Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Ha! My plan worked!!!

What plan might you be asking? The plan to get Lucas Arts to make more adventure games, especially Monkey Island.


B*U**LL SH**IT! You might say.


Well it’s true! Really! You see, like many reading this, I was not all that thrilled when Sam and Max Freelance Police got canceled. It kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Why cancel a perfectly good game that was 70% complete and looking good to boot? I tried to get that game bought by a persons who I later discovered was.. how should I put it…"A bit naïve.” Sorry about that everyone. No good deed goes unpunished. ( I think that saying should go on my grave.)


Then Jim Ward later said that Lucas Arts wouldn’t do another adventure game till the 2015 or something similar, and the really irked me as it may irked you too. So at that point I was on a mission to prove that adventure games weren’t dead and that if Lucas Arts didn’t make another Monkey Island game then I would!…less the Monkey Island IP of course.

So I thought about this. Lucas won’t pay anyone to make a monkey island game, and they won’t sell the IP rights neither. What to do, what to do?

Well then I remembered a conversation I had with Larry Ahern back in 1998 about the idea of doing episodic adventure games, not one episode at a time, but three to five episodes on one disc. He said Tim Schafer would love to do another adventure game if the development time weren’t so damn long. So Larry and I got to thinking, what if we had Guybrush, Elaine, and Le Chuck all hangining out at the SCUMM bar telling their stories, and each story was it’s own adventure game that was kind of linked. Then we’d have three different Project leaders each with their own little team doing a little episode, then the company would pack them up and sell them as one big game. I thought we could call it, ironically, Tails of Monkey Island or Tales, if the pun was too stupid, which it was apparently.


Well that didn’t get farther than just talk that day. But it got me to thinking,- it would be fun to play other characters beside Guybrush, sort of like Maniac Mansion II: Day of the Tentacle or Maniac Mansion. So while working on Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine I started coming up with ideas for Mi4 where you played Elaine (possible pregnant ala the movie Fargo), Guybrush, and Guybrush junior, their son. And then I thought it would be cool to make it in real time 3d because the Indy game we were doing at the time was looking pretty good.


So just for fun I asked Mai Nguyen to build me a 3d Guybrush from CMI, and asked Reed Knight to build the Barbary Coat barber shop from CMI in 3D,and we threw it into the Indy game. It looked pretty cool. We kept it in as an Easter egg. And I evene demo it for Sean Clark and Mike Stemlle before they started on EMI.


But sadly I wasn’t allowed to be involved in EMI, even though I badly wanted to,- too busy on Indy Infernal Machine- which bummed me out considerably. So I realized at that moment I was never going to get to work on a MI game again. : (


Unless….I made my own! : )


Well at first I had this vampyre game idea I wanted to do, but in the back of my head I kept mulling the three player MI-like game in my head. Who would the three pirates be exactly? What do they have to do? Then I thought it would be cool to play cursed ghosts, like the members of Le Chuck’s crew. So that is when I decided , yes, I’ll make a MI inspired pirate game, but instead of a geeky kid at Disneyland/ Big whoop™ wishing he was a pirate, I’ll make three cursed pirates who start off as ghosts. But that is far as I got, and then I put the idea on the back burner for about six years.


Six years later…


In the summer of 2007 DTP knocked on my door and said “Got any game ideas?” Yes I did! ...About twenty or so, but I narrowed it down to four. At the last minute, I thought, why not throw in the Monkey Island inspired Ghost Pirate games just for $h***!ts and giggles? Then the AME team spent a week brainstorming the game based on my simple premise, and viola! We came up with the basics of Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island.


So I pitched all the game ideas to DTP and they picked the ghost pirate game, which isn't surprising because, like me, they were fans of Monkey Island and were annoyed that Lucas had seemed to abandon the franchise. So why not make a game similar, but do some new fun things with it since we aren’t restricted by any established IP?


So I wanted to make this game for two reason, because as a fan of MI I wanted to make my own MI like game, and second I wanted  to show Jim Ward that he shouldn’t abandoned MI license, -that the MI series would still be a viable IP, would still make Lucas Arts money.


So you see? It worked! A month after Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island is announced, not just one, but two Monkey Games are announced!


Oh alright. I admit it. Maybe I had nothing to do with it. Maybe George Lucas just realized Jim Ward was, maybe possible, just ever so slightly…WRONG!!! But the cool thing is the fans REALLY win here no matter how or why the MI games got made. Fans get Secret of MI with sound, voice and new take at the old graphics, they get an episodic down loadable game with real time environments from Tell Tale, and in January they’ll get a retail CD, full game, with hand painted backgrounds in the CMI style, but with a whole new story line and new characters, and you get to play ghosts and switch between three main characters. So as a huge MI fan I consider this a win, win, win! I hope other Monkey fans do to.







  1. Great post, Bill :)
    I agree, these are great times for the Monkey Island fans. Nothing to complain. Of course I'd loved to have seen you re-painting the backgrounds of Monkey 1, but the special edition LucasArts is bringing still looks fine.
    And Telltale's Tales of Monkey island looks promising as well.
    The moment I saw the first screens of 'Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island' I thought of it as a real Monkey Island spin-off game, it takes place in the same universe, only with some different characters. Perhaps a small cross-over is possible at some point in the future? ;-)
    Do you have plans to release an 'Art of' book of Ghost Pirates as well.

    Anyway, goo luck with the game, really looking forward to it!

