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September 17, 2019
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How Ron Gilbert uses 'improv game design' to create charming games

April 6, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

“I like a lot of modern adventure games, but they don’t seem to have the charm that a lot of Lucasfilm games had. And frankly we didn’t know what it was. We just kinda decided ‘hey, why don’t we build one of those games again?’ to figure out what the charm was.”

-Thimbleweed Park lead developer Ron Gilbert

Many game developers put a lot of work in trying to capture the look and feel of classic LucasArts adventure games. It’s practically its own genre on Kickstarter by now. 

But if you really want to recreate that style, you should take a listen to adventure game designer Ron Gilbert from our stream yesterday, as he explained how he and his colleagues revisited the “charm” of classic adventure games to create Thimbleweed Park. 

You can watch Gilbert’s full comment above, but if you want some context, it’s helpful to know that Gilbert told us he finds the classic adventure game charm actually hard to define, but if he had to, it would be “how we do production.” 

“I call it improv game design. We just think of weird stuff and we throw it in a game,” Gilbert said after some self-deprecation. “If we laugh at something over lunch, it goes into the game. I think you get that from having a small group of people who work on stuff.” 

If you want to see Gilbert’s philosophy in action, you should be sure to watch our full conversation with him as we played the game, which really does showcase the joke-a-minute philosophy. In particular you’ll want to hear how a dumb joke about adding a speck of dust to the game became a fully implemented feature that has tormented game streamers of all types—much to Gilbert’s amusement. 

Be sure to follow the Gamaustra Twitch channel for more developer interviews, editor roundtables, and gameplay commentary. 

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