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Want to know what it was like working on Hit the Road? So did we! Unfortunately Dan went on vacation before we could extract any intimate details from him (or maybe he did it on purpose), but Mike Stemmle and Steve Purcell still stepped up to the plate to tell us their fond (and not so fond) memories of Hit the Road production. Without further ado...
When's the last time you played Hit the Road?
Mike: A couple of years ago I popped a copy into my machine, trying to impress a girl. It did. Now we're married. That's the awesome power of Sam & Max.
Steve: I tried cranking it up for my kids a while back but I'm a computer doofus so I never got it running. They've been playing the Telltale Episodes, though and laughing at jokes I never thought they would get.
Mike: That varies depending on the mood I'm in. Sometimes, it's the extravagant lunacy of the "King of the Creatures" song, which was joyously superfluous to the actual game, and would be one of the first things cut in today's penny-pinching projects. Other times it's the some of the weirder bits of game play, like Gator Golf or the Cheesy Virtual Reality section. And sometimes, it's the music. Good golly, do I adore that score.
Steve: I like the carnival because it has all the elements that feel so much like part of Sam & Max's world. Larry Ahern's hilarious Cone of Tragedy animation, the obscure Tunnel of Love puzzle, a moleman, the Wak-A-Rat mini game. And the excruciating walk cycle of the Siamese twin Kushman Brothers which probably took me about a week to animate.
Tell us something funny that happened during Hit the Road production.
Mike: At one point during the production, when we were all a bit groggy, I actually told Steve Purcell that he was the "god-king" of the game. To this day I have no flippin' idea what the hell I was talking about.
Steve: I don't remember Mike saying that or why he might have but I assume he was uncharacteristically hammered or denied oxygen. However, it's a terribly flattering sentiment. I always thought it was funny that one of our animators Jesse Clark just became enamored with the look of Sam in his shirtsleeves. He thought he looked so cool and loved drawing him like that it was almost like a man-crush. Can't say I'm not impressed by the look as well.
How about something terrible that happened?
Mike: I got two things. One Saturday I looked out my corner office's window, and noticed that Oakland was on fire. Little did I know that my uncle's house was burning down. There was also the horrible time that Sean and I found out that an eager young programmer had worked herself into a raging case of carpal tunnel syndrome rather than give the appearance of slacking off. That's some heavy karmic debt right there, man.
Steve: Larry Ahern stuck one of my "Protected by Sam & Max" decals in his truck window and days later the truck was stolen and gutted. I put one in the window of my Acura and an out-of-control Audi plowed into it in front of a comic book shop.
Mike: The World of Fish is a nearly my favorite, because I've since had the pleasure of visiting its real-life inspiration (the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin). But today I'm going with the World's Largest Ball of Twine, 'cause it's a fully-realized combination of puzzles, characters, music, and out-and-out weirdness. It's also got one of the better "the designers wrote their way into a hole, so here's a funny gag to make up for it" bits I've ever been a part of.
Steve: Years later whenever someone tells me they got stuck in the game, I know that they're going to say at the Ball of Twine. I do like all the stuff that going on there with the elevator and the fish deck and spoon bender. I remember how groundbreaking we thought we were by doing a 3D tram car and then the helicopter with rotating fish animation.
In the game there's a key location called Frog Rock which came straight from my childhood. Some adult relative talking up Frog Rock all day on a car trip. When we got there it was like, "That's it? It doesn't even look like a frog!"
What was it like working at LEC in the early 90s?
Mike: It was a lot like being in the middle of the Summer of Love, man, only without the free love, easy access to mind-expanding drugs, or the really bitchin' soundtrack. Okay, scratch that -- it was nothing like the Summer of Love.
In truth, it was intense, fun, and completely out of control. Just about anyone could get a million-dollar project green-lit with little more than a five page overview of a hint of a scintilla of an idea for a game. On top of that, no one seemed to have the slightest clue what made a game a hit, so everyone assumed that just about ANY game could be a hit, if it was pure of heart and cool of idea. Thank the Maker we finally got some focus groups, market testers, and industry trend forecasters into the mix, or who knows how long that kind of unbridled creative insanity might have continued?
Any fond Sam & Max memories separate from the games that you'd like to share?
Mike: I keep the Sam & Max strip that Steve did for my Afterlife game in my office. It's one of my happiest possessions. I also get a chuckle every time I think of Steve and Collette's wedding cake, in which Max's gender (or perhaps his orientation?) was finally revealed in all it's bridal gown-wearing glory.
Steve: I'm fond of the time the married couple approached me at a convention and told me that they played Fizzball (a Sam & Max game where beer cans are swung at and exploded with an axe handle) at their wedding. They told me they had the axe handle engraved with their wedding date. I recently I got a request to design a Max tattoo for a couple who are celebrating a 20th anniversary. What is about Sam & Max and marriage? Maybe Sam & Max are the ultimate enduring couple.
Next time: Sam & Max Hit It Big