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Q+A with Mark Darin (Co-lead Writer/ Designer) from Facebook

posted by tomo_cjt on - last edited - Viewed by 624 users

Thought I'd post this here as I haven't seen a transcript of it anywhere else and lots of people don't use facebook.

I've edited the posts with multiple questions and answers together so it makes a coherent read here. I've also taken out posters names, greetings and thanks, so it flows better. Ok here it is, enjoy!

Mark:

Hi everyone! Nice to see so many Monkey Island fans in one place! For those who don't know me, I'm Mark Darin, Co-Lead designer for the upcoming episodic series, "Tales of Monkey Island" I'm looking forward to answer as many of your questions as I can.

I'm going to start by going through the questions you have already posted, so check the comments for an answer!

...And don't put your lips on anything!


Ah, let the annoying begin! And by that I mean me, annoying you... with my ambiguous answers and lack of breath mints!

Q: What will be the average length in playtime of a single ToMI episode?

A: If you have played any of the Telltale games in the past, you should have a pretty good idea what to expect. Each episode play time really depends on the player and how thorough you are. But to cut to the chase, it takes me about 3-4 hours to get through an episode... and I know all the puzzles!

Q: What excites you most about Tales of Monkey Island?

A: The thing I like most about Tales is that we are getting back to Guybrush's pirate roots! We are trying to make sure this is a swashbuckling adventure through and through! Plus, it's just nice to hear Guybrush's voice again.

Q: I have hair just like Guybrush, Why wont girls date me?

A: ...because you have hair just like Guybrush.

Q: Why did you decide to market this game as Monkey Island 4.5 (sorta)?

I understand that you feel MI5 should be a big blockbuster; but in terms of graphics, production values and length, this seems to be comparable to earlier entries in the series.

A-Other facebook user Chris: This was a joke that has gotten out of hand (see the Private Pirate Forum at telltales site). It's the fifth MI game in the same way that Temple of Doom is the second Indy film even though there is the mini adventure in bar obi-wan at the begining. It was a joke so they could distance this from EMI and also have the end of an unseen game start Tales. So really it's like MI5.5 or MI6, but for all intents and purposes its MI5.

A-Mark: Chris summed it up pretty well. The idea is that we want to start Tales of Monkey Island right in the thick of a climatic moment! Something that felt like a final showdown with LeChuck, full of action, tension and dramatic moments! I really wanted to start BIG! So with that in mind, if this was theoretically a "Final Showdown", then something that the player didn't get to see MUST have led up to this point.

And before you ask, there are no plans to turn those unseen events into a separate game, it'd be no fun, especially considering you would have technically already played the end!

Q: monkey island Rocks !! when is the release date ?? :D:D:D

A: The release date for the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island will be July 7, with new episodes releasing monthly after that. For more info come to www.telltalegames.com

Q: well im mixing my green and blue grog to get that spit record right now !!! GET IN !!

A: Haacckk--PTU!

Q: Were any monkeys harmed during the filming of the Monkey Island series?

A: Define "Harmed"...

Q: Who is the intended audience for this game? Is it more for new people to the MI world, i.e. younger players, or is it meant for the older, original audience?

A: Thats a bit tougher to say than usual. There are thousands of rabid Monkey fans out there and definitely want to give them respect by not "dumbing down" the game or the characters, while at the same time we welcome the newcomers who may not have been born when us old timers were originally playing these games on our 386s! We are being very careful to honor the players who are long time fans while making sure people who have never played a Monkey Island game still feel like they can jump right in and enjoy the story!

Q: How much time has Ron Gilbert spent with Telltale?

A: Ron came by and spent several days with the designers talking about what Monkey Island meant to him, and what the character motivations should be, and so forth. He even spent some time coming up with puzzles and story elements (Which will make their way into the game throughout the course of series).

Q: Will there be insult swordfighting in Tales of MI ?

