Articles

LucasArts' Secret History XII 26 May, 2009, 22:40 / 52 comments

The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition? Old news!

All the hipsters know that Curse of Monkey Island, or "CMI" in cool-speak, is where things are really "at."

Point your browsers to our Secret History article to rediscover this classic game (or perhaps find out what you've been missing).

Thanks a lot to Jonathan Ackley, Larry Ahern, Chuck Jordan, Bills Tiller and Eaken and Dominic Armato for their thorough behind-the-scenes talk, everyone who sent in a reader review, and to Paco Vink for the spaztastic header art.

Update: Larry Ahern very kindly got back to us with an interview ages ago, and I forgot to include it!! I've since put it into the article, so you can all read it now. Interesting titbits and anecdotes about LucasArts abound. Thanks a lot, Larry!

Comments

  • RealisticGuybrush on 28 May, 2009, 02:27…
    What was that part about the originals not being realistic? If that's the case, how do you explain the close ups in SOMI and the box art of the first two games? I would say surreal is a more accurate description - but they certainly weren't as out and out cartoony as MI3.
  • johngreenart2 on 01 Jun, 2009, 17:13…
    Well, according to Ron Gilbert after a recent play through:
    I was always bothered by these close-ups. While they were great art, I never felt they matched the style of the rest of the game.
  • Udvarnoky on 28 May, 2009, 03:28…
    You make it sound as if the middle ground between "realistic" and "out and out cartoony" is non-existent or close to it.
  • RealisticGuybrush on 28 May, 2009, 03:43…
    I don't understand what you're saying. I would argue that SOMI had realistic graphics for its time. Not just the close ups, but the architecture and location design was all pretty consistent with reality. It's surreal elements came from things like the grog machine, or the pine forest in the Caribbean - not from cartoony art design.

    MI2 took more of a step towards the surreal. Locations like Woodtick, for example. And some of the characters were clearly over the top, like the guard on Phatt Island, and Governor Phatt himself. But then, other locations and characters did keep the realism of the first game. Elaine looks exactly the same, and Guybrush and LeChuck both have fairly normal proportions. If you look at the characters here: http://www.milegend.com/characters/characters.php?id=1 there is a definite mix between realistically proportioned characters and cartoony ones. Same with the locations.

    It had a mix between grounded-in-reality and cartoon, it had a balance, creating a visually designed surreal atmosphere rather than the surrealism of the first game, that came from out-of-place objects and a breaking the fourth wall self-awareness.

    MI3 continued in that direction, I suppose, and just went full out cartoon. I think this was a mistake, because for me, it was the reality blended with the fantastic that made the first two games come alive. They felt like locations I might actually be able to visit, and get lost in. When MI3 went all out cartoon, it lost me.
  • Udvarnoky on 28 May, 2009, 04:04…
    I'm talking exclusively about the visuals here, and not about the anachronisms or fourth wall gags. The first two Monkey Island games did not have a realistic art style. The direction was indeed more realistic than CMI, but that largely had to do with the fact that there were only so many pixels to go around, not because the artists were attempting to recreate real life.

    What I'm getting at is simple: this is not even close to photo-realism even if it's not as exaggerated as CMI's look, that exaggeration being a conscious artistic decision that I never denied but in fact specifically pointed out. If the same team that made the first two Monkey Island games had made them in 1997, I'm not sure it would have necessary looked like how you might imagine it would.
  • RealisticGuybrush on 28 May, 2009, 05:10…
    You are right, that example is not close to photorealism. I have already agreed that MI2 had surreal imagery in its art design. But by the same token, there is nothing unrealistic about this: http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/240/full20050121081141.gif or this http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/240/full20050121080852.gif or this http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/240/full20050121080815.gif

    I will admit that the majority of MI2 could not exist in the real world, but there is also an underlying current of reality throughout.

    As for SOMI, are you seriously telling me that these are not realistic graphics for the time?
    http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/2/full20031014160159.gif
    http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/2/full20031014160053.gif
    http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/2/full20050121122131.gif
    http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/2/full20050121122102.gif
    http://www.mixnmojo.com/galleries/2/full20050121122018.gif
  • Udvarnoky on 28 May, 2009, 14:01…
    I don't see anything "realistic" about any of the examples you cited. Yes, the style is not as exaggerated as CMI's, but there's still clearly a cartoony direction there, however less pronounced it is by comparison.

