LucasArts' Secret History #6: Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Developer Reflections

Ex Mojo-er, Capel, talks to Ron Gilbert

What did you learn from making SOMI that helped with making MI2?

There is a lot more dialog in MI2. We hit our stride with the dialog puzzles in MI1 and they really flourished in MI2. I wanted to have more locations in MI2, hence the multiple islands. Other than, the puzzle structure stayed consistent, I don't think there were any big revelations in that regard.

You were the Project Director on MI2 once again, but the credits list a certain Mr. Timothy Schafer as the Lead Script Writer. How was the writing of the game divided up?

Tim and Dave did most of the writing on MI2. Between the two of them it seemed pretty much equal. They had very different writing styles and it was nice to be able to give certain tasks to them based on the personality of character they were writing. I was very blessed to have both of them on the project.

Do you know the Q-tip story? Probably over inflating it but it was a big deal back then. We were so free and easy at Lucas at the time, thought we ruled the world. There was an obscure line in MI2 about a Q-tip (Dave Grossman would be able to give you a better rendition of this story btw). Anyways, in the late stages of the game Lucas Legal reviewed the game, and the big thing they came back with was, “Lose the Q-tip Reference”. This caused a big uproar in the test pit. No one thought about Q-tip, like Kleenex, is a brand, so we couldn’t use it. A small life lesson handed to us by the lawyers. (-:
-Mike Levine

Did you argue a lot?

No, I don't remember any real arguments. We hashed things out, but that's just part of the normal creative process and I don't ever remember anyone's ego ever coming up.

The team’s a heck of a lot bigger than with the first game! Did that make things easier or harder?

Neither. While the team was bigger, it wasn't that much bigger compared to the team sizes of today's games. The team was small enough that we all talked every day and everyone had a good understanding of the whole game being made. MI2 was the first game that used iMuse, and that did create some complexities and increase the team size.

What’s the origin of Hal Barwood’s “Works like crazy!” quote in the end credits?

It was just an expression that Hal used all the time. Hal is one of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever met.

With both games, what works, or doesn’t work, in retrospect?

Oh, wow. That's too complex to get into. Overall I think 90% of what I wanted to do worked and that's a once-in-a-life time percentage so I'm not going to jinx it. I think the popularity and longevity of those two games boils down to three things. 1) The humor, 2) The writing and 3) The puzzle design. All those of those just "worked like crazy".

Why did you decide to leave after MI2 and not do a third game?

I wanted to start my own company. I was very happy at LucasArts.

Do you still hold poker nights?

I've played poker at Dave Grossman’s place a few times. They were more Telltale poker nights than LucasArts poker nights. Since I moved to Canada, I haven't been to any (obviously). The Hothead people are pretty big poker players, so I get my fix here. It should also be noted that I am a really bad poker player. The reason that I win a lot is that I am very good at bluffing. Or am I?

Do you think a Monkey Island game would work in an episodic format? Not that we’re being hopeful or anything…

Yes, I think they would. A few years ago I contacted LucasArts about doing a episodic MI3 (Monkey Island 3: The Secret Revealed or Your Money Back). They were interested and we had several months of discussions, but they it just ended. I never knew why. I'd jump at the chance if it came up again. I had a very cool story planned out.

To finish, can you give us a good anecdote from behind-the-scenes on either game?

Tim used to hate it when people would come by his desk while he was trying to write and bug him about non-work related stuff. He got a plastic spray bottle, filled it with water and would squirt anyone that came by, like we were cats doing something bad.

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