A: You will hear the remnants of Insult Swordfighting in Tales, but we figured since you all will be throwing Insults around for hours in the Special Edition, we'll take it easy on you in Tales. ;)

Q: Stan! We need Stan! Will Stan make an appearance?
Errr... Murray! We need Murray too!

A: We arent saying exactly who will be coming back just yet... (Bwhaahaahaa!!) but keep an eye out for some familiar faces as the season goes!

Q: When will we be able to buy the MI badges you were giving away at E3. I seriously need them =p

A: I haven't heard the final word yet. We are still working on it. Keep checking back at www.telltalegames.com. As soon as we know something we'll let you know!

Q: Will we be able to purchase the pre-order artwork as a poster, or any posters for that matter? Also can you offer prints of Ryan Jones Guybrush concept art? Will you be offering some sort of special package full of goodies like the S&M case files?

A: All of this is still being worked out. I have no idea what we'll end up with. Just keep checking Telltale.com! :)

Q: Dear Mark Darin, have you noticed that so many people on this comments page are rather confused between The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition and your project Tales of Monkey Island?

Do you think this consumer misconception (or lack of reading comprehension, or even downright retardation) is significant enough to affect sales of your product?

Has it occured to you that these people make a significant portion of the audience and if so will you be dumbing down the gameplay to accommodate their tiny minds?

A: I know that right now, some people get confused by which is which, but I think that just about everyone interested in Monkey Island is going to want to check out BOTH!

There is no need for us to dumb down gameplay, so don't worry, you be scratching you head as often as you'll be laughing it off.

Q: How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if... never mind. Can we expect the episodic structure of Tales to work in the same way that chapters did in the earlier games? Where each is a self contained set of goals with a start middle and end and the whole makes up the grander picture? I guess what I'm asking is, if we pop in the DVD in half a year and play all of the episodes back to back, will it feel like one game or will it feel like lots of small games with the same theme?

A: Unlike our previous games, Tales of Monkey Island is going for one long continuous epic story! This really will keep you hanging on for the WHOLE season! Each episode will still have it's own bigining , middle and end, but it certainly wont feel like a bunch of loosely connected individual stories! :)

Q: Will this be the second best Monkey Island game we've ever seen?

A: Do manatee's like potato salad?! :)

Q: Will there be additional sequels to this game?

A: Let's get through the 5 episodes of this season first, then we'll talk!

Q: As a fan what was it like to work on a new MI game?

A: As a fan...I'm still in shock... ask me again when this is over! :)

Q: Did you and Mike Stemmle craft the overall story together or are there sections that you worked on individually?

A: Mike Stemmle and I worked together to plot out the long over arching story, then broke it down in to episodes. We got each episode down to a general structure with the major story beats outlined. From there we break off and each episode gets it's own designer/writer who gets to flesh out the puzzles and dialog!

Q: Since you and Mike are the writers/designers on Tales how much creative input did Dave Grossman have?

A: Dave Grossman generally overseens all of this and lets us know when we are going off track, or if a puzzle just isnt working for whatever reason. And he yells at us for not getting our time sheets in on time.

Q: What was it like to work with Ron Gilbert for this and are there any puzzles that Ron contributed to the game?

A: Ron was great to work with (I still find it a bit surreal that I was driving him around in my car for a day talking about Monkey Island) He came by and contributed quite a bit to the later episodes of the game, but his influence is felt throughout the game.

Q: How do you plan on capturing that special MI essence through your writing?

A: I love Monkey Island. I've been playing it since I was a kid. And I've been playing the games all over again trying to get a feel for what made it special when I first played it and trying to reflect that in my writing.

Q: How hard is it to write dialogue for such well-established characters?

A: Writing the dialog is interesting because iit's as easy as it is hard! I've been listening to this dialog for decades! often reciting it at inappropriate moments. It's ingrained in my vocabulary. At the same time, I know everybody is hanging on a thread waiting to hear Guybrush's next words... that's a lot of pressure, man!

