Monkey Island Creator Ron Gilbert Has Joy Sapped From Sequel Thanks To Awful People

Monkey Island Creator Ron Gilbert Has Joy Sapped From Sequel Thanks To Awful People
Screenshot: Devolver Digital

During Tuesday’s Nintendo Direct Mini, Return To Monkey Island was finally seen in motion. Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman’s return to the series, after over 30 years away, has given a lot of cause for interest among classic point-and-click adventure fans. And unfortunately, where go fans go arseholes, people leaving shitty, insulting comments on his personal site, so much so that Gilbert has announced he’ll no longer be discussing the game online.

Among fans, a word we should probably remember is an abbreviation of “fanatics,” there are always those who have a habit of ruining everything they touch. For most normal people, the announcement that Monkey Island was returning, and that Gilbert and Grossman were running the project, was exciting and nerve-wracking news. A favourite ‘90s series is coming back, made by the people who made it great, so let’s look forward to it, but also…what if it’s less great? That’s the standard response, followed up by waiting to find out.

Unfortunately, there’s always a large contingent of others who feel a religious zeal to obliterate absolutely anything and anyone who they perceive to have committed even the most mild acts of blasphemy, and in the case of Return To Monkey Island, that’s its artwork. Art, as it happens, I responded to with a headline saying it “Looks Damned Pretty.”

Art appreciation is, of course, subjective, and there were a fair number of people in the comments sharing their dislike of the style. And fair-does, because it didn’t work for them. I’m assuming that these people didn’t then go off to leave screeds of abuse on Gilbert’s personal site (offline at the time of writing), but sadly that’s what so many others did. Enough that Gilbert has announced (as reported by VGC) that such “personal attacks” mean he’s shutting down comments and that “I won’t be posting anymore about the game. The joy of sharing has been driven from me.”

What a miserable state of affairs, given that all anyone has seen of the game is a few seconds of in-game footage, detached from narrative, dialogue or even sound effects.

To be abundantly clear, this isn’t about “criticism,” nor Gilbert’s failure to accept it. This is about “personal attacks,” to the degree where a man who’s been a bold voice in the games industry for over 30 years, and has dealt with plenty of criticism, has been driven away by the misery of the response of people who claim to be fans of his creation.

The red flag phrase this time is “Corporate Memphis,” a term they all heard for the first time this week and are repeating with a confidence belied only by its irrelevance. Or, you know, comments like this:

waited 30 years for this.

just when i wanted to say, whatever you do dont make it a leftist multiculti gender bs, i saw this ill graphic style.

this cant be saved anymore.

will definately not buy it

Or genius insight such as,

this is the product of a person who hates what he created and is proving to all you A$$ lickers that he never wanted to make another.

And these are the sorts left after the personally insulting ones were pruned.

Of course, this is triply stupid given that every Monkey Island game has seen a dramatic change in art style, since 1991’s first sequel, LeChuck’s Revenge. As Gilbert pointed out a few weeks back,

Monkey Island 1 and 2 weren’t pixel art games. They were games using state-of-the-art tech and art. Monkey Island 1 was 16 colour EGA and we jumped at the chance to upgrade it to 256 colours. Monkey Island 2 featured the magical wizardry of scanned art by Peter Chan and Steve Purcell and we lusted to keep pushing everything forward.

The third game, Curse, was wildly different from the first two, and is still rightly revered today. I remember hating the change in style when I was 19, and an idiot, enough that it took me decades to properly realise how great a game it was. Then the fourth, Escape, had the wonderful cartoon art of Steve Purcell, yet again unlike any previous entry. The two decades since have given us the wonderful remakes of the first two, with modern interpretations of the original pixel graphics, and yet another approach by Telltale’s Tales Of Monkey Island. You get the point. This is the tradition. A new style for a new game. The idea that it’s a betrayal of any previous entry is bananas.

