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Questions for Mike Stemmle? Post 'em here!

posted by Emily Telltale Alumni on - last edited - Viewed by 9.4K users
While the Q&A with the team thread is quite possibly the coolest thread in the history of Telltale's forum, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get a little more in depth with the folks working on the game, so starting this week we will be doing Q&As with specific members of the Tales of Monkey Island team... starting with designer Mike Stemmle!
During his decade-plus tenure at LucasArts, Mike was kept as far away from Star Wars as possible, instead acting as lead designer on titles like Escape from Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit the Road, Afterlife, and the never-released Sam & Max: Freelance Police. After several years working as lead writer on Star Trek Online, Mike came to Telltale, where he co-designed Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People. His disturbing blend of dry wit, convoluted syntactical constructions, and bathroom humor have added a healthy helping of absurdity to the Tales of Monkey Island proceedings.

Mike's the lead writer/designer on the first Tales of Monkey Island episode, Launch of the Screaming Narwhal, so you should definitely pick his brain about that. But also feel free to ask about other projects he's worked on, his favorite color, his favorite Star Trek character, etc.
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  • Hello Mike!
    There is something that you would change on EMI today?
  • How often did you think, that the first episode is going to rock while on the other hand nothing was finished yet (except for some scripts)? How was the time with Ron Gilbert after all these years of MI-abstinence? Are you still in touch with him while you're putting the final touches to the first episode (Problematic story issues? Talk to Ron and not to tissues.)?
  • Hi, Mike! I just wanted to tell you that I loved that small musical masterpiece that is Baddest of the Bands. Its ending sequence was probably the best ending sequence I've ever played in a game by Telltale: hilarious, captivating and with a completely unexpected twist. Will we have the pleasure of finding one of your trademark musical numbers in ToMI? Why wasn't anything similar included in EfMI? What is the lyrical adventure game of your dreams? And your favourite musical film?
    Thank you!
  • What esrb rating do you think this game is going to get? M, right, cause blood and gore is the only way to get teenage males to buy video games.
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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Alumni
    serweet wrote: »
    How much have you been influeced by the original Monkey Islands in not just the first episode, but on other games you have worked on?
    Is it truely a landmark franchise that you are glad to finally be working on again?

    I'd say that the spirit of the original Monkey Island's "irreverence masking a genuinely dire situation" has stuck with me in just about all my design endeavors. There's no situation so grim that it can't stand a well-placed joke from an appropriate character. And that includes my Star Wars work.

    And yes, I'm really, REALLY happy to be working on it again. It's the only porject I could imagine delaying a return to Sam & Max for.
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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Alumni
    Tjibbbe wrote: »
    Hey Mike!

    I have a lot of questions, but I won't give you a ton of homework in the first post. My question is this: You, of course, made Monkey Island 4. What was it in that project that you wanted to achieve (how did you wanted to make it 'your' game while at the same time keeping it in the spirit of the previous games), and what's different in style/atmosphere this time around?

    By the time EFMI rolled around, the franchise was in a strange position, story-wise. Arguably, the main characters has achieved some sort of closure, with LeChuck meeting an appropriate end on Monkey Island, and Elaine and Guybrush well and truly married. As a consequence, we felt that we really couldn't just go through the "LeChuck's got a plan, Elaine and Guybrush are stuck in typically pirate-y situations" route, so we tried to shake things up (with varying degrees of success) with a new bad guy, a lot of metatextual commentary about the commercialization of the pirate lifestyle, and a giant monkey robot.

    This time around, of course, the air has been cleared by the lack of any MI games for the last decade. This frees us up to go "classic" with our storytelling. A pirate. His wife. An undead evil jerk. Lots of voodoo.
    Tjibbbe wrote: »
    Hey Mike!In a semi-related question, how do you do differently in this project then you did with your previous project, Strong Bad? Both are of course episodic, but they have a very different sense of humour.

    The big shift in this project is the emphasis on tight serialization. Tales of Monkey Island is really one big epic story, split into 5 satisfying chapters. Strong Bad, not so much.

    Also, Strong Bad is much more absurd. