Thimbleweed Park Podcast #18
“Yet another thrilling episode where we talk about billing all the expenses for my new puppy to the Kickstarter project.”
Original airdate August 22, 2015
Transcribed by Sushi
(Ron:) Hi, I’m Ron Gilbert and welcome to the weekly Thimbleweed Park Stand-up Meeting Podcast! And today I am joined by - surprise surprise!- David Fox…
(David:) Hi there!
(Ron:) … and a real shocker: Gary Winnick.
(Ron:) And what we do, is every week we just talk about what we did last week and what we’re going to do next week and this week let’s start with Mr. Winnick.
(Gary:) Oh boy… so I’m gonna start to sound a little dull I think from week to week, so I’ll have to do something to spice that up. Because effectively, what I’m doing now is working through a huge list of animated characters so I can put that into some different categories and talk maybe a little bit about the process, but pretty much what I’m gonna be doing between now and the end of the project is animating characters, some design stuff and I would say icons and then probably some other screen design. But pretty well my path now is mapped out for me until the end of the project, unlike you guys who have interesting things to report like… oh you know, “walk boxes didn’t work” or “I’m fooling around with the sound driver”, you get to mix that stuff up. Mine is pretty much animation, animation, animation. So I think I’ll talk a little bit just about the process of animation as we’re doing it, because right now, we’re going through a number of exercises and tests, although I think we’ve kind of nailed down a “general look” of our characters, you know, that they’ll have the large heads. Sorry to anybody out there who wants pin heads on our characters, but they’re gonna be these large headed characters similar to Maniac [Mansion] but evolved a little bit beyond that, like it would have been a next evolution of that.
Then we’re also going to be working on the way animation looks and the way the rendering looks.
(Gary:) The rendering has been an interesting process because we’re still trying to figure that out , whether it’s too much or too little. So I’ve been studying a number of different animation styles and we’re trying to land on something that feels like it’s going to work well with Mark’s backgrounds but yet retain the spirit of what we’re looking at. Because it is gonna be more complicated than the Maniac [Mansion] stuff and I would say the render might be close to Monkey Island but I’m just not sure because we’re sort of going back and forth on that a little bit.
(Ron:) I like the stuff you did with the sheriff. You just did the detail, it’s not much rendering, it’s more like adding detail without a whole lot of rendering and I think that actually works well with Mark’s backgrounds.
(Gary:) Yeah, so we’re trying to figure that out and that’s a process that has taken a while, but once we land on what the final look is, we’re gonna just move forward with that and stick to our guns, I think.
(Ron:) It also seems that the rendering and the animation is a little more problematic for you than it is for other stuff because if you’ve done a whole lot of animation and you’ve drawn a hundred frames and then we want to change one thing about how Ray or Reyes how she is rendered, you have to go through and change a hundred frames. And so I think it’s really important to get that whole rendering stuff down before we start grinding out frames.
(Gary:) So landing on something that we all like is… there’s a little bit of an exercise, but I think we’re closing in on that. And it does require a process of just trying a lot of different things and seeing how they look in terms of… because we have to bring a lot of stylistic elements together between backgrounds, characters, interface… those things all have to feel like they have a continuity and belong together but they have to have a uniqueness to them. So been working on that. One thing I will do is I’ll just go through and kind of redesign the characters in terms of adding certain amounts of detail or whatever, as Ron was saying, and see how that looks, so… Still kind of figuring that out but I’m hoping to land on that soon because really we have to start moving through the process of getting all the characters into a playable version of the game. So, coming along with that. I think we’re making good progress but it is one of those things that is a process. Additionally starting to think a little bit about just some of the other ancillary materials we need to do, that are artistic or illustrative in nature which includes things like logos, box and rewards. Things like that. You know, we’re talking about getting the T-shirt design, we’re talking about making sure we’re clear on the logo… And those things are an ongoing process but we do have to sort of put, as Ron would say “scheduled dates” associated with all of those items and working on trying to make that make sense.
(Ron:) OK, is that it?
(Gary:) Yeah, that’s it for today.
(Ron:) All right, David?
(David:) Gary reminded me that one of the things I did, probably in the last week or so, was you guys both asked me to look at the master animation list to add things that weren’t on there and comment. So I found a bunch of more actors that weren’t listed or animations I thought we needed so I helped to edit that.
(Gary:) [sarcastically] Thanks a lot, David.
(David:) But I didn’t put priorities, I’ll let you guys do that.
(Ron:) Yeah, I’ve been thinking of that as well. I’ve added a couple of animations. Just as I’m writing the dialogs, I’m kind of realizing “oh, they really need to do this little animation at this point in the dialog”. So I’ve been adding those as well.
(Gary:) I’m actually noticing whole groups of characters you guys have left off, but I haven’t said anything about it yet.
(Ron:) You were just hoping we’ll forget?
(Gary:) Well… not really. How does it… I’ll do it myself, you know. I am noticing things like …we didn’t mention all of the ghost characters that are in the hotel or things like that.
