Q&A: Maniac Mansion creators stick to their roots with new adventure game

With traditional and particularly exciting adventure Thimbleweed Park doing impressively well on Kickstarter, we thought we'd ask creators (and legendary Maniac Mansion duo) Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick a few things.
With traditional and particularly exciting adventure Thimbleweed Park doing impressively well on Kickstarter, we thought we'd ask creators (and legendary Maniac Mansion duo) Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick a few things. Here's what they had to say: You have kept writing and talking about Maniac Mansion for years, and people have been listening. I take it the interest was always there. Was it thus a matter of time before you revisited the classic point-and-click adventure? Gary Winnick: We'd always talked about doing another classically inspired point-and-click adventure game, but were both usually tied up on other projects. This year Ron and I happened to become available around the same time and decided to get more serious about it. Ron Gilbert: Adventure games are in my blood. No matter what game I'm designing, I always try and make it an adventure game (you can see this in DeathSpank and The Cave). How would you describe Thimbleweed Park? GW: The way Maniac Mansion is a parody of the B horror genre, Thimbleweed's a send-off of Twin Peaks and the X-Files, with some True Detective and a dash of Stephen King thrown in. Why did you choose to return to the original point-and-click interface? Do you feel that the more actions available to the players the more interesting the puzzles can be or is it mostly to provide you with more joke opportunities? RG: I miss verbs. A few years after Monkey Island, verbs started disappearing. All we were left with was "use," but it always felt like something was missing. You get additional puzzle solving and humor opportunities through verbs. I don't think they will have a big comeback -- there are downsides to them -- but in doing a true classic point and click game, I think we need them.
So, will Thimbleweed Park be a difficult adventure game? RG: It goes back to the difficulty level of adventure games like Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island. There will be challenging puzzles. That said, we are going to have Easy and Hard mode, much like I did in Monkey Island 2. A lot of people want faster, easier experiences, and we understand that. Could you please share a bit about the game's plot and influences? Gary: The initial storyline revolves around two detectives called in to investigate a body discovered on the outskirts of town. As the game progresses you're introduced to three other characters: Ransome the clown, Delores, and Franklin. Each is dealing with their own interconnected story arc, but as you play through, the storylines and characters begin to intersect. Monkey Island 2, being my favorite game of all time and everything, managed to seamlessly blend dark themes with excellent humor; are you looking to recreate its atmosphere in a new, less surreal setting? RG: The inspirations for Thimbleweed Park that Gary mentioned are all a little dark and we're planning on poking some fun at that. It also seems that you will be using a proprietary engine and not something ready-made like AGS or Wintermute. Why? RG: I think I'm a game engine snob. Using other people's engines always frustrates me because they inevitably can't do something I want, and I start tearing into them trying add features. In the end, I've just found it easier to write my own engine. Thimbleweed Park looks simultaneously unique and familiar with a sort of pixel-art we haven't really seen since Maniac Mansion. What are you aiming for with the game's graphics? GW: We really wanted to evoke the feeling that this could be a lost game from the same era as Maniac Mansion. We feel there's a special kind of charm and innocence to the art. It's iconic in a way that allows the player to immediately understand everything in the world, while also allowing you to fill in the details from your own imagination. Is there anything you could tell the us about the soundtrack? Have you found your composer? RG: Yes, Steve Kirk is going to do the music. He did the music you hear in the trailer and we both really like it. I've worked with him before on Scurvy Scallywags and look forward to trying some fun interactive music ideas. With the Thimbleweed Park Kickstarter doing impressively well and re-igniting the crowdfunding excitement, do you feel you'll have a lot to live up to (besides a few decades of stellar games, that is)? GW: Ron and I are our own strongest critics and the hardest part will be living up to each other's expectations. If we can meet those, everyone else should be happy. Finally, how do you see adventure games today? Have you played any of the recent releases? RG: Games like Kentucky Route Zero and The Stanley Parable are excellent games. Neither are true point and click adventures, but they are an evolution of the genre that's fun to see. For me, if I'm designing an adventure game, I want it to be true point and click, but I enjoy playing them all. Originally printed on Gamasutra sister site

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