The Secret of Tales of Monkey Islandbt: Why did you decide to make the new series a 3D game, rather than using a hi-res 2D approach?
Our studio was designed from the ground up to use a 3D engine versatile enough to deliver episodic games. Hi-res 2D takes a lot of time, and a lot of money, and is also very restrictive in terms of what can be done cinematically. As you see our game in motion you’ll see why we can do so much more in 3D than we could have in 2D.
bt: With a franchise as old and popular as Monkey Island there’s always the chance that people’s opinions are being coloured by nostalgia more than anything else. How well do you think the old Monkey Island games hold up nowadays and how have you tried to push the series in a different direction for Tales?
I think it’s those stories that people remember so fondly. If the story is making them laugh and keeping people entertained, it’s something they will come back to over and over again. I think that’s why people are still playing the original Monkey Island
games even today, despite the fact that they have beaten the game many times before.
There are plenty of good pirate stories left to tell about Guybrush and his pals. We have no real need to stray off in an entirely different direction, but we do want to explore new settings and characters!
Tales of Monkey Island's first episode is set of Flotsam Island
bt: The other problem with a series like this is that the hardcore fans might be pretty resistant to change and have very set ideas of what should be in a Monkey Island game (as happened a bit with Fallout 3 fans). Are you worried about appeasing those fans, or are you set in what you want to do with the series?
There are always those who will resist change. One thing we do have on our side is that the Monkey Island
games have gone through a series of significant changes to the art style already. While some were better received than others, it’s near impossible for someone to say that one style is THE definitive style.
That said, we looked hard into what games people tended to like the most and found that there was a fairly even split between the 2nd and 3rd games. We set out to capture the iconic things that defined those games and merge them into something that was new, but still familiar! Guybrush’s blue coat, the swirly clouds, the beard… all of these things come back to deliver a familiar and satisfying presentation for Monkey Island
bt: How directly were Lucasarts and members of the original team (Ron Gilbert et al) involved in the project? Did they lay down any limitations or guidance, or were you pretty much free to do what you want?
Bringing the series to consoles should interest a new generation of gamers
LucasArts offered plenty of welcome guidance! We designers have had a lot of latitude to take the story wherever we wanted but LucasArts was there to make sure we didn’t do anything crazy, like send Guybrush through time into the 1980’s and recast him up as a cop!
Ron Gilbert came down to our offices for a few sessions and really got down and dirty in the design too. He helped us understand the main charters better, help brainstorm ideas for storyline and even designed a few puzzles. He shared a lot of good ideas with us and the game is certainly stronger for it!
bt: The Monkey Island series is still popular with older gamers, but there’s a generation of gamers now who may not know about the series and how awesome it is – do you think you’re going to have a tough time attracting that audience with the new series?
Reaching a new audience is always tricky, but I think the fact that we are expanding to the console market will help immensely. Each episode will be available for download on WiiWare as well as the PC, and that will help the game find it’s way in to many more homes!
bt: The final question is an obvious one, but humour us: What do you think the secret of Monkey Island is?
The true secret of Monkey Island is that Ron Gilbert is truly a mad man and we all only exist in his imagination.
For more information on TellTale’s Tales of Monkey Island series you can read our review of the first episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.