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Preview: Grumpy Gamer

Grumpy Gamer

Ron Gilbert's often incoherent and bitter ramblings about the Game Industry

Last Build Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 15:06:45 +0000


Vacation 2017

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 01:11:00 +0000

Went on vacation a few weeks ago.  Everyone loves vacation photos, so I thought I'd share mine...






Grumpy Gamer v3

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:49:00 +0000

Welcome to the all new Grumpy Gamer Blog!

It has all of the content from the old blog minus the stupid stuff.  I removed a lot of the old posts teasing the lead up to my new games like The Cave, Scurvy and, of course, Thimbleweed Park. They were just noise.

Now that Thimbleweed Park is done and I won't be blogging there as much, it felt like I needed a new outlet to grip and complain.

Also, for the most part I am leaving Twitter.

It's a hostile crap-filled dumpster-fire of shit. I stopping checking and posting on Twitter a few weeks ago while I was on vacation and I realised how much better my life was. When I got back, I had no real desire to go back, so I haven't.

And no one has noticed.

Twitter is like a F2P game, they both tap into a horrible part of our lizard brain. F2P games trigger dopamine associated with gambling and the become an addition. You aren't playing them because you enjoy the game, you're playing them because you're addicted. You are just convincing yourself you're having (true) fun,

Twitter (and social media in general) is the same.  You're addicted to likes, followers and mentions.  People have found the best way to get the proceeding is to post angy shit and enrage people.  As we are seeing, this is not good for us as people, or us as a society. I'm tired of it and I'm not going to be a part of it anymore, at least until it (or we) change.

I do worry about staying connected to what is happen in the world of making game. It seems like Twitter is a good place to do that, but it's also filled with hype and egos and bitching and probably not the "best way" to stay in touch.

The final straw for quitting Twitter was when I got back from vacation, there was a Twitter thread about Monkey Island being ranking 172 of the best games ever by some big website.  My mentioned were filled with people dumping shit on the website and expecting me to jump in.  Look... I don't care. It is of no importance to me where Monkey Island falls on some list. Lists are made by people and people have different opinions.

It just struck me how much pointless anger there was, and worse, they expected me to join in.

I. Just. Don't. Care. I'm done.

If you are on Twitter and want to know what's up with Thimbleweed Park (including the new Ransome unbeeped DLC), please follow @thimbleweedpark.

There are no comments on the new Grumpy Gamer blog. I haven't decided if I'm going to add them or not.

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 02:00:00 +0000

Be skeptical of the advice of successful people, they suffer from deep survivor bias. Hundreds of other people did exactly what they did and failed. Chances are their success has more to do with luck than the advice they are given you.

Happy Birthday Monkey Island

Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:00 +0000

I guess Monkey Island turns 25 this month. It's hard to tell.Unlike today, you didn't push a button and unleash your game to billions of people. It was a slow process of sending "gold master" floppies off to manufacturing, which was often overseas, then waiting for them to be shipped to stores and the first of the teaming masses to buy the game.Of course, when that happened, you rarely heard about it. There was no Internet for players to jump onto and talk about the game.There was CompuServe and Prodigy, but those catered to a very small group of very highly technical people.Lucasfilm's process for finalizing and shipping a game consisted of madly testing for several months while we fixed bugs, then 2 weeks before we were to send off the gold masters, the game would go into "lockdown testing".  If any bug was found, there was a discussion with the team and management about if it was worth fixing.  "Worth Fixing" consisted of a lot of factors, including how difficult it was to fix and if the fix would likely introduce more bugs.Also keep in mind that when I made a new build, I didn't just copy it to the network and let the testers at it, it had to be copied to four or five sets of floppy disk so it could be installed on each tester's machine.  It was a time consuming and dangerous process. It was not uncommon for problems to creep up when I made the masters and have to start the whole process again. It could take several hours to make a new set of five testing disks.It's why we didn't take getting bumped from test lightly.During the 2nd week of "lockdown testing", if a bug was found we had to bump the release date. We required that each game had one full week of testing on the build that was going to be released. Bugs found during this last week had to be crazy bad to fix.When the release candidate passed testing, it would be sent off to manufacturing. Sometimes this was a crazy process. The builds destined for Europe were going to be duplicated in Europe and we needed to get the gold master over there, and if anything slipped there wasn't enough time to mail them. So, we'd drive down to the airport and find a flight headed to London, go to the gate and ask a passenger if they would mind carry the floppy disks for us and someone would meet them at the gate.Can you imagine doing that these days? You can't even get to the gate, let alone find a person that would take a strange package on a flight for you. Different world.After the gold masters were made, I'd archive all the source code. There was no version control back then, or even network storage, so archiving the source meant copying it to a set of floppy disks.I made these disk on Sept 2nd, 1990 so the gold masters were sent off within a few days of that.  They have a 1.1 version due to Monkey Island being bumped from testing. I don't remember if it was in the 1st or 2nd week of "lockdown".It hard to know when it first appeared in stores. It could have been late September or even October and happened without fanfare.  The gold masters were made on the 2nd, so that what I'm calling The Secret of Monkey Island's birthday.Twenty Five years. That's a long time.It amazes me that people still play and love Monkey Island. I never would have believed it back then.It's hard for me to understand what Monkey Island means to people. I am always asked why I think it's been such an enduring and important game. My answer is always "I have no idea."I really don't.I was very fortunate to have an incredible team. From Dave and Tim to Steve Purcell, Mark Ferrari, an amazing testing department and everyone else who touched the game's creation. And also a company management structure that knew to leave creative people alone and let them build great things.Monkey Island was never a big hit. It sold well, but not nearly as well and anything Sierra released. I started working on Monkey Island II about a [...]

Thimbleweed Park Dev Blog

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:10:00 +0000

If you're wondering why it's so quiet over here at Grumpy Gamer, rest assured, it has nothing to do with me not being grumpy anymore.

The mystery can be solved by heading on over to the Thimbleweed Park Dev Blog and following fun antics of making a game.

I Was A Teengage Lobot

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 08:49:00 +0000

This was the first design document I worked on while at Lucasfilm Games. It was just after Koronis Rift finished and I was really hoping I wouldn't get laid off.  When I first joined Lucasfilm, I was a contractor, not an employee. I don't remember why that was, but I wanted to get hired on full time. I guess I figured I'd show how indispensable I was by helping to churn out game design gold like this.

This is probably one of the first appearances of "Chuck", who would go on to "Chuck the Plant" fame.

You'll also notice the abundance of TM's all over the doc. That joke never gets old.  Right?

Many thanks to Aric Wilmunder for saving this document.

Shameless plug to visit the Thimbleweed Park Development Diary.


Wed, 03 Dec 2014 00:00:00 +0000

The C64 version of Maniac Mansion didn't use a mouse, it used one of these:


A year later we did the IBM PC version and it had keyboard support for moving the cursor because most PCs didn't have a mouse.  Monkey Island also had cursor key support because not everyone had a mouse.

Use the above facts to impress people at cocktail parties.

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 09:59:00 +0000


Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.

Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah!!!

Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah,  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah?  Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah, Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah Blah?

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah!


