Stemmle & Clark Interview

An article by Muppet, posted on July 21. 2003.

Muppet talks EMI just before the release.

Part 1 - A Brief Introduction

Could you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Sean: I'm 34, a Pisces, 6'2", and I like sunsets and quiet walks along the beach. The rest will be in my tell-all book, "Your Avatar Never Really Dies, and Other Great Myths of the Computer Game Industry."

Mike: I'm younger and shorter than Sean, but not by much. I prefer my walks along the beach to be short, noisy, and in the dead of night.

A lot of people bemoan the death of the adventure game genre. What changes have you noticed in the adventuring market over the years?

A lot of people are asking that question, and yet, here we are. If adventure games were truly dead, would we be crazy enough to be building one? Wait, don't answer that. If adventure games were dead, would there be as many people expressing support and enthusiasm for EFMI as there are? (We've heard from almost a dozen eager fans, some of them non-relatives!) And, by saying that adventure games are dead, aren't you saying that the very nature of gaming is dead, too? For isn't all gaming about adventure? And (cue appropriate patriotic humming) if you claim that all gaming is dead, then aren't you really saying that all humans on this great planet of ours are merely drones, slaving away without the reward of fun and games? Well, I don't know about you, but we won't stand idly by and let that happen to this beautiful blue marble we call Earth! We will stand up and fight for what we believe in! Who's with us!?

How did you both come to be involved with Escape From Monkey Island (EFMI)?

We drew the project from a hat. No, that's not it. We threatened to leave if we didn't get to build it. Nope, that's not it either. One of us heard voices telling them to make EFMI, and the other one said "Dude, I heard the same voices." Then we realized that the voices belonged to LEC management.

One quick question before we continue. Ever wanted to make Sam and Max 2?

Yes, yes, oh God, yes. That is to say, um, sure.

Part 2 - Escape From Monkey Island

Are you currently on schedule?

(Checks watch) Yes!

The backgrounds for the game look stunning. How long did it take to have them designed and drawn?

Yes, they are gorgeous, aren't they? Props to the art team! Each of the backgrounds went through a design/conceptual process, drawn on paper (remember that stuff?). Then they were built in 3D following the direction of the conceptual sketches. Once built, they go into the game, and then through a post-production step, where they're tweaked a bit more. The average set took a little more than two weeks. Some were more complex than others, however, and took substantially longer.

On the promo videos Lucre Island is still a basic outlay map not yet done: is it relatively painless to change graphics as you wish or does it involve large programming rewrites? How do such edits affect the schedule?

That really depends on the piece of art. The map is pretty simple. Some of the changes we've made require quite a bit more work, but seem worth it to improve the quality of the game. As far as the schedule goes, it actually saves us time (usually) to wire up a temporary piece of art while we're waiting for final art.

EFMI is using an inventory system similar to Tomb Raider's scrolling-inventory. Were any other types considered? And how are players going to be able to combine two objects in their inventory together?

As usual, we obsessed about inventory interface right along with every other aspect of the game. And, as usual, there are always trade-offs involved with any decision. We liked this, though, because it allowed all the stuff to be on-screen (as opposed to Grim Fandango), and more 3D-like. It seemed the best combination of control, usefulness, style, and appropriateness for this game. Additionally, this approach does allow you to combine objects in your inventory. We'll leave details of the keystrokes for the manual.

How exactly will Guybrush be controlled in EFMI? Is it identical to controlling Manny Calavera in Grim Fandango?

Yes, it'll be much like Grim. The player gets to drive the character rather than click and wait.

How confident are you that you can recreate the cartoon-esque, impressive facial reactions of characters, as in CMI, when using the 3D engine?

Now that we've done it, we're very confident! This was one of the biggest concerns we had when we set out to build this game. Chris Miles (our lead artist) and his art staff really did an amazing job capturing the cartoony look that is particular to Monkey Island, yet not obsessing too much about trying to get it to look identical to Curse. The look is different, but we think it's a natural progression from the 2D legacy.

Grim Fandango (GF) was a big hit - a vindication of the skilled 2D background-3D animation combination. How much more advanced from the GF engine is EFMI?

It's the same engine...but with a major overhaul. Not to mention some new headers, a massive blower, twin four-barrel carbs, and...where was I? The biggest, and most obvious, changes are the 3D support, and the animation system. There are lots of other things that have changed, but those are the biggies, and have the most influence on the look of the game.

Some gamers are having seizures at not knowing. Could you confirm whether EFMI will need a 3D accelerator to run?

Seizures? Really? Cool! Yes, EFMI will need a 3D accelerator to run. We'll support both DirectX and OpenGL.

Do you know yet what the minimum likely computer to run EFMI is going to be?

We're targeting a 200 MHz PC with 32 MB RAM, 4X CD, with 3D hardware acceleration. Oh, and you should have a monitor, too.

The previews say we can expect to play as Elaine too. Any info on that?

Those previews are wrong. We want the names and addresses of everyone who said that. So, to summarise: Previews wrong, Can't play as Elaine.

What do you think of the voice actors and actresses work on EFMI so far?

Excellent. The quality and range of the voice talent has been extraordinary. Darragh O'Farrell has done another outstanding job directing them, and the voices are very much what we had intended.

How important was it to break the mould to some extent and feature a new villain? Were you worried about EFMI not being original enough?

Our reasoning went like this: If one villain is good, two must be better! Then we laughed maniacally for six or seven minutes.

What made you decide to bring back old characters, and how did you select who got to return and who got left out?

Each character had to compete in a gruelling contest that included a single-elimination mud wrestling tournament, a triathlon, and a 500 word essay. Then we held a lottery.

You both worked on Sam and Max Hit the Road. Have you tried to make the humour in EFMI a little more twisted, a little more sarcastic as in that game?

No need to try. We're both twisted and sarcastic. For EFMI, though, we've tried to be a little less "twisted and sarcastic," and a little more "goofy and charming."

Just one question to satisfy my curiosity: is the Scumm Bar still open for business?

Just one word: Yes.

Finally, what are your wishes for the Monkey Island franchise now and after EFMI?

Sean: I'd like to see my kids grow up playing new installments of Monkey Island games. Oh wait, I don't have any kids...

Mike: I'd like to see my kids borrowing new installments of Monkey Island games from Sean's kids. Oh wait...

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