Thimbleweed Park Podcast #17
"Bla bla bla making an adventure game bla bla bla*
* This is why I’m not in sales"
Original airdate August 14, 2015
Transcribed by Sushi
(Ron:) Hi, this is Ron Gilbert and welcome to the weekly Thimbleweed park stand-up meeting podcast and as just about every week in the past, I’m joined by David Fox…
(David:) Hi there!
(Ron:) …and Gary Winnick.
(Ron:) And every week we talk about what we did last week and what we’re going to do next week. And this week let’s start with Gary.
(Gary:) OK, so pretty much [I’ve] been working and focusing on animation over the last few weeks, because what we’ve had to do is take the existing characters and then try to move them into a production, final character design. So [I’ve] been working on finalizing that, because once I finalized that, I then will have a template to use to make everybody be consistent. So the thing that I’ve been working on first is getting the motion animation correct, which I’m fairly close to. And then once I have that correct and working right and that’s kind of like a cutout, then I go in and actually render out what the character is gonna look like. You know, where the actual shading is gonna be, if there are any nuanced folds and clothing, that kind of stuff… So I think I’m pretty close to having a template of that working that we can use as a guide. I’m doing that for agent Ray at the moment. Once we have that we can then proceed to look at all the most important priority on the characters and go ahead and start producing enough characters [so] that we can actually do some playable things, that actually will look more playable, look like we’re not using temporary characters.
So working on that primarily and then I did write a little post about icons. 1 [We’re] getting some good response to that. I am surprised… well, I don’t know how surprised I am, that people are talking about wanting text icons. I’m not sure Ron can tell me whether or not we may have an option to do text for icons, but in my mind, I really think they need to be graphical icons.
(Ron:) Yeah, it is interesting looking at the comments because a lot of people want text icons, some people like the more 3D icons and some people like the more flatter 2D icons you did as wireframe. And I think it just goes to show that there’s an opinion for everything, right? There’s often no right or wrong decision, there’s just a whole bunch of different ideas for stuff.
(Gary:) Yeah and as I mentioned in that post, the people that I’ve worked with, who are the best at doing that kind of stuff, that’s sort of all they do, you know? They concentrate on coming up with icons and it’s a whole art form in terms of its visual simplicity to be able to communicate ideas. And I think you can be a good animator or you can be a good background artist, [but] that doesn’t necessarily make you a good icon designer. It’s a special set of skills and we’re doing what we can. I think that in terms of doing colorful icons that fit within the style, I think Mark and I are completely capable , but I always wonder what it would be like if we had like the perfect resource associated with things like that.
(Ron:) Well, I think icons in adventure games are probably a little bit different than icons that you might find on your desktop because these icons aren’t really trying to associate something [to] some action you want to take. They really are trying to represent physical items in the game world. It’s not that the receipt from the restaurant has to clearly be a receipt from the restaurant, it actually has to look like the receipt that you got from the restaurant, you know, that came from the game world. So yeah, there’s this real balance you have to play with those icons.
(Gary:) I think the hardest part is trying to have icons that are like a piece of paper, like a last will and testament or a lab report and try… [to make them different enough to be recognizable] and, you know, somebody recommended that you put an icon on top of that -which I kind of agree with, - whether it’s a medical symbol or whatever. But once again trying to get something that looks like a medical symbol in like three pixels by four pixels is something Mark might be able to do if he spends like three weeks on it, you know? [Ron and David laugh] Other than that, I just give up. I just throw up my hands, you know, and go “I need to move on to something else, this is starting to hurt my brain.”
(Gary:) And so I will pretty much continue to do the same moving forward. I mean now that we’re in production, we are putting together a list of what we have to do priority-wise because we do want to get parts of the game functional so we can see a whole functional area in the game, like the town or whatever. And that’s about it for me right now.
(Ron:) OK, David?
(David:) So I guess this is really the last two weeks, since we didn’t do one last week.
(Ron:) Yes, I was gone in Germany.
(David:) Right. Well, I spent some time playtesting Malcolm’s new walkbox code and going back and forth with him. And overall it’s great. It works really smoothly and where you expect to go. And it’s actually easier to create the walkboxes since they can now be concave instead of [convex only], they can be any shape, really.
Stacking up bugs for Ron for when he came back and so he got them all.
(Ron:) It’s always a welcome back present to see three pages of bugs in the bug database.
(David:) [chuckles] I know! And spent a lot of the time last week and some time this week on that multiplayer puzzle I was working on where you need multiple actors to solve it and I made some fixes and
changes based on Ron’s feedback to make it more streamlined. And it works! At least in the way I tested it so far. So that’s out of the way!
(Ron:) I found it was interesting, the thing that came up when I was gone, about actors walking in rooms that are not current rooms. So we can get that thing that happened in Maniac Mansion where
doctor Fred Edna and Ed were walking around the house while you were doing other things. And in Maniac Mansion a lot of that was just faked with timers that caused people to pop in and out of rooms. But I think you were trying to do some stuff where that characters were literally walking through rooms that were not the current room to give a more realistic flair to it.
