Ron Gilbert Explains The Cave’s Weird Character Count


I have been – to put it lightly – bothered by the fact that Ron Gilbert’s The Cave only has seven playable characters. Six or nine, you see, would make each playthrough nice and clean – no character overlap. But seven? That’s messy. I’ll get juicy character development and thick, fibrous hunks of plot thread all over my shoes as I wade through The Cave’s murky depths. It’ll be gross. But why? What diabolical plan could Gilbert possibly have in store that would warrant such numerical absurdity? During PAX, I asked him about it, and he explained to me the grisly fates of two characters that didn’t make the cut – as well as why he kind of really doesn’t like DLC.

“I think there’s always stuff left on the cutting room floor,” Gilbert told RPS. “As a designer, I tend to design big. I tend to over-design. And then, as the project goes on, I start pulling stuff out.”

“I mean, there were two whole characters who never made it into the final game – just because they weren’t quite as strong, and there were time constraints. Their backstories weren’t really coming together, and we really only had enough time to do seven characters. So they had weaker backstories, and the stuff we’d been putting into the cave for them was just – on some level – maybe more complicated than we wanted to take on at the time.”

“So yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff that – if we had, like, five years to make the game – probably would’ve gotten in. But that’s part of the creative process to me. I don’t look at it as a bad thing. But yes, if they were in, it’d be three groups of three.”

The Internet, however, has rendered the cutting room floor something of a revolving door – which makes walking kind of terrifying, but also gives us plenty of DLC that couldn’t quite make it into games’ “final” release versions. Somewhat surprisingly, though, Gilbert’s not really feeling the idea of putting his personal Humpty Dumpty back together again.

“I’m kinda not a big fan of DLC. It’s not something I really like a lot. It’s nothing that we’ve ever planned for The Cave – doing DLC or anything like that. But, that said, the natural thing would be to add more characters if we were to ever do anything like that.”

Granted, that’s not the kind of statement you hear industry luminaries making very often these days. And though Gilbert’s a bit of an old-fashioned guy at heart, he makes a pretty convincing case.

“I think DLC works for certain types of games,” he explained. “If I’m playing a first-person shooter, being able to buy map packs is fine. But the issue I have with a lot of DLC is more of a marketing thing. The whole game is planned out – including all the DLC. And for the most part, the developers are working on the DLC at the same time as the rest of the game. And then, it’s just more of this marketing thing to want to pull the DLC out and sell it separately. And I’m just more like, ‘No, make the game you should be making.’ That should be the game. And then, if there’s something extra you can do that really dovetails into it nicely – like map packs – then do DLC. But pre-planning it all and then acting like it’s new – that’s my problem with DLC.”

So probably don’t expect any DLC for The Cave, then. Oh well. No Hillbilly armor for me.


  1. wccrawford says:

    I thought the odd number of characters was a good feature. I think it encourages you to think about how the characters might synergize, and use them strategically, instead of just picking the next 3 in the list for the next playthrough.

    Of course, that means that I’m hoping they *do* synergize, and making different choices actually matters. Maybe some make the game easier, and others harder, etc. I don’t know exactly where they’re heading with it, though, so I could be completely off base.

    • jalf says:

      Yeah, I think it’s great.

      It forces you to pick and match, and it means that on your third playthrough, you’re not stuck with “those three characters I left for last because I don’t really care about them”.

      And it encourages you to do replays with *some* characters you’ve already played, along with some you haven’t.

  2. Urthman says:

    So it’s not that the game is designed so you’ll want to revisit one of the characters on a fourth play-through to see all of them. They just could only think of seven good ones.

    • Jekhar says:

      Which is okay. I’d rather have these seven good, well thought-out characters than a wall of bland, palette-swapped copys to choose from. Somehow i’m reminded of Street Fighter with it’s Ryu clones.

  3. DickSocrates says:

    Weird, the 7 character count didn’t bother me at all, didn’t think twice about it. 7’s a lucky number, not just in Japan. And you can make an arrow out of it.

    * *
    * *
    * *

    Imagine the above asterix image in the shape of an arrow. :/

  4. GameCat says:

    “If I’m playing a first-person shooter, being able to buy map packs is fine.”

