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Preview: Grumpy Gamer

Grumpy Gamer

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

Last Build Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2017 18:24:56 -0700


Wow! It Is That Time Again

Sat, 01 Apr 2017 18:10:00 -0700

What is bound to become the longest running gag on the internet, it's time to once again let everyone know that April Fools' Day is stupid.  Although, having April Fools' Day fall on a Saturday seems to keep the stupid to a lower level, or maybe everyone is realizing you and I any sane person knows.

And to show I truly have no shame, I'm going to use this unholy day to "hock my wears".

Thimbleweed Park, the project that has consumed my life for the past two years, and is the reason that the last post I did was exactly one year ago, has shipped.

Please go buy it on Steam or GOG or Xbox.  Please. No, serious, go buy it.

And here are some GIFs to prove how awesome it is.

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P.S. April Fools' Day stinks.

Hey, guess what day it is...

Fri, 01 Apr 2016 06:45:00 -0700

That rights, it's the day the entire Internet magically thinks it's funny.

Pro-tip: You're not.

As Grumpy Gamer has been for going on twelve years, we're 100% April Fools' Day joke free.

I realize that's kind of ironic to say, since this blog is pretty-much everything free these days as I'm spending all my time blogging about Thimbleweed Park, the new point & click adventure game I'm working on.

And no, that is not a joke, check it out.

Happy Birthday Monkey Island

Wed, 02 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0700

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 month after Monkey Island I went [...]

Once Again...

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 00:00:00 -0700

In what's become a global internet tradition that will be passed down for generations to come...

Grumpy Gamer is 100% April Fools' joke free because April Fools' Day is a stupid fucking tradition.  There.  I said what everyone is thinking.

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Thimbleweed Park Dev Blog

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:10:00 -0800

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 -0800

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.

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Thimbleweed Park Development Diary

Thu, 01 Jan 2015 15:40:00 -0800

The Thimbleweed Park Development Diary is now live. Updated at least every Monday, probably much more.

Happy Holidays

Wed, 24 Dec 2014 12:54:00 -0800



Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:40:00 -0800

Thimbleweed Park was funded with all stretch goals met, from translations to iOS and Android versions. We can't even begin to thank everyone for all the support and backing.


You can read the backer update here.

Gary and I are going to take a break during the holidays, then we'll start working full time on the Jan 2nd.

There will be a dev blog on where we'll talk about the game's development. Our goal is to post at least once a week going over art, puzzles, characters, design and code.

Once everything has cleared, I'm going to do a detailed blog post about the ups, downs and surprises of running a Kickstarter.

Final Hours!

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:08:00 -0800


[Join us on Kickstarter]


Sun, 14 Dec 2014 10:31:00 -0800


Really excited we made the Talkies stretch goal. Knowing that an actor is going to read lines you wrote is always exciting.

To answer some questions a few backers (or potential backers) have asked...

Yes, you will be able to turn the talkies off and just read the text.  Yes, you will be able to display the text on screen and listen to the talkies, or not display the text and just listen to the talkies.  And, yes, you will be able to skip each line if you like hearing the voice, but read really fast.  Back in the SCUMM days, the '.' key would end the current line and I plan on implementing that in Thimbleweed Park.  It will cut off the audio, but that's OK because the player is doing it.

Thanks so much for everyone's support and belief in this project. It's going to be a really fun year! Gary and I can't wait to start up the dev blog and start talking about the game.

Talkies First

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:22:00 -0800

We’re going to swap the Talkies™ and the iOS/Android stretch goals and here is our logic…


We've heard from a lot of our backers through the comments, private messages and emails who want full voice in Thimbleweed Park. It might be a vocal minority, but it’s a lot more than just a few people. Gary and I also want to do full voice. I love hearing characters come to life though a great actor, it makes the game a lot more accessible, and it’s just a lot of fun to do.

The other reason is that distributing mobile versions to backers is way more complicated than PC/Mac/Linux, so we’re stuck in this situation where backers might need to buy the mobile versions and that’s a little awkward. Plus mobile ports are something we can potentially fund later if we don't hit the stretch goal, but voices need to be done as part of the initial development.

So, for these reasons, we’re going to swap the stretch goals to put talkies first and the mobile ports second. Of course we could still make both goals, and I hope we do! But if we don't... well, it feels like our backers would rather have talkies.

We hope this doesn’t create too much confusion. We wanted to give you some insight into our thought process. Gary and I like to think stuff through and not be impulsive. We might be a little slow, but we try to be very steady and reliable and in the end that's why we'll hopefully make a great game that we all love.

This doesn't mean we won't have iOS/Android ports.  I do most of my gaming on mobile and it they are really important, but it felt like the Talkies™ should be integrated into the main development, plus mobile players will get to enjoy them as well.

If you haven't already, please join us on Kickstarter!

Congratulation to Ken and Roberta!

Sat, 06 Dec 2014 10:28:00 -0800

Congratulation to Ken and Roberta for their Industry Icon Award. Well deserved.

Over the years, I’ve given Sierra a lot of crap, but the honest fact is that without King's Quest, there would be no Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island. It really did set the template that we all followed.


I’ve told this story before, but you’re going to listen to it again…

A few months into Maniac Mansion, Gary and I had a bunch of fun ideas, some characters, and a creepy old mansion, but what we didn’t have was a game. There was nothing to hang any of our ideas on top of.

I was feeling a little lost. “There is no game”, I kept saying.

We had our christmas break and I went down to visit my Aunt and Uncle. My eight year old cousin was playing King's Quest I. I’d never seen the game before and I watched him for hours.  Everything Gary and I had been talking about suddenly made sense.  Maniac Mansion should be an adventure game.

Without King's Quest, I don’t know if that leap would have happened. No matter how innovative and new something is, it's always built on something else. Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island are built on King's Quest.

We always had a fun rivalry with Sierra and they always made us try harder and be better.

Thank you Ken and Roberta and everyone else at Sierra.

Maniac Mansion Used a Joystick

Wed, 03 Dec 2014 12:23:00 -0800

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.

Translations Achieved!

Sun, 30 Nov 2014 13:21:00 -0800


Stretch Goals

Sat, 22 Nov 2014 14:26:00 -0800

We just announced stretch goals for Thimbleweed Park.

"What the hell is Thimbleweed Park?", I can hear you asking.

It's a Kickstarter for Gary Winnick and my all new classic point & click adventure game.

Now I hear you saying "What the hell are stretch goals?"

Look, there is way too much to explain, just roll with it and go back Thimbleweed Park.


Please Join Us On Kickstarter

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 07:24:00 -0800

I'm going to keep this short.

Several months ago, Gary Winnick and I were sitting around talking about Maniac Mansion, old-school point & click adventures, how much fun we had making them and how amazing it was to be at Lucasfilm Games during that era.  We chatted about the charm, simplicity and innocence of the classic graphic adventure games.

We had to call them "Graphic Adventures" because text adventures were still extremely popular. It was a time of innovation and taking risks.

"Wouldn't it be fun to make one of those again?", Gary said.

"Yeah", I replied as a small tear forming in the corner of my eye*.

A few seconds later I said "Let's do a Kickstarter!".

After a long pause, Gary said  "OK".

We immediately started building the world and the story, layering in the backbone puzzles and forming characters around them.  From the beginning, we knew we wanted to make something that was a satire of Twin Peaks, X-Files and True Detective.  It was ripe with flavor and plenty of things to poke fun at.

So we're doing an Kickstarter for an all new classic point & click adventure game called "Thimbleweed Park". It will be like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered Lucasfilm graphic adventure game you’ve never played before. Good times for all.

Please join us on Kickstarter!


* The small tear in Ron's eye was added by the author for dramatic effect. No tear actually formed.


Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:02:00 -0800



Sun, 16 Nov 2014 13:41:00 -0800



Fri, 14 Nov 2014 15:13:00 -0800



Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:27:00 -0800



Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:23:00 -0800


Blah Blah Blah

Sat, 18 Oct 2014 09:59:00 -0700


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 -0700


Puzzle Dependency Charts

Sun, 10 Aug 2014 10:03:00 -0700

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-diam[...]

SCUMM Notes From The C64

Wed, 06 Aug 2014 14:52:00 -0700

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

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

2D Point and Click Engine Recommendations

Sun, 03 Aug 2014 13:24:00 -0700


I’m looking for some good recommendations on modern 2D point-and-click adventure game engines. These should be complete engines, not just advice to use Lua or Pascal (it’s making a comeback). I want to look at the whole engine, not just the scripting language.  PC based is required. Mobile is a ok. HTML5 is not necessary. Screw JavaScript. Screw Lua too, but not as hard as JavaScript.

I’m not so much interested in using them, as I’d just like to dissect and deconstruct what the state of the art is today.