My Understanding Of Charts

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:57:00 +0000


Puzzle Dependency Charts

Sun, 10 Aug 2014 10:03:00 +0000

In part 1 of 1 in my series of articles on games design, let's delve into one of the (if not THE) most useful tool for designing adventure games: The Puzzle Dependency Chart. Don't confuse it with a flow chart, it's not a flow chart and the subtle distinctions will hopefully become clear, for they are the key to it's usefulness and raw pulsing design power.There is some dispute in Lucasfilm Games circles over whether they were called Puzzle Dependency Charts or Puzzle Dependency Graphs, and on any given day I'll swear with complete conviction that is was Chart, then the next day swear with complete conviction that it was Graph. For this article, I'm going to go with Chart. It's Sunday.Gary and I didn't have Puzzle Dependency Charts for Maniac Mansion, and in a lot of ways it really shows. The game is full of dead end puzzles and the flow is uneven and gets bottlenecked too much.Puzzle Dependency Charts would have solve most of these problems. I can't remember when I first came up with the concept, it was probably right before or during the development of The Last Crusade adventure game and both David Fox and Noah Falstein contributed heavy to what they would become. They reached their full potential during Monkey Island where I relied on them for every aspect of the puzzle design.A Puzzle Dependency Chart is a list of all the puzzles and steps for solving a puzzle in an adventure game. They are presented in the form of a Graph with each node connecting to the puzzle or puzzle steps that are need to get there.  They do not generally include story beats unless they are critical to solving a puzzle.Let's build one!I always work backwards when designing an adventure game, not from the very end of the game, but from the end of puzzle chains.  I usually start with "The player needs to get into the basement", not "Where should I hide a key to get into some place I haven't figured out yet."I also like to work from left to right, other people like going top to bottom. My rational for left to right is I like to put them up on my office wall, wrapping the room with the game design.So... first, we'll need figure out what you need to get into the basement...And we then draw a line connecting the two, showing the dependency. "Unlocking the door" is dependent on "Finding the Key".  Again, it's not flow, it's dependency.Now let's add a new step to the puzzle called "Oil Hinges" on the door and it can happen in parallel to the "Finding the Key" puzzle...We add two new puzzle nodes, one for the action "Oil Hinges" and it's dependency "Find Oil Can".  "Unlocking" the door is not dependent on "Oiling" the hinges, so there is no connection. They do connect into "Opening" the basement door since they both need to be done.At this point, the chart is starting to get interesting and is showing us something important: The non-linearity of the design. There are two puzzles the player can be working on while trying to get the basement door open.There is nothing (NOTHING!) worse than linear adventure games and these charts are a quick visual way to see where the design gets too linear or too unwieldy with choice (also bad).Let's build it back a little more...When you step back and look at a finished Puzzle Dependency Chart, you should this kind of overall pattern with a lot of little sub-diamond shaped expansion and contraction of puzzles.  Solving one puzzle should open up 2 or 3 new ones, and then those collapses down (but not necessarily at the same rate) to a single solution that then opens up more non-linear puzzles.The game starts out with a simple choice, then the puzzles begin to expand out with more and more for the player to be doing in para[...]

SCUMM Notes From The C64

Wed, 06 Aug 2014 14:52:00 +0000

More crap that is quickly becoming a fire hazard. Some of my notes from building SCUMM on the C64 for Maniac Mansion.


I'm not sure who's phone number that is on the last page. I'm afraid to call it.

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:50:00 +0000

An email sent to me from LucasArts Marketing/Support letting me know they "finally" found some people who liked the ending to Monkey Island 2.


Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:48:00 +0000

More crap from my storage unit.


Print your own today!

Maniac Mansion Design Notes

Wed, 16 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0000

While cleaning out my storage unit in Seattle, I came across a treasure trove of original documents and backup disks from the early days of Lucasfilm Games and Humongous Entertainment. I hadn't been to the unit in over 10 years and had no idea what was waiting for me.

Here is the first batch... get ready for a week of retro... Grumpy Gamer style...

First up...


A early mock-up of the Maniac Mansion UI. Gary had done a lot of art long before we had a running game, hence the near finished screen without the verbs.


A map of the mansion right after Gary and I did a big pass at cutting the design down.  Disk space was a bigger concern than production time. We had 320K. That's right. K.


Gary and I were trying to make sense of the mansion and how the puzzles flowed together. It wouldn't be until Monkey Island that the "puzzle dependency chart" would solve most of our adventure game design issues.


More design flow and ideas. The entire concept of getting characters to like you never really made it into the final game. Bobby, Joey and Greg would grow up and become Dave, Syd, Wendy, Bernard, etc..


A really early brainstorm of puzzle ideas. NASA O-ring was probably "too soon" and twenty-five years later the dumb waiter would finally make it into The Cave.

I'm still amazed Gary and I didn't get fired.

Ten Years Running!

Tue, 15 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0000


Time flies. The gaming and internet institution known as the Grumpy Gamer Blog has been around for just over ten years.

My first story was posted in May of 2004. Two thousand and four. I'll let that date sink in. Ten years.

The old Grumpy Gamer website was feeling "long in the tooth" and it was starting to bug me that Grumpy Gamer was still using a CRT monitor. He should have been using a flat screen, or more likely, just a mobile phone, or maybe those Google smart contact lens. He would not have been using an Oculus Rift. Don't get me started.

I coded the original Grumpy Gamer from scratch and it was old and fragile and I dreaded every time I had to make a small change or wanted to add a feature.

A week ago I had an the odd idea of doing a Commodore 64 theme for the entire site, so I began anew. I could have used some off-the-shelf blogging tool or code base, but where's the fun in that. Born to program.

I'm slowly moving all the old articles over. I started with the ones with the most traffic and am working my way down. I fundamentally changed the markup format, so I can't just import everything. Plus, there is a lot of crap that doesn't want to be imported.  I still need to decide if I'm going to import all the comments. There are a crap-ton of them.

I'd also like to find a different C64 font. This one has kerning, but it lacks unicode characters, neither of which are truly "authentic", but, yeah, who cares.

But the honest truth is...

I've been in this creative funk since Scurvy Scallywags Android shipped and I find myself meandering from quick prototype to quick prototype. I'll work on something for a few days and then abandon it because it's pointless crap. I think I'm up to eight so far.

The most interesting prototype is about being lost in a cavern/cave/dungeon. The environment programmatically builds itself as you explore. There is no entrance and no exit. It is an exercise in the frustration of being lost. You can never find your way out. You just wander and the swearing gets worse and worse as you slowly give up all hope.

I have no sense of direction, so in some ways, maybe it was a little personal in the way I suppose art should be.

I worked on the game for about a week then gave up. Maybe the game was more about being lost than I thought.

Rebuilding Grumpy Gamer was a way to get my brain going again. It was a project with focus and an end. As the saying goes: Just ship something. So I did.

The other saying is: "The Muse visits during the act of creation, not before."

Create and all will follow. Something to always keep in mind.

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:05:00 +0000


Booty From My Seattle Storage Space!

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 16:48:00 +0000


Monkey Bucks

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 00:00:00 +0000

(image) (image)

Who Are These Pirates?

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:48:00 +0000


This has always bugged me. Now that I've pointed it out, it's going to bug you too.

What is an indie developer?

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 00:00:00 +0000

What makes a developer "indie"?I'm not going to answer that question, instead, I'm just going to ask a lot more questions, mostly because I'm irritated and asking questions rather than answering them irritates people and as the saying goes: irritation makes great bedfellows.What irritates me is this almost "snobbery" that seems to exist in some dev circles about what an "indie" is. I hear devs who call themselves "indie" roll their eyes at other devs who call themselves "indie" because they "clearly they aren't indie".So what makes an indie developer "indie"?  Let's look at the word.The word "indie" comes from (I assume) the word "independent".  I guess the first question we have to ask is: independent from what? I think most people would say "publishers".Yet, I know of several devs who proudly call themselves "indie" when they are taking money from publishers (and big publishers at that) and other devs that would sneer at a dev taking publisher money and calling themselves "indie".What about taking money from investors? If you take money are you not "indie"? What about money from friends or family? Or does it have to be VCs for you to lose "indie" status?What about Kickstarter?  I guess it's OK for indies to take money from Kickstarter. But are you really "independent"?  3,000 backers who now feel a sense of entitlement might disagree. Devs who feel an intense sense of pressure from backers might also disagree.Does being "indie" mean your idea is independent from mainstream thinking? Is being an "indie developer" just the new Punk Rock.Does the type of game you're making define you as "indie"? If a dev is making a metrics driven F2P game, but they are doing it independent of a publisher, does that mean they are not "indie"?This is one of the biggest areas I see "indie" snobbery kick in.  Snobby "indie" devs will look at an idea and proclaim it "not indie".Do "indie" games have to be quirky and weird? Do "indie" games have to be about the "art".What about the dev? Does that matter? Someone once told me I was not "indie" because I have an established name, despite the fact that the games I'm currently working on have taken no money from investors or publishers and are made by three people.What if the game is hugely successful and makes a ton of money? Does that make it not "indie" anymore? Is being "indie" about being scrappy and clawing your way from nothing? Once you have success, are you no longer "indie"?  Is it like being an "indie band" where once they gain success, they are looked down on by the fans? Does success mean selling-out? Does selling-out revoke your "indie dev" card?What if the "indie" developer already has lots of money? Does having millions of dollars make them not "indie"? What if they made the money before they went "indie" or even before they started making games or if they have a rich (dead) aunt? Does "indie" mean you have to starve?Is it OK for an "indie" to hire top notch marketing and PR people? Or do "indies" have to scrape everything together themselves and use the grassroot network?Or does "indie" just mean you're not owned by a publisher? How big of [...]

Monkey Island Design Notebook Scribblings

Mon, 07 Apr 2014 00:00:00 +0000

More scans from the Monkey Island Design Notebook. I'm glad I kept these notebooks, it's a good reminder of how ideas don't come out fully formed.  Creation is a messy process with lots of twisty turns and dead ends.  It's a little sad that so much is done digitally these days. Most of my design notes for The Cave were in Google Docs and I edited them as I went, so the process lost. Next game, I'm keeping an old fashion notebook.

Mark Ferrari or Steve Purcell must have done these. I can't draw this good!


A lot changed here!


Getting the Main Flow right is critical!


Even More Monkey Island Design Scribbles.

Mon, 31 Mar 2014 00:00:00 +0000

I am not going to throw these out! That was a joke! Several years ago they got water damaged, so now they are sealed in water proof wrapping and kept safe and insured for $1,000,000.

Also, this is not the "design document", they are just notes and ideas I'd jotted down.  There wasn't a formal design document for the game, just the large complete puzzle dependency chart I keep on my wall. I have no idea where that went to.

Many more to come. Posting these is easier then writing actual blob entries. I'm lazy.

Notes and ideas for Ghost ship and on Monkey Island.


The dream sequence had to wait until Monkey Island 2.


Room layout sketches.


More Tales From The Monkey Island Design Notebook

Fri, 28 Mar 2014 00:00:00 +0000

Very early brainstorming about ideas and story.


First pass at some puzzles on Monkey Island


Just writing ideas down. I'm surprised "get milk and bread" doesn't appear on this.


Map when ship sailing was more top-down and direct controlled.


Monkey Island Design Notebook #1

Thu, 27 Mar 2014 00:00:00 +0000

I'm doing some house cleaning and I came across my Monkey Island 1 and 2 design notebooks.  It's interesting to see what changed and what remained the same.

I'll post more... If I don't throw them out. They are smelling kind of musty and I'm running out of space.

My first sketch of Monkey Island


Early puzzle diagram for Largo (before he was named Largo LaGrande)


My 2013 year in review

Mon, 30 Dec 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I've never written one of these "year in review" posts before. They always seemed silly and the beginning of a new year is just an arbitrary milestone.Also, it's hard to believe it is 2014. The 8 year old boy in me is disappointed that we don't have moon bases and flying cars, but I guess the Internet is pretty cool. Didn't see that one coming.The CaveFirst up is The Cave. It didn't burn up any sales records or get amazing reviews and was largely forgotten a month after it came out, but you know what? I don't care. It's a game I am incredibly proud of and the team at Double Fine did an amazing job and working on it was a lot of fun. I'll stand by the game until the end of time.While snowboarding over Christmas, I rode the chairlift with a complete stranger who played and loved The Cave. Suck on that Metacritic.Scurvy ScallywagsNext up is a iOS game called Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG (actual title) that I built with my good friend Clayton Kauzlaric. Another game that wasn't wildly successful but I'm extremely proud of.Scurvy Scallywags is Candy Crush for smart people.While the game didn't come close to making enough money to pay for the time and effort that went into it, Clayton and I decided to port it to Android, which should be out in early 2014.I guess one of the personal triumphs of Scurvy Scallywags is that I've been in this wretched (I mean wonderful) industry for close to 30 years and I still make games and love it. Every morning I get up and program and design and write and build something. I'm very thankful for that. Maybe I'll die poor and in the streets, but at least I get to do what I love. I'll be the one holding the cardboard sign that says "Will Design Games for Food".Got in shapeI lost over 75 pounds in the first half of 2013. I now run almost everyday and workout and am probably in the best shape and health of my adult life. It was a lot of work and I didn't use any silly gimmicks or diets, just exercise and completely changed the way I eat. Losing weight is really hard and I've struggled with it my whole life, but it's was rewarding and worth it.AustraliaI went to Australia for the first time and gave the keynote at PAX and made some great friends. I am terrified of public speaking, so I always consider it a win when I can stand up in front of thousands of people and not make a complete fool of myself. Or did I? Don't tell me! I did great, right? Holy crap, now I'm worried.SnowboardingI went snowboarding for the first time. I've been skiing since I was 6 (although not in the last 10 years), so I'm no stranger to the snow, but strapping both legs onto a board and sliding down a hill was terrifying. After four days it was starting to make sense and I was able to go where I wanted. I'm really looking forward to my next time.I hope everyone has a great 2014. I might make a game or something.[...]

Scurvy Scallywags iOS Reviews Are In

Thu, 06 Jun 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG is out on the App Store and the reviews have started pouring in and people seem to like it! WTF!It's currently in the top 50 of paid games and the top 100 in all paid apps in the first 24 hours. WTF!Who knew scurvy could be so much fun. Diseases involving bleeding gums and tooth loss get a bad rap."Scurvy Scallywags bleeds the charm and personality of Ron Gilbert's classics, and is something to appreciate in a landscape of games that often find themselves without an identity."Touch Arcade Review"[they have] taken a genre amalgam that's been dear to my heart since Puzzle Quest and injected a heavy dose of humor and a penchant for breaking into song. It's almost the perfect game."Kotaku"Scurvy Scallywags might be a match-three puzzler, but it's also a romp through a pirate musical, complete with spectacular sea shanties, vast ships, terrible nautical jokes, and a fiercely addictive central premise that takes the match-three template and shakes it until it's fun."Pocket Gamer"Scurvy Scallywags is an enormous breath of fresh air if you've been spending a bunch of time with the current generation of match-3 games."Touch Arcade Hands On"Scurvy Scallywags is a noteworthy game because of how different it is. I was skeptical at first that it could blend so many different genres and game mechanics together, but it did so with ease."148Apps"Here's our bold statement of the day: Scurvy Scallywags is what every puzzle game secretly wants to be like."Jay is Games"I don't know, I kind of like everything about it. This scream ten dollar game!"IGN Video Review"It's one of the best match-3 games we've played for ages and it has kept us entertained for hours at a time."Entertainment Focus"With addictive gameplay that kept me glued to my iPad and constantly coming back for more, I can't recommend Scurvy Scallywags enough."Nerdy But Flirty"I tried [it] out during one lazy afternoon at home. I eventually stopped playing and went outside only to discover that the authorities declared me legally dead. Then I thought, 'I have more time to play Scurvy Scallywags'"Examiner"All in all, Scurvy Scallywags is a breath of fresh air and with the iPhone/iPod retina display, it is a joy to play. Give it a shot even if you don't prefer this genre and you may love it as it's the modern match 3 game with RPG elements, a truly unique game."Appsgoer"Scurvy Scallywags manages to set itself apart from its competitors by featuring a genuinely amusing script, with charming music and artwork, and actually manages to breathe some new life into the genre of match three puzzle games."NewbReviewer"Scurvy Scallywags is hours of fun, and it can get quite addicting not just because of its gameplay, but also for its colorful personality."EMGNow"What sets Scurvy Scalllywags apart is its charming pirate story."UniGameSity"So if you like match 3 games with a little more depth than matching 3, like pirates, and hate hipsters, Scurvy Scallywags is definitely worth checking out."Leviathyn"Go give it a whirl, and kiss the next few hours goodbye. This is about as addictive as it gets, and probably a better choice than crack-cocaine."International House of Mo[...]

Got Scurvy?

Tue, 04 Jun 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I know what you're thinking. Finally! Making games can't be that hard and take that long, and you'd be right, I just spend too much time screwing around and surfing the web.

Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG will be out for iOS on June 6th!

Mark your calendars and stock up on lemons and oranges!


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My Favorite Authors

Tue, 28 May 2013 00:00:00 +0000

My favorite authors in no particular order:

  • J. G. Ballard
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Dan Simmons
  • Stephen King

Scurvy Scallywags Is Almost Here!

Thu, 16 May 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I know everyone has been doing match-3 finger exercises and visual match training in preparation for Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short and it's almost here!

A build has been submitted to the App Store and now we wait. And wait. And wait.

But to make the waiting more bearable, here is the amazing game play trailer Clayton put together:

class='youtube' width='595' height='385' src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen>

I feel Scurvy coming on!

More Scurvy Scallywags

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Some more screen shots from Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short.  This time from the iPad version.  We now have close to 100 different hats, shirts, pants and heads to collect.  I know what you're thinking: "That's crazy!".  And you'd be right... we are crazy! It's probably from scurvy.


Just To Clarify Point Twelve...

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I just wanted to clarify what I wrote in point Twelve because a lot of people have misunderstood it, probably because I did a crappy job of writing it.

Twelve - It would be called Monkey Island 3a.  All the games after Monkey Island 2 don't exist in my Monkey Island universe. My apologies to the all talented people who worked on them and the people who loved them, but I'd want to pick up where I left off.  Free of baggage.  In a carnival.  That doesn't mean I won't steal some good ideas or characters from other games. I'm not above that.

I loved Curse of Monkey Island.  Jonathan Ackley and Larry Ahern did a masterful job on the game, which is quite a feat given the ending I left them with.  They - and the game - showed nothing but pure respect for the world, and they created some new characters that are just as memorable as the ones in Monkey Island 1 and 2.

