I’m perfectly aware that many of the most mysterious questions in Thimbleweed Park are meant to be left unanswered, because part of the charm of the story is that it leaves the player with a lot of ambiguous information to interpret.
But let’s fantasize nonetheless a bit about which mysteries an hypothetical “Thimbleweed Park 2™” could help us to clarify (not necessarily in a direct way but hopefully conducting an investigation).
For example, I would like to understand who/what was uploaded or downloaded in the game when the player observes the public phone making the modem sounds. Maybe it was the package that the Japanese sent to Ray?
Do you have a question that you would like to be answered, excluding those related to the biggest mysteries (e.g. “Who killed X”)?
To be honest, I don’t have an open question that I would liked to be answered. I would be more interested in the history and the back-stories of the heroes. For example: How got Agent Ray in contact with the japanese developers? Ok, Ok, that is a question too.
I don’t mean to nit-pick, but all of the questions have answers. We didn’t put random stuff in the game with no answers (see: Lost). A few of them aren’t concrete X happened to Y answers, they are more metaphorical, but they are answers that explain. The correct way to state what you said would have been: “most mysterious questions in Thimbleweed Park are meant to be difficult to answer”. Yeah, I know. Nit-picking.
That’s what I also thought, because I have my answers, but I have no way to tell if they’re “correct”. They make sense, but I still lack the “proof”. You know, that small thing that makes you say “it can’t be anyway else”. And now I don’t know if that’s because I missed something, or just because it’s meant to be so that’s what I’d like to have answered.
But that’s intended: Everyone should find his/her own answer. And this makes these meta-stuff so frustrating for a lot of players (this “problem” have other games, films and books with a meta-layer or metaphorical story too).
Hm… I thought that he meant, that you could find answers for yourself that explains the situation.
For example: You can say that Willy is the murderer. That would explain who killed Boris and Franklin. But you can also say that Chuck killed Boris and Franklin (with his robots). Both explanations will “work”. Ron has taken care that both explanations are valid. He hasn’t said in the development process: “Ok, let’s roll a dice. Ah, 6. So we murder Boris.”
If the author has a concrete explanation in mind, he should include all necessary hints in the game so the players are able to figure out this explanation. Otherwise it would be bad game design.
Exactly. So the authors had explanations in mind (and they carefully thought at them so that they all make sense).
That means that my own hypothesis would be right if it turns out that it matches with the explanation(s) that the authors had in mind and it would be wrong if it turns out that it doesn’t match with the explanation(s) that the authors had in mind.
For example, I assume that they have an explanation for the modem sounds emitted by the public phone, they didn’t put a strange/unrelated thing there just to make the game weird.
Either the players have not yet found those hints (again, I’ll use the modem sounds from the public phone as an example) or the authors intentionally decided that they didn’t want to help the players too much (which is what I think has happened).
Yes, that is correct. But for me a hypothesis has only one valid solution.
I would still consider that as bad game design: The players must have a chance to get the one and only valid solution/explanation that the developer has/had in his mind. And at the moment no one seems to have found this explanation for/in TWP - if such one valid solution exists in that game.
I don’t know. Throughout the last 15 days or so I’ve been trying to get answers out of this. I keep failing miserably. Each and every time I try to write down a possible explanation, I have to force the meaning of one or two details to fit each interpretation. Of course this is a mistake, because I feel I’m building an arbitrary meaning every time I hit a “wall”. I do believe each questions indeed has an answer, the problem is linking all these answers in a coherent global explanation.
After Ron’s suggestion about the “metaphorical key” in the podcast, things got even worse. If I let my brain loose in the metaphor realm, I don’t even believe myself any longer!
I think I’ll just choose an arbitrary and ridiculous theory to keep everything up and I’ll move on (as I did with MI2, btw).
My problem with this kind of “open interpretation endings” is that at first trying to decrypt the mystery is always funny, but after several failed attempts I get more and more frustrated. The fun evaporates for me. I want to preserve my huge enjoyment of TP, so I know I’ll have to quit before I start hating the game!
For the question “who killed Boris?”, can you tell us if the answer is concrete or metaphorical? I mean, is the answer simply the name of a character? (like "Chuck " or "Willie ")? Or does it need more words to be answered? (like "the killer is different each time the universe restarts")
This is one reason why I personally(!) don’t like games, books and movies that are using a metaphorical layer or metaphorical elements: It could drive the audience mad.
There are only a few exceptions, like in the movie The Lawnmover Man where at the end all telephones ring. In these cases the game/book/movie has a concrete and logical ending, but the author left one thing open with a special wink.
I understand and in part share your point of view: becoming frustrated is a real risk when playing games that leave a lot of questions to be answered and give few hints. I’ve devised a few tricks to help me handle this kind of situations:
Being less emotionally attached to the game and evaluate it in a more cold and analytical way. In this way, investigating the hints, making hypotheses and, more generally, deconstructing the game and its story becomes a game itself.
Assuming that there are actually answers (both concrete and metaphorical) and that the fact the I don’t have a full understanding of the happenings is just a consequence of the fact that I still don’t have all the (existing) hints or that I’m not good enough at connecting the dots.
Assuming the exact opposite of the previous point: it’s not possible to apply a deductive methodology to get a full understanding of what happens and completely abandon The Search for a Meaning™. (which seems something similar to your approach)
Remembering that it’s just a game and that hating it at times is perfectly OK.
These are methods that work for me, I don’t expect them to work for anyone.
I don’t know. Do DOTT and FullTh seem compelling stories to you? Maybe it’s the genre. If I read, I like totally different things. Agatha Christie, Stephen King, some sci-fi (I am reading Gateway btw). The beauty of games is that you play things even if you don’t care about the setting or the genre or the characters. Actually I did not even realize I was supposed to care.