Ron Gilbert is an American video-game designer, programmer, and producer, best known for his work on several classic LucasArts adventure games, including Maniac Mansion and the first two Monkey Island games. His games are generally focused on interactive story-telling.
After leaving LucasArts, Gilbert co-founded Humongous Entertainment and its sister company Cavedog Entertainment. After leaving Humongous Entertainment, he cofounded Hulabee Entertainment with Shelley Day. He was creative director at Vancouver-based Hothead Games development studio. In 2013, he announced that he would move on from Double Fine Productions.
Ron Gilbert was born in La Grande, Oregon, as the son of David E. Gilbert, a physics professor and former president of Eastern Oregon University (then Eastern Oregon State College). Initially, he thought of himself going into a career for film direction. He became interested in games when he was thirteen years old thanks to a Texas Instruments TI-59 programmable calculator his father used to bring home. He found the ability to program games on the calculator interesting, citing an example of a Battleship-like game that was included on the calculator, leading him wanting him to learn how to program other games. Gilbert saw the potential to program games as a creative outlet as he continued his studies towards the film industry. Another thing that made him approach the gaming world was a film, Star Wars (1977). His fascination with programming technology, which allowed gamers to interact with characters and situations, mixed with his love for telling stories, like that of "Star Wars", were his main inspirations to start making games.
The impact of Star Wars and his love for telling stories was so big that Ron Gilbert, at the age of fourteen, and his good friend Tom McFarlane made a couple of films on a Super-8 camera. The first film they shot in 1978 was Stars Blasters; it was directed by Ron Gilbert and acted by friends Tom McFarlane and Frank Lang. In 1979 they filmed another movie, Tomorrow Never Came, acted by Ron Gilbert, Tom McFarlane; it was also directed by Ron Gilbert.
In 1979 his parents purchased a NorthStar Horizon home computer. At the age of fifteen, he took his first steps in game programming. He used to study and analyze games for hours; capturing in his mind every frame of the layout of games like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Space Invaders or Robotron: 2084; taking notes of every detail and then trying to replicate them on his computer. Once the games were replicated he would start doing experiments with them, adding changes. He also used to look at Atari 2600 games' advertisements in magazines, then imagined what the game was like to play and tried to make them on his computer. Once the games were finished he used to bring his friends home to test the games and tell him what did they like or did not like.
Gilbert began his professional career in 1983 while he was still a student at Eastern Oregon State College by writing a program named Graphics Basic with Tom McFarlane. They sold the program to a San Francisco Bay Area company named HESware, which later offered Gilbert a job. He spent about half a year at HESware, programming action games for the Commodore 64 (C64). None of them were ever released; the company went out of business. Shortly thereafter, Gilbert joined Lucasfilm Games, which later became LucasArts. There he earned his living by doing C64 ports of Lucasfilm Atari 800 games. In 1985 he got the opportunity to co-develop his own game for LucasArts together with graphics artist Gary Winnick. Maniac Mansion was about a dark Victorian mansion populated by a mad scientist, his family and strange aliens.
Gilbert created a scripting language that was named after the project it had been written for, the Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion, better known as SCUMM. The technology was used in all subsequent LucasArts adventure games, with the exception of Grim Fandango and Escape From Monkey Island. Despite being an internal production tool, the SCUMM acronym became well known to gamers since a location in The Secret of Monkey Island, the SCUMM Bar, was named after it.
Gilbert created many successful adventure games at LucasArts, including the classic The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. In 1992, he left the company to start Humongous Entertainment with LucasArts producer Shelley Day. While at Humongous Entertainment, Gilbert was responsible for games such as Putt-Putt, Fatty Bear, Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam and the Backyard Sports series. Many of these games continued to use an offshoot of the SCUMM engine.
In 1995, Gilbert founded Cavedog Entertainment, Humongous' sister company for non-kids games. In 1996, GameSpot named him as the 15th on their list of the most influential people in computer gaming of all time. In 1997, Computer Gaming World similarly ranked him as number 15 on the list of the most influential people of all time in computer gaming for inventing the SCUMM engine. While at Cavedog, Gilbert was the producer of Total Annihilation and worked on a game titled Good & Evil. Widely regarded as his pet project, Good & Evil was said to incorporate many different themes and gameplay styles. The game was previewed by several publications, but the project was cancelled when Cavedog closed down in 1999. In an interview with GameSpot conducted a while after Cavedog's shut-down, Gilbert said the Good & Evil project had suffered due to him trying to design a game and run a company at the same time.
As of 2005, Ron Gilbert was independently designing an unspecified new adventure/R.P.G., which he was pitching to publishers. He also started a blog "Grumpy Gamer", offering game industry commentary, occasionally in the form of animated cartoons that he created with Voodoo Vince designer Clayton Kauzlaric.
In 2007, Gilbert created "Threepwood", an exclusively Monkey Island-themed guild on the World of Warcraft server Quel'Dorei, and Gilbert began to collaborate with Hothead Games on Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, a game based on the webcomic Penny Arcade. He was chosen to be the Keynote Speaker for Penny Arcade Expo for 2009.
In January 2008, he joined Hothead Games as creative director, with whom he was developing DeathSpank, an adventure/R.P.G. Although still working at Hothead Games, Gilbert contributed to the design for Telltale Games' Tales of Monkey Island, taking part in the brainstorming process early in the development of the game. The episodic fifth entry in the Monkey Island series marked the first time Gilbert worked on a Monkey Island game since 1991's LeChuck's Revenge. On April 6, 2010, on his blog he announced that he left Hothead Games. He will continue to promote DeathSpank with Electronic Arts.