P.S. I don’t know why I hate Lua so much. I haven’t really used it other than hacking WoW UI mods, but there is something about the syntax that makes it feel like fingernails on a chalkboard.

P.P.S It's wonderful that "modern 2d point-and-click" isn't an oxymoron anymore.

P.P.P.S Big bonus points if you've actually used the engine. I do know how to use Google.

P.P.P.P.S I want engines that are made for adventure games, not general purpose game engines.

Best. Ending. Ever.

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 09:50:00 -0700

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.


Maniac Mansion Design Doc

Mon, 21 Jul 2014 08:08:00 -0700

Even more crap from my Seattle storage unit!

Here is the original pitch document Gary and I used for Maniac Mansion. Gary had done some quick concepts, but we didn't have a real design, screen shots or any code. This was before I realized coding the whole game in 6502 was nuts and began working on the SCUMM system.

There was no official pitch process or "green lighting" at Lucasfilm Games. The main purpose of this document would have been to pass around to the other members of the games group and get feedback and build excitement.

I don't remember a point where the game was "OK'd".  It felt that Gary and I just started working on it and assumed we could.  It was just the two of us for a long time, so it's not like we were using up company resources.  Eventually David Fox would come on to help with SCUMM scripting.

Three people. The way games were meant to be made.

If this document (and the Monkey Island Design Notes) say anything, it's how much ideas change from initial concept to finished game. And that's a good thing. Never be afraid to change your ideas. Refine and edit. If your finished game looks just like your initial idea, then you haven't pushed and challenged yourself hard enough.

It's all part of the creative process. Creativity is a messy process. It wants to be messy and it needs to be messy.

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Monkey Poster

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:48:00 -0700

More crap from my storage unit.


Print your own today!

Maniac Mansion Design Notes

Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:50:00 -0700

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 14:08:00 -0700

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.[...]

Commodore 64

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:05:00 -0700

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Monkey Bucks

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:11:00 -0700

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Booty From My Seattle Storage Space!

Thu, 10 Jul 2014 16:48:00 -0700


Who Are These Pirates?

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:48:13 -0700


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 17:00:00 -0700

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[...]

Monkey Island Design Notebook Scribblings

Mon, 07 Apr 2014 08:34:15 -0700

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!


April Fool's Day is Stupid!

Mon, 31 Mar 2014 17:00:00 -0700

Wow! For ten years in a row, Grumpy Gamer has been completely April Fool's Day free.

If you need a break from the entire Internet waking up and thinking they are funny (they are not), then this is your sanctuary.

And as a reward for choosing Grumpy Gamer as your place of escape, here is a very early early page from the Monkey Island Design Notebook that features time travel! I discarded this very quickly, but I've always had a fascination with time travel in games.

You can see it in the premise Gary and I laid out for Day of the Tentacle, then again in Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, also in my un-released game Good & Evil, then again in DeathSpank (although not technically time travel) and finally in The Cave.

And in Monkey Island.


Even More Monkey Island Design Scribbles.

Mon, 31 Mar 2014 08:52:34 -0700

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 09:09:48 -0700

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 19:05:32 -0700

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 16:00:00 -0800

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.[...]

My Worthless Souvenir From Australia

Wed, 21 Aug 2013 18:03:00 -0700

I am predisposed to a gambling addiction, that is one of the things I know about myself. Because of that, I never go to casinos unless it is a very special occasion, like a once every few years trip to Las Vegas with friends. I also know to set a firm gambling budget. A reasonable amount of money that I am comfortable losing, and I never go beyond that.It's a demon that I keep it locked up.My game of choice is roulette. Before you tell me how stupid roulette is, please remember that all the games are stupid, no game is more stupid than another. Your choice of game is all about how you want to lose your money and how slow or fast. Roulette can be a low game or a fast game.Roulette pays 36 to 1 if you hit a number. 18 to 1 if you hit the edge and 9 to 1 on the corners of a number.If you watch a roulette table, most people play by spreading chips all over the table in small stacks of one or two. This is the slow game. You win just enough to make your chips last. Using this technique you can play roulette hours.I choose the fast game. It's the big wins I crave.I pick a number and then put 8 chips on it, then 5 chips on all the edges and 3 chips on the corners. This creates a small pyramid of chips on the table. It's a odd strategy and I've ever seen anyone else use it. After I've placed my chips, it's not uncommon for other players to put a few chips on my number, looking for a little of my action.A few years back in Las Vegas, I won over $6000 on a single spin of the wheel. I was only down a few hundred at the time, so this was big. I played two more losing spins, then cashed in all my chips and never gambled again on that trip. I knew that $6000 would be gone by the end of the night had I not. I have an addiction, but I also have willpower.As it would happen, our hotel in Melbourne was connected to the largest casino in Australia. I knew this was going to be trouble. I managed to resist roulette for the first few nights and played the slots with my friend. I marked the 3rd night has the one I would finally hit the tables. My speech would be over and it was my reward.I started with $150 in chips and burnt though those in less than 10 minutes. I got a hit on a corner, but that was it. I wanted to keep playing, but was done for the night.I managed to stay away from the tables for the next few nights while I played some more light slots with my friend, but the tables never stopped calling me.On our next to last night, I got $250 in chips and spent 20 minutes finding the right table.Finding a table is part of the ritual for me and can take an hour before one feels right. I don't know why it feels right, I'm not looking for anything specific and I'm not superstitious. Part of it is the energy at the table. Too few people and it's boring, too many people and the game moves slow. The people need to be having fun.I finally found my table and placed my first bet. I was feeling go[...]

