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Interviews: Tales of Monkey Island - Telltale Games

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

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!

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User Comments (30)

TwilightV

#3

TwilightV said:

Kinks... okay, i'll give them two extra weeks and that will be it.

LOL at the last question. :D

Other_DaveStaff

#4

Other_Dave said:

Hope Wii players do get this soon. I was very impressed with the PC version of the first chapter.

Chunky_Droid

#6

Chunky_Droid said:

"Out any day now"

Good! I'm getting it day one :)

The controls sound more intuitive on the Wii aswell, my friend had complaints about the PC version's controls, but that could just be a matter of taste

DrakeStaff

#7

Drake said:

@ David77: No, you really don't, trust me! Yes, it's great to have voice acting, but the old graphics are a mile better and it offers absolutely nothing new, it's the exact same game as before. Tales is completely new, how could you not want it more?

Kidpit

#8

Kidpit said:

Any day now huh. According to Gamespot, the game should be availabe next week.

jangonov

#12

jangonov said:

@wrong way,
working out the kinks could be code for "waiting for nintendo to tell us what is wrong with it"
I cant wait to get this game

Stevie

#13

Stevie said:

Really looking forward to this. I have been a fan of the Monkey Island games since the Amiga days and thought the series was dead and buried. Now all I ask is that the original Monkey Island games come out on the Wii, either VC or a compilation full disk release.

Stuffgamer1

#14

Stuffgamer1 said:

@Drake: Y'know, Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition does also have the Classic version in it. Which is perfect for people like me who have never played it before at all!

I'd like to see an interview that could tell us if they're going to give the other old Monkey Island games the Special Edition treatment so I can finally play them all (started with Escape From Monkey Island on PS2 because it was the only one on a system I have)! Not that I expect that to be answered here since it wouldn't be on a Nintendo system, but still... Also, the original Sam & Max game needs that treatment. :)

SmaMan

#15

SmaMan said:

Never really played the Monkey Island series, but I've watched the YouTube videos, loved the songs. (A Pirate I Was Meant To Be, anyone?) I guess I should get some of them on ScummVM before I play this one so I can catch up on some of the possible inside jokes, or just watch more YouTube videos about it.

I've been wondering what The Brothers Chaps have been up to. There hasn't been a Strong Bad Email in a while... course it's also been a while since I've checked.

EDIT: Wow, I turn away from that site for a month and the Lappy is dead! Aaaaah!

chrisy

#16

chrisy said:

Looking forward to this... I don't get why there are direct controls for Guybrush though when clicking where you want him to go is less fiddly.

DrakeStaff

#17

Drake said:

@ Stuffgamer1: I know, but the game's main draw is supposed to be the updated mode, so it's kind of sad it's so ugly.

They should remake LeChuck's Revenge (And maybe Escape) as well, yes, but Curse should be left alone. You can't improve something which is already perfect!

Stevie

#18

Stevie said:

I must admit i am not a massive fan of how the character's translated to the new versions, especially what they did to Guybrush's hair, but as the main aspects, ie storyline and gameplay are as fun as ever i can overlook this, however if given the option i would choose the old style graphics over the new.

ToneDeath

#21

ToneDeath said:

I still just want the Amiga to show up on the VC, with The Secret of Monkey Island, Cannon Fodder...and Stunt Car Racer!
If the C64 is on there then it's Shirley possible, right?

David77

#22

David77 said:

@Drake

I have all the original Monkey Island games on pc. I want to see the first one with those new graphics . I will buy all the new tales, but I don't like the look of it (specially Guybrush). And i'm with you about Curse. Don't touch to perfection!

WolfRamHeart

#23

WolfRamHeart said:

I recently downloaded The Secret of Monkey Island on XBLA and I absolutely love it! I never got the chance to play any of the original Monkey Island games so I was curious to see what I was missing. I am so glad that I got this game because it is awesome! I am really excited about Tales of Monkey Island coming to WiiWare! It will be an instant download for me!:)

JayArr

#24

JayArr said:

I am so geeked about this game!
I hope "Any day now." translates to this Monday.

Varoennauraa

#25

Varoennauraa said:

I have slowly gotten used to Guybrushes looks, at least they are one million times better than the XBox360 remake(as seen in its hairdo and facial expression). This Guybrush HAS expression. Anyway! I'm completely happy of the direction of things. Keep those adventure games coming. This is one of the reasons I bought Wii in the first place. But still I can't believe, that we are getting new Monkey Island!!! Would it be to much to ask Grim Fandango and sequel for it? This more than makes up all the games I dreamt, and eventually lost to other consoles! Thank you so very, very, much!

paulcmnt

#27

paulcmnt said:

I've heard about MI before, but never got around to play any of the originals (the '90s graphics turned me off), but I just downloaded the Special Edition on Steam and I think it's going to become one of my favorite games.

There are so many things I like about the game that I don't ven know where to start. Also, I love the fact that Rob Paulsen is in the cast — he's one of my fav voice actors.

Definitely looking forward to this. But I still have 3 and 2/3 games to play in the series before I catch up with the storyline. ;)

Stuffgamer1

#28

Stuffgamer1 said:

@diego_pmc: Interesting...Monkey Island isn't mentioned on the Wikipedia page you posted the link for, though. Which character(s) did he play in it? I honestly had no idea he had such a big VO career. I just got a kick out of the egg snatcher from Land Before Time II who sounded exactly like Pinky. :D

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