When I said "but I'd want to pick up where I left off.  Free of baggage.  In a carnival.",  I meant the very literally.  My story for Monkey Island 3a takes places 2 minutes after the end of Monkey Island 2.  Free of baggage was not meant to imply that I felt Curse of Monkey Island was "baggage", but rather, as I (hypothetically) designed and (hypothetically) wrote Monkey Island 3a, I'd want to be free to take the story where I wanted it to go and not feel compelled to adhere to the games that followed.  If I end up being able to make this game at some point, we all might find that it fits nicely in between Monkey Island 2 and Curse of Monkey Island.

The only thing I objected to in the games that followed was Guybrush and Elaine getting married.  She is too smart for that.

I hope this clarifies what I wrote.

If I Made Another Monkey Island

Sun, 14 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Yeah, I know, that sounds like the title of the O.J. Simpson book. I realized that after I typed it, but I'm not going to change it.So, before I get into this fanciful post, I want to make one thing perfectly clear... actually, I'm just going to make it my first point.  It's probably the most important one.  Actually, I'll make it the first two points.One - I am not making another Monkey Island. I have no plans to make another Monkey Island. I am not formulating plans to make another Monkey Island.Two - Let me say that again.  There is no new Monkey Island in works and I have no plans to make one.  I'm just thinking and dreaming and inviting you come along with me.  Please your keep your hands inside the boat at all times.  No standing or you might get wet.But, If I made another Monkey Island...Three - It would be a retro game that harkened back to Monkey Island 1 and 2.  I'd do it as "enhanced low-res".  Nice crisp retro art, but augmented by the hardware we have today: parallaxing, depth of field, warm glows, etc.  All the stuff we wanted to do back in 1990 but couldn't.  Monkey Island deserves that.  It's authentic.  It doesn't need 3D.  Yes, I've seen the video, it's very cool, but Monkey Island wants to be what it is.  I would want the game to be how we all remember Monkey Island.Four - It would be a hardcore adventure game driven by what made that era so great. No tutorials or hint systems or pansy-assed puzzles or catering to the mass-market or modernizing.  It would be an adventure game for the hardcore.  You're going to get stuck.  You're going to be frustrated.  Some puzzles will be hard, but all the puzzles will be fair.  It's one aspect of Monkey Island I am very proud of.  Read this.Five - I would lose the verbs.  I love the verbs, I really do, and they would be hard to lose, but they are cruft.  It's not as scary as it sounds.  I haven't fully worked it out (not that I am working it out, but if I was working it out, which I'm not, I wouldn't have it fully worked out).  I might change my mind, but probably not.  Mmmmm... verbs.Six - Full-on inventory.  Nice big juicy icons full of pixels.  The first version of Monkey Island 1 had text for inventory, a later release and Monkey Island 2 had huge inventory icons and it was nirvana.  They will be so nice you'll want to lick them. That's a bullet-point for the box.Seven - There would be a box. I imagine most copies would be sold digitally, but sometimes you just want to roll around in all your adventure game boxes. I know I do.  Besides, where would you store the code wheel?Eight - There would be dialog puzzles.  They weren't really puzzles, but that's what we called them.  Being able to tell four jokes at once and meander and getting lost in the humor of a conversation is the staple of Monkey Island.  No one has done it better since.  Just my opinion.Nine - I would rebuild SCUMM.  Not SCU[...]


Thu, 11 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I first learned to program on a TI-59 programmable calculator.  My dad "the physicist" would bring it home on weekends and I would monopolize it for the next two days.  I'd make games and type in programs from Byte magazine.  It was a magical device. I don't know what it was about programming that enthralled me, but I was obsessed with it.  It was an odd skill to have back then, even at the level of programmable calculators.  Computers were still the stuff of science fiction or only owned by huge companies or universities and housed large noisy air conditioned rooms with punch-card machines.One summer the college got two Commodore Pet computers that were destine for the local High School.  My friend, Tom McFarlane and I spent that entire summer in the computer lab programming those Commodore Pet computers.It was my first experience with BASIC and it blew the socks off of the TI-59.  Tom and I devoured everything about those Commodore Pet computers.  We wrote every game we would could think of from Space Invaders to Astroids to Space Wars to little platformers (although we didn't know that's what they were called).  We challenged and pushed each other and became masters of the PEEK and the POKE.I do blame the Commodore Pet from one nasty habit that's followed me for over 30 years.  Tom and I realized that if we removed all the comments (the REM statements) from our BASIC code, the game would run significantly faster.  To this day, I find myself deleting comments or whitespace under some misguided pavlovian notion that my code will run faster.The summer ended and the Commodore Pets made their way to the High School, were I was starting as a freshmen.As I continued to read about programming and computers (mostly in Byte magazine) this odd and strange concept kept coming up: Assembly Language.  What was it?  How did it work?  And more importantly, what could it do for me?I started to realize that assembly language was real programming.  BASIC was just an imitation of programming.  A layer that sat on top of this thing called Assembly Language.  You weren't really programming the computer if you weren't programming it in assembly language.  That was getting right down to the metal and I had to know what it was.Lore said it was fast.  Faster than BASIC and this was very appealing to me.  We were pushing the limits of BASIC, removing features from our games just to speed them up.  If assembly language could help with that, even a little, then it was something I had to learn.Armed with the knowledge that the Commodore Pet used a 6502, I spent the weekend hand writing this program that would fill the screen with @-signs.  I wanted to see how fast this assembly language really was.  I wrote the same program in BASIC.  I needed a baseline.After class on Monday, I headed to the computer room and found a free Pet computer and typed in the BASIC program. It filled the screen in a little over 1 second.  Fast.  Cou[...]

Goodbye Lucasfilm Games

Tue, 02 Apr 2013 00:00:00 +0000

It will always be Lucasfilm Games(tm) to me, never LucasArts.  They changed the name a year or so before I left when they rolled a bunch of divisions into this new company called LucasArts and the games group was one of them.  Many years later, all that was left in LucasArts was the old games group, so the name became synonymous with games.It's hard for me not to be sad. I haven't worked there since 1992, but it was still home to me. I grew up there. I learned just about everything I know about designing games there.  I became a real programmer there.  I made lifelong friends there.  Eight of the most memorable and influential years of my life were spent there.  I would not be who I am today without Lucasfilm Games.I was hired at Lucasfilm Games by Noah Falstein as a Commodore 64 programmer porting his game Koronis Rift from the Atari 800.I had just been laid off from a company called Human Engineered Software (my first job) and had moved back to Oregon and was about ready to start college again when the phone rang.It was someone (I don't remember who) from Lucasfilm Games and they were looking for a Commodore 64 programmer and wanted to know if I was interesting in coming in for an interview.  Holy Crap I said/thought/shouted to myself.  I didn't even know Lucasfilm made games.  Lucasfilm as Star Wars and the foundation of my childhood.  I idealized George Lucas and ILM.  I said I could come in for an interview that week and immediately packed my car and moved back to California.  I just moved back.  There was no way I wasn't going to get that job.I vividly remember interviewing in an office with Noah and Aric Wilmunder explaining the way you wrote pixels to the C64 screen using their screwed up memory mapping.  They seemed impressed.  Or confused.  Either way as long as I got the job.My first week at Lucasfilm Games was mind blowing. I had never met a smarter group of people in my life. From Noah to Aric to Gary Winnick to David Fox to Chip Morningstar to Doug Crockford.  I had so much to learn.The first time I met George Lucas was kind of a disappointment. It was the 10 year anniversary of Star Wars and he and Steven Spielberg and shaved their beards to sneak into a show.  I wanted to met the iconic George Lucas with a beard.When that person from Lucasfilm first called I almost didn't answer the phone. I was on my way out to met a friend for lunch and had just locked the front door and was halfway to my car. I don't know what caused me to go back inside and answer the phone.  If I hadn't, I would have had a very very very different life.I still have hope that I might get the rights to Monkey Island back someday. LucasArts shutting down doesn't change anything since Disney bought them back in Oct.  Maybe there will be less of an emotional attachment to it for them.  Who knows.  Not me.I'm the opposite of a Pack Rat. I don't know if there is a catchy word for that, but that's what I am. I get antsy if I can't move from [...]

