The announcement of the imminent arrival of Return to Monkey Island immediately attracted the attention of gamers from all over the world, excited for the return of a videogame saga that has accompanied the childhood of millions of people and has been an essential stone of comparison for any graphic adventure realized in the following years. As has already happened for many franchises, the initial enthusiasm quickly gave way to the first criticisms, mainly focused on the graphics chosen for the game. While many fans expected a pixel art work capable of combining past and present, Ron Gilbert made a bold choice, showing with the trailer and the first images a much more modern style, even if consistent with the atmosphere of the first chapters. .
Unfortunately, some fans’ love for their favorite works is second only to the hatred they are able to pour out on social media for artistic choices they don’t like. The resentment of this small but noisy slice of fandom also reached Ron Gilbert, who decided to temporarily reopen his blog (which over time has become a cult object for fans) and to write a post focused above all on these sterile controversies. The post, titled When I Made Another Monkey Island, links to another written by Ron Gilbert himself 9 years ago, titled If I Made Another Monkey Island and focused on the choices that the author would have made for a new chapter of his saga, at the time considered almost impossible.
As we know, things turned out differently. Below, you will find the translation of Ron Gilbert’s thought. The author confirms that Return to Monkey Island will start from where the legendary Monkey Island 2 ended, explains the artistic choices made, with a hint of regret for the aforementioned controversies, and asks fans for trust.
Return to Monkey Island: Ron Gilbert’s message to fans
When I made another Monkey Island
Nine years ago I wrote a blog post titled “If I Did Another Monkey Island” and I think there are a few things to say.
I can’t remember the exact episode, but the day I wrote it I was feeling down, because I thought I could never do another Monkey Island. I wrote it in one afternoon, and it was nothing more than a stream of thoughts. In the movie version, tears would have run down my cheeks, but it wasn’t the movie version, so I was probably sipping coffee and eating a chocolate chip cookie.
The point is, these were not commandments handed down and set in stone on a giant tablet. They were just random thoughts about a (then very unlikely) new Monkey Island game.
None of these were promises or things I owe anyone.
People often talk about Monkey Island 3a as the game I would have made after Monkey Island 2 had I stayed at Lucasfilm.
That’s the way it is.
The totality of that idea was “Guybrush chases the demon pirate LeChuck to hell and Stan is there.” That was all. This was all we had.
Games, movies and books are not born fully formed. They start out as a little piece of idea, then all the hard work begins.
Roger Ebert once wrote a great thought, which I constantly remind myself: “The muse comes to visit you during the act of creation, not before.”
If I had stayed at Lucasfilm, I could have started with that idea, but in the end the game would have been something completely different and better.
And that’s exactly what Return to Monkey Island is.
The genesis of Return to Monkey Island
When Dave and I first met to talk about Return to Monkey Island, we had a nearly blank slate. We talked about the ideas we’ve had over the years, including one of mine, in which Guybrush wakes up 3,000 years in the future on an Earth inside a snowball.
We also talked about my original idea of hell but other Monkey Islands had done a lot of this before (coincidentally), so there was no point in reworking it.
The only thing I wanted was to start the new game right where Monkey Island 2 ended, and that became the only staple.
I’ve only made one pixel art game in my entire career, Thimbleweed Park. Monkey Island 1 and 2 were not pixel art games. They were games that used cutting-edge technology and art. Monkey Island 1 was 16-color EGA and we jumped at the opportunity to upgrade it to 256 colors. Monkey Island 2 featured the magic of Peter Chan and Steve Purcell’s scanned art and we wanted to keep pushing forward.
If I had stayed and made Monkey Island 3 it wouldn’t have felt like Monkey Island 2. We would have kept moving forward. Day of the Tentacle is a good example.
I never liked the Day of the Tentacle graphics. Technically and artistically it’s great, but I’ve never liked Chuck Jones’ extravagant style. But that was Dave and Tim’s game, not mine. They can do whatever they want and I totally supported it.
The Curse of Monkey Island also took a leap forward. He introduced us to a fully voiced Guybrush, taller and leaner, with painted backgrounds that were all the rage in the late 90s. It was really a game of his time.
Ron Gilbert on Return to Monkey Island artwork
When Dave and I started brainstorming Return to Monkey Island, we talked about pixel art, but it just didn’t feel right. We didn’t want to do a retro game. It’s impossible to read an article on Thimbleweed Park without finding the definition of retro gaming. I didn’t want Return to Monkey Island to be just a throwback, I wanted to keep bringing Monkey Island forward because it’s interesting, fun and exciting. That’s what Monkey Island games have always done.
I wanted the Return to Monkey Island graphics to be provocative, shocking and not what everyone expected. Rex is an amazing creative force and we have an amazing team of artists, animators, sound designers, programmers and testers, who pour their soul into this game, and it’s great to see, play and hear.
The music that Michael, Peter and Clint are making is just as amazing. It’s not AdLib music, Sound Blaster or even Roland MT-32. It is stunning, interactive and recorded live.
Return to Monkey Island may not have the art style you wanted or expected, but it’s the art style I wanted.
When I started this game, my biggest fear was that Disney wouldn’t let me play the game I wanted to play, but instead it was wonderful to work with them.
It’s ironic that the people who don’t want me to play the game I want to play are some of Monkey Island’s hardcore fans. And that’s what makes me sad about the comments.
Return to Monkey Island is an amazing roller coaster. Get on and have fun, or get out of the amusement park because it’s not exactly the roller coaster you wanted.
I hope you decide to go up with us all.
Point number 17
Ron Gilbert concluded his rant with the seventeenth and final point of his aforementioned post If I did another Monkey Island. These words are well suited to his prolonged absence in this period and the trust Ron Gilbert asks fans for his vision of this highly anticipated project:
* Seventeen – The game would be the same as I wanted to play. I don’t want the pressure of trying to play the game you want me to play. It would vanish for long periods of time. I wouldn’t keep you constantly updated, nor would I feed the hype machine. I would show things that excite or amuse me. If you let me do those things, you will love the game. This I promise.