In September 2010, it was revealed that Gilbert had been hired by fellow former LucasArts game designer Tim Schafer, to work at Schafer's own Double Fine Productions. In February 2012, Tim Schafer confirmed he will be working with Ron Gilbert on a new adventure game. In May 2012, the game was revealed as The Cave, it will be developed by Double Fine Productions and published as a downloadable title by Sega in 2013.
After the buying of LucasArts by The Walt Disney Company in 2012, the rights to the Monkey Island series became the company's property. Ron Gilbert has been quoted in November 2012 as not being optimistic about the franchise's future, believing that Disney might abandon the franchise in favor of Pirates of the Caribbean, however, in December 2012, he was also quoted as wishing to contact Disney, hoping to "make the game he wants to make".
In March 2013, Gilbert left Double Fine Productions revealing that his joining the studio was purely for the creation of The Cave: "I was telling him [Tim Schafer] about The Cave and he really liked it, so he said 'come to Double Fine and make it. It was really all about making that game." Most recently he worked on the iOS and Android game Scurvy Scallywags with DeathSpank co-creator Clayton Kauzlaric.
On November 18, 2014, it was revealed that he had reunited with Gary Winnick, with whom he created his early critically acclaimed point'n'click games at LucasArts, and that they were working together on a new point'n'click game called Thimbleweed Park. The game reached its funding target on the crowd sourcing site Kickstarter on December 18 and is set for release in 2017 in full 'talkie' mode firstly on Windows, Linux and Mac. A port to iOS and Android was confirmed after the project met its last stretch-goal.
|Koronis Rift||1985||programmer||Lucasfilm Games|
|Maniac Mansion||1987||writer, director, art and programmer||Lucasfilm Games|
|Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders||1988||writer||Lucasfilm Games|
|PHM Pegasus||1988||Lucasfilm Games|
|Pipe Dream||1989||writer||Lucasfilm Games|
|Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure||1989||writer||Lucasfilm Games|
|The Secret of Monkey Island||1990||writer and director||Lucasfilm Games|
|Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge||1991||writer and programmer||LucasArts|
|Putt-Putt Joins the Parade||1992||director, designer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise||1993||director, designer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt's Fun Pack||1993||Humongous Entertainment|
|Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle||1993||writer||LucasArts|
|Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon||1993||director, designer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Fatty Bear's Fun Pack||1993||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt Putt & Fatty Bear's Activity Pack||1994||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds||1994||producer, designer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Let's Explore the Airport||1995||Humongous Entertainment|
|Let's Explore the Farm||1995||Humongous Entertainment|
|Let's Explore the Jungle||1995||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo||1995||interactive design, producer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse||1996||producer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside||1996||interactive design, producer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt and Pep's Dog on a Stick||1996||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt and Pep's Balloon-o-Rama||1996||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish and Luther's Maze Madness||1996||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish and Luther's Water Worries||1996||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Big Thinkers 1st Grade||1997||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Big Thinkers Kindergarten||1997||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Baseball||1997||Humongous Entertainment|
|Total Annihilation||1997||producer||Cavedog Entertainment|
|Spy Fox in "Dry Cereal"||1997||creative director and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt Putt Travels Through Time||1997||producer and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam's Sock Works||1997||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt Enters the Race||1998||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell||1998||Humongous Entertainment|
|Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency||1998||producer||Cavedog Entertainment|
|Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics||1998||producer||Cavedog Entertainment|
|Blue's Birthday Adventure||1998||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren't so Frightening||1998||creative director and programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam's Lost & Found||1998||Humongous Entertainment|
|Spy Fox in Cheese Chase||1998||programmer||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Soccer||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Blue's 123 Time Activities||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Blue's ABC Time Activities||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Total Annihilation: Kingdoms||1999||producer||Cavedog Entertainment|
|Spy Fox in Hold the Mustard||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Blue's Treasure Hunt||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Spy Fox 2: "Some Assembly Required"||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish 4: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam 3: You Are What You Eat from Your Head to Your Feet||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Football||1999||Humongous Entertainment|
|Total Annihilation: Kingdoms – The Iron Plague||2000||producer||Cavedog Entertainment|
|Blue's Art Time Activities||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Baseball 2001||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish's One-Stop Fun Shop||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam's One-Stop Fun Shop||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt's One-Stop Fun Shop||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Soccer MLS Edition||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Putt-Putt Joins the Circus||2000||Humongous Entertainment|
|Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove||2001||Humongous Entertainment|
|Spy Fox 3: "Operation Ozone"||2001||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard NBA Basketball||2001||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Football 2002||2001||Humongous Entertainment|
|Pajama Sam's Games To Play On Any Day||2001||Humongous Entertainment|
|Backyard Baseball 2002||2001||Humongous Entertainment|
|Moop and Dreadly in the Treasure on Bing Bong Island||2001||creative director and programmer||Hulabee Entertainment|
|Ollo in the Sunny Valley Fair||2002||creative director and programmer||Hulabee Entertainment|
|Sonny's Race for the Chocolatey Taste||2002||Hulabee Entertainment|
|Piglet's Big Game||2003||Hulabee Entertainment|
|Flying Leo||2005||Beep Games|
|Four Houses||2006||Beep Games|
|Word Spiral||2006||Beep Games|
|Realms of Gold||2007||Beep Games|
|Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One||2008||story and design consultant||Hothead Games|
|Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode Two||2008||story and design consultant||Hothead Games|
|Tales of Monkey Island||2009-10||"Visiting Professor of Monkeyology"||Telltale Games|
|Word Spiral HD||2010||Beep Games|
|DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue||2010||design||Hothead Games|
|The Big Big Castle!||2012||design||Beep Games|
|The Cave||2013||director||Double Fine Productions|
|Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover The Ultimate Sea Shanty: A Musical Match-3 Pirate RPG||2013||Beep Games|
|Thimbleweed Park||2017||writer, designer, programmer||Terrible Toybox, Inc.|