Scurvy Scallywags

Mon, 18 Mar 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Here are some screen shots from Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short. It will be coming out for the iPhone and iPad in a couple of months.  I might have found a way to get xcode to build objective-c for Android, if so, we'll port it there.I've always loved match-3 games, there is something zen-like about playing them.  Seems like whenever I'm testing out a new engine or code base, I always create a quick match-3 game.A few years back, Clayton and I made a match-3 game called Realms of Gold that had a interesting way the board collapsed.In traditional match-3 games like Bejeweled, when you match three shapes they disappear and the gap is filled by pieces falling in from the top.  In Realms of Gold, the piece could come in from the sides or even the bottom depending on the type of match you did.It was fun, but it was also a little confusing.  The game was a RPG, but we were told by the publisher that no one wanted to play a match-3 RPG, so that part of the game was watered down.  Of course, a year later Puzzle Quests comes out and sells a billion copies.A little over a year ago I pulled a match-3 prototype out of the closest and started working on it.  There was something about the way the board collapsed in Realms of Gold that I really liked.  Clayton and I screwed around with it for a bit, then he hit upon a way to make the collapsing work a lot better.  Rather than the type of match you made dictating the direction the board collapsed, have the board collapse in the direction you swiped.  I made this change and it felt fantastic and very intuitive.An odd side effect of doing this was you could move pieces around the board.  So unlike Puzzle Quest - and just about every other match-3 RPG that sprang up after it - in Scurvy Scallywags you actually move your hero/pirate around the board and position her/him next to enemies to do battle.  It creates this new layer to the matching that is a lot of fun.We have close to one hundred different hats, shirts, heads, swords, etc you find and use to dress up your pirate.  There are also ten different ships to build, plus a sea shanty you collect that is sung by real life pirate singers (they work for grog, quite inexpensive).With any luck, it will be out in the next month or so.You can also follow @ScurvyGit on twitter to see my live git commit messages.[...]

Deep Inside The Cave - Part 2

Sat, 16 Mar 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Here are some behind the scenes photos taken during The Cave's early development.

Each of our design weeks would focus on one area of the game.  The first day was just to talk about overarching ideas, the character's backstory, the purpose of the area and what the main goal of the player/character was.  During that first day we'd just throw out wild ideas and see what stuck.

The next day we'd take all those crazy ideas and try to arrive on the core puzzles.  We'd also start to sketch out what the area looked like and where the puzzles might go.

On the third day we'd look at what we had and make refinements.  It was common to have most everything figure out by the end of the second day, with just one or two issues remaining.  On day three we'd resolve those and have a day four if needed.  We tried to design for only three days a week to let our minds rest (as well as get everything else done that needed doing).

This is Dave Gardner mapping out The Scientist area during one of our design meetings.


This is a shot of the whiteboard for The Miner's area during day two.


Once the area had been designed, a quick grey-box was made using Maya.  At this point we could run around using the game's engine and see how it felt.  This is a picture taken during one of our team walk-throughs of The Scientist's area.

The camera is pulled all the way out so we can see the whole thing.  You'll notice the red text that calling out objects and the locations of puzzles.  At this point, none of the logic for the puzzles is working, we're just running around.


This is a picture of the beginning of The Island with The Hillbilly.


Deep Inside The Cave - Part 1

Thu, 14 Mar 2013 00:00:00 +0000

As promised, here are some behind the scene images from designing The Cave.  J.P. LeBreton, Dave Gardner and I spent several months in a back room designing all the area and puzzles of the game.  I have to say, it was the most fun I've had designing in a long time.  J.P and Dave where amazing to work with.

This is an early layout for the Intro section.  It's much bigger than we ended up with and you will notice we had areas where players would be required to use each character's special ability.  This was also back when The CIA agent and The Mobster were still in the game.  This didn't make it past the greybox stage.  After running around, it was clear it was way too big.  We also felt requiring the training of the special abilities was not really needed.


This was an entire section that we cut.  The original game was about twice the size of what we ended up with and this was one of the sections that didn't make the cut.  It never made it out of the paper stage.


A Complete Map Of The Cave And Other News...

Mon, 11 Mar 2013 00:00:00 +0000

Now that The Cave is done and unleashed on an unsuspecting world (ok, we did do a bunch of PR, so it wasn't exactly unsuspecting), it's time for me to move on from Double Fine and plot my next move.

So many games left to be designed.

I want to thank all the amazing people at Double Fine for all their hard work on The Cave.  It was a true pleasure to work with every one of them over the past two years.  So much fun.  I will miss them all.  And of course to Tim for creating the opportunity to come there and make The Cave.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to post some behind the scenes pictures we took during the game's development and stuff like this...


That's a complete map of The Cave exported from Maya by designer J.P. LeBreton.  Bonus points if you can figure out what the pink dots are.

For the short term, Clayton Kauzlaric and I have been toiling away on another iOS side project that I'm going to focus on over the next few months.  It's called Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG.  I'll post some screen shots in the next few days.

I also have that PAX Australia keynote to write.  How did I ever let them talk me into doing that.  So much fun.  So much pain.  Maybe I'll just do a 45 minute Q and A session.

Progress Bar Porn

Wed, 06 Feb 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I try and keep this site kid safe... but...


The Cave Is Out! The Cave Is Out! The Cave Is Out!

Wed, 23 Jan 2013 00:00:00 +0000

I can't believe The Cave is out and people are actually playing it.  You thought I was joking and it was all an elaborate prank that involved making all these fake trailers and a big fake European press tour, but you were wrong.

  • Steam (Mac and PC right now, with Linux coming next week)

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...or were you.

The Cave Is Coming! The Cave Is Coming!

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 00:00:00 +0000

The Cave will be out on the 22nd on PSN and Wii U and the 23rd for XBLA and PC on Steam.  It's also coming out on the Mac and Linux!  They should just change the name of the month to Cavuary.

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More The Cave Art

Wed, 19 Dec 2012 00:00:00 +0000

If you missed the carnival this summer, all is not lost...


The New The Cave The Trailer

Fri, 30 Nov 2012 00:00:00 +0000

I knew The Twins were going to be trouble.  I should have cut them.

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The Big Big Castle!

Mon, 09 Jul 2012 00:00:00 +0000

(image) Sometimes it feels like Clayton Kauzlaric and I have a game-making addiction problem.  We both have day jobs where we sit around all day long and make games for money, but then we go home and make games for free.   If God didn't want us to make games he shouldn't have made it so much damn fun.

Over the past few years we've made around ten iOS games in our spare time.  We'd work on one for a month and then some new idea would hit us and we're on to that.  ADD game designers.  The Big Big Castle! is the second one we've actually gotten around to finishing.  The first was a word game called Word Spiral.  Both are for the iPad.

The Big Big Castle! stared out because I wanted to play around with Box2D, then Clayton brought up this idea he's had for the last 10 years about building stuff and watching it fall down, so we started working on that.  Clayton's nine year old son said he'd like to blow up the castles he'd just built, so we added that, then we thought it would be fun if you could destroy castles your friends had built, so we added that.

The Big Big Castle! is the result of a few months of spare time on the weekends.  It's just a fun little game.  A labor of love we thought we'd share.

It's FREE so what have you got to lose.  If you feel guilty about pirating Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, DeathSpank or Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo, buy a coin pack and we'll call it even.

The Color of Money

Sun, 01 Jul 2012 00:00:00 +0000

I watched The Color of Money last night.  Two things struck me about the film:  1) Holy crap is Tom Cruise young and 2) I really wish Paul Newman wasn't dead.

I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know Martin Scorsese directed it.  He's one of my all-time favorite directors and I keep thinking I've seen every movie he's done, and then some movie pops up with his name on it.

The reason I watched The Color of Money was I had just seen The Hustler.


The scene with "Fast" Eddie playing Fats is simply amazing.  It's goes on and on and you're feeling the exhaustion Eddie must feel.  Then Jackie Gleason gets up, goes into the restroom, freshens up, puts his coat back on and comes out for more.  A new man.  My heart sank with Eddie's.

It's hard to imagine a scene that long in a modern film.  Movie audiences need things to go go go.  It feels like we've lost the ability to sit back and enjoy something that slowly unfolds.  Really slowly unfolds.  Sometimes that's important.  A few quick cuts and we could have been told "Fast" Eddie was tried, but we needed to feel it with him.

People said Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a slow movie in the mold of 70's thrillers.  True, it was slow by today's standards, but still felt like it moved along.  Try going back and watching The French Connection.  That's a slow movie, but it doesn't suffer one bit as a result.

Adventure games are slow affairs.  I worry few modern gamers have the patience for them anymore.  Today, if someone spends more than 5 minutes trying to figure a puzzle out, they wonder where the pop-up hint is?  They become anxious.  Go go go.  Good puzzles are meant to be chewed on for a while.  Thought about.  Mulled over.  Put aside.  Then spontaneously come rushing back as our subconscious figures it out.

