Gamereactor recently got the chance to catch up with Thimbleweed Park's Designer and Programmer Ron Gilbert about the game and adventure games in general.
We asked Gilbert about how the player affects the world of Thimbleweed Park and he said "the players want to be able to influence, you know, what's going on" and they will be able to do so in small ways. "Players are making very small changes right, it's not a big branching story [...] there aren't ten different endings you can do but there's very subtle things you can do. The players, you know, may choose a dialogue choice at one point and then they see later on in the game "oh that choice actually did matter".
Puzzle design was also a topic of discussion as it is no secret Gilbert is a fan of puzzles in his games. "Really good puzzle design is about making a puzzle really challenging that you scratch your head on but when you solve it, what you should say is "oh I should have thought of that", right. It's like, you want the player to blame themselves for the puzzle". In this regard, he said the game does not have ridiculous or absurd puzzles but instead they have been worked to make sense as well as being challenging.
The narrative of Thimbleweed Park revolves around "these two detectives that show up in the town of Thimbleweed because this dead body has been discovered in the rivers and so the story is kind of about how they start of investigating this crime", but Gilbert said that the body is not the focus but merely a tool to introduce the story. "What they figure out when they get to town is that this is a strange town", the body falling out of focus and various other stories revealing themselves as the player progresses.
We also asked about The Cave and whether that release shaped the development of Thimbleweed Park. "The Cave was a very interesting project", he said, and "the thing that really surprised me is that I kind of expected people would play The Cave in the same way that people played Maniac Mansion was that they would choose their characters, they would play the game and they would win the game and then they would stop playing the game", revisiting it in a couple of months to play again. Instead "what they did was they chose their characters, they went through the game, they won the game, they immediately started the game over and chose three new characters and then played the game again", becoming bored of the repetitive nature due to playing it so soon after finishing. Moving forward from The Cave, Thimbleweed Park gas "different stories and they all have different endings to the stories but I think because of my experience with The Cave it's like we said "you know what, you need to be able to get all five endings in one playthrough of the game".
The topic of the re-emergence of adventure games and whether there was a new golden age also came up. "The whole market for games is just expanding", he said. "Where adventure games kind of became this very niche market that wasn't really growing very much, now that a lot more people are playing games I think you see these markets really expanding", with people of all ages playing all kinds of games. "People love stories", he emphasised as well - "stories are engrained into our DNA" and that is why games like Telltale are so popular. When asked whether he prefers now or when he first started making adventure games, he said he prefers now due to processor power which is far superior. However, he did say he loves 8-bit art still and his work is about "taking 8-bit art and that aesthetic but really applying a lot of kind of modern techniques to that, both artistic and technologically".
Thimbleweed Park is being player tested extensively currently and is due for release in early 2017.
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