Thimbleweed Park creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick discuss their Kickstarter success, Maniac Mansion, and Monkey Island.
Less than one week after two ex-LucasArts game designers announced an all-new point-and-click adventure, Thimbleweed Park has been fully funded on Kickstarter. The crowd-funding campaign surpassed its $375,000 goal earlier today, and as of this writing, has continued to climb to over $382,000. In an update posted on Kickstarter, Ron Gilbert said of the news, “I am at a loss for words. The support has been overwhelming and it’s making us giddy.”
Gilbert and Thimbleweed Park co-creator Gary Winnick are no strangers to the point-and-click genre, having kicked off one of gaming’s most recognizable eras with the release of Maniac Mansion in 1987. Speaking with The Escapist, Gilbert and Winnick expressed how happy they are about the response to Thimbleweed Park, given its distinctly retro look. “We were a little unsure if people would respond to that, but they have,” Gilbert said in an email. Winnick added, “We’re amazed and overwhelmed at the reception and the outpouring of support from backers. I feel nothing but gratitude and that we will be able to make the best damn game we can. It’s exciting!”
Just because Thimbleweed Park has some similarities to Maniac Mansion, however, don’t expect to see the same punishing difficulty. “The fact that you can get stuck (and not even know it) in Maniac Mansion was mostly due to our inexperience at the time. It wasn’t something we were trying to design in,” Gilbert told us. “There won’t be any way to lose [Thimbleweed Park] or get into a state where you can’t win.” Instead, Thimbleweed Park will be designed using the Monkey Island design philosophy, outlined in a 1989 letter from Ron Gilbert on his blog.
So why was now the time to move forward with Thimbleweed Park, and why was Kickstarter the platform with which to do it? Winnick discussed the “special experience” of working on Maniac Mansion with Gilbert, which he was eager to repeat. “We also do hear from fans all the time who really loved the game and its unique quirkiness and humor,” Winnick added. According to its creators, the idea for Thimbleweed Park started coming together about five months ago. “We’d always talk about how much fun making Maniac Mansion was and the charm of those games. I’ve thought about doing a Kickstarter for an adventure game before, but I never felt there was anything that would make it special. The more Gary and I talked about doing an adventure game that was true to the the roots of the genre, the more it started to click in my head,” Gilbert explained.
In response to concerns about Kickstarter fatigue and over-saturation, Winnick was nothing but optimistic. “I think we’re aware of a lot of the issues regarding crowd-funding, but also the benefits. We’re able to find out if an audience really wants us to make this, talk with them, and obviously having that up-front financial support will allow us to make the game we want.” Gilbert stressed that the budget was very tightly planned, because they didn’t want to ask for too low a sum and come up short. “We built a plan where if we got only $1 more than we asked, we’d still able to make a great game and the game we want. We’re being very conservative so we know we can deliver.”
And what about the properties that put Gilbert and Winnick on the map, Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island? “Given that Disney has no interest in selling the IP, it’s not about getting ‘enough’ money, so I don’t know if it will ever happen,” Gilbert said. Still, in an alternate universe where he could revisit any game he’s ever worked on, “If we got the rights back to Maniac Mansion, I think the first thing I’d do is release it for modern platforms so more people could play it. I’m not sure I’d modernize it or even fix the design issues.” As for Monkey Island, “I’d make the real Monkey Island 3 and I don’t think that’s a game I could make without complete freedom.” Though Disney opening the vault on LucasArts’ old IP is sadly just a fantasy, “Hopefully Thimbleweed Park will give people and nice glimpse into what made those LucasArts games so special,” Gilbert said.
With more than three weeks until the Kickstarter winds down on December 18, Gilbert and Winnick are looking towards stretch goals, which include making it available in additional languages, mobile versions of Thimbleweed Park, and even full voice acting if the total surpasses $625,000. The funding and development of a Maniac Mansion-style point-and-click adventure is a dream come true for fans of the genre, and Gilbert and Winnick seemed thrilled about their reunion. The wait until Thimbleweed Park‘s June 2016 release will be a long one, but what’s another couple of years considering the decades that have passed since Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island? In the words of Ron Gilbert, “It’s time for G.T. and the Suction Cups to get back together.”