(David:) Right and I think I came up with a workable solution . It’s just figuring how long does it really take you to walk from one end of this room to the other and then when you’re not in the room using that as a timer and if you pop into the room to figure out what percentage of that time is gone and then plot the actor somewhere at that percentage point in both x and y. So if half the time is gone, they’re like in the middle of the screen. And it doesn’t have to be exact, just close enough so that if you walk in the room they aren’t standing at the opening or at the end or something. That might be overkill but it does seem to work and now with your timer function and a few other things it’s good enough… at least for now.
The rest of the time I start working on some more dialogs and interactions for other townsfolk and what happens when you give someone something and whether you want a cut scene or a dialog and kind of getting the rhythm of that down.
(Gary:) I was gonna ask, David, because I asked Ron this but I haven’t really spoken to you about this, do you find now that you’re actually writing dialog that it feels as natural to you as if falling back in the same rhythm that you had when you worked on… was the last thing you worked on with dialog Zak or am I misremembering and was the last Indy?
(David:) It was probably Indy.
(Ron:) Yes, Indiana Jones [and the Last Crusade] had proper dialog puzzles, though I think that was the first game we did at Lucas[film] that had real dialog puzzles.
(David:) Yeah I think that Noah [Falstein] 2 did most of those.
(Gary:) Yeah. So are you are you feeling a rhythm in writing this stuff? Is it feeling like it’s coming naturally to you, David? I’m just curious because I think it seems to be coming out, I’m just curious as to what your process is, really.
(David:) Yeah what helps is when I see Ron’s writing and then I can kind of feel like I’m getting into the mode of that character. For characters that we don’t have any samples then stuff sometimes comes out whether it matches with [what] Ron wants. You know, we can always go away but I’m going with the assumption that 90% of what I’m writing is going to get rewritten and I just want to get the intent in the gameplay part down. And in fact for future dialogs, I’m going to be doing much more bare-bones and not worrying about having three or four choices always available and just getting the primary through-choice. Then we’ll have a writer who comes in and fleshes that out later. So that’s going to speed it up because we really want to get the flow of the gameplay so you can play through the first section of the game and you don’t need all the fluff really for that to work.
(Ron:) Okay, it that it?
(David:) Yeah. So for next week more dialogs and interactions. And also this week I was also producing another project which was besides helping to build the town, we’re also remodeling a bathroom. So that took a bunch [of time].
(Ron:) [laughs] Oh, a real bathroom? Not a fake video game bathroom!
(David:) And now I can go in and really make the one bathroom we have in the game much more realistic, so…
(Ron:) Have you tried stuffing a whole bunch of toilet paper down the toilet in your bathroom and see if that solves a puzzle?
(David:) Well, right now there’s no toilet there!
(Ron:) [laughs] Have you checked your inventory or are you carrying the toilet around, David?
(David:) The toilet is on our front deck, so we could use it there but I’m would have to add some plumbing, I think.
(Ron:) OK, let’s see… Last week or the week before, I was in Germany and I had a really good time at the AdventureTreff party 3 and meeting a lot of people there, doing interviews and we announced that we’re doing Thimbleweed Park for the Xbox, which is very exciting. I should probably [get] buy an Xbox one of these days. And also doing scheduling and budgeting which is of course the sexy part of game development: scheduling and budgeting.
One of the things that we decided to do is to get a demoable build of the game done by mid-October, where the very beginning of the game -you know the town and all that stuff- is done to like a first pass level, so we could actually go around and show it to people and do stuff. Because there have been some opportunities where we could have shown the game. Like Microsoft is doing a big thing at PAX where we could have had a little station and shown the game if we had a playable version, but we really don’t. So I think what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna focus on these little areas one by one and get them up to a first pass state. It’s not a final state, it’s not a polished state but it’s a first pass state. So I’ve been working on that, getting that all done.
And I started to rethink the sound system that we were using. I don’t know what we’re gonna do with sound yet, that’s a little bit up in the air. So I’m kind of rethinking about what our needs are and whether what we’re currently doing might be good enough to do what we need. Things like FMOD 4 would be really nice for sound but FMOD is prohibitively expensive, so I don’t know that we can do that. And next week I’m going to be doing a lot more dialogs. I want to get the opening dialog done, the first one that happens with Ray and Reyes in front of the body, because that really sets up a whole lot and I think having that dialog in the game kind of launches everything else after that. So I want to get that one done. And as I said just working on getting that demoable, playable version of the game done by mid-October.
Does anyone have anything else?
(Gary:) I guess not.
(Ron:) OK, well, I will talk to you guys next week.
(David:) Okay. Bye.
(Gary:) Take care, bye!
(Ron:) All righty!
(Gary:) Another fine Terrible Toybox product ready to be…
(Ron:) Another award-winning podcast crapped out!
(Gary:) [laughs] All right. OK. So you’ll have that up by… when will you have that?
(Ron:) Oh, I’ll have it up by… I’ll dive into it today. I’ll probably edit it early afternoon and then have it up by 4:00 or so.
(Gary:) At least I don’t think it’s our most boring podcast.
(Ron:) No not yet.
(Gary:) Cause that was the last one.
(Ron:) Yeah, yeah… okay see you guys later!
(Gary:) OK bye-bye.