Q: When are you gonna stop Monkeying around and make another Nick Bounty game? ;P

A: As soon as that Zombie game, "Nearly Departed", gets finished. :P

Q: My question is about the 5 separated episodes:
Is there going to be a a whole story around the 5 episodes (separated by chapters as the previous MI games) or just 5 mini-stories with not connection at all?
(of course as a fan I hope the first option will be the right one, so I can feel it more like a MI5 and not just a bunch of "mini-monkeys")

A: You are in luck! It's gonna be one big piratey adventure!

Q: Is there going to be an option to choose between different languages or just plain english?

A: At the release it will only be English, but we know how important Monkey Island is to non-English speaking fans and we want to do our best to make sure you don't get a rushed product. When we have more information on future translations we'll announce it at www.telltalegames.com

Q: Is there going to be a sam and max reference in the tales of monkey island, like the previous 4 games had?

A: Guess you'll have to keep an eye out for that. ;)

Q: No offence to anyone who's written Monkey Island since MI2, but will Ron Gilbert ever come back? I miss him.

A: Ron came back for several days to contribute to Tales of Monkey Island! Trust me, he put his proverbial foot all in this game!

Q: Is it going to be the same set up as the last game, with 3 or 4 options at the bottom of the screen and whathaveyou, sort of like the original point-and-click? or will it be a different playing set up?

A: While we aren't going back to a list of verbs/commands that you can keep trying on every object, we are allowing you to combine things in your inventory again, so that should keep you busy! :D

Q: How will inventory work through the different sections of the game? Will your inventory be empty at the start of each 'episode'? Or will there be some save system to keep what you have picked up? Or only carry over the needed items? Or somthing else?

A: We are implementing some form of inventory carryover so that things left in you inventory at the end of one episode will likely be there in the beginning of the next. Watch for this to play into season wide puzzles too! ;)

Q: It seems that with each successive Monkey island installment, there is a change in the art direction. I’m a big fan of the original art direction for the series as envisioned by Steve Purcell. I think it’s one of the big reasons for Monkey Island’s success. I know Steve has had an active relationship with Telltale. How about recruiting Steve in future installments of Monkey Island or Monkey Island 5, if that becomes a reality, to bring the series back to his original artistic vision?

A: Purcel'ls artistic style was a big influence on us. So was Bill Tiller's. We know that there are lot of fans of both styles, so we wanted to do our best to capture the essence of what made those designs great, as well as bringing our own flavor to it.

Q: Jake from Telltale said last July that Telltale weren't working on anything to do with Monkey Island and to quash the rumours that you were.

So when did the whole Telltale/Lucasarts get together happen and how was the writing process?

A: Things probably started happening right after Jake posted that info.

The writing process for Tales of Monkey Island was mainly a collaborative effort between Mike Stemmle and myself. We made sure that the guys at Lucas Arts always knew what we were planning and they would occasionally offer suggestions and comments (Like "Your going to do WHAT to Guybrush?!!), but for the most part the left the story writing in our hands... BWHAAHAAAHAAA!!!

Q: Can we expect to see a continuation of the inside jokes that we came to love from previous titles?

A: I...uhh.... well... Look behind you, a three headed monkey!

Q: Hey Mark! I was wondering, do you plan on releasing the Monkey Island series (and heck, even Sam & Max and Strong Bad) to the iPhone at some point?

A: Man, that would be awesome! But I have no idea. I'm just a lowly game designer.

Q: Will this installment be made available for my Commodore 64 on 5.25in discs? Please say yes; I have no internet access on Gumba, the island on which I live.

A: Ummm.... You do know that Gumba now offers wireless right? No internet, but wireless nonetheless.

Q: What are we looking at for music? I know that Michael Land is involved with the project, so are we looking at a lot of significantly new music? Do you know if it will be recorded using live instruments or midi? Are there any plans to release a soundtrack?

A: We are still working out the details, so I can't really comment on that topic yet. But at least you don't have long to wait to find out!

Q: Hey Mark, can we hope for some re-releases of the later games as well, if not some of the other Lucas Arts Classics if this game is as successful as we all hope?

