Interviews: Tales of Monkey Island - Telltale Games

We asked Telltale some questions about the legendary series which has finally come to a Nintendo platform.

Who hasn't heard of the Monkey Island series? Although it has never been on any Nintendo platform until now, most people still know that it's one of the greatest point and click adventure series ever made, but after Escape from Monkey Island, released in 2000, it sadly seemed to have died. This year it's back with not one, but two games, one of which is a 5-part "series" for the Wii by Telltale Games, who previously brought us Sam & Max and Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People.

We recently caught up with Mike Stemmle, who has written the script for various Telltale and LucasArts games, as well as sometimes being a director and designer. You can find out what he had to say about Guybrush's return in the interview below:

Nintendo Life: How did you manage to acquire the Monkey Island license? Did LucasArts approach you or was it the other way around?

Mike Stemmle: From what I understand, it was a sort of courtship between the two corporate titans, replete with bad poetry, occasional break-ups, comic misunderstandings, and big sloppy make-up kisses.

Nlife: Xbox Live Arcade and PC will also be getting a remake of the original game, The Secret of Monkey Island. Is either of the new games being made because of the other or is it just sheer coincidence that two new Monkey Island games are coming out at the same time?

Mike: It’s a coincidence that both products were being developed more-or-less simultaneously. The timing of the releases was, as you might imagine, a bit more intentional.

Nlife: How many people who worked on the previous games in the series are working on Tales? Are they only offering some advice or are they heavily involved?

Mike: Well, we’ve got nearly a dozen people at Telltale (including myself and Dave Grossman) who’ve worked on at least one of the previous four Monkey games in one capacity or another, making us the single greatest concentration of Monkey Island talent on the planet. Aside from that, we also had Ron Gilbert (a.k.a. the Guy Who Dreamed Up Monkey Island In the First Place) come in for a week of intensive “Monkey Consulting.” It was very illuminating.

Nlife: Did you spend a lot of time (re)playing the previous games in the series to get a good feel for the humor and overall style?

Mike: There was a lot of replaying. There was also lot of watching playthroughs on YouTube. It’s amazing what you can find on the Internets.

Nlife: On PC, Tales of Monkey Island is the first Telltale game to feature WASD controls in addition to mouse controls. Will the WiiWare version have a similar feature?

Mike: On the Wii players will be able to directly control Guybrush via the nunchuk, or, if they don’t have a nunchuk, the D-Pad.

Nlife: The time it takes for Guybrush to give a hint if you take too long seems to be longer than the time it takes for hints to appear in previous Telltale games, even on the highest hint frequency setting. Were there any player complaints about the frequency of hints or was this more of a developer decision?

Mike: We’re always adjusting the hint frequency in our games, attempting to strike the right balance between “helpful” and “annoying.” We’ll likely be adjusting it again throughout the course of the season.

Nlife: Aside from the main three characters, the only classic character in the first episode of Tales is the Voodoo Lady. Will we be seeing more fan favorites in the remaining episodes? I’m sure you know many of us would like to see Stan return!

Mike: By now fans already know that Murray will be returning in a future episode. It’s likely that other fan favorites will return, but we’re trying to keep them a secret for now.

Nlife: You’ve also introduced a completely new villain, Marquis de Singe. Can we expect to see him a lot in the remaining episodes or will he only make sporadic appearances?

Mike: The Marquis is going to prove to be a remarkably tenacious jerk of a scientist, and a charmingly infuriating counterpoint for the voodoo shenanigans wafting around the story.

Nlife: How about some other classic features – Will we return to any islands from the previous games, and will there be insult sword fighting while we’re travelling to them?

Mike: As of now, there’s only one location from previous games that we MAY revisit (with an emphasis on “may”). Some form of insult swordfighting could show up, too… but in an unexpected fashion. How’s that for vague?

Nlife: While playing through the PC version we were actually stumped once or twice, while we didn’t have much trouble with the Strong Bad games. Are you trying to match the difficulty of the previous Monkey Island games?

Mike: I think it’s fair to say that the Monkey Island puzzles are a wee bit more difficult than the Strong Bad ones, but I hope we don’t go too far in that direction. Some of the puzzles in the original Monkey games were insanely non-intuitive… and they didn’t even have hints!

Nlife: How far along is development? Is the second episode already ready or are you just starting work on it?

Mike: Mark Darin’s got the second episode well on its way, and Sean’s been overseeing primary recording for the third episode all this week. Next week the fourth episode’s puzzle tree will be submitted for review…assuming I ever get off my fundament to finish it.

Nlife: Episode 1 was already released on PC recently, but no date for the WiiWare version has yet been announced. Is there any particular reason for the delay?

Mike: We’re just hammering out a few of the kinks with the Wii version. It should be out any day now.

Nlife: Are there any plans for a second season of Strong Bad? How do the Brothers Chap feel about this?

Mike: I’d love to do another season of Strong Bad. Right now, the Brothers Chap are regrouping and focusing on their cartoon. By the time the last episode of SBCG4AP shipped, they were hoarse, bleeding, and bug-eyed.

Nlife: Before you go, can I interest you in one of these fine leather jackets I’m selling?

Mike: The jacket is a lie!