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Ron Gilbert interview: The creator of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion is back in town!

Ask me about Thimbleweed Park.
As a point & click pioneer, it's only fitting that Ron Gilbert gets to be the one to bring them back the way we fondly remember them: as pixel-art, story-heavy affairs, riddled with compelling puzzles and humorous interactions. That was the idea behind Thimbleweed Park and that's what over 15.600 Kickstarter backers helped him create. As Gilbert himself keeps stressing, this is not an adventure game made exactly the way those classics were made, but one that plays like your memories of these games. There are all manners of modern bells and whistles built within its pixely exterior, and its design has also done away with the unnecessary frustrations of the past while preserving their old-school charm.
We recently spotted the legendary Grumpy Gamer standing outside Thimbleweed Park's city limits, wearing an "Ask Me About Thimbleweed Park" badge - It was hard to resist the urge. For those who want to know more, we're also having a Twitch stream where Memoriesin8bit and Flaose will [LOOK AT] the game and [USE] their questions on Ron Gilbert. Tune in tomorrow, Friday the 31st, at 8 PM UTC on Twitch.tv/gogcom.

In terms of design, is Thimbleweed Park more closely related to Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island?

Ron: A little of both. The character design is highly influenced by Maniac Mansion, and so is the room layout. But the puzzle design and dialogue borrow more from Monkey Island.

So why the SCUMM interface? Why not use one of the "smart cursor" interfaces that have come since?

Ron: That decision goes back to our goal of recapturing the charm of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, and I think the SCUMM verb interface has a lot to do with it. The other big thing is the pixel art. We all love pixel art, not for the nostalgia, but as an art form.

You're making Thimbleweed Park with a small team - most of whom are your past collaborators. You're coding, writing, and designing the game, but also managing the project. Is the experience similar to your LucasFilm days? Was it a conscious decision?

small teams can work very differently than large teams -- more nimble, more opportunity for “improv”
Ron: There are two reasons the team is so small. The first is our attempt to try and recapture the charm of the LucasFilm adventure games. Those were small teams, and small teams can work very differently than large teams -- more nimble, more opportunity for “improv”. The second reason comes down to resources, mostly money. Despite the success of the Kickstarter, we don’t have the money to support a large team. At the height of development, there were around 12 people working on the game.

You've expressed a fair amount of criticism for modern adventure games, but are there any positive lessons to be learned? Did any of those found their way into Thimbleweed?

Ron: I don’t think I’ve been too critical of modern adventure games, I really like some of them. Many modern adventure games – games like Firewatch, Gone Home, and Telltale’s games – are very narrative focused. Narrative is something I’ve always tried to do in my adventure games, but I want to interweave it well with the puzzles.

What do you want people to be saying about Thimbleweed Park five or ten years from now?

Ron: If they are saying anything about Thimbleweed Park 10 years from now, I’ll be happy.

You called this project's inception an experiment to see if you can recreate the charm of the old LucasFilm games. If it proves successful, will your next game be more or less in the same vein or something entirely different?

Ron: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t tend to think about my next game until I’m done with the current one. If Thimbleweed Park is really successful, I’d love to build another point-and-click game, but I’d probably explore the design at a deeper level than we did for Thimbleweed Park. Do some risky ideas.