sure that animated characters will mesh with Mark’s backgrounds and we’re figuring that out now as we speak. So that’s pretty much it and that’s what’s going to be happening with me in the next week.
(Ron:) How’s the Delores stuff?
(Gary:) Oh yeah, so we got a lot of feedback on Delores. The thing about that that’s always interesting is you put nine things out into the world and for the most part I’m getting a fair amount of feedback on every one but I’m not really getting a clear idea of what people think in terms of which is the best one. However it’s nice to hear all that stuff but ultimately Ron and I and David will need to be making that decision based on a whole bunch of other stuff as far as what the final design looks like. But it’s been real interesting to see everybody’s reaction to what the actual process is, which is a similar process that we used in the past.
(Ron:) Yeah, I find a lot of the individual comments to be really enlightening, the things about her that people do like or don’t like , as opposed to just “I like number 7” or “I like number 3”. The little comments about things I think is really interesting.
(Gary:) And the other thing about doing this kind of stuff -and I may have said this before- is when you’re dealing with this kind of stuff, especially when it’s “animated pixel characters”, you really do have to simplify and you do have to really stereotype. That’s the only way you can communicate what you need to in the small number of data on a screen. So I am finding this, though, [a] pretty interesting process because it’s different than the way I’ve done it in the past.
(Ron:) So the next stage is to actually do some pixel art for her?
(Gary:) Yes, we’ll do some actual characters that are the same kind of standing characters we’ve done to design each of the other individual characters so we can see what they actually look like in the game or standing in one of
the rooms or whatever and then we’ll start and go from there.
(Ron:) Cool. We also got Ransome in; that was the other thing that happened.
(Gary:) Oh yeah, it’s really cool.
(Ron:) So Ransome is now in as a playable character you can walk around.
OK, mr. Fox?
(David:) The first thing was the blog that I did last week, on Monday, on the elevator and that was really great. I wasn’t expecting that kind of feedback. It was actually the best kind of feedback because it was people liking things about a game I had done 25 years ago 1 that I thought sucked [laughs] or wasn’t that important or no one cared about and all of a sudden [I] find out that for some people the whole bit with the bus driver and Zak and how you get on the bus was one of their favorite parts of the game, because it just kind of worked like real life and you could try all sorts of things. And what you thought, if you were [in that situation in real life, what you would do to get on the bus? 2 ]… You’re basically being rewarded for being clever about how you attempted to solve the issue and we had all the bases covered. 3 So all those weeks and dreaded playtesters walking in with more bugs kind of paid off 25 years later [laughs]. So that made us reevaluate how to do the elevator in the fact that people like turning on and off light switches and they like doing little things in the [game] environment that mirror real life. [I] probably would have done those anyway but now I won’t feel like I’m wasting my time and feeling guilty for doing them.
The other things I was working on [are], as Gary said, more inventory items. One big thing we’ve been doing this week is doing walkthroughs of the game. We’ve been spending about one and a half to two hours a day going through different rooms in the game, starting from the beginning, and talking through what’s missing, what do we need to add to this room, what isn’t working right : here are some things we threw down like “get something from the hardware store” and never really talked about the mechanics of how you would get it. So just really nailing down the interactions a lot more, which is great [and] makes it feel much more real.
I saw Ransome in the game and walked him out of his his trailer into the circus and he is basically white with a couple of colors on him. 4 He’s a very white character and he just looked really out of place in the circus, which is at nighttime and kind of darkened. And so he’s doing some experiments with lighting on him and it’s really fun to see how that’s gonna work in the future. These are just really really rough tests but it definitely helps a lot. And I think that’s been it.
(Ron:) Yeah, I found with designing stuff, when you’re designing these puzzles, until you actually understand the verb you click on and the object you click on and the actual object you combine that with, the puzzle is not really designed yet. There are a lot of puzzles that we just had these vague things like “you get something from the hardware store” but we didn’t really understand how that happened, so I think it’s important to get that almost click-by-click: “how does this puzzle get solved?”. Or else you start to forget the details and then when you start to program it up, you’re forced to think about those details because you’re implementing it.
(David:) Right! And there’s this vague feeling like the game’s not really there yet because you know about all these pieces that are kind of half thought-out and so going through doing this walkthrough just really is helping to solidify everything in the game.
(Ron:) Yeah, it feels like every room we walk into, there’s at least one puzzle where we haven’t figured it out on that click-by-click basis of how the puzzle works.
(David:) Right. And we’re, what, like halfway through?
(Ron:) Yeah… not. No, we’re maybe a third of just going through .
(David:) A third? OK, so we’ll be doing this through next week also.
(Ron:) Yeah yeah.
(Gary:) Hey Ron, does this feel similar to you like when you did Monkey Island or other stuff or does it feel fairly different? I’m sort of wondering how the process feels to you relative to those experiences.