A good adventure puzzle never leaves you wondering what to do, only how to do it.

The Cave

Wed, 23 May 2012 00:00:00 +0000

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Rock, Paper Shotgun


The Verge


Giant Bomb

International House of Mojo

Ars Technica

Joystiq (No, I didn't do all the programming, that was done by the much-better-than-I-am Double Fine programmers)

PC World

Pig Mag


Der Standard

Inside Gaming Daily



SEGA Portal

Gamers Global

Gaming Blend

Inside Gaming Daily

Let me know if I've missed any.

What My Father Meant To Me

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 00:00:00 +0000

My father passed away in Feb 2012.  He suffered a massive stroke a year and a half before and after a few months of optimism on our part, he started a slow and fateful decline, so his passing was not unexpected.

This is how I will always remember my relationship with my dad.


The two of us sitting around doing something nerdy involving computers or electronics.  He taught me to program and fueled that passion as often as he could.  We owned a home computer before the Apple II existed and even before most people knew a computer could fit in someone's house.

He had a Ph.D in Astrophysics and it's hard to describe how wonderful it was growing up with a father who could answer absolutely any question I had about spaceships, rockets, planets, stars, galaxies, quasars, black holes, asteroids, the sun or the moon.  I could point into the night sky and ask "what's that?" and he could tell me after only a moment's hesitation.

I am who I am today because of him.  Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, Putt-Putt or Pajama Sam would not exist if not for him and the way he taught me to think and devour learning new things.  He taught me to love to read, appreciate art and to always question my own beliefs and to be curious and inquisitiveness.

I'm sad he is gone and will miss him terribly, but I will forever be grateful for what he left me.  Our life on this earth is not only what we did, but what we left behind for others.

David Gilbert
Avid fisherman (ok, never understood this one)
Ham operator (ke7gi)
Best. Dad. Ever.

1939 - 2012

More Concept Art

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 00:00:00 +0000

Well, I think it's "time" to "leak" some more concept "art" for the amazing game I've been working on at Double Fine for the past 9 months.

After posting the previous concept art of The Scientist and The Mobster, I started reading all the adventure game forums and other gaming sites and I noticed a common reaction along the lines of "Hey Ron, those are great and all, but what we really want to know is if the game will have an old carnival ticket booth and a ceiling mounted laser cannon!"

Well, I'm happy to officially confirm that the game has both an old carnival ticket booth and a ceiling mounted laser cannon in it.  I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but one of them is going to hurt like hell.


What is an Adventure Game?

Sun, 22 Jan 2012 00:00:00 +0000

What makes an Adventure Game an Adventure Game?

Is Limbo an Adventure Game or just a puzzle game?  Some people called L.A. Noir an Adventure Game but it lacks some of the basic components of an Adventure Game.  Or does it?

Why do we call them Adventure Games?  If you faithfully made Monkey Island into a movie, I doubt it would be called an Adventure Movie or even an Action/Adventure Movie.

I guess we call Adventure Games Adventure Games because the first one was call Adventure.  I see no other reason they are called Adventure Games.

Semantics aside, what makes an Adventure Game an Adventure Game?

Inventory?  Pointing?  Clicking?  Story?  Low Sales?

Certainly not Adventuring.


First Concept Art

Mon, 28 Nov 2011 00:00:00 +0000

Here are a couple of fine pieces of concept art from the game I'm making with the amazing folks at Double Fine.  I'm so excited.  This is an idea that has been in my head for a long long long time.  It predates Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island.  It's a game that needed to be made.

These are two of the playable characters.  That's all I can say right now, but more will follow later.

*UPDATE:* I just want to clarify, these are not from the kickstarter adventure game, these are from the game that is the real reason I'm at Double Fine.

*UPDATE 2:* The Mobster was cut from the game a while ago.  It's why it's called concept art.


Meeting Steve Jobs

Thu, 06 Oct 2011 00:00:00 +0000

Several years ago I had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting Steve Jobs.

I had a meeting at Pixar and I heard that Steve Jobs might be there.  First thing I did was ask a good friend of mine that knew Steve Jobs what he was like and was there any advice she could give me.

She said that Steve Jobs is an incredibly intelligent and passionate person and the one piece of advice she had for me was: don't argue with Steve Jobs and everything will go fine.  Argue with Steve Jobs?  He's probably one of the smartest people in the whole world and someone I have unequalled respect for, why would I ever argue with him?

I arrived at the meeting and went into the conference room. John Lasseter was there (who I casually knew from when Pixar was part of Lucasfilm) and we chit-chatted.

A few minutes later Steve Jobs came in.  He sat right across the table from me and the first words out of his mouth where: "I don't believe you can tell stories in games."


Steve Jobs could have told me the sky was green, he could have told me that dogs gave birth to cats, he could have said just about anything and I would have nodded thoughtfully and probably been totally convinced, but he had to say the one thing in all of creation that I could not let go.

I spent the next hour arguing with Steve Jobs.

My advice to God: Don't argue with Steve Jobs.

Goodbye Mr. Jobs, you really did change the world and we will miss you.

The Vertical Slice

Sat, 09 Jul 2011 00:00:00 +0000

The vertical slice is one of the dumbest things the game industry has ever come up with.  I threw this together to show how dumb it is.  Not sure why I was thinking about it today, but I was.  The publisher I'm working with now doesn't want a vertical slice, some don't, but there are quite a few that do.


It's just a dumb way to build a game and it results in wasted time and money and doesn't produce the best game possible.

A publisher handing a developer a big chunk of money to make a game should mean a carefully planned preproduction, and if it's risky from a game play or tech stand point, absolutely build a prototype (not just for them, but for you as well), but doing a vertical slice is just kowtowing to the uncreative.

We work in a creative industry, I expect the 'execs' to understand that creativity.  Given that they are the ones getting stinking rich off of all our hard work, shouldn't we expect that from them?

What if movie studios required vertical slices of movies.  It just doesn't work.

Vertical slices might work in a medium where you start at the beginning and grind though in a fairly linear fashion and what comes out is 90% complete.  Maybe writing a novel works this way, but making movies and games do not.  They are an iterative processes.  You build foundations and the build up from there.

Da Vinci didn't paint the Mona Lisa one strip at a time, he slowly built it up from sketch to finished painting.  That's the way games should be built.

The Making of Maniac Mansion

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 00:00:00 +0000


The fine folks at Game Forum Germany have been trying to get me to speak there for the past three years, but something has always come up and prevented me from attending, but this year I vowed to go.  This year was going to be different.

I've only been to Germany once before and most of that three days was spent at a hotel attached to the Munich airport doing PR for Total Annihilation.  Our hosts did take us into town for dinner one night where we ate at an Italian restaurant.  I feel a proper trip to Germany is due and I expect to see lederhosen and lots of them.

I was told I could talk about anything I wanted, which always presents itself as a dilemma.  The easy thing to talk about is Monkey Island.  Everyone loves to hear about Monkey Island.  The next easiest thing would be to talk about DeathSpank since it's shiny and new and I get a lot of email asking me about the game, but in the end I decided to give a talk about the making of Maniac Mansion.

Maniac Mansion is a game that is close to 25 years old and started the whole point-and-click adventure genera in addition to coining the term 'cut-scene' used throughout the civilized world.  Maniac Mansion is a game filed with dead ends, backwards puzzles and no-win situations.  Maniac Mansion is a flawed game, but that's what makes it so interesting.  Gary and I had no idea what we were doing when we started making Maniac Mansion; we didn't even know it was going to be an adventure game.

Despite all it's problems, it's a game that is loved by countless gamers and it holds a very special place in my heart.  All the lessons learned from making Maniac Mansion can be seen in the design for Monkey Island.  Without one, there would not be the other.

During my research for the talk, I came across an amazing amount of fan art for Maniac Mansion including the wonderful Lego Minifigs seen above.

I'm incredibly excited to be giving this talk and finally seeing Germany and getting a window seat on the way there and back.  I'm going to keep the window shade open the whole fight.  If I can't sleep on a plane, no one else is going to either.

Monkey Island 2 Bug Report

Tue, 16 Nov 2010 16:08:00 +0000

While cleaning out my bookcase a few weeks ago, I ran across a large and mysterious black three ring binder that contained a brittle and water stained printout of the entire Monkey Island 2 bug report.  I have no idea why I had it or why I kept it.

Granted, it's not quite as impressive as Steve Purcell's Monkey Island concept art, but hey...quit your bitching.


Several hundred pages later...