(Ron:) No, I don’t think we have any of the people visiting ThimbleCon either.
(David:) Yeah, I figured that was lower priority so I didn’t add those. The thing I think I was noticing that was… I don’t think I’m quite clear yet where the animation complexity cutoff will be. I’m still thinking in terms of the games I worked on, you know, through Indy where there really wasn’t a lot of additional animation, other than the reach animations I think we added for Indy and… you know, reach high, reach medium and reach low but not like tie yout shoe lace or turn a wrench or whatever. And so I haven’t been adding any of those. I don’t know what you want to animate what you want just the character turn his back to the camera and pretend like he’s doing something [that we can’t see]
(Gary:) I think they have to be very special case animations, David. Very very unique and special case animations that happen hardly at all.
(Ron:) Well, I figured what we’ll do is we’ll get the high, medium and low reaches in and then we’ll just trigger all those and then we’ll kind of go back and go “You know, it doesn’t work for this particular case.” . Or “it does work for this case.” or, you know… whatever. I think that’s the way to do it rather than try to come up with a list of all of the little stuff. I mean, obviously there’s some big things that need to be animated because they’re big moments. And I think that’s the way I’ve really thought about it in the past is “Is this animation that the character is doing, is this a MOMENT in the game?” as opposed to just picking up something or grabbing something. And the MOMENTS get animated and the rest of the stuff just the generics take care of it.
(Gary:) Ransome turning away from the camera, there’s a bunch of squeaking noises and then he turns around with a balloon animal… yeah right, we’ll see about that.
(Ron:) Yeah… I mean that’s actually a good example, right? Ransome making a balloon animal, that’s enough of a moment that we probably want to animate that. Where we could do like when you said where he just turns away or he does some generic… move his hands around and then balloon animal pops in, but I think that probably is enough of a moment to animate. And I think it’s really just case-by-case and that’s why I think we just start out simple and then we add the stuff as we feel we need it.
(David:) For that I would… I can see just doing something where you basically make his hands a blur of fast motion and in the middle of that you see a balloon animal forming.
(David:) And so you really don’t need to obviously have them do it the way that you really would do it.
(Gary:) I’m good with all those cop-outs. It just kind of depends really on what the importance of the action is and how much time we have.
(Ron:) Yeah, I think we’ll just start with the reaches and go from there.
(David:) The one I think I did add, was like, there’s a switch that you move sideways and that I couldn’t see that working as a reach. Maybe you could but it would probably be nicer if you actually saw it.
(Ron:) Which one is that?
(David:) In the radio station.
(Ron:) Oh, yeah. That’s kind of a big switch as well. All right, you know one thing: I don’t know if there are a lot of things like that but it’s also getting the switches to conform to a particular size and a particular throw and then we can use that same kind of switch throwing animation. We can find a bunch of different places that it can be used.
OK, So I remember finding some bugs and actors being placed in rooms and tried to figure out exactly when that would happen, when that wouldn’t be happening and then Ron basically fixed all that. There was an interesting thing, I had a pretty involved dialog with the character in the Quickie Pal and in the dialog there are a bunch of places where you could… there are options I guess you’re being prompted to give him something or asking about something and Ron made a good point that this was giving away too much information and that the prompts for things like that should be from a GIVE; giving the character the object specifically and have that trigger it. So that is a good thing to follow and we did those dialogs and made separate ones for giving, the triggers for giving him something.
Really important thing: I added, now that we have a new font, I added TMs all round the game [laughs].
(Ron:) Oh yeah, it’s really funny to see all those go into the git check-ins, you know, “added TM to this, added TM to that, added TM to this.”
(Gary:) That’s just like an old Monkey Island joke, isn’t it?
(Ron:) Yeah, you know that that whole TM joke goes waaay back because I remember when I found the old document to the “I was a teenage Lobot”-thing 1 which was… I mean that document was written way before Maniac Mansion and I remember we were making TM jokes all the way through that document as well. So I think that whole TM joke is really old.
(David:) Well, I think it went back to our first games. That was inspiration because Lucasfilm was really careful about protecting their trademarks and so when we did the manuals for the first two games, for Rescue [on Fractalus] and for Ballblazer, everything got trademarked. You know, “Jaggies” and “Monster” or whatever. Just all these different trademarks went in and I think it became this running joke with us that anything we put into a game is gonna get trademarked and we might as well put the TM in there anyway even if it wasn’t trademarked and it was a joke.
(Gary:) The other thing about that is that’s sort of indicative of working for a company that has a ton of money. At the time Lucasfilm did - I guess they always probably did - but they trademarked everything that they ever did just because it was matter of course because of the films.
(David:) Right, but I found out more recently that to really trademark something is pretty expensive. For each mark you have to pay these big fees and you have to show that you’ve used mark and all these things, so… I wonder whether we actually screw things up by TM-ing things in the game that never really got paid. [Say, I like to add a TM mark in the game!]