(Ron:) It feels a little bit different in that with Monkey Island -and Maniac Mansion to some extent, but certainly the two Monkey Islands- we just dove right into those, there wasn’t this long pre-production process where all the rooms were done as storyboards and the whole game was put together in storyboard form and then looked at how everything fit together and then when we were happy with it all then went to final art. We were going through a stage where final art was being produced as we were coming up with the game and putting stuff together . And it really was the experience at Humongous Entertainment, with making those games 5 , that really got me into this mode of doing these storyboard versions then you do these complete versions of the game in storyboard and wireframe before you go on to final art. So this does feel different in that respect.
(David:) Yeah, it really helps too because if you want make a change, you don’t feel so guilty that this gorgeous room has to be torn apart because it was so much quicker to draw.
(Gary:) Just a crappy wireframe that Gary drew.
[Ron and David laugh]
(Ron:) OK, let’s see… last week I’ve been working on a lot of budgeting and scheduling, as Gary said. I’m just trying to get everything figured out budget and schedule wise, because now that we’re going to production we have a much better idea of exactly what we’re building. So I’m just going through and doing that.
(David:) You want to say what you mean by going into production?
(Ron:) Yeah, to me “pre-production” is figuring out what it is you need to do and “production” is doing it. To me that’s where the line is so [in] pre-production we’re doing these wireframes of all the rooms, we’re getting this bare-bones wiring all the puzzles together, we’re running around the world or deciding whether does this feel right for the world just even the distance traveled between things feel right, does the size of the rooms feel right and all that stuff. And then once we figured that out, when production starts now [it] is just churning through art, now we have a giant list of all of the rooms in the game, we have a giant list of all the animations that need to be done and it’s more of that mechanical process of just checking off things as we implement everything. And I think there’s a lot of creative [things] that’s still being done even in production [when] you start to realize things don’t work and you’re always adjusting and doing creative stuff but production is much more of a mechanical process. Does that make sense?
(Ron:) Alright. So doing a lot of budgeting and scheduling. As much as Gary likes to say that I’m really good at budgeting and scheduling, I actually lost about thirty thousand dollars in the budget yesterday. [David chuckles] I had no idea where that money went to, but…
(David:) I think I found it. I think you put it on my bank account.
(Ron:) Well, you know, Gary Skyped me yesterday and said “Hey, I have a question about that budget…” and yeah, he totally brought up this one mistake I’d made that had lost about thirty thousand dollars in the budget. So we’re fine now, thirty thousand dollars found. There is no 10% reward for Gary, by the way, for finding that thirty thousand dollars.
(Ron:) Let’s see… just a lot of bug fixing and issues for David. And we’re doing the walkthroughs which we spend about an hour to an hour and a half to two hours a day just doing the walkthroughs.
And next week I’m gonna look at some kind of a tool for doing the larger cutscene animations, as opposed to the small animations where people are just walking around and reaches and talks and stuff, but large cutscene animations. I think we need some kind of a tool to do those because I think if you and I, David, are scripting all those things, I think it’s gonna be a lot of work and a little bit of waste of your time. So I’m gonna look at that and more walkthroughs with the rooms and getting everything ready for production to start on the 1st of July.
(David:) So it’s more like the tool we used for Indy 6 which was kind of an overlay animation tool where you have the background of the room and you can draw to it.
(Ron:) Yeah and you can coordinate several different things, so it’s not just a single character walking around but you can take maybe four different animations and all have them animate in unison when you have a large roomwide cutscene to happen.
(David:) I also wanted to say that it’s really fun to say “hey, how can I do this in the game?” and then half an hour later you have a new feature so I can do it.
(Ron:) Yeah I like that. I actually enjoy the whole tool building and adding features to the game. When you come up with something as “how to do this?” and I go “Ooh, I think I can add a new command to the game!”, I actually enjoy that.
(David:) Mmmh. Right.
(Ron:) I think we lost Gary. I’m not seeing him on Skype.
(Gary:) Actually you didn’t.
(Ron:) Oh, [we] didn’t. You’re still there.
(Gary:) I put myself on mute because I’m in this office and people are like running along my door and like falling down and hitting their head on the coffee machine and stuff like that.
(Gary:) So I just decided I would mute my mic.
(Ron:) OK, well I’m glad we didn’t lose you.
All right, well I think that is it…?
(Ron:) …and we’ll talk again next week. See you guys later!
(Gary:) OK, bye.
(David:) OK, bye bye.
1: Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
2: Yes, David you were going to say all of that.
3: Actually the whole getting on the bus, as mundane as it may seem, is probably the puzzle with the highest number of alternative solutions to it in any of the Lucsafilm/LucasArts adventure games.
4: The initial Ransome design was a classic white/red clown. https://blog.thimbleweedpark.com/refining_ransome
5: Freddi Fish, Putt-Putt, Pajama Sam and Spy Fox. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humongous_Entertainment
6: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: the graphic adventure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Jones_and_the_Last_Crusade:_The_Graphic_Adventure