Thimbleweed Park Podcast #5
“The fifth in the riveting Thimbleweed Park Stand-up meeting podcasts.”
Original airdate May 8, 2015
Transcribed by Sushi
(Ron:) Hello and welcome to another Thimbleweed Park stand-up meeting podcast! I am Ron Gilbert and I am here with David Fox…
(Ron:) … and Gary Winnick…
(Gary:) Hi there!
(Ron:) … and what we do, is every week we have a quick little stand-up meeting just to talk about what we did last week and what we’re gonna do next week. And I believe that David has never gone first before. Is that right, sir?
(David:) That’s absolutely true.
(Ron:) Okay, well David gets to go first.
(David:) Well, this last week we got icon art for the inventory objects from Gary and I’ve been breaking them in objects and then actually wiring them into the game. And that totally transforms the game because now you can combine objects to make other objects into other things and actually feel like you’re playing a game rather than just walking around through rooms, so that’s pretty cool.
(Ron:) Yeah , it’s really neat because it feels like we have puzzles now, little challenges to do because there’s inventory objects that you can pick up and transfer between the characters and everything.
(David:) Yeah, I’m still doing it with temporary text just so that they work and not really worrying about all the different possible conditions that could happen with them. I just want to get them in there and get the first rough thing going.
(Ron:) Yeah, be wary of temporary text because sometimes it has a way of making its way into the [final] game.
(David:) Well, if you like the temporary text you can keep it. [both laugh] There’s also a lot of places throughout the game where the objects aren’t actually in the room, so you walk in the room and there’s nothing there except the room. In those cases, I preload the objects in the various characters’ inventories so that you can play with them.
(Ron:) Yeah. I noticed that when I started up the game, they actually had some inventory.
(David:) Yeah and that’s it! Next week I probably continue doing it. There’s a lot more objects to wire in, so I’ll continue working on that.
(Ron:) All right, Gary?
(Gary:) As David said, [I’m] working on inventory objects, at least last week. So I got a quick first pass of those together that you guys are using to put in the game temporarily, so we can actually -as David said- walk around and pick up things and see some puzzle interactions. So that’s looking very interesting right now. As you guys are saying, it’s starting to look more like a real game. I guess it’s going to continue to look more like a real game until it IS one, I guess, but we’ll see.
Also then [I’m] going back to working on rooms and probably starting some character animation pretty soon. [I] still have a number of rooms to crank out to get the wireframe done. What I’m going to do with that is doing a lot of quick sketching right now. I’ll probably do a post about what quick sketching is, next week 1 , which is just really fast, rough thumbnails just so you can get some it’s general layout. So that’s coming along right now as well.
Also Ron and I have had an opportunity to take Ken Macklin’s initial character sketches and cover sketches and now show them to some other people. And as that continues to evolve, getting more people involved, they have a lot of feedback and critique on that, which has mostly been actually really good but it’s changed some of our direction, so we’ll be working a little bit on that right now. But that’s all coming together and I expect we will do a blog post about that sometime in the near future as well 2 . So that’s pretty much it for right now.
(Ron:) I was thinking… one thing that might be good -you’re talking about doing some more character animation- is maybe do a completely generic character, you know like a crash-test dummy character [Gary: mmmm] that David and I can just quickly throw in the game before any of the other characters. If we need a character like at the post office, we can just throw that crash-test-dummy character in there and now there’s actually somebody that is walking around that we can create the puzzles for and do all that stuff. Rather than waiting for the actual characters, just getting that one temp character might be a good idea.
(Gary:) We can do that. We can do one with different heads too, as well.
(Ron:) Yeah just something really simple and disposable, you know? [Gary: Ok] So we can just quickly replicate this character anywhere we need it to start to populate the world.
(Gary:) Thimbleweed Park Crash Test Dummy[TM]: I kinda like that!
(David:) Yeah, it feels like a ghost town now.
(Ron:) Yeah, getting more characters in there… I mean not even walking around but just standing in the different stores and locations will be nice . Along with the inventory items, I think that’ll help make the world come alive.
(Gary:) Then we’ll go ahead and maybe even put in a few static characters in different locations that make sense, since a lot of them are designed already.
(Ron:) Yeah, OK. For me…? I was out a couple of days at the beginning of the week, so I didn’t get a whole lot done this week. I’ve been at fixing a lot of bugs as David churns away at the scripts. He finds little bugs, so I’ve been trying to jump on those as fast as I can and get those fixed.
And adding some more commands for object and actor manipulation: again, as David goes through and does the scripting , he often says “well, I kind of need to manipulate this in a way” so I can go in and add a command for that.
So I’ve been doing that and getting the Puzzle Dependency charts for the characters stories done, because we’re gonna do what could be, I guess, our last big off-site brainstorm meeting later next week- it’s on Thursday- and really get all of the character stories for Ransom, Delores and Franklin all completely nailed down. So I’ve just been prepping for that kind of stuff.