Game Designer+Artist or Game Designer+Programmer

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 00:00:00 +0000

I'll be honest, I used the + signs in the title because I know they screw up some RSS feed readers and I'm just that kind of person.  My next post will have lots of & and ? symbols and then we'll move into utf-32.  The Internet is a house of cards ready to come down with one seldom used Chinese character.But onward we march, content in our ignorance...So, my question is: would you rather be a game designer that is also an artist, or a game designer that is also a programmer?For the sake of this brain twisting exercise, let's assume that you can't be a game designer+artist+programmer, because that combination just goes against god.  And also, for the sake of argument (and because I like to argue), let's assume if you're an artist or programmer, you have no talent in the other profession, and by no talent I really mean no talent.I ask this questions because I fall into the second category.  I started programming back when disco was cool.  I started with Basic on a CP/M machine, then moved to Pascal before discovering Z80 assembly language.  I had always heard assembly language was fast, but I was not prepared for the shear speed of it over Basic.  Running my first assembly language program was a religious experience.  My eyes stared wide at the screen as it filled with the @ character in what seemed to be instant.  I literally said "oh my god" and that was the beginning of my 25 year death march known as the game's industry.I learned C and C++ while working at Lucasfilm to build the SCUMM compiler and later when the SCUMM engine moved to the PC from the Commodore 64 and I have continued to program every day since, recently learning objective-c as I dabble in some iPhone games in my spare time (objective-c is very cool, it took three days of swearing before it clicked).But the problem is I have no art talent.  None.  Absolutely zero.  When I try and do art, it destroys nearby things that might also be art.  I'm like art anti-matter.  When my art comes in contract with real art, they annihilate each other.  It's hard to tell if my prototypes are any fun because people are always shielding their eyes and gasping when they see my art.  Even my stick figures look crappy.  I know some programmers that draw crappy art that looks cool because it's so crappy.  My art is just crappy.  Clayton Kauzlaric did all the art on Grumpy Gamer, mostly out of pity, I assume.Some examples of my art[...]

The Tale of the Scurvy Raider

Wed, 05 Aug 2009 00:00:00 +0000

Aye, arg, gar! Pull up a peg leg and have a seat, for me be tell'n the tale o' the Scurvy Raider, the finest pirate ship t' sail the sea.   Lost one dark and stormy eve, near eighteen years ago, all her crew feared dead or worse.  Arrr, but this tale be not ha'in' a sad endin', for the Scurvy Raider has returned t' port with a mighty tale t' tell. The tale o' a dark and stormy eve near eighteen years ago.

OK, you know what?  Typing Pirate is hard.

Back when I was working at Lucasfilm, I used to have a giant Lego pirate ship.  It sat across from my desk on this low end table and when the nights would grow long and the work day became tiring I would look over at the Scruvy Raider and it would remind me of what we were building; it would remind me of the soul of this game called Monkey Island.

When I left Lucasfilm the Lego pirate ship mysteriously disappeared.  I remember cleaning out my office and saying my goodbyes then noticing the Lego pirate ship was gone.  I asked around but no one knew what happened to it.  It was simply gone, lost at sea, never to be seen again...


A few days ago when a giant package arrive at my door step.  I carefully opened it to find this inside:


Attached to it was a note scribbled on LucasArts stationary that simply said "We found your pirate ship".

Thanks Guys!!!

The Scurvy Raider II has come home, sailing into port for a reunion that onlookers called teary-eyed and joyful.  It will once again become a beacon of light into the soul of what we are making.

Stuff and Things and Monkey Island

Mon, 01 Jun 2009 00:00:00 +0000

I'm pretty good at keeping secrets.  I'm so good at it people actually send me death threats.  If you have a secret, you can tell me.  I won't tell anyone.  Go ahead.  I'm listening.Over the past few months, I've been the vessel for a couple of very exciting secrets and it's been really hard to not give someone the nudge-nudge-wink-wink-don't-tell-anyone, but I couldn't.  Not these.The first is the re-release of The Secret of Monkey Island.  Several months ago I was invited to LucasArts to get a sneak preview.  Very cool.Hopefully this will open up the pure pleasure that is Monkey Island to a whole new generation of gamer that  knows only how to use a console controller.The second secret is that TellTale is doing an episodic version of Monkey Island.  I had the great pleasure of spending a few days with Dave Grossman, Mike Stemmle and the rest of the TellTale crew getting my head into Guybrush Threepwood again.I am very exited for both of these games.  It's strange and humbling to see something you created 20 years ago take on a life of it's own.This next year is going to be very interesting.  Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer all have games coming out.  Someone check the scriptures.  Might be a good time to start hoarding canned goods.About a year and a little more ago, as I began designing the uber-awesome DeathSpank, I played all the way through The Secret of Monkey Island to refresh myself on the puzzles and dialog.I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but I don't spend my evenings playing through Monkey Island.  It's probably been 15 years since I sat down and really played it.Much like the experience of watching the Maniac Mansion Speed Run, it bought back a lot of memories and little tid-bits of facts, so I started keeping notes and in celebration of all things Monkey Island, I thought I'd share them.Before we begin, a couple of points:1) Some of this I've written about before, so I apologize if I'm wasting your time.2) I was playing the VGA version that was released after the original EGA version.  The original original version used 16 colors and the inventory was text only.3) These are only "some-what" in order.4) You may disagree with me on some of these, and that's perfectly OK.  My life is forever intertwined with this game and some of these are more reflective than anything else.5) It's been almost 20 years.&nbs[...]

Studs Terkel Passes Away

Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 +0000

I have to admit I only tangentially knew who Studs Terkel was, but the first time I ever heard of him, I remember thinking: "Damn, I wish my parents had named me Studs Terkel".

What a great name.

20 Years of SCUMM

Fri, 27 Apr 2007 00:00:00 +0000

It seems like only yesterday that I was cranking out 6502 code slowly building up what would become the SCUMM System.  OK...that's a really does feel like 20 years ago.

IGN has a quick interview with me helping to commemorate 20 years of a development system that no focus group in the world would have liked the name.

Gilligan Is On The Roof

Wed, 07 Sep 2005 00:00:00 +0000


Bob Denver, the actor who played Gilligan on the 60's TV show has died.

A secret desire of mine has been to make the Gilligan's Island movie.  Not as a comedy, but as a serious drama exploring the dark and twisted reality of what would happen if those seven people were stranded on that island.  In my version Gilligan would have been the last alive and the most diabolically insane.

If there are any studio's interested, I'm taking meetings.

Failing at your Entertainment

Fri, 20 May 2005 00:00:00 +0000

With the oh-my-fucking-god-circle-jerk-boy-mass reporting of E3 in full swing, it nice to see a few articles come out that question the direction of the industry, especially ones I am quoted in.From the article:"When you spend all day at work, the last thing you want to do is go home and become frustrated by video games," Gilbert said. "There is a gigantic group of people who want easy-to-play games."The article goes on with:"Midway Games Inc. Chief Executive David Zucker said the company's core audience - males between 18 to 34 years old - has a more mature sense of fun that involves complexity and full immersion."But...isn't that the problem?This industry is too focused on males from 18 to 34 and everything is made to satisfy them and - in my option - to the exclusion of a much larger audience.  Also, don't be a statistics goof and confuse "most game players are 18 to 34 males" with "most 18 to 34 males are game players".   In the lower end of that range, I can believe that, but as people (even males) get older they stop playing games.  They outgrow them because all that's offered is high-testosterone head-banging, and if the floor of E3 isn't testimony to that, I don't know what is.I have no doubt, like the current movie business, much of the money we make comes from that demographic, but like the movie business, we need more diversity.  Right now it feels like we are just in the spiral of a hardcore-gamer feedback loop.  They are spending a lot of money, so they are getting all the attention, yet the masses sit just outside the playground, quietly holding their credit cards asking "Is there anything I can play?", only to be screamed at by the anonymous raging hardcore gamer "Shut the Fuck up if you don't like Halo 2".So what do they do?  They move to web games like Bejeweled and play them by the millions, but they want more than that, and they'll pay for it if anyone would listen.P.S.My actual quote was: "Most adults spend all day failing at the office, the last thing they want to do is come home and fail at their entertainment".  But it's probably better cleaned up a little...[...]

World! Of! Warcraft!

