Dave Grossman at LucasArts Page Two

Hehehe, that must have been great. Besides Day of the Tentacle, what other games did you work on at LucasArts? Could you comment briefly every one of them and tell which of them did you find the most interesting, rewarding, exhausting and so on?

Well, there were the two Monkey Island games and Day of the Tentacle, which were the main projects that I had a lot to do with. I also worked very briefly on two different versions of The Dig, but nothing survived into the finished product. And I did a little writing for Full Throttle just before I left. Secret of Monkey Island was probably the most fun, because everything was new and fresh then. I remember burning a lot of midnight oil, but it felt like something I might do for fun anyhow. Tentacle was definitely both the most rewarding and the most exhausting. When it was done I really felt like we'd built something to be proud of, and I guess I still think of it as my best work to date. But it was exhausting enough to make me rethink my whole career.

How were the people you worked with, for instance Ron Gilbert with The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2 and Tim Schafer with the Monkey Island games and Day of the Tentacle? Were there ever any conflicts between you and the other workers in any game project?

Oh, they were great! Especially Ron and Tim. We all got along really well, even if we disagreed about things. I guess our senses of humor lined up in a good way. Ron and I still work together from time to time. Yes, and while I'm sure there were small conflicts between me and various other folks, nothing was so troublesome that it comes to mind now. The best thing about LucasArts was the people who worked there.

How much did you co-operate with, for instance, the musicians and art department? Did you influence the music or the art of any game?

Sure, there was collaboration in all directions. Writers and artists ARE allowed to talk to one another, at least since the Wall came down. And there are even a few small items in Monkey Island that I drew myself. And of course later on, as a project leader on Tentacle, it was my job to influence the art, the music, and everything else. Maybe I had too much influence in some cases. I have a little musical background so I was sometimes kind of opinionated about the music, and I distinctly remember trying to get poor Peter McConnell to change one particular note in a piece he'd written. You just have to learn to relax and not micro-manage people like that. They're talented, they can handle it.

Could you tell us your best LucasArts 'war story'?

OK. The Secret of Monkey Island was finally finished after a bunch of us had been knocking ourselves out for months. There was a big order that was supposed to ship out, and the company that was assembling everything in the boxes just wasn't going to be able to have it ready in time - I guess we must have gotten things to them a little late. So pretty much the entire games division went down to the warehouse when the regular employees there got off and we worked all night long, sorting things, putting them in boxes, shrink wrapping and so on, to get the order ready on time. I thought that was really cool, everybody banding together like that when they probably had better things to do and nobody was getting paid a nickel. Yeah, and if you have a copy of the original Monkey Island, there's a small chance that I actually riveted your code wheel together myself.

When and why did you leave LucasArts? Where do you work now and what are you up to in the future? Do you have any connections to LucasArts?

I left LucasArts in 1994, when they switched to coffee that comes in a can. OK, actually, there were a lot of reasons I decided to leave, some professional and some personal, and I couldn't possibly mention them all. I suppose the most important thing was that I wanted to concentrate on writing, rather than on running the production process. There wasn't any way for me to do that there at the time. So I decided to work freelance instead, which I've been doing ever since. I find myself doing all kinds of things, generally as a writer or designer or both. Most often I work with Humongous Entertainment making games that are nominally for kids, although a lot of adults seem to like them, too. The Pajama Sam series in particular has my scriptwriting fingerprints all over it.

In the next year or two you can expect to see a couple more children's games from me, and I'm also working with Ron again on something more grown-up. Also, I've been writing a weekly column of verse for the last three years. Humorous stuff for the most part. It's called The Poem of the Week, people can check it out online at

As for LucasArts, I don't have any professional connection to them, but I do still have a number of friends there. I get lost inside their new building.

Could you tell more about the project with Ron Gilbert you just mentioned?

My brain has been wired to explode if I divulge any information. It's a standard part of most games industry contracts.

Ok, better not to answer that, then. :-) What is your opinion about the "Death of Adventure Games"? Are they really fading away or just evolving to new directions and will they ever again capture the depth the adventure games used to have? What do you think of LucasArts' latest adventure games The Curse of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango?

Adventure games? Dead? Then I'm in big trouble... No, actually, I don't think they're dead or fading away. To borrow from the economists, I'd call what's going on now a "correction."

A lot of people are taking their adventures in new directions, combining them with other kinds of games and so forth, because they're unsatisfied with the size of the graphic adventure market. And I am interested to see where that leads. But unless someone comes up with something that's just plain "better," there are still a lot of people who want to buy graphic adventures. As long as those people are there, there will continue to be people who will make games for them. I think you'll probably see less titles than there have been in recent years, but hopefully those who continue to make them will be refining their craft and producing better work.

You wanted to know what I thought of The Curse of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Unfortunately I haven't seen enough of Grim to be able to comment, but I do hear from my spies that it's excellent. As for CMI, I thought it was really fun. It was neat for me to be able to play a Monkey Island game from the point of view of the audience for a change. And although there were things I would have done differently, I think Larry and Jonathan did a nice job making something that felt new but still felt like Monkey Island.

Do you ever visit LucasArts fan sites on Internet?

Not with any regularity, but I have checked out a few, yours included, from time to time. I was impressed with the quality of the sites I've seen, people have done a nice job putting them together.

What do you do in your spare time?

Spare time? Oh, that! Well, I've gotten interested in making public access television the last few years, and I do a show with some friends. I also like bicycling, reading, and collecting things. I play the guitar occasionally, and I'm an avid beer snob.

What are your longterm goals in your life? What's the meaning of life?

I'm searching for the perfect piece of key lime pie. When I find that, everything else will fall into place.

I'll let you know if I find it. But now please tell us, what advice would you give to someone willing to enter the computer game industry, and adventure game industry in particular?

I'd say try to learn about as many different things as you can. A broad range of experience will be valuable, especially if you plan to make adventure games. Some sort of computer background is essential, particularly for landing you a job, but I've also found it useful to know about writing, film, music, art, theater, psychology, even physics. Games aren't really the computer business, they're the entertainment business, and you'd be amazed what kind of tidbits will come in handy.

And another thing: naturally you have to play some games yourself, but if you want to design them, try watching other people play them once in a while as well. I've learned quite a bit that way.

Anything else you would like to tell to our readers?

I would love to tell you what the secret of Monkey Island is, but a cadre of ninja are holding my pet fish hostage to make sure I don't.

Thank you very much for this interview, Dave Grossman!

Thanks for having me, this was fun. Except for the cattle prod. Where did you get that thing, anyway?

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