Interview: Delving into The Cave with Ron Gilbert

by on January 22, 2013

It’s not often you get to sit down and ask questions to a gaming industry legend like Ron Gilbert, but that’s exactly what we here at GodisaGeek got to do recently. It’s easy to see why Gilbert is so highly rated, coming across as charming and (obviously, some might say) funny. So, let’s get on with the interview:

Long after you were one of the leading names that helped shape the adventure game, you have finally returned to the genre. Does it feel good to be back?

It’s always fun to design adventure games. The first few months of working on The Cave were great. The other two designers (JP LeBreton and Dave Gardner) had come on the project and we spent hours in a backroom designing adventure game puzzles. It’s hard for it to get any better than that.

The Cave is almost like a co-operative adventure game, which is unusual for the genre. Why do you think this is so rare?

I’ve always seen adventure games as the original multiplayer games. I remember sitting around the computer with my friends playing the old text adventures. Everyone was shouting out possible solutions to puzzles, it was great fun. So, with The Cave I wanted to bring that back, but allow the other people to play along, not just be a passive backseat player.

Couch co-op and local multiplayer in general is being somewhat lost to online gaming. Do you still see a place for a few friends sitting around playing a game together face to face?

I enjoy getting together with my friends and playing board games. In most cases, it doesn’t really matter what game we are playing, it’s just being around them that is fun. The Cave is a game that can be enjoyed with a loved one, even if they are not a big gamer.

The Cave is released January 22nd for Wii U & PS3, January 23rd for XBLA & PC.

There are some similarities between The Cave and Maniac Mansion – picking from a group of characters to play as – was this by choice, or just a mechanic that made sense for the game?

That was by choice. I’ve always wanted to revisit choosing three characters from a group of seven. The Cave provided the perfect avenue for that.

There is quite a varied array of interesting and amusing characters included in the game. How did you decide on this rag-tag bunch?

When I first started working on the game a few years ago, I wrote every weird and crazy idea for characters I could think of on a white board, then when JP LeBreton and Dave Gardner came on, we went through that list and culled out all the ones that weren’t that interesting or maybe overlapped with other characters too much and arrived on seven.

One thing you have famously said you wanted to avoid in The Cave was a cumbersome inventory system. How has the lack of an inventory affected the development? Did it present any new challenges?

Initially it was very challenging, but over time it became something we really liked. It caused us to really think about the puzzles and make sure the puzzle was strong, not just a weak puzzle where we could hide the solution in the players inventory.

The Cave marks the first Gilbert Adventure game since 1993.

Many fans and journalists have likened some of the gameplay in The Cave to classic titles Metroid and Castlevania. Were any other games direct influences on your title?

It’s interesting that they would draw those parallels since I’ve never really played either of those games. The two big influences for The Cave are probably Maniac Mansion and Limbo. Limbo has a very different style of puzzle, but they did a nice job of simplification and focusing the player.

What are the advantages of making downloadable games, and how much easier has this shift made producing small-budget games?

The line between downloadable and retail games is blurring. Downloadable games used to be these small or arcade games, but we’re now seeing downloadable games taking on retail games for depth and complexity. Downloadable games are the future for all games. Five years from now, there will only be downloadable games.

You suffered some disappointments in the past at Cavedog Entertainment, trying to get Good & Evil produced. Would you ever want to go back and make that title?

It took 30 years for me to get around to making The Cave. Look for Good & Evil in 2043.

The Activision published Monkey Island Special Edition was released in 2011. We gave it 10/10.

Many see yourself and Tim Schafer as an adventure game dream team, and are excited about the forthcoming Double Fine adventure. How much will you be involved in that game?

Not very much. When the Kickstarter happened, I was deep into The Cave (ha ha), so that has been my main focus over the past year.

What do you think of the re-mastered Monkey Island games, and how much did LucasArts involve you in the process?

I think it’s great that LucasArts remade those games. It opened them up to a whole new group of people who might have heard of Monkey Island, but had never played it. I was not involved in the production of the game, although they told me they were doing them.

Would you ever work on the Monkey Island series again, and would you want to follow the story you imagined, rather than add to the current canon?

I’d love to make another Monkey Island, but I’d want it to be a classic point-and-click game. I’d like to go back and start where Monkey Island 2 ended, but that presents some challenges since the world has moved on, and I’m just not the same person I was back then. But I’d like to try.

Many thanks to Ron for his time, and SEGA for organising the interview.