    I also don't know what you mean by "for its time." Are you suggesting that if those games were made today with the exact same style but with all the pixels and resolution it could ask for, that it would look like real life? I don't think so. I think much of the "realism" you're seeing is simply due to the fact that the detail was so constrained, preventing them from giving as much visual personality to the characters as might have been the case otherwise. Again, I definitely think that CMI being more cartoony was a conscious one that indeed sets it apart from the previous game even throwing all of these things about technology out the window, but I still argue that it was building on a foundation laid by the first two games. It was a big step, but it was still a step in-line with the Monkey Island look.
  • Udvarnoky on 28 May, 2009, 04:18…
    To put it another way, if you compare the MI2 background I linked to above to this, would you see two distinct art styles? Absolutely. But are they universes apart? Not really. It was not CMI's job to painstakingly copy the style of the previous games - that would have been a waste of time and made for a much less interesting looking game. It's job as a sequel was to make sure it did not completely abandon that style.
  • RealisticGuybrush on 28 May, 2009, 05:14…
    I'm not saying it should have painstakingly copied it. And as we've already seen, the first two games clearly had different art styles. What I am saying is that they both clearly had undercurrents of reality mixed in with their surrealism, the first much more so than the second. And I miss that undercurrent of reality in the third game, to its detriment.
  • Udvarnoky on 28 May, 2009, 14:03…
    Fair enough, but "undercurrent of reality" is pretty vague and can easily be very different things to different people.
  • counting_pine on 27 May, 2009, 11:06…
    Cool, thanks for putting up that interview. The article wouldn't be complete without the input of both project leads.

    PS. Happy late late birthday gabez
  • Gabez on 27 May, 2009, 11:20…
    I agree. And thanks!
  • Murray the Chao on 25 May, 2009, 08:29…
    Monk-electric, not monkey-electric.
  • Icebox on 24 May, 2009, 06:01…
    Many Jovial Returns, Gabez!
  • Gabez on 24 May, 2009, 12:02…
    Muchos gracias!
  • Izzy on 23 May, 2009, 23:01…
    Happy late birthday gabez
  • Gabez on 24 May, 2009, 12:02…
    Thanks!
  • Ascovel on 23 May, 2009, 19:27…
    Woah, and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about COMI by now!

    (a day late, but... Happy birthday, Gabe!)
  • Gabez on 23 May, 2009, 19:53…
    Thank you!
  • Santar on 23 May, 2009, 16:48…
    Doesn't bode well for Dominic Armato lending his voice to Guybrush in the Telltale Monkey Island game sadly going by that interview.

    There's a rumor going about telltale working on something old Lucasarts fans will be excited about.

    And since MI1 seems to be coming to 360 I'd say they could be working on a new Monkey island.
  • jp-30 on 23 May, 2009, 22:33…
    The rumour is just that LucasArts is supposedly reviving a classic franchise (which looks to be MI1 on Xbox360 Live Arcade). And also that Telltale is announcing a new series at E3.

    People have been hoping / speculating the two are linked, but I haven't seen anything other than fan speculation / wishful thinking that would suggest the 2 announcements are related in any way.
  • Santar on 25 May, 2009, 06:48…
    Telltale has said that they are working on a unannounced game that old Lucasarts fans will be excited about due to release this fall.
    They said this to a huge Norwegian gaming site.
  • jp-30 on 25 May, 2009, 10:02…
    Do you have a link / translation?
  • Santar on 25 May, 2009, 14:57…
    Here's a link to the Norwegian site.
    http://gamer.no/article.php?articleId=17959

    It basically says that a source close to Telltale said that they've got a new game coming this fall, which Lucasarts fans should be excited about.

    And this site isn't one to normally report groundless rumors.
  • Zaarin on 25 May, 2009, 16:03…
    Mojo has already reported on the series itself here. 8 days left...
  • Santar on 25 May, 2009, 16:59…
    Yeah, tough Mixnmojo didn't mention the Lucasarts fans excited part. Can't wait to find out what it actually is.
    If it turns out to be Monkey island, (and I know it very well might not be) I hope some voices will be back from the previous games.
    Telltale's usual voices have a little budget price feel to them I think. Or perhaps thats because they're used so much during the Sam & Max series hehe.
  • jp-30 on 25 May, 2009, 22:13…
    Thankjs for the link. That's the first time I've seen more than fan speculation that Telltale may be working on something LucasArts related.

    Here's teh page, translated rather well from norwegian to enlish using google's translation service;

    Translated article

  • The Tingler on 26 May, 2009, 09:26…
    Hmmmm... we'll see.
  • Kroms on 23 May, 2009, 07:41…
    Great article, as always. But you've got a 404 on the Hint Book link.

    (And if it is indeed your birthday: Happy Birthday, Gabez!)
  • Gabez on 23 May, 2009, 10:25…
    Thanks!

