Thimbleweed Park Podcast #14
“We talk about earthquakes and actors in brackets. Whatever the hell that
Original airdate July 17, 2015
Transcribed by Sushi
(Ron:) Hi! I’m Ron Gilbert and welcome to our weekly Thimbleweed Park dev…[truck noise] I’m gonna… there’s a truck going by, hold on.
(Gary:) I know there were trucks going by all the time when you lived in San Francisco, is it any different where you are now?
(Ron:) Yeah, the trucks are following me. [David and Gary laugh] Hold on, I’ll shut the window here.
(Gary:) I heard there were earthquakes around there, is that true or is that a lie?
(Ron:) Yes, we have earthquakes. When I lived up here [in Seattle] the first time, I think there were three memorable earthquakes. One of them was actually quite large. I was just reading this whole thing about this big subduction zone right off the Pacific coast
that sometime in the next like a hundred thousand years it’s gonna go and they’re saying it’s gonna be big like if it happened today it would probably kill like 50,000 people along Portland and in Seattle, mostly because of the tsunamis. Yeah, I didn’t escape earthquakes. And we have volcanoes up here!
(David:) Yeah, yeah.
(Ron:) OK, trucks are gone, window’s closed.
Hi, I’m Ron Gilbert and welcome to the weekly Thimbleweed Park development podcast and I’m joined -as always- by David Fox…
(Ron:) …and Gary Winnick.
(Ron:) And what we do is, every week we talk about what we did last week and what we’re going to do this week and let’s start with Gary.
(Gary:) Oh boy, I couldn’t wait to be the first one! So anyway, been working on a number of things, on the blog we have a walkthrough with one of Mark’s new rooms 1 . It looks really good, so… We’ve been starting to integrate a couple of Mark’s new rooms and it’s starting to look like an actual game now, which is pretty amazing. Also I have started to do a little bit of special case animation for us to test that out and that’s coming along. And then the other thing is I’m working on the next rib of NOT FINAL icons, that’s mainly what I’m doing right now.
I’m also starting to look at some just ancillary things like continuing to work possibly on logo and packaging design. That’s been coming along slowly but it’s coming along. We’ll probably do a post on that sometime in the next short while, maybe in the next month or two. It just kind of depends how well that all evolves. Certainly we have the game to pay attention to, but we will be following up on those things as well.
(Ron:) Yeah, the icons looked really nice!
(Gary:) Well, that’s something being as I basically ripped them off from Monkey Island.
(Ron:) [laughs] Yeah, no, they look really good.
(David:) Do you have a tuna can in Monkey Island?
(Ron:) No there was no tuna can in Monkey Island.
(David:) OK, well last week was really fun to put in several of Mark’s new rooms.
(Ron:) So what do we have from Mark? I think we have three finished room, right?
(David:) Yeah… I think we have the Quickie Pal exterior, we have the studio interior and exterior - that’s three there- and we have the radio tower, which is partially done. So that’s like three and a half. It’s kind of like getting an Erector set 1 , you get all these parts, different layers of lights and I have to figure out how to make them turn on and off of the right way and that’s a lot of fun.
So the ones with lights or dripping water or other little things, like in the radio station -which I won’t mention- it’s really fun to wire and animate.
(Ron:) Well, there’s a lava lamp in the radio station.
(David:) Yeah, that was what I wasn’t going to mention.
(Ron:) [laughs] Well, I love it! I like the way you did the lava lamp because the little balls of wax are kind of floating up and down and it actually looks like you’re simulating some kind of physics thermodynamics going on with those those blobs of wax.
(David:) Exactly. You should see all the math code behind this!
(Ron:) [laughs] We’re heavily using the GPU just to do the lava lamp math.
(David:) Right. And I think there’s a limit of three lava lamps in a room.
(David:) And then on top of everything else, then we started to get the new lighting in and that was another toy that I got to play with and just trying to adjust with the cones of the lights and the colors and keeping within a limit that we set [of] how many plates we want per room and just seeing what worked and what didn’t work and then going back and forth with you guys to figure out what we could do to make them more real or whatever. And, yeah, trying to keep them subtle too. We don’t want these huge blaring light effects, but they’re fun.
(Ron:) The subtlety of them, I think, is the big win on the lights. Those were all done by my friend Malcolm [Stead]. I worked with him on Deathspank 3 and he did wonderful stuff then. So he’s come on and is doing a lot of the lighting and the shaders and stuff and it’s really really nice stuff.
(Gary:) Nice to see the characters walking around and actually like getting darker or lighter depending on where they stand relative to a light source.
(Ron:) Yeah and it’s still got a lot of ways to go. I mean what was shown on that video, it was still pretty early. I think we’ll do some really nice stuff with them going forward.
(David:) Like right now, we don’t have a way to set like the z-plane position of a light.
