The second part of our exclusive interview with the creator of Monkey Island.
Lo and behold here is the final seven and a half minutes of our exclusive chat with Monkey Island creator, Ron ‘Not as Grumpy as you’d think’ Gilbert. SEGA organised the chat for us to talk about the impending release of Ron’s next project and collaboration with Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions, The Cave. During the interview we deviated a fair bit from The Cave, but when you have Mr Gilbert in front of you, it’s kind of impossible not to chuck in a few Monkey Island questions.
We recommend reading the first half of this interview before getting stuck into the second part, and you can find that linked here.
Reflecting on your time at Hothead when you were in charge of a really talented development team – is that something you’d be interesting in doing again? Would you be interested in founding a new company again? Are you happy doing what you’re doing now?
You know running a company is a lot of fun. After Lucas Arts I started Humongous Entertainment and we made adventure games for kids, and that was a wonderful ten years in my life. Running a company is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. When we first started Humongous I was designing the games and managing the projects, and then there was that point where I had a certain number of employees and I couldn’t do that any more. There was a point where I was no longer being a game designer, I was running a company. I’m sure Tim feels that to some degree – he’s trying to run a company and how much time do you really have to just totally sink yourself into a design? I don’t have a huge, burning desire to go run a big company. It would be interesting to run a 5% company where you’re working on very small titles, maybe mobile ones for iOS or Android, and it was just this very small group of tight-knit people who are following a tight vision of stuff. If it ever got any bigger than that [though], I’d stop having fun.
Going back to The Cave, this game is you going back to a multi-character narrative again; a formula you adhered to in the immensely beloved Maniac Mansion. What made you decide to go for this format again and what benefits does it have over a traditional single-character plot?
It was something that was kind of fun to revisit. Gary [Winnick] and I had a lot of fun with Maniac Mansion and all those weird characters. Monkey Island was a lot of fun but there was just Guybrush, and it was just a different design process in terms of storytelling. I hadn’t done the seven characters [format] in obviously twenty years or so, so I wanted to revisit that and maybe plug some of the holes that I saw in Maniac Mansion. To make the characters in such a way that they have very strong stories, as well as very specific abilities; that that was just a fun thing I wanted to do again. It wasn’t something Gary and I thought about at all, but over the years I would talk to people who played Maniac Mansion and the thing that was really interesting was that each person had their own dream team of characters; I love to play Bernard and Razor, that was my group you know! So it was looking at that and thinking, ‘That’s really fun, but what if the characters were better balanced?’ I mean who plays Maniac Mansion with Jeff? Seriously, nobody does that! Being able to do that and have all the characters be very equal was very intriguing to me and also multiple character puzzle solving. In Monkey Island Guybrush solved every puzzle, nobody helped him, but when you’re dealing with multiple characters it’s just fun to have puzzles. You have somebody positioned there, somebody positioned here and somebody position here and that causes some cool things to happen.
Would you ever consider making another game which calls back to Monkey Island?
Like a Pirate game? (laughs) “You ever going to make a pirate game again?” (laughs)
(Laughs) Yeah, I mean why not? The starring character could be called Mybrush Geepwood!
I don’t know. I think it would be very hard for me to make another game about pirates that wasn’t Monkey Island, because everybody would just compare it to Monkey Island, especially if it was an adventure game. I would love to make another Monkey Island, that’s really my dream. I don’t own the rights, Disney does now – so will that ever happen? The odds of me getting the rights to Monkey Island back from Lucas Arts were zero and the odds of me getting the rights back from Disney are .0.0001. They are a little bit better than they were before I don’t know, maybe if I win the lottery…
Have you reached out to them about getting the rights?
I haven’t done that yet. I’m so busy with The Cave. Once The Cave is done, and I’ve had some time to relax maybe I will poke them a little bit.
We follow you on Twitter (@grumpygamer) and you have been playfully stoking the flames of fan anticipation regarding Monkey Island’s return…
(Laughs) Yeah Twitter is great for that!
Obviously Kickstarter would be an ideal vehicle for clawing the rights back as well.
Actually, Kickstarter would be a really good thing. The problem with Monkey Island and Kickstarter is that it’s really two projects, the first would be to get the rights back and the second would be to actually make the game. How many people would pay money just so that I could own the rights to Monkey Island and then maybe sit on it for the next twenty years? That would be a hard Kickstarter to do. You might be able to combine them in such a way, but that would be such an enormous amount of money. Disney won’t sell me the rights to Monkey Island for $500,000 right? It will be multiple millions of dollars to buy those rights back and that doesn’t include the money to make the game.
Maybe you could do a game swap? They give you the rights to Monkey Island and you give them the Pirates of the Caribbean game they’ve always wanted!
Mr Gilbert was an absolute pleasure to interview and we wish him well in his next endeavour. The Cave is released on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 this month. To find out where to snap up the digital release for the cheapest price, check out PreOrder-IQ.com.
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