    And thanks. I'll fix that as soon as I can.
  • valkian on 22 May, 2009, 22:22…
    Gabez, happy birthday!! I've already told you over Facebook (because we are like totally friends) but it needs to be said in the Mojo world too.
  • Gabez on 23 May, 2009, 10:27…
    Thanks. :)
  • PirateKingChris on 22 May, 2009, 21:28…
    Thanks to CMI, everytime I say "I don't think he/she'd like that" out loud I can't help but think of it or think how much I sounded like the freaking game saying it. Such a dork.
  • VVV on 22 May, 2009, 14:16…
    Man, there's no shortage of hyperbole in that article. I mean MI3 is a good game on its own terms and certainly impeccably put together, but as a sequel it's a bit mixed bag. There seemed to be almost little attempt to keep to the old characterisations (most notably with Elaine apparent between game personality transplant) and the dialogue tended to focus on verbosity over the succinct sly wit of the originals. And the bit accusing people of mistaking the technical limitations of the original games as an attempt 'realism' is flat out wrong - the facial close ups make it pretty clear that they were aiming for a realistic visual style was what they were going for (in the first game at least; the second is cartoonier).

    I'd feel less inclined to point these things out if the article didn't repeatedly go out of its way to dismiss any point of view that doesn't treat the game as some kind of untouchable, pristine masterpiece. And on that note, it might be a good idea not to use terms like 'universally embraced' if you're going to contradict the statement in the exact same sentence.
  • Udvarnoky on 22 May, 2009, 14:59…
    Those brilliant painting-like closeups in Monkey Island 1 were added in the 256 color conversion, and since they're pretty "one off" in the context of the whole game I don't think it makes it clear at all that the developers were aiming for a realistic visual style. The closeups in the original release looked like this. Fully animating a game that looks like the VGA MI1 closeups was never a feasible option, anyway, even in 1997, and probably not now either.

    Certainly, liberties were taken in concocting CMI's look, but I stand by my statement that it's a reasonably natural progression of what we saw in the first two games, especially given the sizable time gap.
  • neon_git on 22 May, 2009, 15:42…
    Indeed, compare Mancomb Seepgood A to Mancomb Seepgood B.

    Having said that I agree with VVV that it's a little sloppy to claim CMI was "universally accepted" whilst, in the very same sentence, pointing out that it wasn't.
  • VVV on 22 May, 2009, 16:22…
    Nevertheless, even in that first picture he's a realistically proportioned human being, quite different to the exaggerated caricatured style of Curse. For the record I'm not knocking the game for this, but I do think it's wrong to pretend they weren't making a stylistic departure. And I don't know how anyone can say there weren't some dramatic and unexplained changes in the characterisations between games, yet that was skipped over in the review.

    I really should've proofread that earlier post - broken sentences galore!
  • jp-30 on 22 May, 2009, 08:01…
    Once again, stunning work from all involved.
  • Laserschwert on 22 May, 2009, 00:07…
    Aw, seeing that header art makes me sad that Paco isn't continuing his MI-comic.

    Still, as always, great article!
  • The Tingler on 23 May, 2009, 10:48…
    I actually thought it was photoshopped at first! Goddamn he's a good artist!
  • Icebox on 21 May, 2009, 23:38…
    Awesome! Incredible! For Real!
    But it would have been nice if you'd spelled my name right. That's "Icebox" with an "X". No Biggie!
  • Gabez on 22 May, 2009, 09:54…
    Sorry about that -- I think that might have been a technical error. I'll fix it as soon as I can.
  • bgbennyboy on 21 May, 2009, 22:44…
    Jason's review is excellent and as usual an excellent and comprehensive secret history. Well done all.
  • neon_git on 21 May, 2009, 22:17…
    I always figured the "Can I call you BOB" thing was because Murray was bobbing up an down in the water - I'd never made the connection to the other Bob before.

    Anyways,fantastic work as ever. Pat yourselves on the back everyone who was involved :)
  • Thrik on 21 May, 2009, 22:13…
    Man, yet another excellent bit of header art. It's subtle and very much like the in-game art, yet check out the resolution on that beast!

    Totally desktop wallpaper material. ;
  • Capn_Nacho on 21 May, 2009, 21:34…
    Awww, I forgot to send in a reader response. It's not too late, is it?

    And I really like Tiller's idea for a new MI game-- it feels really in keeping with the spirit of the series.
  • Gabez on 26 May, 2009, 20:50…
    Nope -- just e-mail it in.
  • clone2727 on 21 May, 2009, 21:27…
    "typing "lapostal" during the cannonball middle game will turn "Unlimited cannon balls mode ON" – a cheat featured in Jedi Knight."

    That was Dark Forces, not Jedi Knight.
  • clone2727 on 21 May, 2009, 21:32…
    Not trying to be a pest, but another error:

    The Dig and CMI do not use INSANE. They use SMUSH videos, but not the actual INSANE engine. Full Throttle uses SMUSH for all its videos as well as INSANE during its bike fights.
  • Gabez on 22 May, 2009, 09:54…
    Thanks for being a pest! I'll add your information as soon as I can.
  • Udvarnoky on 22 May, 2009, 01:13…
    I'm 100% positive that INSANE is used in CMI (there is an "Insane Animation System" credit in the credits), though possibly in extremely minor ways.
  • clone2727 on 22 May, 2009, 01:20…
    It's just the SMUSH part that's used, not the actual INSANE engine.