(Ron:) Yeah, it costs… at least for a U.S. trademark, it’s $250 per trademark, per category. So you know if you’re only trading marking something in one given category then it’s not outrageous, but if you start trade marking stuff it’ll cost a whole bunch of broad categories it can get really expensive really fast. And that’s only for the U.S., I mean trade marking for the other countries is different.
(David:) If you have a… if they hire a lawyer to do that - if you have an internal lawyer I guess it doesn’t make a difference. Gotta keep them busy.
(Ron:) You could do it all online now.
(David:) Oh cool.
(Ron:) Yeah, all the trademarks for Thimbleweed Park and the other ones that I’ve done in the past, you just go to a website. It’s just a government website and you do the trademark. So yeah, you actually don’t have to hire a lawyer to do that.
(David:) Cool. And then I spent time on the two-person puzzle that takes place around the Nickel Newspaper. Sorry, Gary added some temp art in there, figuring since these rooms still had temp art I could do something just really rough. And then the last thing I did was… you know, basically the edict we got from Ron was: let’s focus on the first part of the game around the town. So, I’ve just been going through the flowchart looking for holes and things that we just haven’t really completed. A big one was the opening scene on the highway where you meet folks… uhm, this is going to be a spoiler?
(Ron:) Yeah, don’t mention it.
(David:) OK, so the opening scene on the hi where you actually have your first dialog puzzle experience and do a few things and that’s finished. So that works really well. And that was a kind of tag team with Ron, where I did a bunch of the surrounding coding and Ron did the dialog which is hilarious.
(Gary:) Can I get a build for that later today?
(Ron:) Yeah, I’ll do one as soon as the podcast is done.
(David:) That’s it.
(Ron:) All right, great. Now, let’s see… Last week, as David said, I did a lot of writing. I wrote the dialog, I wrote the actual opening dialog. That’s the very first dialog in the game when agents Ray and Reyes find the body. So I wrote that and then I wrote the one David’s talking about on the highway into town. And I also wrote what I thought was a really fun dialog where you have to use a police scanner to fake a call to distract somebody. And that was a fun dialog to write. And I think when I started to write it you find out from one person the information that they’re waiting for on the police scanner and that’s like “A, B and C” and then when you go do the radio call you basically say “A, B and C” and I started writing it like that and I realized that was kind of boring. And so I changed it to be a little bit more like the insult sword fighting with the Sword Master 2 where somebody tells you they need “A, B and C” but when you go to actually make the call on the police scanner, you’re not actually saying the A, B and C; you’re actually saying three different things and as a player you have to figure out “oh well, this will satisfy the A and this will satisfy the B”. I think it just turned the dialog into being a little more fun to play around with.
(David:) And it was fun 'cause I played around with it.
(Ron:) Good! [Ron and David laugh]
(David:) I mean, even the most recent build I have has a lot of interesting stuff and I’m like, it’s really starting to feel like a game now with all of the dialog you guys are adding. So it’s really coming together.
(Ron:) Yeah, I think the dialog puzzles add a lot. I mean there was a lot of discussion about whether we should do the dialog puzzles or whether we should just do the Maniac Mansion style stuff. But I think doing full dialog puzzles has been a good decision to do. I am keeping them simpler. They’re not as complicated as the Monkey Island ones. They are a little bit simpler but I think there’s still a lot of fun to it.
(Gary:) That’s because Ron Gilbert will always take the easy way out.
(Ron:) I will, I’m inherently lazy. I think that’s one of my superpowers, actually.
(Ron:) So I wrote those dialogs. More budgeting stuff. I feel like this budgeting stuff is probably never going to end it’s like every month after we pay our bills and all the invoices, I feel like I have to do a full rebudgetting stage just to make sure that we’re still on track and we’re not gonna run out of money. I spent a whole lot of time filling out Microsoft paperwork 3 . That was a lot of fun. Very high gouging stuff, but I think that is all done. Bug-fixing as David mentioned, and I also started to think about a test plan figuring out how many testers that we’re going to need to test it, because we have three different platforms initially plus we have potentially the mobile platforms and then we also have the Xbox platforms now. And just trying to figure out a good test plan for that.
And I also started looking at another writer 4 ; bringing on another writer to help out with the dialogs.
And that was pretty much my week and I think next week is just going to be more of the same.
(David:) I think we should add a couple of optional characters that you can choose in the beginning just to complicate your test plan.
(Ron:) Oh good. That’s a really good idea.
(Gary:) David Fox, unlike Ron, David Fox always takes the hard way out so I just thought I should mention that as well. The complicated way out.
(Ron:) David and I work well against each other. David’s always doing the hard complicated thing, I’m doing the lazy easy thing and it works out to be perfect in the end.
(David:) I think we should do a talking police dog. How about that?
(Ron:) Hahaha! Talking police dog…!
(Gary:) I actually kind of like that.
(Ron:) Wow, does this mean I can bill all of my puppy supplies to the project?
(Gary:) Sure, why not?
(Gary:) If you teach that dog to talk… well never mind.
(Ron:) All right. Is that it?
(Gary:) I think so.
(Ron:) All right, talk to you guys later.
(David:) bye bye