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Back In The Water: The Monkey Island Interview
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Back In The Water: The Monkey Island Interview


July 6, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

You were telling me earlier this isn't actually so much Monkey Island 5 as much as it is Monkey Island 6, with this game picking up where a hypothetical Monkey Island 5 might have left off. What do you mean by that?

DG: We've left a little bit of mental space between the four games that have come before and this series, basically because we wanted people to take that space themselves to think about it in a slightly different way than they would about something that was meant to come directly after Escape from Monkey Island. They might be expecting one story in three acts, with eight billion puzzles that take 20 hours, whereas what we're actually doing is a series.

It's more one story in 15 acts; each episode really has a beginning, middle, and an end to it. Then we parcel that out over five episodes in five months, so the mental space is really quite different. It makes the story seem a lot more epic and a lot longer, but it's not quite what people are used to.

How would you compare it with other Telltale series like Sam & Max or Wallace & Gromit? Do you think of this the same way you think of those from the design side?

DG: It's a little bit different than what we've done with series before. Earlier in the company's history, we had to worry about fear on the part of the consumer that we were going to try and trick them into buying five games instead of just buying one.

[Our fear] was that they were really worried about that, so we designed them a little bit differently where, with each one, you could stop at the end of it, and that would be that, and you would be perfectly satisfied and could never go on.

They were a lot more separate just in story terms, and from a gameplay perspective that's still true -- you start at the beginning of each episode with a goal, and you will wrap that up by the end of the episode, but we have always wanted to tie the stories together more closely to get more of a miniseries feel. It's an ongoing drama rather than a series of loosely-connected episodes.

Have you found that relatively few people pick up a given series in the middle? I remember when Telltale was formed, one of the claims was that you could pick up an episode from any point in the series.

DG: Yeah, that doesn't happen very often. People tend to start at the beginning no matter what, and that's part of what has changed our thinking about what we really can let ourselves do now and what aspects of the form can we take advantage of.

Speaking of Monkey Island as an overall series, which games have you looked to in particular? The series changed in tone and look a lot. Is Curse of Monkey Island a touchstone?

DG: Yeah, somewhat. We've actually got, around the office and mostly on the team itself, people who worked on all of the previous games -- specifically, people who wrote for all of them. My own personal perspective is from Monkey 1 and Monkey 2, because those are the ones that I understand best. Chuck Jordan is around, and Mike Stemmle is actually doing a lot of heavily lifting on this project. He worked on Monkey 4; he was one of the leads on that.

So we all have slightly different angles on things, which is part of what makes it interesting. I'm just trying to make sure we stay true to Guybrush's core nature. He's a bit selfish, flippant, and unaffected by things, but he's very much in love with Elaine, and their relationship is actually very important over the course of the season. We want to stay true to the things that are critical.

I should mention Ron Gilbert actually came down. He's the creative director as Hothead, and he's making his own game Deathspank, which also looks very cool. But we borrowed him for a week, and he came down because he cares very passionately about this franchise. He brainstormed with us and let us bounce a bunch of ideas off him, and he gave us a lot of important insight.

On the visuals, there were a lot of concepts for Guybrush, and we wound up combining all of our favorite stuff. You see he's got a coat reminiscent to the one that he was wearing in, I think, the second game. Everybody said, "We love that coat. We should bring that back."

He's tall and thin, like he is in the third game, but not quite so gawky; his beard looks pointy and cool. It is a little bit closer probably to the art from the third one than any of the others. It's very painterly.


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