Let us start with some questions about your upcoming game.
How did you get involved with Penny Arcade?
I read about the game when they first announced it and contacted Hothead Games to see if they needed any help.
How was it to work with Tycho and Gabe?
Great! They are both very smart, funny and creative guys. It was a lot of fun brainstorming with both of them. We had a great time.
Were you a regular Penny Arcade reader before there was talk of a game?
Yes, I was a big fan of the comic.
What is your role in the project?
I am a design consultant, which means I spend some time with the designers and we talk about the design. My main function has been to make sure that the "adventure game" part of the game is fun and exciting. The game designers at Hothead are really good, so I'm there mostly as a sanity check and scape goat for them.
What does a day with Ron Gilbert look like?
I get up around 6am and milk the cows, plow the back 40, water the chickens and hoe the pigs. I then head into the office (which is currently a desk Tim Schafer is loaning me at Doublefine). I quickly read about 300 RSS feeds to see what the hell is going on in the world so I can act smart at cocktail parties, then I head out to get some coffee. I return to my desk and pull up my game design document and stare at it blankly for 8 hours then I catch the train home and watch TV until 10 and go to bed.
Other than Penny Arcade, are you a big fan of any other (online) comics?
Homestar Runner is pretty damn funny, although I don't read/watch it that much because they don't have a RSS feed. xkcd is also very funny if you're looking for some slightly brainiac math humor.
Are you tired of Monkey Island?
If you never get the opportunity to make your own version of Monkey Island 3, will we ever learn the real story of what happened to Guybrush, LeChuck, and Elaine?
Yes, oh yes! And it will...blow...you...away.
Is the idea for Monkey Island 3 just in your head or do you have the script lying in a drawer somewhere?
It's mostly in my head, but I did write out the basic story line, which I've probably lost by now. But it's still in my head.
Was it more important for you to leave LucasArts when you did instead of finishing the story you had begun?
It was important for me to leave because I really wanted to be more than just a game designer. I felt that I had learned a lot about the entire process of making games from marketing to sales to distribution and I wanted to try all of that on my own. I was a little burnt out on Monkey Island after spending the last 2 years of my life working on them (not to mention the 2 years before that thinking about them).
About CMI and EMI. Do you find it difficult to see characters and worlds you originally created being adapted by other people?
Depends if they do a good job or not.
Do you feel sad or relieved that LucasArts isn’t making more Monkey Island games?
I don't know that I feel either way about it. I just hope that if Lucas decides to make more Monkey Island games that they will contact me let me design it because my design will...blow...you...away.
Two years ago you traveled to Europe to meet up with Monkey fans. Weren’t you afraid they would capture and torture you until you told them The Secret?
No, the only form of torture I am susceptible to is tickling and I was confident they did not know that.
Do you plan to do something similar in the future?
Yeah, meeting up with people was a lot of fun. I hope to make it over to Germany someday soon, plus I've always wanted to go to Italy and Spain. Meeting up with fans immediately makes the trip tax deductible.
Do you still think often about the half-naked man in Amsterdam climbing into a rope?
Not until you brought it up. Thanks.
How was your childhood? Did you often wander off, pretending you were a pirate? (In other words is Monkey Island partly autobiographic?)
I should probably make up a better answer to this question, but no, I did not run around pretending to be a pirate when I was a kid. I always like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which set the stage for Monkey Island. Mostly when I was a kid I pretended to be a nerd.
Why is the second game named ‘LeChuck’s Revenge’? LeChuck doesn’t get revenge, or does he?
The word "Revenge" came from "Revenge of the Jedi", which was the original name of "Return of the Jedi". I had a rare official "Revenge of the Jedi" T-Shirt that was made before the name of the movie was changed.
Guybrush steals a fish from a gull in MI1 is that the same gull that returns in MI2 and steals his map piece as revenge?
Ah...yes...yes...that's exactly what i was thinking...yes...that's it.
While working on a game as Monkey 2, how much influence did you have in the art direction and the look of the game? You had brilliant artists such as Steve Purcell and Peter Chan working on it, but do you recall specific things you did or did not want in the background art, animation or character designs?
Most of the look of Money Island was driven by the feel of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. For Melee Island, I wanted something that was dark and moonlit. Back in the MI days, graphics were very limited, so we couldn't do nearly as much with art style as we can today. A lot of that was breaking open about the time MI3 was done, so you see a much more interesting art style in that game.
Do you think you’ll ever create something again that gets such a huge fanbase like happened with the Monkey Island series?
The problem is, you can only do one deal with the Devil and I blew it on a 16-color EGA game.
How did your Monkey marathon go? Must have been awkward to get frustrated by your own puzzles. Or was it not that bad?
