No More Monkey Business: Ron Gilbert Leaves Double Fine

By Nathan Grayson on March 12th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Well, this is slightly unexpected. Ron Gilbert’s always kinda done his own thing, but sharing a colorful roof of pure, shining whimsy with partner in pirate-y crime Tim Schafer just sort of, you know, made sense. It is, however, like they say: all good things must come to an end. Also, The Cave was actually only kind of all right, so maybe this is for the best. But what’s next for the man they call “RonnyG” (and I guess also Grumpy Gamer)? Solve a series of increasingly obtuse puzzles to get past the break for more. Hint: the first one involves clicking. And also a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle.

Gilbert took to his blog to explain the sudden upheaval:

“Now that The Cave is done and unleashed on an unsuspecting world (ok, we did do a bunch of PR, so it wasn’t exactly unsuspecting), it’s time for me to move on from Double Fine and plot my next move. So many games left to be designed.”

“I want to thank all the amazing people at Double Fine for all their hard work on The Cave.  It was a true pleasure to work with every one of them over the past two years.  So much fun.  I will miss them all.  And of course to Tim for creating the opportunity to come there and make The Cave.”

In the short term, he’s working his brand of darkly humorous giggle voodoo on incredibly named iOS “side project” Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG. I desperately want to see exactly what it entails. That, however, will apparently only take him a few months.

And beyond that? It’s a mystery. There will be games and the designing thereof, but who knows where Gilbert’s wayward brain will take him next? Maybe Disneyland! I mean, hey, it might not be such a terrible idea.

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68 Comments »

  1. Paroxysm says:

    But but… I spoke to him like a month a go and he promised me he was staying! MISTRUTH!

    • Xorkrik says:

      Did he say how long he was staying ? :p

      • MadTinkerer says:

        If he’s leaving to teach Disney how to make actual good videogames without hiring Japanese companies to do them for you, via making a new Monkey Island game, he has my blessing.

        (Oh, and Disney execs, if you’re reading this: one of the most important steps of making good videogames is to not fire all the experienced people every time you need to bump up a quarterly report. YOU HAD A GOOD GAMES DIVISION IN THE PAST BEFORE YOU FIRED THEM. YOU DID THIS MORE THAN ONCE. STOP DOING THAT AND YOU WON’T NEED TO START FROM SCRATCH EVERY TIME YOU DECIDE YOU WANT TO MAKES GAMES AGAIN, MORONS.)

        • trjp says:

          Disney fired John Lasseter once – that decision cost them approx. $7.4bn…

          I cannot actually fathom how Disney got to where they are now, their style of animated films stopped being popular almost 20 years ago – their attempts to modernise it were scattershot and mostly crap

          I cannot all have been the sort of idiot who buys a Mickey Mouse Watch or a Goofy Golf Bag can it?

          It must have been the parents who pay monthly for the Disney Channel babysitting and child development retardation service?

          • Ignorant Texan says:

            It is an open secret that ESPN and the theme parks have been carrying the Rat for years.

          • bill says:

            Japanese women spend an insane amount on disney branded goods. They obviously didn’t get the memo about it being for kids.

          • Bhazor says:

            I’d say it’s only Pixar that has been keeping them alive for the past decade. Their feature films have been lacklustre and now they’ve given up on traditional animation (their one trump card) and have gone into Dreamworks level 3D.

          • Jason Moyer says:

            Aside from that brief period where they had Don Bluth, Disney’s in-house animation studios haven’t done anything good since Walt died, anyway.

        • chuckles73 says:

          It makes sense though, would you hire someone to shovel your driveway for $80 per month during the summer? No. You’d hire them when you need your driveway shoveled.

          • SominiTheCommenter says:

            That’s what it’s wrong with their point of view. Creating art, or any high-level complex task isn’t at all like shoveling. Sure, they can fire individual low level grunts working in the trenches, but once you break up a team there is no going back.

          • Focksbot says:

            “Low level grunts working in the trenches” is all creative people are to high-up execs on massive salaries.

          • The Random One says:

            “Creating art isn’t at all like shoveling”

            Now there’s something that deserves to be in a pull quote.

  2. MeestaNob says:

    My guess is he’ll do side projects he wants to work on, then come back to Double Fine from time to time.

  3. wodin says:

    Didn’t they have a KS going or something?

    • HermitUK says:

      Gilbert wasn’t particularly involved in Double Fine Adventure; Tim bounced ideas off him from time to time in the documentary videos, but really he’s been more focused on The Cave.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, what is with this? Unless he’s going to be consulting on it.

      Edit : just saw Hermit’s reply.

  4. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    The Beast and his armies will rise from the pit to make war against God.

    Apologies. I said: I hope you enjoy your meal.

  5. donmilliken says:

    Sorry to see that Ron’s leaving Double Fine, but he’s gotta do whatever he figures is best for him. Scurvy Scallywags etc. is an amazing title, but probably too amazing to live up to. I’m imaginging a pirate-themed Puzzle Quest, possibly with some sort of rhythym-based element. Could be interesting, but if it’s only going to be iOS it’s not anything I’ll ever play anyway.