Not liking the new style is absolutely anyone’s prerogative. People get to think it looks awful. They get to be really disappointed it doesn’t match an expectation they imagined for themselves. But making someone’s life so miserable they don’t want to even talk about the game they’re making any more is, and stick with me here, maybe fucking stupid?

“It’s an amazing game and everyone on the team is very proud of it,” said Gilbert on his blog. “Play it or don’t play it but don’t ruin it for everyone else.”

I’ll give the final word to Gilbert’s May blog post (and we have of course reached out to him to ask if he’d like to comment further.)

I wanted the art in Return to Monkey Island to be provocative, shocking, and not what everyone was expecting. Rex [Crowle] is an amazing creative force and we have a team of incredible artists, animators, sound designers, programmers, and testers all pouring their souls into this game and it’s beautiful to see, play, and listen to.

 

Comments

  • Yeah I’m not a fan of this art style whatsoever, the characters look a stunned mullet and lifeless.
    That being said, I wouldn’t have a go at devs.

  • For a series that had some utterly beautiful pixel art in the past, this new art style is shockingly bad. Not just the artstyle though, the animation is (from what is shown on the trailer) some incredibly basic tweening. You would find flash animations from 20 years ago with more effort in the animation than we’ve seen so far. Pretty disappointing, honestly.

    • I’d like to add: I hope this doesn’t mean we’re going to do that thing we always seem to do where from this point onwards, any (certainly valid) criticism about the game or its awful art style will now be “oh it’s just trolls again”

  • I have no idea how I feel about the art style. The Secret of Monkey Island was the first game I ever bought (way back in October of 1990!), and the series is pretty important to me – even to the point that I think much of my sense of humour and personality owes at least SOMETHING to that first experience with Guybrush Threepwood.

    It’s a little jarring to see something that is such a significant departure from the rest of the series – I loved the pixel art (even if it wasn’t pixel art), MI2 was gorgeous, and Curse was (and still is) amazing. Each of those 3 games has the luxury of still looking incredible today – partly because the Indie scene has revived pixels as an art form, and in the case of CMI, because it always was just that beautifully drawn.

    This feels… somehow like it has less character to it. Or maybe more accurately, that the character somehow isn’t quite so consistent with the older games.

    BUT…
    I’m still going to play this thing. And chances are, I’ll end up loving the art, and this is just a slightly jarring change because – in the immortal words of the article, “I’m an idiot”. Time will tell. But either way, I’m genuinely thrilled that Ron Gilbert is back, and making another Monkey Island. That’s never going to be anything but a win in my book.

  • The art style isn’t to my taste, but I’m still very excited to try it.

    I’m sure our brains will adjust to it fairly quickly, as long as the story and gameplay is classic Monkey Island.

    For many of us, Monkey Island is our childhood. I can understand why people are taking the ‘different’ art style so personally. Sadly the internets anonymity allows people say things they would otherwise simply internalise.

  • Yeah, my first reaction was something like, “Oh, that’s a pretty ugly design, kind of like a Pop-doll approximation of a character or something.”
    But then 2 seconds later I shrugged and got over it. Like a normal person.
    /Eyeroll

  • Art seems to be a simplified version of the style used in the remakes. It’s nothing worth harassing the creators over.

    • Agreed. I’m thinking somewhere between 2D Grim Fandango and Broken Age. I loved both of those but never had any of the Monkey Island games.
      Looks decent, I’d give it a shot so long as the writing is good.

  • “I remember hating the change in style when I was 19, and an idiot, enough that it took me decades to properly realise how great a game it was.”

    And that right there answers who the main angry people are that this article is addressing: Young idiots. Those young enough that this is their first example of the Wind Waker scenario.

  • I think I’m missing something here. The second comment regarding ‘leftist multi culti…’ makes sense. But whats wrong with the other three? They seem fine to me. They’re not derogatory or even remotely close to offensive. Feels like a bit of a stretch to classify them as such.

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