A: I guess that is up to Lucas Arts! (I'm actually from Telltale Games designing the Episodic series Tales of Monkey Island). The best thing to do is show your support and buy the games! And get your friends to as well!

Q: Hi! I was just wondering about that "not wanting to beat the player" and episodes that "can be solved in one afternoon" statements, and I was worried about the difficulty level being too "stupid". Thanks.

A: There is a big difference in Dumbing Down and "Defeating the player", and we definitely don't want to dumb things down! The difference is that we want to create puzzles that make you say "AH HA!" when you figure them out (Like using a time machine to turn Wine into Vinegar in DOTT) not puzzles that make you think "That made no sense at all! No normal human being things like that! That designer is on crack!" (Like shaking a crab to make it spit on a fusebox to knock out the power (In Nick Bounty: A Case of the Crabs))

Q: Roughly, how many lines of dialogue will be in each episode? Escape from Monkey Island almost seemed to have too much dialogue. I am hoping that Guybrush has plenty of witty one-liners to choose from in his dialogue tree, though.

A: Our average seems to be about 1500 lines of dialog! but that is spread out over the episode with plenty of one liners! We don't want you to have to sit through several paragraphs of dialog at once, we want to keep things moving at a decent pace!

Q: This is not so much of a question, but it's something I'd like to share. I know you are under the restraints of a WiiWare game. But think about the past MI games. They all had the best graphics one could ask for at the time they were released. CMI is a feast for the eyes to this day still. Don't you think that the limited graphics can get in the eyes of the artistic design? I don't care so much for the graphics. Of all the current gen consoles, I own a Wii. But I do care about that artistic flavor that some games, like CMI or Grim Fandango, bring to the table.

A: One of the things that Telltale specializes in is Episodic gaming. That means we are ble to bring you brand new games on a regular and consistent basis! To be able to do that, we have build a custom 3D engine that allows us to make games quickly while still being able to retain quality and style that gamers desire.

Everyone has their own taste when it comes to artistic design, and it's natural to squirm a bit when things change. But I believe that our artist and animators have brought a style and artistic vision to the game that will feel just right when you actually start playing the game. (I remember crying foul the first time I saw CMI! I thought "What did they do to Guybrush! That nose! That hair! Those tiny tiny feet!!!" Now, that Guybrush seems as natural as the blocky pixelated blue coat of MI2)

Once you start playing the game, it just feels like Monkey Island. It's just like getting back on that bike after all these years. That barnacle encrusted, keelhauling bike.

Q: Can we expect some subtle Sam & Max references, like in the original MI games?

A: Max is a sneaky guy, it's hard to tell where he'll turn up next! ;)

Q: If you were to compare TOMI's Interface to games in Telltale's back catalog, which game/season would it be most similar to?

A: TMI's interface is kind of a mix of several of our past games, along with some new features for Monkey Island fans, like the ability to combine inventory items!

Q: I have heard several Telltale writers say that "Insult Swordfighting" will not be making a return in TMI. Could this merely be cover for the inclusion of another type of insult game? As long as it is NOT Monkey Kombat, I will be happy. I can see how "Insult Swordfighting/Arm Wresting/Dart Throwing/etc" might not fit into the story that Telltale is telling, though.

A: There will NOT... I repeat NOT be any Monkey Kombat in the game. :)

There will also NOT be any God of War style "Mini Games" involving monkeys... just in case you were wondering.

Q: Did Lucasarts give you free reign or is their strict Monkey Island Lore that has to be followed when making the games ?

A: Lucas Arts basically gave us free reign with the story, within reason. Of course they didn't want us to completely disregard the events of the past games and suddenly put them in Space! And we had no interest in doing so terrible to Guybrush anyway.

Ack! I'm out of time! I've got to get back to work and finish this game. I'll try to get back later tonight (Or over the next couple of days) to answer more questions.

Until then... I thought I wanted to talk to you, but I don't.

Bye!

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