Ron Gilbert has been making gamers think since his early days at LucasArts, where he created adventure games like “Maniac Mansion,” “The Secret of Monkey Island” and “Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.”
He later founded Humongous Entertainment, which brought the “Backyard Sports” and “Pajama Sam” franchises to kids and families, and Cavedog Entertainment, which launched the “Total Annihilation” franchise.
Most recently, Gilbert worked with Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions on “The Cave.” The new downloadable game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from publisher Sega allows players to explore a magical cave with seven unique characters. Gilbert talks about what’s in store in his latest interactive adventure.
Q: Where did the idea for “The Cave” come from?
A: “The Cave” is an idea that I’ve had for going on 30 years and predates “Maniac Mansion.” The original idea was a story of these three explorers who go into a talking sentient cave. It’s an idea I would think about every few years, but never really fleshed out. Then I had the opportunity to come to Double Fine and work with this amazing group of people and actually make the game.
Q: How did “Maniac Mansion” influence your work on “The Cave”?
A: I’ve always wanted to revisit choosing three characters from a group of seven. It’s not something I’ve done since “Maniac Mansion” and given “The Cave” was about three characters, it felt like the right time.
Q: Where did you draw inspiration from when creating the different worlds within “The Cave”?
A: It all starts with the character, who they are, why they are descending “The Cave” and what dark secret they hold, then the artists take over. They are the ones that really breathe life into those worlds.
Q: What’s your favorite playable character in “The Cave” and why?
A: I like the Knight. I love running through the medieval castle buried in “The Cave” and I love his story.
Q: How have you built replay value into this experience?
A: By having seven very different characters, each with their own story and areas of “The Cave” to explore. When you choose a new character, you will be able to get into places you have never seen before.
Q: What do you hope gamers take away after playing this game?
A: Hopefully they will have had a good time. But beyond that, to look at each of the seven characters and their desires and maybe wonder about their own desires and what path those have sent them on. After all, we all go into “The Cave” at some point in our lives. You might not like what you find.
Q: What are the challenges of packing all of your ideas into a DLC game?
A: I don’t see it as a challenge as much as I see it as a relief. It’s nice to be able to design something that can be compact and intense without having a bunch of filler content or puzzles just to draw the length out.
Q: Do you think about sequels or progressing the story as you’re coming up with ideas that don’t fit?
A: I try not to think of sequels when I’m building something. If it’s a good idea, then I try and figure out a way to make it work with the original game.
Q: How have you seen the advent of digital distribution open things up for smaller game development teams and more original ideas?
A: It’s been great. There are so many people out there with great ideas, and digital distribution has given them a way to get their art in the hands of a lot of people. We haven’t seen that on this scale before, and it’s wonderful.
Q: What similarities do you see today with digital distribution and your early days of PC game development at LucasArts?
A: Back then it was a lot easier to try new and weird ideas. Games were cheaper to make, and there was a lot less risk involved. Due to digital distribution, we’re seeing that come back.
Q: What impact have you seen Kickstarter open up for developers to become publishers of ideas and genres that typically would be ignored?
A: Kickstarter has been great. It’s a way to go directly to the fans of a person, studio or genera and get funding without the middleman. I don’t think Kickstarter is going to replace publishers or other means of raising money, but what it has done is provide another place to get games made and that is always a good thing.
Q: What role do you see the more powerful tablets and smartphones playing in the gaming ecosystem today and moving forward?
A: Smartphones have already changed the entire business. Think about the gaming world before the iPhone and after the iPhone. What these devices have done is open gaming up to a whole new audience.
Q: What excites you about the speed at which mobile devices processors are moving from a game development perspective?
A: More power is always good. More memory is always good. The more you have to play with, the more interesting things you can do.
Q: What would you like to see from the next consoles from Sony and Microsoft?
A: More memory. Seriously. Load those things up with RAM. It’s always been a horribly constrained resource on consoles. And get rid of the physical drive. Go 100-percent digital. It’s 2013!