Thumb 20th Anniversary Developer Profiles Michael Stemmle

We are pleased to present the fourth in our series of LucasArts profiles -- an interview series with some of the people who have made LucasArts the company that it is today. This piece profiles Michael Stemmle, who has been with the company for over 12 years -- beginning as a Programmer and quickly moving into the role of Designer and Director. Michael is now leading the development effort for the sequel to LucasArts' original adventure Sam & Max Hit the Road™.

Michael Stemmle - Director

Game History:

2001 - 2002

The As Yet Untitled Sam & Max™ Funtime Extravaganza (PC)
Director, Designer

Star Wars: Jedi Knight®II: Jedi Outcast™ (PC)
Script Writer

1998 - 2001

Escape from Monkey Island™ (PC, PlayStation 2, Mac)
Co-Director, Co-Designer

1994 - 1996

Afterlife® (PC, Mac)
Director, Designer

1992 - 1994

Sam & Max Hit the Road (PC, Mac)
Co-Director, Co-Designer


Big Sky Trooper® (SNES)
Additional Design

1990 - 1992

Indiana Jones® and the Fate of Atlantis™ (PC, Amiga)
Lead Scripter, Assistant Designer, Programmer


Passport to Adventure (Demo Disk)
Programmer, Assistant Designer How did you first get into game development?

Michael Stemmle: I built my first game in 1985 for a computer science class. It was a trivia quiz for the Apple II. Many have told me it was eerily prescient of You Don't Know Jack…only without humor, graphics, music, or the slightest concept of game design. The gut-wrenching trauma of that experience turned me off of game building entirely for a many moons, until my senior year of college. As graduation loomed, I was in desperate need of a time-consuming activity that would keep me from thinking about the necessity of getting a job and a life. I somehow hit upon the brilliant notion of building shareware adventure games…shareware adventure games for the Mac, no less. Armed with a copy of Silicon Beach's brilliant World Builder game designing software and an amazing case of wishful thinking, I built a monstrous (nearly 3 megs!) point-and-click adventure game that I was sure would keep me rolling in microwavable burritos and Diet Cokes into perpetuity.Luckily, before the harsh flashlight of reality had a chance to shine in my blinking, denial-drunk face, I lucked into a job at LucasArts. What brought you to LucasArts?

Michael Stemmle: In 1990, while still entertaining fanciful visions of “Comfortable Living Through Shareware Games,” one of my college buddies gave me a call. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: Dude, you wanna work for Lucasfilm Games? They just called me back for an interview, but I've already got a cushy job at Apple.

Me: Lucasfilm makes games?

Within a few days I was driving my beat-up 1980 (diesel) Oldsmobile up to Skywalker Ranch for a daylong interview with luminaries like Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman, Ron Gilbert, and Hal Barwood. By the end of the month I was relocating to beautiful Marin County, just in time for my 23rd birthday. What was the company like when you started?

Michael Stemmle: Small. Intimate. Cozy. Frantic. Young. Naïve. Silly. Undisciplined. Fiscally irresponsible. Less bald. What was your first project/job?

Michael Stemmle: The first project I ever worked on was a little ditty called Passport to Adventure, which crammed pieces of Indiana Jones® and the Last Crusade™, Loom®, and The Secret of Monkey Island® into one teeny tiny demo disk. I drew the Indiana Jones assignment, which was a lot easier to complete than the others. What different positions have you held?

Michael Stemmle: I was hired as a programmer/scripter, a position I held for two years before being promoted to project leader. Later, the “project leader” title was scrapped because no one in the industry knew what it meant, and all of us “project leaders” were subsequently re-imagined as “directors.” Describe your role in the game development process.

Michael Stemmle: I'm responsible for everything in the game that makes it a game. The art, the dialog, the puzzles, the interface, the overall design; if you don't like it, it's my fault. Of course, I don't do all that stuff myself. LucasArts employs scores of artists and programmers with explicit instructions to keep me as far away from the art and programming as humanly possible. What are you working on now?

Michael Stemmle: I'm working with Steve Purcell on the design for the all-new, butt-kickin' Sam and Max adventure game, which is poised to pounce like a caffeinated panther onto the crippled wildebeest of the gaming market in early 2004. Even as I type, our little corner of the building is abuzz with the scribbling of concept artists, the clickety-clacking of engine builders, the furrowed brows of mini-game designers, and the manly giggles of plot developers. It's a lot of fun. Which is your favorite LucasArts game and why?

Michael Stemmle: Of the games I didn't personally build, I'd say that Star Wars®: TIE Fighter® is my favorite because it was darned near flawless. If you could be any character from a LucasArts game which would you be and why?

Michael Stemmle: Max. Why? Three words: Unrestrained Naked Id. What is the most exciting accomplishment the company has made in its 20 year- long history?

Michael Stemmle: Surviving. I mean - have you looked at the software industry lately? It's like a freakin' elephant graveyard out there, man! What is your favorite LucasArts moment?

Michael Stemmle: My favorite moments are those precious weeks between projects when I'm spitballing ideas to upper management as fast as I can think of them, waiting for something to stick.

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