  2. Cool! I love the idea the GPoVI could be an unofficial "sidequel"! Just make sure that you don't do anything that means it CAN'T be related to MI and I'd definitely love to play it!

  3. Awesome post. Very insightful. Will definitely be buying Vooju Island.

  4. Any chance of convincing Lucasarts to uncancel Freelance Police now that they're working with Telltale? I'd love to see them put the finishing touches on that game, and I'd love to hear Bill Farmer's Sam voice and Nick Jameson's Max voice again! The new voices are boring!

  5. Definitely Bill should have done the artwork for MI1 remake, MI3 looked fantastic.

    On a side note; if a 3d background looks worse than 2d in a screenshot, why use 3d in the first place? 3d characters as opposed to sprites, yes, but...

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Because 3D-backgrounds are cheaper to produce... plus, if you need a different perspective of the scene, you don't need to do another painting.

    In case of "Tales of Monkey Island" this is basically the trade in for getting monthly episodes... painting all the necessary backgrounds would take too long (or would be too expensive, if you hire enough artists).

    And for full-length games it's just a choice of style... painted backgrounds might look nicer, but they're not as flexible as 3D-scenes (which allow for more a cinematic presentation).

    But I agree, I'd take an adventure game with Bill's backgrounds over any full-3D-adventure... luckily, I don't have to choose... I'll just buy both :)

  8. Awesome, this is the first I heard about your game. Looks great. Best time to a MI fan in 10 years!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Great going!

    I grew up a little later than the original two monkey games, so I hit my golden-years for spare time right about the time CoMI/EfMI were released, then nothing for years. I was plenty bitter about that toward Ward :P.

    I'm not sure that Voojoo would have proved to Lucas Arts about the profitability of adventure games; stuff like Syberia and obviously Vampyre Story did well. Still, I suppose it might've been more like a slap in the face with a wet fish than the others were :-)

    Voojoo's looking phenomenal tbh. TOMI is a great reward to monkey fans, but I don't think the games have captured the right mood or essence since Curse.

    I'm holding my breath for some more info on the storyline!

  11. Hi Bill,

    This has been one of the greatest blogposts I've read in a long time. I mailed you years and years ago when you told me about this adventure game idea you had about a vampire, and how adventuregames weren't dead at all.

    I am thrilled to see how your plan worked out, not matter if it was a plan or not :-) I pre-ordered the MI episodes the day they were announced, and have been at work for my own ways to show the world how new ways can be found to make adventure games relive again (thus my project).

    Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing your pirates game! Always been a fan of your art style.

    Keep up the good work!

    - Martin Kool

  12. Hi Bill, I also sent email to Lucasarts how disapointed I am about MI:SE and they should contact you and ask for help. Because what they made isnt good at all. Paco vink also made couple great designs for remake of MI 1. But what I dont understand is, why you wanna keep design of Guybrush from MI3, because he doesnt look like original Guybrush. It doesnt bother me too much, but its not the real Guybrush, thats all. If you wanna make new Guybrush in 3D, let me know and I will make the 3d model for you with all quality which is expecting in 2009.

  13. When I heard the LucasArts announcement one of my initial reactions was wondering if AME Games would work with LucasArts in the same way Telltale is. I’m not sure if that would be such a great idea though. I really hope some smaller company like AME out there will be able to introduce a brand that is in the same class as Monkey Island without the big business bureaucracy and a CEO who can throw everything in the vault because they think game idea generation should, from then on, be based solely on a formulation of market research surveys that indicate that extra explosions and more guns with a generic main character participating in a war of some kind will sell. LucasArts really went down the tubes with that way of thinking and the quality of their games dropped off of a cliff and that seems like the only reason they’re bringing back Monkey Island before 2015.

    I think if anything Lucasarts diverted attention away from the Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island announcement. Lets face it, Vooju Island really only got the attention of a niche community of adventure gamers, but LucasArts really shoved Monkey Island into, or at least near, the spotlight at E3. My guess is that you’re just hoping that a big company like LucasArts bringing adventure games back will expand the current nice market for adventure games and thereby help out AMEGames in their adventure game endeavours. Maybe you’re right but I don’t necessarily think that it will have a large acute impact on the sales of upcoming AME games, not unless the AME games are marketed and distributed properly (Xbox 360, Steam, Wii and especially digital distribution. Lets face it, adventure games are a hard sell and digital distribution at least makes it easy to access the product). Effective marketing is really important, but that’s just in the hands of whatever publisher you can find to do that for you.

    As far as AME making a brand that has the potential of Monkey Island, I know people and read many comments from people who showed interest in A Vampyre Story and downloaded the demo but disliked the voice acting and writing/premise/cheesyness of it all. The consumer marketplace is really that quick to judge a product, even among the niche market community of adventure gamers. Its clear that AMEGames can make beautiful games but I think that AMEGames still needs to prove that it can make top quality stories/characters/worlds and develop appealing brands. Above all of that, Vampyre Story seemed to be very poorly marketed by the publisher as well. Hopefully Vooju Island and the next Vampyre game get more attention from the marketplace but that depends on how good the product is and how and how well they are advertised, promoted and distributed. Good marketing is so important and a small developer needs to figure out the best marketing plan for the game with the resources that it has and not just leave everything on that end up to the publisher who might do a really poor job of it that doesn’t do the game justice.

    On a side note Bill Tillers art style kicks the Tales of Monkey Island and the Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition's three headed monkey ass.

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