It was a lot of fun. I'll be writing about it on the Grumpy Gamer site in the next week. And yes, I did get tripped up a few times. Embarrassing.
We know you like CMI, except you would have handled the Guybrush & Elaine relationship differently. Could you explain how you see their relationship?
Elaine sees Guybrush as her annoying little brother.
Some fans would like to see MI1 remade with today's graphic and voices. Is that something you think is a good idea or do you feel it should be left as it is, for nostalgic reasons.
Remaking MI1 would be a huge mistake and wouldn't add anything to the game. Having recently played the game again, it's just fine.
Do you think Dominic Armato's voice as Guybrush is how you imagined it or would you go for something different?
I never imagined what Guybrush would sound like. We didn't have voice capabilities when the original game was made, and it didn't seem like something that was going to happen in the near future. I like Dominic's take on Guybrush.
If you had an invisibility necklace (like Guybrush in MI1), what would you use it for?
The same thing every guy on the planet would use it for: Sneaking in to the girls locker room.
Do you draw?
Yes, as well as I play the concert piano.
These days it’s relatively easy for fans to get in contact with game designers, through the internet with tons of blogs, forums and fansites. Back in the day when you were working at LucasArts, did you have an idea how popular the games were and did you get any fan-feedback at all?
Yes, we got lots of letters, plus, despite it being the dark ages and half the population dying from the plague and we all walked around with six-shooter to battle dinosaurs, we did have CompuServe and they had a very active games channel that I and other designers would chat on.
I can only assume there’s also a downside to having a blog these days and it’s easy for fans to contact you?
Not really. I would not want to go back to not having this kind of direct feedback and contact with gamers. I've met some great people and made some good friends over the years of having my blog.
With Hulabee you had the concept of selling games online and then download each chapter. Something Telltale is currently doing successfully with the new Sam & Max and the Jeff Smith Bone games. Would it be something you are still interested in doing? Or are you already way ahead and thinking of new ways.
I love episodic. When I left Lucasfilm back in '92 my original idea was to do episodic adventure games (mailed out on floppies!). That idea morphed into going the smaller adventure games for kids.
Speaking of episodic games, will we ever get to see 'Bobo and Fletcher Go Deep in the Congo'?
Not directly, but there are aspects of that game design that will make it into my future games.
Do you have any other old game concepts you'd still love to pick up?
Not really. Designs are a dime-a-dozen. I've done so many of them over the years, and the new ones always seem shinier and prettier.
Why do you think there are so little specific art styles seen in games? Super realistic water etc. doesn’t really add much to gameplay. And yet strangely it seems to be one of the things that impress a lot of people the most.
Because the industry is ruled by programmers, and that's what they enjoy doing and it's been ingrained in consumers that graphics is what matters (thank you very much John Carmack).
Now that the newness of 3D with super realistic graphics and such is beginning to wear off, do you think games will move into more interesting styles and concepts?
Dear god I hope so. I'm so bored with realistic graphics. I can go outside and see realistic graphics. I want something that really excites my imagination. While doing realism is technically very challenging, it's not very creatively challenging and we need some more creativity in this business. All these stupid space marine games all look the same. None of them make me care at all about the world. Sorry Halo.
When writing game concepts and designs, were do you start? Do you first try to come up with a storyline and characters?
There is on government approved starting place. Sometimes it's story, other times it's setting or a lead character. It all evolves in concert with each other. For the game I am currently designing, it all started with a character, and the world and story followed soon after.
Most games seem to have bland super realistic graphics without showing a unique vision on the world from the artists or creators. What games do you think have a good art style?
Viva Pinata and Little Big Plant really blow me away. That's some damn good art direction.
Do you still regularly talk to your ex co-workers about projects they are now working on?
Yeah, usually not in an official capacity, but whenever we get together we always talk about what we're working on.
What do you think of the new consoles? Do you think they will breathe new life into the adventure genre?
Hard to say. XBLA would be a great channel for adventure games, but Microsoft is still pretty closed about what gets on there. A truly open platform like that would allow adventure games to flourish. The Nintendo DS would also be a wonderful system for traditional point and click games. LucasArts should cut a deal with the SCUMMVM guys and then release all the classic games on one DS cartridge. It would cost them almost nothing and make over a billion dollars. That's dollars with a D.
What do you think of Autumn Moon Entertainment's A Vampyre Story?
I haven't seen it, but it great that it's an adventure game and I'm looking forward to playing it.
Many thanks to Ron Gilbert for taking time to answer our questions.
This interview was conducted by Dalixam; questions by Dalixam, Paco, and Haggis. Custom art by Paco. Please do not copy anything from this page without asking