Sunday, 19 July 2009

Interview with Sean Vanaman (TellTale Games)

I sent some questions about the new Tales of Monkey Islands games to TellTale Games, and here are the answers from Sean Vanaman, writer on upcoming Tales of Monkey Island episodes.

When it comes to adventure games, Monkey Island is about as iconic as it gets – did you feel daunted about the prospect of following in the footsteps of Ron Gilbert and co?
Definitely. I was always the one, when around all of my gamer friends (and co-workers), who would go on and on and on about Monkey Island. Without Monkey Island (and the other adventure games spawned by Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman) I don't even know if I'd be in the industry. So...yes. Luckily, Dave is now my boss (and studio Design Director) at Telltale, so he would never let us get too far off course. Writing a Monkey Island game was both a huge challenge, and also the most fun and freeing project I've been a part of. Having been such a huge fan of the games (especially LeChuck's Revenge) I had a decent grip on what's allowed in a Monkey Island game, and from there I could just be funny and try to add to an already great story. And with Mike Stemmle, Mark Darin and the rest of the design team backing you up, it makes it a lot easier.

What was the biggest challenge in envisaging the plot and characters?
The biggest challenge is getting the design to reinforce the story and vice-versa. I've always liked how in the Monkey Island games, what you're doing feels motivated (even if the puzzles are convoluted). What Guybrush wants is readily apparent, and that makes it easy to keep focused on the goal of the moment. He wants to be a pirate, therefore, you want to be a pirate. How do you become a pirate? Go talk to three guys in a bar and they'll send you on three trials. A pretty lady catches his eye, therefore, she catches yours. She gets taken and you both want to get her back. You might find yourself wandering through the world looking for a monkey wrench, but you never forget what you should be doing in any given moment. Maintaining that is the biggest challenge.

The story is said to take place sometime after the end of LeChuck’s Revenge – is this a “reboot” where the events of The Curse of and Escape from Monkey Island are irrelevant, or will it link in with those games too?
The five "chapters" of Tales of Monkey Island tell the story that happens after the presupposed "Monkey Island 5," which, as far as gamers are concerned, never existed. Tales of Monkey Island starts with an epic ship battle, which the player can assume is the end of a big 40 hour (in gameplay hours) adventure. Because Telltale is in the business of making smaller episodic titles (which, when combined equal a larger epic) we're not telling that story -- we're telling a brand new one that old and new gamers can hop into and dig.
So, all four of the previous games play a role in informing the canon of the Tales of Monkey Island world. For instance, Murray is going to show up and we'll reference events from the past games. For fans of the original games, they can be in on the references, and for newcomers, we put everything in context so you never feel out of the loop or out of the joke. We want everyone IN the jokes. And there are many.

Without revealing any secrets, what is your favourite part of the first episode?

At one point, Guybrush is restrained by a madman. The puzzle, the story, and the environment of this scene just blow my mind. [Having played the game, I have to say that's one of my favourite parts too]

Will Guybrush ever get to be a Mighty Pirate, or will he continue to be the loser we all know and love?
Somewhere in between? He's had some success in the past games, (thanks to the player guiding him through some epic adventures) so I wouldn't quite say he's a loser. But at the same time, he's not an action hero. He's a sharp-witted character who finds a way to succeed in the end. I like that.
I'd just like to thank Sean for sending his answers and Emily in PR for arranging this!

CaptainD - PC Gaming Blog

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