I had the privilege of interviewing Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, the geniuses behind point & click adventure games such as Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. Their latest game Thimbleweed Park easily met its $375,000 goal on Kickstarter within a few days.
Thimbleweed Park is also a point & click adventure game. The look and feel are reminiscent of Maniac Mansion. The thought of playing something like the old adventure games again sends tingling sensation down my spine and makes me feel all fuzzy inside. A bit like when I couldn’t wait to get home from school to play Monkey Island. The thought of interviewing Ron and Gary also instigated similar feelings. Not in a creepy way, but in a way of respect and awe. Enjoy the interview.
1) How did you come up with the idea for making Thimbleweed Park? Twiddling your thumbs doesn’t count.
Gary: Once Ron and I decided we wanted to make a classic adventure game, we started brainstorming on a number of story ideas. I think the list grew to about twenty pretty unique concepts. We started to narrow these down to the best four or five we really liked. The more we fleshed these out, the more we liked them, and were having a tough time narrowing it down to one. At that point we realized why not have these individual stories all take place in the same place and tie them back into one overriding story arc. The more we worked on it, the more it made sense to us.
2) I personally love the look of Thimbleweed Park, do you think it would lose its charm with modern graphics?
Gary: We do think there’s a charm and innocence to the look that takes you back to that nostalgic feeling we really wanted to evoke with the game. The interface and gameplay also serve to reinforce that. We have a very clear vision of what we want to make and how it’s meant to make us and the player feel, and the retro graphics are a big part of this vision.
At that point we realized why not have these individual stories all take place in the same place and tie them back into one overriding story arc.
3) Do you think those that have not played Maniac Mansion would still enjoy Thimbleweed? Do you think they’d enjoy your game Thimbleweed Park too?
Ron: Some of what made Maniac Mansion so interesting – multiple characters, multiple endings, clever puzzles and humor – will be a major part of Thimbleweed Park.
Gary: We think this works as a standalone game that has the same aspects that really appealed to players when they picked up Maniac Mansion for the first time. I think those can be really compelling even without the benefit of that experience.
4) How do you come up with the humour in your games? Are you naturally gifted or are you Ron Gilbert? If you’re Gary Winnick, you can’t choose “Ron Gilbert” as your answer.
Ron: I don’t know the answer to that question. Humor has always been natural for me, it’s just the way I approach everything. If I tried to make a serious game or write a serious story, it would just end up being (or trying to be) funny. Humor is well suited for adventure games as well. We’re asking the player to do a lot of goofy stuff, and if that can be wrapped in humor and it’s consistent with the world, then it works well.
5) Does it bother you when fans reference your games when having a conversation with you? Either way, you fight like a cow… ok that didn’t work!
Ron: It only bothers me when they make a reference from one of my games directly to me, and I don’t get that it’s a reference. That’s kind of embarrassing.
6) Which modern adventure games have you enjoyed playing?
Gary: My most recent favorite was ‘Limbo’. Since I’m an artist, a lot of it is based on the look.
Ron: It’s not a traditional adventure game, but I really enjoyed The Stanley Parable. Whenever I play a game, the first thing I do is try and screw with it, mostly to see how the designer deals with different situations. When I did that with The Stanley Parable, the game was actually rewarding me for it. The more I messed with the game, the more fun it became.
If I tried to make a serious game or write a serious story, it would just end up being (or trying to be) funny. Humor is well suited for adventure games as well.
7) What’s your favourite game of all time? Actually, it doesn’t have to be about “all time”, it can be about any topic you wish.
Gary: That’s really tough to answer. Although it may sound a bit self-pandering, I really do love all those first graphic adventures we worked on: Maniac, Zak, Monkey Island 1 & 2, DOTT, Sam & Max. Everybody who worked on those had so much fun and it shines through in the humor and gameplay
Ron: Favorite game of all time? Well, I’ve played World of Warcraft more than any other game. I spent 4 years in a fairly hardcore raiding guild. Favorite game would have to go to the original Animal Crossing.
8) Any chance of a spiritual successor of Monkey Island? Please say yes or a pixelated hamster will be microwaved!
Ron: In a lot of ways Thimbleweed Park is that. The art looks like Maniac Mansion, but I think you’ll find the design and story structure to be a lot like Monkey Island.
9) Is the secret of Monkey Island that it’s actually the island from LOST?
Ron: The secret of Lost is that it takes place on Monkey Island.
In a lot of ways Thimbleweed Park is that. The art looks like Maniac Mansion, but I think you’ll find the design and story structure to be a lot like Monkey Island.
10) Finally, what’s your message to your fans?
Gary: We’re incredibly grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support we’re receiving on Kickstarter. It was amazing to be at the core of the classic adventure gaming revolution when it started and you’re helping us all experience it again. Thank you!
Ron: It’s amazing for me to see what those games meant to people and to realize I was a part of that. It warms my grumpy heart. But not too much. I’m still grumpy.
Interviewees: Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick – ThimbleweedPark.com
Interviewer: Dan, Mangotron.com
The interview above is published ‘as is,’ without any alterations.
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