Tue, 15 Feb 2005 00:00:00 +0000

I am not a big player of MMORPMMGOMMGS, the last one I spent any time on being Ultima Online when it first came out, plus a few hours on EverQuest, so I might be impressed by things that are old-hat...In the interest of brevity and for all the executives and marketing people that read the Grumpy Gamer, I figured I'd just bullet point my feedback.I am awestruck by the scope of the world.  It is huge and feels huge.  The world is so visually tasty and really seems to be designed as a real world, not just a vehicle for quests.  After several days of questing, I made it to the coast, the sun was setting and I just stared out into the sea, letting my mind wonder, just like I do at the real Ocean.  Several other players were doing the same.  That is a real achievement.I find it amusing that when you loot a corpse while grouped, a "roll a dice" interface comes up to see who gets the booty.  It's an interesting holdover from the D&D days.  Why dice?  Why not paper-scissor-rock.  That's why I would do.  Of course, one of my dreams has been to make the worlds first Massively Multiplayer Paper Scissor Rocks game (MMPSRG).  I actually wrote a whole design for it.I really enjoy (and am impressed by) the art style and art direction.  I've always like the Warcraft world because it has a nice hint of cartoomieness (not a real word).   They translated this into a pure 3D environment perfectly.Why aren't other players more friendly?  It's not that people are rude, it's just that nobody is very chatty.  I've tried to strike up conversations with several other people and am ignored or greeted with a simple "hi", follow by a dash down the road.   Other than the people in my group, everyone else might as well be NPC's.I would like to see an option for "word balloons" above peoples heads when they speak.  I don't pay much attention to the chat area in the lower left.  This might help with the social aspect of chatting.The in-game maps stink.  The close-up ones are OK, but when you zoom out, there is no context.  You are really forced to hunt down better maps on the internet.I'd like to be able to mouse over buildings to see what they are.  I hate wandering into town and [...]

The Twelve Days of Crunch Time

Sat, 25 Dec 2004 00:00:00 +0000

The Twelve Days of Crunch Time

A poem by Gilbert and Kauzlaric

On the twelfth day of crunch time,My project gave to me...


Twelve cents in royalties,


Eleven kiss-ass previews,


Ten nerdy testers,


Nine patent lawsuits,


Eight unplanned for features,


Seven frames a second,


Six angry spouses,


Five focus groups!


Four unstable hacks,


Three days without sleep,


Two surly artists,


and a crappy publishing deal.

The Economics of a 2D Adventure Today

Tue, 19 Oct 2004 00:00:00 +0000

Note: I wrote this in 2004. In the days before Steam and Kickstarter, but most of it is still applicable.Someone recently submitted a question asking what it would take to build a classic 2D point-n-click adventure today and would it be a viable business?  The internet is filled with classic adventure fan sites centered around the LucasArts and Sierra games and a common thread is always how much people would like to see new ones being made, and why isn't it being done.These are interesting questions that I've ponder a lot in the last year, but never really looked into it in any detail.Now, before I launch into this long stream-of-consciousness, there are a couple of important things to understand.  First, this is only a thought experiment.  This is not something I am planning on doing, or even have a huge interest in doing, so please don't feed the rumor mills.  Second, this article contains gory and gruesome details about the games business and, in particular, marketing and distribution.  If you'd rather remain blissfully oblivious to the horrors of what goes on behind the scenes, this is the place to stop reading.  If you're one of those people that can't help but stare at a car accident, read on.For this exercise, I am going to make a few assumptions.Assumptions1) We're building a classic 2D point-n-click adventure game.Building the game in 3D is a much more costly endeavor that brings with it a whole slew of complications which I won't get in to in this article.  The goal here is a class point-n-click adventure.2) We're hiring real employees to build the game.Clearly, the game could be done cheaper with hobbyists or people passionate enough about the genre to work for free or below cost, for back-end, or with a trust-fund baby on staff, but the goal in putting together this plan is to explore it as real business, and our business model is a little screwed if we count on people working for free.  Also, given that deadlines will become important, it's necessary to have everyone's full attention and nothing says that better then a paycheck, except maybe a cattle-prod, but that might be illegal.  I'd have to check.It's also important to hire the best people possible.  This is not a diss to the hobbyist market, there are some very talen[...]

On Stranger Tides

Mon, 20 Sep 2004 00:00:00 +0000

I was sorting through some boxes today and I came across my copy of Tim Power's On Stranger Tides, which I read in the late 80's and was the inspiration for Monkey Island.  Some people believe the inspiration for Monkey Island came from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride - probably because I said it several times during interviews - but that was really just for the ambiance.  If you read this book you can really see where Guybrush and LeChuck were -plagiarized- derived from, plus the heavy influence of voodoo in the game.When I am in the early stages of designing, I'll read a lot of books, listen to a lot of music and watch a lot of movies.  I'll pick up little ideas here and there.  We in the business call it 'stealing'.This book really got me interested in pirates as a theme.  Fantasy was all the rage back then and I wasn't keen on doing another D&Dish game, but pirates had a lot of what made fantasy interesting without being fantasy.After some early failed starts, I shelved the idea and began work on the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game.  When it was finished I went back to work on Monkey Island and re-thought much of the design and story.  Although 're-thought' is a strong word since I didn't have much to begin with.The bulk of the motivation for Guybrush's character being so naive stemmed from wanting him to know as little about the world as the player.  One huge problem adventure games had/have - Police Quest being the most frustrating example for me back then - was the character was supposed to know all this information that the player didn't.  I hated playing games like Police Quest where I get fired for not signing out my gun (or such and such craziness), when I was supposed to be a cop.  I should know that stuff?  Shouldn't I?I figured if Guybrush didn't know anything, then the player wouldn't be frustrated when they didn't know how to do basic pirate tasks.  Which was the whole genesis for the opening line:"Hi, my name is Guybrush Threepwood and I want to be a pirate"It told the player that Guybrush didn't know any more then they did, and they were going to learn together.The recently played Hitman had this problem.  I am supposed to be th[...]

Why Adventure Games Suck

Thu, 13 May 2004 00:00:00 +0000

I wrote this back in 1989 while I was designing Monkey Island.  It is now the futuristic year of 2004 and we are all driving around in flying cars and wearing sliver jumps suits.  A lot has changed for Adventure Games as well, but unfortunately not in the right direction.Adventure Games are officially dead.  I think this article from Old Man Murray (written in 2002) sums it up pretty well.  Make sure you read the whole thing, it starts out slow, but his conclusion could not be more true.Some people will tell you that Adventure Games aren't really dead, they have just morphed into other forms, or that other genres have absorbed Adventure Games.  If this is true, they've done a pretty bad job of it.I wrote this article to help fellow Adventure Games designers back in 1989, but the RPG, FPS and RTS designers of 2004 could use a little of the self-proclaimed wisdom of the past.As I read this some 15 years later, I'm not sure I agree with everything in here anymore.  I learned a lot from Monkey Island 1 and 2, plus countless kids Adventure Games at Humongous Entertainment.  At some point in the near future, I will do an annotated version of this article, talking about things that have changed, or were just plains wrong.  But in the meantime, there is something interesting on TV right now.I would also like to thank David Fox for passively-aggressively forcing me to post this.Why Adventure Games Suck And What We Can Do About ItCopyright 1989, Ron GilbertOf all the different types of games, the ones I most enjoy playing are adventure/story games.  It is no surprise that this is also the genre for which I design.  I enjoy games in which the pace is slow and the reward is for thinking and figuring, rather than quick reflexes.  The element that brings adventure games to life for me is the stories around which they are woven.  When done right, it is a form of storytelling that can be engrossing in a way that only interaction can bring.  The key here is "done right", which it seldom is.One of my pet peeves is the recent trend to call story games "Interactive Movies."  They are interactive, but they are not movies.  The fact th[...]


Thu, 01 Jan 2004 00:00:00 +0000

It's always hard to write your own about pages. I should have my mom do it, she always has nice things to say about me.

I started making games because I loved to program and I loved to tell stories and the two seemed to intersected nicely.

I wrote a program for the Commodore 64 (greatest computer ever made) called GraphicsBASIC that extended the rather boring built-in Basic that include commands to gain access to the graphics and sound.

In 1985 I got a job working at Lucasfilm Games (now called LucasArts) porting Koronis Rift and Ballblazer from the Atari 400/800 to the Commodore 64.

In 1986 Garry Winnick and I created and designed Maniac Mansion.

During it's production I developed the SCUMM System (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion).

I co-designed the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade adventure game with Noah Falstein and David Fox.

I am also the creator and designer of The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge.  A game about a pirate.

I am the co-founder of Humongous Entertainment where we made some amazing adventure games for kids like Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish and Pajama Sam.

I was the producer of Total Annihilation.

I co-created DeathSpank with Clayton Kauzlaric and was the designer of the first two DeathSpank games.

I worked at Double Fine for a bit making a game I've had rolling around in my head for close to 25 years called The Cave.

I released Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG (or SSITVTDTUSS:AMMTPRPG for short) for iOS and Android.

I just finished a new point & click adventure game called Thimbleweed Park.