The other big thing I’m doing is a bunch of refactoring of some code inside the engine. Right now, I have very different constructs for objects and actors 6 and I was realizing that they really are the same thing, that in this engine anyway, actors and objects they share about 90% of the code and they do about 90% of the same stuff and there’s really no reason internally to the engine to have them as completely separate things. I think I’m just going to combine them together into one object and I think it’ll make the unit code a lot cleaner, so that is a little bit of refactoring I’m going to do.
And as Gary and David mentioned, we got inventory going into the game. The one thing I had not implemented in the inventory is actually scrolling the inventory so you have a limit of 8 items right now. So what I hope to get done in the next hour or so, is to get scrolling for the inventory done.
(Gary:) So Ron, besides the fact that I know we’re somewhat behind on art… we’re trying to catch up on that, working on that right now… how do you feel about the overall progress of the game [trimming???] on the engineering side, right? It seems like you’re making good progress?
(Ron:) Yeah, on the engineering side, I’m still really pleased with that. I thought the engine came together a lot quicker than I thought and having David on has been huge , because he can go through and start to really stress a lot of this stuff out and I have to keep up with him. As he comes up with things that don’t work or things he needs, I kind of have to scramble and do that. So I feel like from an engineering side that stuff is good.
(Gary:) Yeah. I mean, that darn David Fox! He keeps coming up with bugs and errors and stuff like that. Why is that, David, you keep finding that stuff?
(David:) Yeah, and also looking for things in the puzzles which we forgot about, as I’m putting this together. So what happens if you do this? And how should that work? So that’s also stuff which comes up as we start implementing it.
(Ron:) Yeah, sometimes you don’t think of weird puzzle stuff and still you start implementing it. You start writing code , you put those ‘if’ statements in there and then you go “oh, but what about this?”. It’s really hard to think about all of that stuff on paper. I found it’s not until the implementation stage that a lot of little details come out.
(Gary:) Honestly, it’s working with you two guys -and I imagine you guys can [confirm this???]- this really DOES feel like the good old days to me. It’s really amazing that I have all these kind of feelings- aside from doing this and feeling good about the game- I have all these feelings, kind of nostalgically of the process.
(Ron:) [Sarcastic] Are we going to talk about YOUR feelings now?
(Ron:) Is this gonna turn into the Gary Winnick Feeling Podcast?
(Gary:) Since you don’t have any… [Ron laughs], I guess that basically, we can talk about mine and me. And David has some inbetween, I think, some place. Because I’m an artist, I have a lot of angst.
(Ron:) Yeah, we’re just programmers, we are logical Mr. Spock’s. We don’t have emotions like you artists.
(Gary:) Okay, well…
(David:) Well I do want to say one thing about that, not the feelings part [Gary produces a high-pitched laugh], but the connected part. The big difference obviously is that we’re not working at the Ranch 3 , [not] working at some place where I could just stand up and walk into your office and ask you a question. Since we’re all doing this virtually, we’ve been using Slack 4 which is a communication tool and that works really well. The downside might be that … -I mean, we could just instant message each other with that [tool]- the downside might be that if Ron is in the middle of coding and I start asking questions, that can really break up concentration. And sometimes it makes it hard to do that, where in a real-life situation, I’d probably knock on a door and say “is this a good time to talk?” and they say “go away, come back in 5 minutes” or something and here you’re just kind of barging in virtually so…
(Gary:) Ron say[ing] “go away”? I can’t believe that. [David chuckles]
(Ron:) That is true. I mean sometimes you get focused on stuff, but I found that in an office, too and even knocking on the door interrupts your chain of thought, so…
Yeah, I think Slack is amazing. I really like Slack a lot. I like that I can do those hooks, you know? Because I wrote the scripts the other day that push new versions of the tools to you, and I just put that hook in the scripts that just ping Slack so Slack pops up a message and says “new tools are available”. Yeah, I really love Slack.
(David:) Yeah and Slack also uses… it’s tied-in to Git 5 so we can find out all the different changes. I can see what the history is and what you just pushed and I don’t have to ask you what changed, you don’t have to spend time typing emails to me tell me what you’ve added.
(Ron:) Yeah, it’s kind of a different way of working, virtually.
(Ron:) OK, is that it?
(Gary:) Think so.
(Ron:) OK, well, I will talk to you guys later!
(Gary:) OK. Goodbye!
2: This blog post never saw the light of day, though.
3: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skywalker_Ranch. LucasFilm games set up their office in the Stable house for a couple of the early years. You can find some old and new pictures here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frandallfarmer/68763798
4: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slack_(software): Slack is a cloud-based set of team collaboration tools and services.
5: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git: Git is a version control system for tracking changes in computer files and coordinating work on those files among multiple people.