    No, it’s not.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      You’d rather play endlessly on the same 8 or 9 maps the game shipped with endlessly?

      • Steven Hutton says:

        I’d rather games shipped with a reasonable number of maps.

        I’d rather games allowed proper community support to create our own maps and picked the best ones for inclusion in the game proper.

        I’d rather get a reasonable number of free dlc maps (i.e. more than zero).

        I’d rather not see payed DLC map packs which split the community and force you to buy them if you want to keep playing with your friends without feeling like the one cheap c*** who didn’t shell out £10 for five maps and is ruining everybody’s fun.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          It’s fair enough about the community splitting, but how many maps is enough, and how long should they delay release to make more? An FPS with a decent length single player campaign in my opinion should come with 6 multiplayer maps minimum. An FPS which has little to no sp component should come with at least 10, depending on their size and how carefully they need designing. Let’s double that, 20 maps. Those twenty maps will get old fast and if new content isn’t made availiable, people will abandon the game. 5 maps every 6 months is reasonable in my opinion for a few dollars.

          • Baines says:

            I’d like to see something like the Call of Duty franchise let you import the maps from previous games for free. This would really only work with something like CoD, which comes out on a yearly basis and doesn’t really change that much between iterations. More practical would be to charge a small fee to import and update them, as even CoD introduces changes.

            What doesn’t work so well is charging $15 for two or three new maps and a couple of previous game maps. What works even less is MW3’s $15 for “whatever we have laying around every three months”.

          • MadTinkerer says:

            Or ‘yknow: MAP EDITOR. FUCKING MAP EDITOR. It’s not too hard to figure out. FUCKING. MAP. EDITOR.

            Maybe I would play MW2 multiplayer if there was a map editor. I don’t have MW3 because the single-player is shit and there’s no map editor. If someone at EA were to look at the stats of what I play online, they’d probably think I have a bias for Valve games but that’s not true. I have a bias for online shooters THAT INCLUDE MAP EDITORS.

            (EDIT: for example, I quite like Unreal Tournament [insert version here] as well.)

            And no I’m not paying for maps ever. Regardless of how cheap they are. Because paying for maps encourages them to not include map editors.

            EDIT 2: In fact, maybe I’ll go play Minecraft, which somehow has both infinite maps and map editing. Fuck paying for maps.

          • Durkonkell says:

            I really, really don’t like paid map packs. It’s not just because I don’t want to pay for extra maps (I don’t) but because:

            1. I’m an advocate of the developer releasing additional free content for their game, which shifts more units of the actual game long-term and keeps the community together (for example: ArmA series, Unreal Tournament, TF2).

            2. Because I love moddable games. DICE say that their mapping tools are far too complicated for silly end-users to work out. I say that if the community could make their own maps and mods, who’d buy expensive map packs?

            Come on, developers. ArmA 2 just sold a quadrillion copies at pretty much full price because of a mod. Additionally, I know several people who bought Skyrim on console who eventually bought a second copy for PC. Because it had more graphics per second or something? Hardly. Mods sell games. Get with the programme!

          • Baines says:

            I’ve mostly given up on map editors existing, perhaps because I was always more of a console gamer than a PC gamer. Even now I tend to not buy PC action titles until several years after their release, and I wouldn’t bother with the PC versions of some cross-system games, so I can’t really say what the current state of map editors in PC games is like. I’d guess it is pretty bad, though, thanks to DLC and increasingly complicated engines. (Wasn’t that the excuse for Rage? That the engine and megatextures meant map editors weren’t practical?)

            Coming from the console side, map editors never really caught on. Some players wanted them, but others didn’t, and internet connection/sharing has made console makers wary of sharable player-made content.

            Hrm, in a way PC map editors may actually have helped kill map editors in general. Console games started offering editors to compete with PC map creation abilities, but console editing was inherently limited. That led to some people telling developers to not bother with console map editors, as the limited repetitive possibilities didn’t compare to what could be done on PC. Instead of continuing to improve, console map editors died out. (Plus, Free Radical collapsed before creating TimeSplitters 4. The TimeSplitters franchise was one of the few games pushing console map editing.) As developer priority continued to shift from PC towards console, PC games become more like their console brethren. And consoles no longer did map editors…

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @Durkonkell, I couldn’t agree with you more, I also believe, in addition to your points that when mod and map tools are released, the devs produce significantly higher quality DLC and sell more to happier consumers.

