Telltale CEO Dan Connors on Natal, the PS3 and classic point-and-click adventures.
VideoGamer.com: Moving on to Tales of Monkey Island, it’s been announced for PC and WiiWare. Why not an XBLA version?
DC: Right now the Special Edition is going to be up on XBLA so we wanted to give that some room, but it may end up there. Obviously we’ll talk with Microsoft about getting it up on XBL as soon as we can and as soon as it makes sense.
VideoGamer.com: So you’re actively trying to get it on XBLA then?
DC: I don’t know if I can really talk about what conversations we’ve had with them about it but it’s certainly of interest to us.
VideoGamer.com: It seems odd that Telltale is doing this brand new set of Monkey Island chapters and LucasArts is doing the remake internally. Was there any chance of Telltale doing the remake?
DC: I don’t think the remake was what we would want to do. They were looking at what was going on with a lot of games coming back through digital distribution and being successful with the idea of being up-ressed and made current. For them with this library of content if there’s an avenue to enhance the graphics, add voice and deliver a product that has an audience, I think they really want to find out what that is. At the same time coming up with a new property and adding something to help push the name of the product and get Monkey Island top of mind is like a double whammy. Players will have the new Tales of Monkey Island that Telltale’s doing, that’s the latest and the greatest and the newest thing and the continuation of the story, and at the same time, for everyone who loved the original, LucasArts is bringing back the original content but with Dominic (Armato, The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island) doing Guybrush’s voice and up-ressed graphics. It’s a dual plan for them to get the franchise out as widely as possible.
VideoGamer.com: Why is now the right time for Monkey Island to return?
DC: There’s some momentum in the genre with what Telltale’s been doing. Digital distribution is mature enough that there’s a real market there, that you can get your game up to a niche audience that wants it without having all the overhead of doing retail product. Telltale and LucasArts came together at the same time and said let’s just do this. People have been asking for it forever. Why not do it now. Let’s make this happen.
VideoGamer.com: The hardcore gaming population obviously loves Monkey Island. Is there a need for it to appeal to a wider audience now?
DC: We’ve always believed that adventure games and the adventure game mechanic is something that’s easy for anybody to do. If the games are good at engaging the player then anybody can come in and play it. We’ve seen it with Sam & Max - we’ve introduced a lot of new people to Sam & Max. They might have heard of it because their brother’s played it or maybe their dad picked it up and they played it, but we’re getting a lot of new fans to the franchise. That’s always our goal with Telltale. We’re not in this to serve a small part of the market. We’re in this to figure out how to bring this great content to everybody because we believe everybody can enjoy it. For us that’s always been the design challenge – keeping the challenge there so the core that loves these games will be satisfied, will have positive things to say about it and will be happy, but at the same time make it so that the new people who come in aren’t left at the door saying I don’t understand this, I can’t play this. To play these types of games you really have to get your head in a different space than what you’re used to. If you’re an old school gamer you remember that space very well. It’s like an old friend. It’s like a comfortable place. If you’re a new gamer it’s pretty foreign to you. We really need to work people into the experience and get them in that mindset that makes solving puzzles and adventuring a fun and rewarding experience. That’s Telltale’s goal. With the Special Edition it’ll be interesting to see if, with the hint system, new people can make it all the way through the game and have the same experience people had previously.
VideoGamer.com: There’s that thing about rose-tinted nostalgia goggles where you look back at games and think they’re a lot better than they really were. Perhaps Monkey Island and games of that type don’t suffer from that because the quality of the writing had a lot to do with the quality of the game and it still stands up.
DC: Oh definitely. In those older versions there’s so much of it. For us, I wouldn’t want to talk about necessarily Monkey Island in that way but if you go back and play the original Sam & Max and then you play Telltale’s episodes they really feel like two different things. I mean they feel the same, but yet they feel very different in the way you experience them.
VideoGamer.com: You mean better of course!
DC: The writing’s great in the first Sam & Max, but we wouldn’t send you to go to use the fish grabbers inside the giant ball of twine to get the ring. Our puzzles are probably about three steps shorter! You know what I’m saying!
VideoGamer.com: They make more sense?
DC: Yeah, in their own weird way.
VideoGamer.com: What was your approach to getting voice actors on board for the game? Was it terrifying?
DC: Well getting Guybrush was huge. Having Dominic do it was a huge deal. The other characters aren’t as critical as Guybrush. He’s the signature voice. After finding new voices for Sam & Max we’re used to the abuse! We’re pretty used to hearing from people that love the products and hearing their opinions. I always say it’s better to have people caring about it and talking about it, even if they’re being critical and giving you their opinion, than to have them not care. So not necessarily terrified, but incredibly happy to have Dominic as the voice of Guybrush. It’s amazing he still sounds the same after all these years. It’s such a signature voice.
VideoGamer.com: You’ve done Sam & Max and you’re doing Monkey Island. When will you be doing a brand new Indiana Jones adventure?
DC: (Laughs) I was expecting you to say Day of the Tentacle.
VideoGamer.com: I will afterwards.
DC: We’ll see, we’ll see. It all depends on how it goes. Hopefully it works out for both companies and it just is a no brainer to keep adding the franchises on.
VideoGamer.com: Is there one you have a particular personal desire to give the Telltale treatment to?
DC: To me I always think of the big three as, and maybe it’s just because of when I was playing and when I was first starting at LucasArts, I always think of Sam & Max, Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island as the big three franchises. Having access to Steve and access to Dave Grossman and everything else… I really love Day of the Tentacle. Although I wanted to do, and my ideas always get shot down, but I wanted to see, like a 32-year-old Hoagie, or Bernard, Hoagie and Laverne all grown up with jobs and what not. But we’ll see if that gets any traction.
VideoGamer.com: I can’t believe your ideas are shot down given your position at the company. Surely you can just put your foot down and make whatever you want to happen happen.
DC: (Laughs) Yeah, but everyone says, “I don’t know Dan, I don’t see Hoagie working a job, I don’t see Hoagie as a computer programmer”. Oh okay, I guess, you’re right. But that would be a fun one for sure. We’re certainly not there yet on it, and we’re just having a “wait and see” approach with Monkey. Hopefully everyone that plays the Special Edition and plays Tales really enjoy what the games bring, which is the great stories and characters of Guybrush and Elaine and LeChuck. When you look back on it, and you think about what we do with episodic and you think about Monkey Island 1 and 2 and the way they were released and the endings, it really is the perfect soap opera.
VideoGamer.com: In all seriousness, if your Monkey Island game and the Special Edition prove successful, is a new Day of the Tentacle episodic Telltale release feasible?
DC: I would say feasible is a good word.
Sam & Max Save the World is out now on Xbox LIVE Arcade.