  6. Lokik says:

    At least I got to see him place a shoe on his head, a golden memory to be sure. Wish him luck on his future endeavors, whatever they might be.

  7. Kevin says:

    Any news on how that adventure game is shaping up? If I remember correctly, some backers are given exclusive behind the scenes access look to its production, yet I haven’t seen significant material on what it looks like or what it’s about (I can guess on how it plays: it will involve a lot of rubbing items in the inventory against every single pixel on the screen). Is its production that secretive? You would think that given the size of the backer pool, the significance of this project, and the anonymity afforded by the internet would mean someone would have leaked something relating to it.

    • basilisk says:

      The latest episode of the documentary appeared last week and they said in it they’ve finally gotten the game into a shape in which they can start showing it to the public, so expect a regular PR campaign to start pretty soon.

      And it’s shaping up quite nicely, actually.

    • bigjig says:

      They’ve released 8 episodes of the documentary so far, all of which have been great to watch. Around episode 7 I think they fell into some trouble, which was pretty interesting to see. They seem to be back on the right path in the latest episode though, so I’m guessing the game will be entering beta sometime soon.

      • themindstream says:

        More specifically, that “trouble” was the rather common situation of “oh, drat, we’ve let our scope get a bit big for our budget, what combo of scope trimming, budget re-jiggering and workflow optimization will bring it all back into accord?” For the budget, money from the PC release of Brutal Legand was tapped for it, along with a deal for an Ouya release of the game and some hustling for some international licensing of unspecified title(s).

    • soco says:

      To add to the info; the last episode showed them having the whole DF studio play a build of the game. So that puts them somewhere in the realm of an early closed alpha if that helps.

      If I had to take a guess from their timing thus far and what I remember from the videos I’d guess a release of late summer.

      btw, the art is pretty awesome.

  8. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I hope the recruitment ad for his new studio reads “I’m looking for 30 dead guys and one woman.”.

  9. SkittleDiddler says:

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the poor reviews that The Cave got. Probably not, butchunevurno.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Is the 70% mark poor now?

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        The game fared poorly, considering it was an old pet project of his. The basic concept of the exploration of a cave as a metaphor to exploring a person’s dark secrets was somehow lost during execution. All we got was a forgettable and generic puzzle platformer that makes too many concessions to what he called “modern audiences”; apparently a bunch of low intelligence apes incapable of enjoying a difficult and long game of exploration.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Yes. 70% is about as low as PC review averages go before moving into abysmal territory.

        • Strabo says:

          Yes. 70% is about as low as PC review averages go before moving into abysmal territory.

          That’s only true for blockbuster/AAA-games, where the whole range is just the 7-10 point area. For smaller stuff usually 5-10 is used as scale in most review sites/magazines. Which doesn’t make 70/7 anything great, but says “decent with glaring issues” instead of “avoid at all costs”.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Are you referring to the score from that one controversial aggregate site that gamers love to dismiss? Because every single review I actually read about the game stated how disappointing the whole experience is.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          Well yes, but that seems to be the go to mark for this game regardless, you could probably estimate RPS’ WIT in that region too, perhaps a little lower. I just don’t see 7/10 as a poor mark, and having played the game would put it firmly in that region too.

          Flawed, yes, but a fun little romp anyway.

          • welverin says:

            Well anyone who actually pays attention to the scale review sites use knows that 7/10 isn’t bad, but that doesn’t include the people who read them. If a game doesn’t get at least an eight it’s considered crap.
            Of course it’s even more laughable if someone plays the game and likes it,because then they can’t understand why it got a bad review.

      • Urthman says:

        Who cares what the score was? Before it came out, I was really excited to play The Cave it looked like something I’d definitely enjoy.

        After reading the reviews I, sadly, have no interest in playing The Cave. It sounds like something I probably wouldn’t enjoy.

  10. MichaelPalin says:

    Yeah!, because Disney worked wonders for that other legendary game creator.

    Sorry to hear that The Cave was not that good. I’m not interested in graphic adventures, but the medium definitely needs more successful and influential authors.

  11. Risingson says:

    It doesn’t matter. When the Double Fine adventure comes out, all its virtues will be credited to Ron Gilbert, as it happened with the first two Monkey Island games.

    • welverin says:

      Even though he had next to nothing to do with it?

      • Risingson says:

        Yep. That’s my bet.

        • welverin says:

          That would be massively unfortunate, because before reading HermitUK’s comment about Tim bouncing ideas off of him I had completely forgotten he had that much input on the game. He was never a part of the team and hasn’t done any actual work on it.

        • SurprisedMan says:

          I’ll take that bet. Won’t happen. Tim led the pitch of that game, and he’ll be credited as lead designer on the project. It’s being developed at Double Fine, a Tim Schafer joint, and Tim will be the most visible face when it comes to doing PR on the game (which will start very soon, now).

