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Ron Gilbert's one tip to help your game succeed with streamers

April 5, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

“When [players] start to ask themselves…questions, that makes them want to go out and buy the game. They want to do the things streamers didn’t do in the game.”

- Thimbleweed Park lead developer Ron Gilbert

With Atlus’ controversial decision to restrict streaming of Persona 5, developers have been weighing the impact of such a decision and how it affects their work. While many have been critical of the slightly heavy-handed approach Atlus took, other developers have been mindful of the fact that content-driven games, especially ones that don’t go on for hours and hours, can be viewed entirely in a handful of Twitch sessions, potentially impacting sales numbers. 

If that idea sounds far-fetched to you, you should be aware it’s something developer Ron Gilbert and his colleagues were thinking about while working on Thimbleweed Park, the latest adventure game from some of the minds behind Maniac Mansion. During our chat with Gilbert today as we streamed Thimbleweed Park, we asked him how he felt about the Atlus situation, and how it affected his view of people streaming his own game. 

Gilbert was joyful at the reaction that streamers have had to Thimbleweed Park, and part of that joy stems from the fact that he’s been able to see how other viewers respond to people playing the game, and keeping an eye out for moments that drive their excitement levels up. “What you have when you’re doing streams is you want the streamer to do something in the game and then the people watching the stream going ‘oh no I think he should have done this,’” he explained. 

These don’t have to be big moments either. Gilbert says those do play well, but everything as simple from dialogue trees to small puzzle solutions can provide variance that makes the viewing audience want to play your game in a different way. “It’s a depth issue,” he says. “If you’re [making] a linear narrative game, and it has enough depth to it, streaming becomes an advertisement for the game.” 

For more insight from Gilbert (including some memories from the early days of LucasArts at Skywalker Ranch), be sure to watch the full conversation with him and guest interviewer Frank Cifaldi above. 

And while you’re at it, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel for more developer interviews, gameplay commentary, and editor roundtables. 

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