Scurvy Scallywags iOS Reviews Are In

Thu, 06 Jun 2013 15:57:01 -0700

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 [...]

Got Scurvy?

Tue, 04 Jun 2013 07:49:00 -0700

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 09:33:34 -0700

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 12:11:27 -0700

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:

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I feel Scurvy coming on!

More Scurvy Scallywags

Mon, 22 Apr 2013 16:18:17 -0700

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.

(image) (image) (image) (image)

Just To Clarify Point Twelve...

Tue, 16 Apr 2013 21:08:24 -0700

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 17:00:00 -0700

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,[...]


Thu, 11 Apr 2013 19:27:18 -0700

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 [...]

Goodbye Lucasfilm Games

Tue, 02 Apr 2013 17:00:00 -0700

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 in[...]

Screw April Fool's Day

Mon, 01 Apr 2013 08:42:37 -0700

There, I said what everyone is thinking.  April Fool's Day is an idiotic tradition and Grumpy Gamer is proud to report that it's been completely April Fool's Day free for nine years running.

Please enjoy this cute picture of a puppy and a kitten while you seek refuge from the stupidity of the day.  See you back on the Internet tomorrow.


Scurvy Scallywags

Mon, 18 Mar 2013 15:53:08 -0700

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 15:49:24 -0700

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 13:14:23 -0700

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 19:47:31 -0700

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 09:20:20 -0800

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 20:30:27 -0800

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 14:52:09 -0800

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 09:56:09 -0800

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


The New The Cave The Trailer

Fri, 30 Nov 2012 12:09:31 -0800

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

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More Caveshots

Fri, 31 Aug 2012 19:40:09 -0700

The Double Fine artists and world builders continue to amaze with even more Caveshots!





WTF! More Screenshots from The Cave!

Thu, 30 Aug 2012 09:04:59 -0700

Many more to come during PAX.




I'm glad they don't have PAX every week or we'd run out of screen shots.

New Screenshot From The Cave

Wed, 29 Aug 2012 13:45:26 -0700


Don't click on the above image if you hate awesome things.

The Big Big Castle!

Mon, 09 Jul 2012 14:38:18 -0700

(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 18:17:50 -0700

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 22:10:47 -0700

class='youtube' width='595' height='385' src='' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen>[Rock, Paper Shotgun][Eurogamer][The Verge][Kotaku][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][Destructoid][Der Standard][Inside Gaming Daily][XBIGY Games][GameZebo][SEGA Portal][Gamers Global][Gaming Blend][Inside Gaming Daily]Let me know if I've missed any.[...]

The Explorers

Wed, 23 May 2012 09:22:20 -0700

What could have beckoned this unlikely group to this very spot?


It ain't the smores.

The Twins

Tue, 22 May 2012 09:48:38 -0700

And finally... Who would not want to play as these adorable siblings?


The Knight

Mon, 21 May 2012 09:50:43 -0700

If he was braver he would have gone first. But he's not. So he didn't. The sixth playable character.


The Scientist

Sun, 20 May 2012 09:49:57 -0700

And you thought Sunday was going to be a day of rest and reflection.


The Adventurer

Sat, 19 May 2012 09:58:29 -0700

Only an insane person would reveal another playable character on a weekend!


The Time Traveler

Fri, 18 May 2012 11:31:46 -0700

Three playable characters in three days! When will the madness end!


The Hillbilly

Thu, 17 May 2012 10:52:06 -0700

Oh no! It's The Hillbilly!


