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Questions for Mike Stemmle? Post 'em here!

posted by Emily on - last edited - Viewed by 3.1K users

While the Q&A with the team thread is quite possibly the coolest thread in the history of Telltale's forum, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get a little more in depth with the folks working on the game, so starting this week we will be doing Q&As with specific members of the Tales of Monkey Island team... starting with designer Mike Stemmle!

[quote=Tales of Monkey Island team page]During his decade-plus tenure at LucasArts, Mike was kept as far away from Star Wars as possible, instead acting as lead designer on titles like Escape from Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Afterlife, and the never-released Sam & Max: Freelance Police. After several years working as lead writer on Star Trek Online, Mike came to Telltale, where he co-designed Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. His disturbing blend of dry wit, convoluted syntactical constructions, and bathroom humor have added a healthy helping of absurdity to the Tales of Monkey Island proceedings.[/quote]

Mike's the lead writer/designer on the first Tales of Monkey Island episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, so you should definitely pick his brain about that. But also feel free to ask about other projects he's worked on, his favorite color, his favorite Star Trek character, etc.

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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Staff

    @Rather Dashing said:
    Since you're a designer/writer for a single episodie, how much collaboration do you have with the designers/writers of other episodes? Is it all kind of worked out in an outline beforehand, or is it kind of developed as you go?


    Mark Darin and I have sort of "taken point" on the storyline for the whole season, laying out the big beats, big puzzles, and themes beforehand. Of course, we didn't do that in a vacuum, as nearly every designer in the building (and a couple NOT in the building) have contributed to the overall shape of the season, but by and large the overall plot structure was worked out before Chapter 1 ever got started.

    @Rather Dashing said:
    If you're working on the first episode, would your decisions for that episode end up affecting later ones, or are all "overarching" and repeating series gags talked about beforehand?


    The plot threads for the season have been worked out ahead of time (mostly), but running gags tend to be more organic, with writers seeing things they like in the first episode, then deciding to run with them. Of course, some running gags are so important that we DO plan them out from day one.

    @Rather Dashing said:
    In fact, what really is your role in it? We know that you dessode, wign and write the first episode, so we'll know we thank you when it's great. But how's that work into the grander scheme of the season?


    After the first episode, I'll be going off to design/write the fourth episode, all the while keeping a steady eye on the second and third eps, to make sure that there's a reasonable continuity of plot and tone. Not that they need my eye THAT much, since Mark, Joe, and Sean have a REALLY good handle on the story.

    @Rather Dashing said:
    Who's your favorite Star Wars character?


    Jar Jar Binks. What can I say, I LOVE the challenge of redeeming unlovable characters.

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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Staff

    @Gryffalio said: I have a couple of questions if that's okay.

    1. One thing has perplexed me since I bought EfMI (and enjoyed it :)). What was the purpose of Pinchpenny and the other non-playable islands/was there a purpose/was there an idea to use these in a later game?


    Frankly, I think we were just trying to fill out the map:o Of course, it's possible that there was a subtler plan at work, but that's an awful lot of brain cells ago...

    @Gryffalio said:
    2. Is there much more to the island we see in ToMI (Flotsam iirc?) than we have seen already, or will the episode be built largely on the dock-area?


    There's much, MUCH more to Flotsam than those two exteriors, you betcha.

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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Staff

    @LuigiHann said: When you were working on SBCG4AP, did anybody ever come into the room and say "Hey Mike," and then both you and Chapman said "hey" at the same time?

    Hey, are you insinuating that I've got a writing tic?

    Hey,
    Mike

  • It was commented in an E3 interview that you guys are all 10-15 years older now than when you last worked on Monkey Island and other classic adventure games. It also follows that most die hard fans of the classic Monkey Island games are also 10-15 years older now. How has that influenced your writing of the jokes and puzzles, if at all? Do you feel that you are purposely trying to go for more sophisticated humor to appeal to us old farts or trying to think 10-15 years younger to match the humor of the classic games?

  • That's an interesting question, yep :D Also, any big influences this time around like Pirate of the Caribbean was originally for the first ones?

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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Staff

    @Secret Fawful said: I'll leave you alone on Escape From Monkey Island *booming voice* FOR NOW. Mwahahaha. What I really have questions about are the Sam and Max series.