(Ron:) Yeah, that’s something I want to get in so, you know, sometimes lights are behind you and sometimes they’re in front of you.
(David:) Right. So right now if you walk in front of a light that’s like 20 feet away, it’s still gonna affect you…
(David:) …when you’re right in front of it. But other than that, it’s really good. You can get a nice green glow from the lava lamp or how all those work. And can we get them as close to real life as we can, as possible. Someone asked something on the blog which I commented on … As we had added the overhead lights and things, there’s also a lot of really nice lighting effects that Mark adds just with art. So someone was asking about the neon lights on the Quickie Pal market and those are all just drawn in so they’re not actually lighting effects other than just the way he’s doing cast light on the art. And I loved how when the letters of the Quickie Pal turn on, the light bounced off the different parts nearby change, get brighter, and it just looks really nice. So that’s done [by hand], there’s no shader there.
(Ron:) Yeah, I think typically our lights are going to be used on actors that have to move. When something is stationary
it will always look better if an artist can handcraft the lighting in there, but they can’t really do that for the actors that are moving around the screen.
(Gary:) I mean, some people mentioned that it looks like this art is like way more sophisticated than what Mark was doing in 1987 and the answer is it’s really not that much more sophisticated. His stuff was pretty sophisticated then. I mean, we didn’t have necessarily all the lighting effects and multiplanar stuff going on, but I feel that this is sort of a natural progression, still kind of staying in that style. It’s not like it’s moved ahead to the turn of the century, after 2000 or something like that.
(Ron:) It’s definitely a step up from Maniac Mansion, there’s no doubt about that. But I do believe it’s very much in line with the Monkey Island stuff. The shader lights aside, if you just look at the backgrounds that he’s done, it is stuff that certainly could have been done back then. He’s probably using a little more colors then we had back then, but probably not a whole lot. And then the parallaxing, we couldn’t have done, I mean that was just a kind of CPU hardware issue about that. But in terms of just the light, I do think it is pretty authentic for the Monkey Island era.
(Gary:) Yeah, I mean the only other thing I think that we’re gonna do that sort of breaks that -and I still think it’s very much still in the same feel- is the vertical scrolling that we’re gonna do. I mean, he did some vertical scrolling stuff that I think is gonna look really cool and we haven’t put that in the game yet, but it still feels -at least to me- like it very much captures the same feeling. I’m certainly having the same feeling, as I work on this, as I did when I worked on those things. I don’t feel like I’m -you know- in the future or something.
(Ron:) Yeah, there’s that pixel aesthetic and there is the classic adventure game, point-and-click aesthetic that I think we’re still very much adhering to, even though the art has kind of done this jump from the Maniac Mansion art that we showed in the Kickstarter to more of this Monkey Island style. But I think that really came from having Mark on the project, you know, he was not originally on the project when we did the Kickstarter. But I still think it’s very good and authentic.
(Gary:) Yeah. That’s true and then the other thing I will say is that the way rooms are laid out, the way you move through the world is still very similar to our SCUMM games like Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island. It’s just that there’s more rendering involved and there’s some more layers and effects but pretty much it still feels to me, when you look at the composition of the game, it’s very similar.
(Ron:) Yeah and I’m sure we’ll make some other changes as things go on. But one of the things this has brought up in the comments about one of the things that I was thinking about last week, as all this art was going in, are things like the fonts used on the verbs, right. Because those are very C64 font for the verbs and if we are kind of edging ourselves a little bit more towards Monkey Island, maybe we should change the font down in the verbs as well. That might be a good idea because Zak used the C64 font and Maniac used the C64 font mostly because they were on a C64, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade we did a custom font for and then Monkey Island had yet another thinner, more custom font. But it might be interesting to just do some mock-ups and see what that looks like and you know make sure it doesn’t kind of edge too far away from the vision of the stuff.
(Gary:) I think we should play around with that and also people kept talking about sort of the dark box behind the text.
(Ron:) Yeah that is really temporary. I just threw that in because I was realizing things were a little bit noisy. Mark’s backgrounds have a lot more noise than the original ones did, so I just threw that in there to say “hey, I wonder if this is helping”, but I don’t plan on that being a final thing at all.
(David:) Some other people mentioned that the actors now seem to not match the backgrounds.
(Ron:) Yeah and that’s again something we’re gonna work on and we haven’t done a lot of rendering on those. I absolutely want to make sure that we keep the big bobble heads, to me that is super-important, but there’s a lot of rendering that goes on in detail that’ll go on in those actors that we just we just haven’t gotten to, you know.
(Gary:) I think that whether or not people have reactions, I think they’re gonna be very similar what we
have. They’re just going to have smoother animation, some smoother things on them and possibly -as Ron mentioned- a
number of rendering type lights and shaders and stuff like that. And maybe some edge lights and things that will make them be much more cohesive in design, but they’re going to look very similar to what they look like right now. I’ll go on record and say that.