        • Aatch says:

          I’m surprised… Everybody seems to have forgotten about Halo. I know it’s been console-only for a while now, but still…


          I mean common, there are an incredible amount of custom maps available, a way to share them amongst your friends and enough customizability that people have managed to essentially make entire new gametypes in the framework provided.

          However, as a longtime Halo player, I can say that the community knows jack shit about making decent maps. Bungie/Halo/whoever took a bunch of popular community maps and made them available in regular matchmaking. They, as a general rule, suck compared to proper maps from trained designers. Even maps made by the designers with the same tools are almost always better.

          Community maps normally have one of two problems: They are boring, often being mirror maps, or horribly unbalanced with one team having a massive advantage. I reason that this is one, the aforementioned lack of skill and two, a lack of time/resources to properly test maps.

          I would rather have fun maps that I had to buy than mediocre/crap maps that are free…

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I think it’s “fine” within the context of not really changing up the gameplay.
      Certainly not “good” in terms of content, but at least you’re not actively losing anything more than a bunch of different buildings to run around in.

      • The Random One says:

        Yes you are – you are losing access to any servers that are running those particular buildings!

    • Vandelay says:

      Personally, I don’t have an objection to paid for maps for multiplayer FPS games. The fact that they were given away for free for so many years doesn’t help their cause, but I don’t mind paying for additional content the developer makes.

      What I do have a problem with is the absurd pricing. Release a pack of 5 brand new maps for £5, preferably with some new game modes and weapons, and I would happily pay that amount (if you are doing remakes from earlier games then I would expect it to be less.) I’m not going to pay over £10 for these maps, particular seeing as I could pick up a couple of other full games for that amount.

  5. Lars Westergren says:

    > The Internet, however, has rendered the cutting room floor something of a revolving door

    That’s actually something I don’t like with some restorations mods. More isn’t always better, sometimes the devs cut away thing not because of time constraints but because they thought the game was better without it.

    One example – the shore section in Vampire:Bloodlines. In the released game, there is no soundtrack. You only hear the rain, and the occasional clang from a bouy bell. This silence contributes to a sense of unease, and gives some audio variation.

    Several restoration mods put back in a fairly average metal tune, destroying this mood.

    • InternetBatman says:

      On the other hand, the Mod for Kotor 2 is a godsend. I definitely agree that cutting content is one of the most important parts of any creative process, but on a few occasions, external circumstances didn’t give the creators the latitude to make the best decisions and cut content mods can really improve a game.

  6. GameCat says:

    Yeah, four maps (recycled form your pervious Generic-Modern-Shooter(TM)) pack for $15 is right thing to do.

    Buy our broken product. Pay more for fix. Sure.

    EDIT: It should be reply to Sheng-ji comment, damn.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      All I was saying was, would you rather no option to get fresh new maps, constantly recycling the same old ones. I mean if the game is that generic and unenjoyable, of course you wouldnt buy more. What about a game you love. What about a game you can’t wait to pick up and play even 6 months after you got it. Still don’t want new content for a reasonable price?

      • The Random One says:

        Not if I have friends who will no longer be able to play with me if they can’t/don’t want to buy.the new content. Or if I enjoy the game as it is and will be punished with less servers if I don’t buy it.

        Your argument is fallacious anyway. I would prefer that games cost $500 than they stop existing entirely, but that doesn’t mean I find that a fair price for games.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          So you dont have a problem with map packs, you have a problem with the cost of them, the way the community splits are handled. Both are fair points, neither of which I was talking about. I asked if you had a problem with games producing additional maps, i even specified “for a reasonable price” – thats up to you to decide the reasonable price, which doesnt preclude free. You said yes. What is the problem?

  7. InternetBatman says:

    This was before Ron Gilbert knew that you could put seal team six or Osama Bin Laden in DLC. I think new character DLC might be announced a year from now.

  8. Soon says:

    But one of them is twins!