          With Monkey Island 1 + 2 I agree that Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman didn’t get as much credit as they deserved for the stuff that made that game great, but it’s not surprising because Ron Gilbert was still the project lead on both of those. But Ron didn’t get the credit for Day of the Tentacle, despite creating Maniac Mansion: everyone understood that it was a Tim Schafer/Dave Grossman led sequel, so why would he get the credit for this game which he was only involved in really in a consulting capacity… particularly when there’s a documentary (which will eventually go on sale) showing his low involvement?

  12. zhivik says:

    Maybe after he has seen the success of other Kickstarter game projects, he wants to do one on his own terms. Besides, there is the boss-employee issue between Gilbert and Schaffer, I guess. After all, Schaffer used to work under Gilbert when he was in Lucas Games, now it was the other way round. Maybe Gilbert thinks he can do well on his own, who knows.

  13. MOKKA says:

    Regarding all the speculation as to why Ron Gilber left. I remember an interview or something where he said that one of his main philosophies is to never get too comfortable in a job and if you look back at his earlier positions you can see that he left most, if not all of them deliberately.

    Of course I can be wrong here as well, but I wouldn’t try to read too much into it.

  14. Saul says:

    This is a bit random. We came back to The Cave tonight for our second ever session (after playing it in release week).

    The verdict – it’s still quirky, ingenious and utterly frustrating. Throw character teleportation into that game and it would be a gem.

  15. SurprisedMan says:

    Ron has always had an impulse to change gears, I think. He was one of the first to strike out on his own from LucasArts, and he’s been on several teams since, always leaving when it suits him.

    Which is fine… I expect the reason he joined Double Fine is that he knew he would get his game made, that way. Now, to carry on in DF, he’d have to compromise. His new ideas would be competing against several other project leads and a limited budget, and he’d have to spend time as part of a team instead of leading a team – I don’t get the impression he is comfortable in that position for long. He’s been leading projects since the late 80s (for better or worse – mostly better, just about)

  16. Crosmando says:

    It’s kinda weird though, given that the Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun developers already have fully-fledged gameplay videos out, and the fact that RPG’s are much more difficult and time-consuming to design and program, and DFA doesn’t really have anything but that documentary.

    How long does it take to make a point and click adventure game anyways. I pledged to you guys, work harder!

    • soco says:

      I’ll take a stab at this…not to say I’m right or I have any evidence, but it might be an decent guess.

      Reasons for why the DF Adventure is taking longer than Wasteland 2/Shadowrun:

      1. By percentage the DF Adventure made far more of its original kickstarter goal. W2/Shadowrun made something like 3x their asking amount. DF was over 800% their asking price, so the scope of the game changed far more than the others which were (while still big) closer to their original plans.

      2. I believe that for both W2 and Shadowrun there is only one team. The studios are smaller. Where at DF they have several teams working on several different games at a time. This gives more chances for something to need extra hands or other problems to crop up that pull folks in different directions and take away from development time on the game. They had The Cave just release, they just did a 2 week break to have the Amnesia Fortnight, and they went to PAX. All of those could have contributed to slowing down on the development.

    • zeekthegeek says:

      There’s making a point and click adventure and then there’s making a good point and click adventure. Keep in mind it’s been a year. That is not long in game terms. Remember all the complaining people do about annual release franchises and the quality thereof?

    • The Random One says:

      If you pledged, then you should watch the documentary and see how hard at work they are!

  17. Ignorant Texan says:

    Ron Gilbert is pretty upfront about his love of all things Apple. He also written that he like the idea of a much shortened development cycle, lower barriers for entry and the challenge of making a game for iOS devices. He’s been working on P(ersonal) C(computer) games for longer than many readers of RPS have been alive, and mobile devices are in their infancy by comparison. He may be having some doubts about Apple providing such a platform, if this post, and his response in the comment section are any indication.

    http://grumpygamer.com/2165573

  18. derella says:

    I thought he was being facetious about Scurvy Scallywags. Still, I’d buy it if it came out for PC or Android.

    I wish he had stuck with DF — it seemed like the perfect fit, even if the Cave wasn’t amazing.

  19. Hoaxfish says:

    Something to remember, Ron Gilbert also worked on Total Annihilation when he wasn’t making adventure games.

  20. vandinz says:

    Colourful. You’re welcome.

  21. Sunjammer says:

    Maybe we can finally relax in our knowledge that RG is “only really sort of okay” rather than “holy fiddlesticks, Monkey Island guy”? I have yet to play anything “of his” that was actually funny or actually any fun.

    “quotation marks”

  22. DMStern says:

    I may just be inventing false memories to lessen the trauma, but didn’t he say from the start that this was a one-off and that he wouldn’t be staying with Double Fine?

  23. etho says:

    Apparently I am crazy, but I could have sworn when they first started talking about The Cave, they were talking about RG sort of like a guest star, if you will. I thought it was always planned as a temporary partnership. No?

  24. mutopia says:

    Will Double Fine now only be known as Fine? I kid I kid. Wish him all the best, look forward to the next game.

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