    On Hit the Road.

    1. How much creative input did you have on the game?

    2. What's your favorite puzzle?

    3. Any interesting or funny stories about the production of the game? Where did the idea for the Andy Griffith/Don Knotts twin come from? I always wondered how you guys got this idea. :D

    4. What made you switch to that interface instead of the old SCUMM interface?

    1. Sean, Steve, Collette, and I pretty much teamed up to design the whole thing.

    2. I'm really quite partial to the "bungee cord out of Mt. Rushmore" puzzle, although the "pulling the tooth from the wooly mammoth" puzzle also has its charms.

    3. The Andy Griffith/Don Knotts thing was a Steve invention... at least I think it was.

    4. We'd been drifting away from the classic SCUMM interface for some time by the time Sam& Max rolled around. With machines getting more and more powerful, it seemed time to make the full break and present our games with glorious full-screen graphics, and to eliminate the 6 or so extra verbs that were cluttering up our designs.

    @Secret Fawful said:
    On Freelance Police (yep, I have to grill you on it. whether you answer me is a different story.)

    1. With you guys and Lucas finally in good terms again, do you think you'd consider or rather would LA consider remaking Freelance Police with updated graphics? I know you tried a long while back to obtain the rights again and failed. And if not....that brings me to Question 2.

    2. Can you give us any good snippets of some funny moments out of the game? :D Or a general idea of what it was going to be about? Or are you constantly finding red beams of light flashing over your forehead every time you're about to type the words Freelance Police?

    1. I kinda doubt that'll happen, cause the amount of work we'd have to do to wrestle down the old project into, say, the Telltale Engine really wouldn't be worth it. I wouldn't mind if LucasArts freed up the intellectual property, though, so that we could mine some of the funnier story bits with a clear conscience.

    2. My favorite lines that no one else thinks are funny:

    Max - "Don't look at me, I'm more regular than an atomic clock."

    Max - "Oh no, it's the Rapture, and I'm not wearing any pants!"

    @Secret Fawful said:
    On you-

    What did you think of the new Star Trek movie?

    On Tales of Monkey Island-

    1. Which game in the series would you compare it the most to?

    2. Is the bad guy going to be big mean and scary?

    3. Who is your favorite MI character?

    4. What was your main goal when writing for the game versus when writing for Escape? Okay, I brought it up once. Did you have a general idea of how it would go in your head when you started out?

    0. As a fan, I was quite pleased and relieved by the new Trek movie. As a guy who worked on Star Trek Online for a long time, I was amused by some of the plot, um, gaps that ended up in the final version.

    1. Monkey 2. It's a continuation, it's funny, and it goes into some dark places.

    2. Isn't LeChuck always mean and scary? Oh, you mean our OTHER bad guys. Well, they're mean and scary too. And crazy. And occasionally obnoxious.

    3. Elaine. She's a pain in the tuchus to write, but there's a hidden complexity to her that's fascinating.

    4. This time around I'm looking forward to introducing these characters to an entire generation of game players who've never played a Monkey Island game before, while simultaneously moving the overall saga forward in a surprising fashion. Previously, we weren't as concerned with re-introducing the franchise, since was still quite active at the time.

    And with that, my lunch is over for the day,
    Mike

  • How are you balancing a sense of nostalgia and classic MI while pushing the series forward? Is there a conscious effort to "bring it back" or is there more of an effort to create new worlds and characters and story devices.

  • Is there an effort to keep monologue and dialogue brief and to the point? That's one of the things I really enjoy about the first two games, there's not a ton of reading or overexplaining but the laughs still come. It's fast moving, and mostly one or two liners. It's like you either see the joke or you don't. It seems like a lot of adventure games since then have relied on paragraphs and paragraphs of reading.

  • @ttg_Stemmle said: Hey, are you insinuating that I've got a writing tic?

    Hey,
    Mike

    What? No. Just that you and Mike Chapman have the same first name. It was kind of an "I can't think of any good questions" question.

  • Mr. Stemmle, if you were a tree, what sort of tree would you be? Have you ever read any of the works of P.G. Wodehouse? If not, go right now and get Mulliner Nights and jump to "Strychnine in the Soup."

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