The Monk

Wed, 16 May 2012 18:50:08 -0700

Yeah.... He's all about peace and enlightenment.


Welcome to the Stupidest Day of the Year

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 11:51:48 -0700

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What My Father Meant To Me

Wed, 29 Feb 2012 11:54:00 -0800

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

1939 - 2012

More Concept Art

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 12:16:00 -0800

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 12:03:00 -0800

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.

(image) (image)

First Concept Art

Mon, 28 Nov 2011 13:20:19 -0800

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 11:45:22 -0700

(image) 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 11:40:44 -0700

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.

April Fools' Day #7

Fri, 01 Apr 2011 10:26:11 -0700


Wow, it's hard to believe this is the 7th year of Grumpy Gamer being 100% April Fools' Day free.  It's rare that I've ever done anything for seven strait years, so that should tell you how much I hate April Fools' Day.

I'd also like to add @grumpygamer to the list of things that are 100% April Fools' Days free.

That said, if LucasArts ever allows me to make another Monkey Island, I'm totally announcing it on April 1st, that way you'll know it's not a joke.

The Making of Maniac Mansion

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 13:37:27 -0800

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.&[...]

Monkey Island 2 Bug Report

Tue, 16 Nov 2010 16:08:51 -0800

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 12:26:58 -0700

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 p[...]

Roger, Roger, Roger

Fri, 16 Apr 2010 22:09:33 -0700

Roger Ebert is at it again, claiming that not only are games not art, but that they can never be art.Roger, Roger, Roger.Over the past year I have gained an immense amount of respect and admiration for Roger Ebert.  I read his blog everyday and it's damn good, some of the best and most insightful writing on the web (or anywhere).  He's gone through some very terrible and personal issues with cancer and hasn't let any of it stop him.  I remember watching Siskel and Ebert back when it was on PBS and credit it as one of the reasons I became so interested in movies and storytelling and almost sending me to film school rather than down the path of making games.But I didn't go to film school, I decide to make games instead.  Why?  Because games gave me a creative and artistic outlet.  They allowed me to express myself and my ideas and my characters and my stories.The games I was playing and wanted to make were adventure games and I didn't see much difference in how they told a story from how a movie told a story except they were interactive.  I saw them as an extension of the linear narrative of film.  I saw them as not only a way to tell a story with real characters, real emotions and real ideas, but one where the viewer got to participate in the story.  They got to touch it and twist it and become part of it and make it their own.I can't imagine anything more artistic than connecting with your audience in that way.  It's unique to the way games tell stories and we've only begun to understand it's artistic potential and power.  Movies will never go away, but nei[...]

April Fools

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 09:17:00 -0700


Hard to believe that I've had a blog for six years and for each and everyone of those six action packed years Grumpy Gamer has been 100% court ordered April Fools' joke free.  Bested only by Christmas, April Fool's is my least favorite non-denominational holiday.

The Tale of the Scurvy Raider

Wed, 05 Aug 2009 18:23:12 -0700

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......until...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 09:31:00 -0700

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 co[...]

April Fools' Day #5

Wed, 01 Apr 2009 10:56:05 -0700


Five years running.

100% April Fools' Day Joke Free.

Join the crusade.

Spread the word.

Resist the temptation.

Be strong.

Studs Terkel Passes Away

Sat, 01 Nov 2008 09:04:59 -0700

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.

April Fools' Day #4

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 18:36:36 -0700

Four glorious years in a row, the Grumpy Gamer family of websites has remained 100% April Fools' Day joke free.


Remember, every time a April Fools' joke is played, a point-n-click adventure game concept is killed.

20 Years of SCUMM

Fri, 27 Apr 2007 10:01:58 -0700


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.

April Fool's Day

Sat, 01 Apr 2006 00:00:00 -0800

April Fool's Day approaches, a day when websites and blogs around the world post stupid stories they think are funny, but rarely are.

For the second year running, Grumpy Gamer will remain 100% April Fool's Joke free (not to mention interesting content free...but that will change soon...oh boy will it change...maybe).

Grumpy Gamer #9

Sun, 18 Dec 2005 00:00:00 -0800

Singlehandedly responsible for the decline in game sales: The Grumpy Gamer Comic.

The ongoing adventures of a guy who sits around and complains a lot...

(object) Sorry! Requires Flash. :-(

Gilligan Is On The Roof

Wed, 07 Sep 2005 10:03:26 -0700


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 08:27:29 -0700

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 lik[...]