(Ron:) Yeah. I think that is a part of their vision. David, you said earlier you had some questions about the dialog formats?
(David:) Yeah, should I ask now or should we have Gary do his update? Oh, Gary did his update. How about you?
(Ron:) Yeah. All right…
(Gary:) I did my update before you, never mind…
(David:) Yeah, yeah.
(Ron:) Well, I’ll do mine. Last week I spent most of my time working on the dialog stuff and helping Malcolm out a little bit with the lighting. It was his first time into our code base so there were a lot of questions just how the code is constructing stuff but he’s really up and running now. So, a lot of time in dialogs. There’s a very important dialog at the very beginning of the game where the agents Ray and Reyes talk to the sheriff of Thimbleweed and so I wrote that. I started to write it as just a long kind of more sequential cutscene and it really was just getting long, so I changed it into a dialog where you’re having more of a conversation with the sheriff as he takes you through the different steps and -there’s no spoilers here - at the beginning they’re these four things he needs to tell you about and my first rev[ision] of the dialog he just kind of told you about the four things and it seemed a little bit boring so I changed that into a dialog. So now you ask about the four things and you can ask about them in any order and you can go back and re-ask about them and the lines are different a little bit the second time and I think it makes that opening flow a lot better. I spend most of my time working on that and I made some changes to the dialog format as well and I think next week I’m gonna be doing a lot more dialogs.
(David:) I started to do my first dialog yesterday also. Since we have no documentation, [I’m] either asking Ron questions or trying to figure out what you did in the ones you already have.
(Ron:) I don’t document on purpose so you can’t fire me.
(David:) [laughs] OK, I figured out that you can put a comment with a semicolon in front…
(David:) …because I couldn’t find any comments and I said “wait, isn’t there any comments here?”
(Ron:) Yeah I never comment my code.
(David:) And I have to comment, because if I come back two days later I can’t remember what I did, so if I’m trying to fix something I got to do it.
I had a couple questions on that. One was obviously since we’re gonna be doing voice, you really have to be specific about who’s saying something or we would have to have the actors record, if it’s possible, two different actors could say something and they would both have to be recorded separately. In the case right now, you have a bracket -something in bracket- which is like whether this is true or not will determine whether the line shows up. This looks like you can only do one of those. So for example, if you wanted it to be agent Ray saying it and you wanted another term to be true you’d have to put those all in the same bracket, is that correct?
(Ron:) No, you can have multiple bracketed things.
(Ron:) You can have as many bracketed things. The only is they’re ANDs, so if you have two brackets, both of the things in the conditional brackets have to be true.
(Ron:) It’s ANDs and not ORs. So you couldn’t, but you could put in brackets Ray and then Reyes in another set of brackets and then the line would show up if it’s Ray or uhm… oh, actually that wouldn’t work because it’s an AND. Yeah, you’re right, that wouldn’t work.
(David:) But you could do Ray in a bracket and then you can have whether a character saw something or not.
(Ron:) Yes, correct. Right.
(David:) As I tried that and it didn’t… I know why I didn’t work, it was because… You know, I have to look at that again. I’m pretty sure I tried that and didn’t get it to work. There’s a global variable I had declared earlier someplace and it didn’t seem to be… Oh I know it! OK, sorry, I tried to set a variable at the beginning to the actor, to an actors name, and it didn’t understand that.
(Ron:) Yeah… it’s not going to understand that because what it does when you put an actors name in the brackets, it does a little bit of a special case where it looks at the thing in the brackets and at first it tries to find out whether that is actually an actor or not. It’s not going to look inside a variable to find an actor so when you put an actors name in brackets it does actually have to be their name.
(David:) OK. Well, I’ll play some more.
The other question was like when you have a number in front of a line, that is not just ordering, so if you have two ones, does that mean that it’s gonna do one or the other based on the code?
(Ron:) Yeah, these are for the dialog choices and what it does is it starts at the top and let’s say you have three lines that all have ones in front of them, it’s going to look at the first one and it’s going to look at the conditions and if the conditions are not true then it goes on to the next number one. It looks at those conditions and if those conditions are true then it’s going to skip all the other number ones, so there can only be one number one or one number two in the dialog and it’s just the first one that matches the conditions is the one that’s chosen.
(David:) OK, great. That should do it for now.
(Ron:) OK. Excellent!
(Gary:) That was all incredibly interesting. I want you to know that from my perspective that was definitively the most engaging part of the podcast. So I’d like to make sure that we do more of that and I’ll just be quiet the whole time.
(Ron:) All right. Well, I think that is it for today.
(David:) OK, thank you.
2: American equivalent to Meccano (sharing some history and eventually one company today) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erector_Set