The Creators of ‘Return to Monkey Island’ Talk Pirates at PAX West

One of this year’s most anticipated games was only shown behind closed doors at PAX West 2022 and I managed to get in – no monkey head key required. You guessed it (and it’s in the title), I’m talking about Return to Monkey Island! Co-writers Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman, as well as executive producer Craig Derrick, shared a tantalizing look at what former pirate Guybrush Threepwood is doing right now.

Derrick, Gilbert and Grossman caught up with Fandom during PAX West to talk about the return to Monkey Island, how the game attracts players old and new, and what the real secret of Monkey Island is. Joke about the latter; it is not possible that they are revealing it! … Where?

First, let’s eliminate the question we all have. Why return to Monkey Island?

“Why not?” Gilbert laughed. “A lot of things have fallen into place that weren’t there before and it made a lot of sense to do this. I called Dave and said, ‘Hey, Dave, do you want to make another monkey island?’ “

“I gave him the green light,” Grossman said. “I was immediately sure. Ron was a little worried at first. There’s a kind of heavy responsibility now in making a Monkey Island game that wasn’t the last time we did it together.

“The game has 35 years to build that fandom,” Gilbert said. “This almost cult sequel. I wanted to make sure that if we were going to create another Monkey Island, we weren’t just telling a “Monkey Island story”. We really wanted to tell a story that was very personal to me and Dave, and make sure we have the right story to tell that has meaning.

The story (kind of)

Gilbert and Grossman were understandably speechless about the plot, but they did provide some clues. Years have passed since the second part of the monkey island games, both in the real world and for Guybrush Threepwood.

“It’s a story of unfinished business,” Grossman said. “For us, just making the game is a way to sort out the pending issues and solve some problems. For Guybrush, it’s more or less the same. He is trying to close an old chapter in his life of him, and this kind of evolution evolves from there.

“Guybrush is looking for the secret of Monkey Island,” Gilbert said. “He wants to know what Monkey Island’s secret really is. In a way it is also our unfinished business. What is the secret of the monkey island? It is not just a title. There is actually a secret, but we have never revealed it before.

Back in the fray

Guybrush returns to Melee Island and, in the quick preview of the game I saw, the town is in bad shape. Barred windows and dilapidated buildings welcome Guybrush upon his return. But there were also familiar faces waiting to welcome our hero to town. The Lookout, the wise Voodoo Lady and everyone’s old friend Stan S. Stanman are all back.

Of course, everyone has tips and tricks for promoting Guybrush in his research. In fact, says Gilbert, the Voodoo Lady has more than just puzzles to offer.

“If you get stuck,” Gilbert said, “we built [a hint book] in the game you get from Voodoo Lady. It is not just a pop-up. It is a real book you get from her that you can flip through.

This game mechanic is indicative of a general design philosophy of Return to Monkey Island to keep changing over time. The result is a perfect combination of the elements of a classic adventure game with an unusual beautiful art style and an intuitive user interface. Pixel art, a list of objects longer than your arm, and the point-and-click controls that take up most of the screen are long gone.

“I wanted Return to Monkey Island not to be just a ‘throwback game’, “Gilbert said.” We really wanted to do a New monkey island… With this, I think, you get a lot of things done, and art is one of them.

Everyone is welcome on Monkey Island

Returning players will love seeing these beloved faces and places return, but new players won’t feel left out if this is their first foray into Melee. The team made a point of making a monkey island game that both veterans and newcomers to the classic franchise would love.

“We had testers from both of these groups,” Grossman said. “Of course, it was hard to find anyone who hadn’t heard of it monkey island, but we dug them up and tried. It was a success”.

“We wanted to make sure we would always joke and make fun of things,” added Gilbert, “but we never want to make the player feel that if he’s not a great monkey island fans, so they never feel like they’re missing out.

“It was very important to us on the Lucasfilm side too,” agreed Derrick. “It is important for us to be able to have a story of its own that is fresh for the players who are new, as well as for the people who have always loved the franchise. [Return to Monkey Island] welcomes the new player but rewards the returning player.

A life as a pirate

There remains only one question to ask as the Guybrush Threepwood story draws to a close. Why does this guy want to be a pirate so badly anyway?

“It’s one of those things you accept, right?” Grosman said.

“I’m coming now [think about] things like, where did it come from? How did he get to this island? Gilbert burst out laughing. “I’ve always been embarrassed that he shows up on the lookout, but the dock is at the bottom. It’s just weird stuff like that that we didn’t really think about at the time.

“In the original, he was just, well, Guybrush wants to be a pirate,” Grossman said. “He shows up and says it in the first line, and we never really questioned him or put him in the background.

“We are better now. To marry never do it today, “he added innocently.

Explore this rich history (maybe) and more when Return to Monkey Island set sail on 19 September 2022.

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