When I Made Another Monkey Island
Nine years ago I wrote a blog post titled "If I made another Monkey Island" and it feels like there are some things I need to say.
I can't remember the exact incident, but the day I wrote that I was feeling down about never being able to make another Monkey Island. I wrote it in a single afternoon, and it was not much more than a stream of thoughts. In the movie version, tears would have been pouring down my cheeks, but it wasn't the movie version so I was probably sipping coffee and eating a chocolate chip cookie.
My point is these were not commandments handed down and etched in stone on a giant tablet. They were just random thoughts about a (then very unlikely) new Monkey Island game.
None of these are promises or anything I owe anybody.
People talk a lot about Monkey Island 3a as if it was the game I would have made after Monkey Island 2 had I stayed at Lucasfilm.
Here's the deal.
The totality of that idea was "Guybrush chases the demon pirate LeChuck to hell and Stan is there." That's it. That's all it was.
Games, movies, and books don't come out fully formed. They start as a morsel of an idea and then all the hard work begins.
Roger Ebert had a great quote that I am constantly reminding myself of:
"The muse visits during the act of creation, not before."
Had I stayed at Lucasfilm I might have started with that idea, but by the time the game was done it would have been something completely different and better.
And that is exactly what Return to Monkey Island is.
When Dave and I first got together to talk about Return to Monkey Island we had a nearly blank slate. We talked over ideas we'd had over the years including one of mine where Guybrush wakes up 3000 years in the future on a snowball Earth.
We talked about my original "hell" idea but other Monkey Island games had already done much of that (by pure coincidence) and there was little point in rehashing it.
The one thing I wanted to do was start the new game right where LeChuck's Revenge ended, and that became the one unmovable stone.
I have made one pixel art game in my entire career and that was Thimbleweed Park. Monkey Island 1 and 2 weren't pixel art games. They were games using state-of-the-art tech and art. Monkey Island 1 was 16 color EGA and we jumped at the chance to upgrade it to 256 colors. Monkey Island 2 featured the magical wizardry of scanned art by Peter Chan and Steve Purcell and we lusted to keep pushing everything forward.
If I had stayed and done Monkey Island 3 it wouldn't have looked like Monkey Island 2. We would have kept pushing forward, and Day of the Tentacle is a good example of that.
I never liked the art in DotT. Technically and artistically it was fantastic, but I never liked the wacky Chuck Jones style. But that was Dave and Tim's game, not mine. They can do what they want and I completely supported that.
Curse of Monkey Island also took a leap forward. It introduced us to a fully voiced and taller, lankier Guybrush with painted backgrounds that were all the rage in the late 90s. It was very much a game of its time.
When Dave and I first started brainstorming Return to Monkey Island we talked about pixel art, but it didn't feel right. We didn't want to make a retro game. You can't read an article about Thimbleweed Park without it being called a "throwback game". I didn't want Return to Monkey Island to be just a throwback game, I wanted to keep moving Monkey Island forward because it's interesting, fun, and exciting. It's what the Monkey Island games have always done.
I wanted the art in Return to Monkey Island to be provocative, shocking, and not what everyone was expecting. Rex is an amazing creative force and we have a team of incredible artists, animators, sound designers, programmers, and testers all pouring their souls into this game and it's beautiful to see, play, and listen to.
The music Michael, Peter, and Clint are doing is equally amazing. It's not AdLib, Sound Blaster, or even Roland MT-32 music. Its stunning, interactive, and recorded live.
Return to Monkey Island may not be the art style you wanted or were expecting but it's the art style I wanted.
When I started this game my biggest fear was Disney wouldn't let me make the game I wanted to make but they have been wonderful to work with.
It's ironic that the people who don't want me to make the game I want to make are some of the hard core Monkey Island fans. And that is what makes me sad about all the comments.
Return to Monkey Island is an incredible rollercoaster. Get on and have some fun or stomp out of the amusement park because it's not exactly the rollercoaster you wanted.
I hope you'll jump on with the rest of us.
*Seventeen - The game would be the game I wanted to make. I don't want the pressure of trying to make the game you want me to make. I would vanish for long periods of time. I would not constantly keep you up-to-date or be feeding the hype-machine. I'd show stuff that excited me or amused me. If you let me do those things, you will love the game. That, I promise.