Monkey Island Creator Says He Wasn’t Aware Sea Of Thieves DLC Was Happening

Monkey Island Creator Says He Wasn’t Aware Sea Of Thieves DLC Was Happening

Ron Gilbert, the creator of Monkey Island, says he was unaware that Rare and Lucasfilm were collaborating on DLC for Sea of Thieves that used characters and settings from the franchise.

First spotted by Time Extension, Gilbert claims he didn’t know that Lucasfilm was working with Rare on any Monkey Island-related project. A user on Mastodon asked Gilbert if he’d been involved in the DLC’s creation. Gilbert’s response: “Nope. Wasn’t even told about it. Happened behind my back.”

Another follower asked if Gilbert had worked with the Sea of Thieves team to bring the DLC to life. Per Gilbert, “Nope. It was all done without my knowledge or input.”

As his quotes began to spread and get picked up by the gaming press, Gilbert then clarified his remarks:

Just to clarify The Sea of Thieves thing since some press are making assumptions: I was given a heads up before the announce, but wasn’t given an opportunity to be meaningfully involved. I do wish the game well. I love Monkey Island.

Gilbert’s later statement clashes somewhat with his original one. First, he said he wasn’t even told about the DLC and then says he was, in fact, given a heads-up before the announcement. What isn’t clear is exactly how far ahead of its announcement he was informed. Based on his prior comments, he may have only heard about it shortly before the reveal.

Gilbert only returned to the Monkey Island series last year, writing and directing Return to Monkey Island, his first involvement in the series since Monkey Island 2: LeChuck‘s Revenge in 1991. The game was celebrated for its return to classically absurdist LucasArts humour and puzzles, and the care with which Gilbert and his team delivered the final product. Gilbert was, however, harassed online by a subsection of the Monkey Island fan base over the game’s art design prior to its launch. Gilbert found the personal nature of the criticism so intense and confronting that he eventually departed Twitter and closed the game’s official website, decamping to the smaller Mastodon.

Gilbert created the Monkey Island franchise at LucasArts in 1990. He co-wrote and directed The Secret of Monkey Island and its sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, co-designing both games with friends and fellow industry legends Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. It is from these two games that the Sea of Thieves: Legend of Monkey Island DLC appears to take most of its characters and settings.

If Rare and Lucasfilm didn’t reach out to Gilbert in the production of its Monkey Island DLC for Sea of Thieves, that would be quite troubling. But would it be surprising? Legally, I’m sure Lucasfilm can do what it likes with the Monkey Island IP. Ultimately, this isn’t really about whether they screwed Gilbert over. Despite creating the franchise, the intellectual property hasn’t belonged to Gilbert in decades. More, it’s about paying a certain degree of respect. It’s about whether they were interested in hearing from the person who understands the series best, or if the IP was an easy, convenient fit, and both parties simply went for it without feeling the need to talk to Gilbert. It does strike me as odd that Rare didn’t talk to Gilbert, given that many at the studio have previously remarked on how influential the Monkey Island series has been for the team and even included a Monkey Island easter egg in the previous A Pirate’s Life campaign as a mark of respect.

Gilbert’s use of the phrase “behind my back” would seem to tell us a lot. “I love Monkey Island” tells us more. I get the impression that Gilbert might have quite liked to have been involved.

A very strange situation indeed, one where it feels like a simple phone call might have sufficed.

When contacted by Kotaku Australia regarding this story, Xbox declined a request for comment.

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