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LucasArts' Darrell Rodriguez

The company president on Monkey Island, new IP and the importance of story

GamesIndustry.biz The Monkey Island franchise is an old one, but the launch of the Special Edition demonstrated that people still loved it. What makes it relevant for new players today - or is it mainly people who played it back in the day?
Darrell Rodriguez

One of the fundamentals of LucasArts is story and character - that started with a lot of the adventure games in the past, and we continue to do that in the future with a lot of our titles, such as The Old Republic, or Force Unleashed - and even LEGO Star Wars 3.

So these titles, Monkey Island in particular, have amazing story and character, and I think that resonates. It's an amazing IP, and an amazing experience, because people can identify with Guybrush, who is the Everyman... and they want to be a pirate!

GamesIndustry.biz So the Monkey Island 2 Special Edition - will that feature any new stories, or just revisit the original game's content, as with Monkey Island 1?
Darrell Rodriguez

Like Special Edition 1, we're maintaining the story and characters, but again, we're adding voice overs, updating the control scheme and also the graphics. There'll also be creator commentary.

GamesIndustry.biz I think that's a nice touch - somebody recently lamented to me the fact that games hardly ever featured that stuff, and that it would be fascinating. But what does that mean for games - you could probably only get away with it on certain titles? I'm not sure how it would work on something like Modern Warfare 2, for example.
Darrell Rodriguez

Maybe... but these are beloved titles, and there is a very passionate fanbase that wants to hear from the creators - what were they thinking...? As in, what they were thinking while developing and designing, and as well as some of the original art - or never-before-seen art - and that will be a very cool feature for those fans, as well as the new fans, because we are attracting those as well.

GamesIndustry.biz You do get the sense that new fans are coming into the game?
Darrell Rodriguez

Definitely - we have a fan letter wall, and a lot of the letters that come in are from very young people, who are excited about the re-imagined products.

GamesIndustry.biz Is it dangerous to think a lot about new content for the Monkey Island franchise - it's well-loved, so could be fairly tricky to get right?
Darrell Rodriguez

Potentially - it's something that I would definitely consider. But with the right opportunity, and the right people involved -

GamesIndustry.biz Both Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert are here...
Darrell Rodriguez

They are, but there's no story there. Wouldn't it be cool?

GamesIndustry.biz The Monkey Island Special Editions are a bit like the remastered version of the original Star Wars trilogy - but new stories are much harder...
Darrell Rodriguez

Well, look what Telltale's doing, with the Tales of - Grossman's involved with that, and they're doing some really exciting stuff by taking the characters and storyline, and re-imagining it, and actually extending it. And they're successful at it.

GamesIndustry.biz The digital platforms have been a big part of the success - how do you see the evolution of that space? There's a lot of talk about digital versus retail, but the growth of the former has been pretty spectacular in the last couple of years.
Darrell Rodriguez

Absolutely - and retail won't go away. Digital is important to how our fans are consuming our products, so we need to be there. That's why you see a big push from us in the digital space - there was a lot of experimentation from us last year in terms of Steam, Direct2Drive and XBLA, and now of PlayStation Home.

That last presence has been phenomenal - some of our biggest sellers were light sabres, and cotton swabs for our Monkey Island avatars. We're also selling Storm Trooper outfits, which have been selling phenomenally - we have people buying them, and then just standing guard out the front of our store. We haven't asked them to do it.

GamesIndustry.biz That's an interesting level of roleplay - Star Wars is one of those brands that will probably outlast the Sun.
Darrell Rodriguez

It's an evergreen brand, it's very exciting.

GamesIndustry.biz With Star Wars and Monkey Island you have to franchises that generate a lot of fan dedication.
Darrell Rodriguez

It's a great place to be, at LucasArts - honestly, we have some of the best IP in the world. And we're growing, looking for top talent, and working on some new and original IP - nothing that I can announce right now, but we're growing teams, and it's a unique position to be in the industry.

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