The Monkey Island series of pirate adventure games has lain dormant since 2000's Escape From Monkey Island, but the adventures of ostensible pirate Guybrush Threepwood continue this week in episodic form with Telltale Games' Tales of Monkey Island.
Tales is Telltale's fifth main episodic franchise, and it's one that the company has been seeking since its formation in 2004. All of the company's core founding members are veterans of LucasArts' adventure game days, and over the years Telltale has attracted even more former members of that crew.
Design director Dave Grossman, one of the three writers and designers of 1990's original The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge along with Tim Schafer and creator Ron Gilbert, heads up the new project, and Gilbert took some time off from his day job at Hothead Games to provide some input.
Also on board are Michael Stemmle, a lead on Escape; Chuck Jordan, who worked on 1997's Curse of Monkey Island; and Michael Land, the series' main composer from the beginning.
With the first episode coming tomorrow, only five weeks after the series was announced, Telltale won't have to wait long to find out if its interpretation of the franchise will pay off.
As with most of Telltale's series, five games will be released on a monthly basis going forward. In advance of the kickoff, Gamasutra sat down with Grossman to discuss the series' heritage, the evolution of adventure games, and Telltale's long-term plans.
How did Telltale get the Monkey Island license? It's been a while since there's been a new Monkey Island game.
Dave Grossman: It has been quite a while since there's been a new Monkey Island game.
Really, as long as our company has been around, we've been pinging LucasArts about the possibility of doing Monkey Island or some other franchise they own. You know, we did Sam & Max, but we didn't actually go through them to do that, because that belonged to Steve Purcell. There was always somebody over there who was interested in that, but not always the right people at the right places at the right time.
This is fortuitous that we asked the right questions and they had the right answers at the right particular time. They're also doing their own revamp of The Secret of Monkey Island, and I guess they thought the idea of having some new games coming out at the same time would be good, so all of the sudden there was some agreement. It just became legal wrangling from that point.
Telltale always works on an accelerated development schedule, but you just announced this game [last month] and it's already coming out. How has that worked?
DG: Well, we really wanted to be able to announce it and be able to say, not only are we working on this, but you can preorder it now and it will be out next month.
And we've had great preorder deals, where you get the DVD copy, and there's a limited edition Steve Purcell painted cover that only the preorder people will get. There's a special forum only viewable by preorder people that various members of the design team are on.
It does seem like suddenly LucasArts is acknowledging that they made adventure games one time, with the remake, your game, and the Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis unloackable in the new Indiana Jones game. Do you have any idea if that's part of a broader plan?
DG: Well, I haven't actually personally talked to any people over there who are directly involved with that. I know some of the producers, but nobody at a really high decision-making level. So, I don't quite know what it is, but I imagine somebody finally said, "Oh hey, why are we letting all this stuff languish when we could be using it quite easily to enrich ourselves fabulously?"
But Telltale is the actual publisher of this game, the company assuming the risk, right?
DG: It is, yeah. We are publishing Tales of Monkey Island. We are paying LucasArts money for the use of their character and license. They are giving us some feedback on how the art looks and stuff like that, but it's basically our show. LucasArts is publishing its own [remake].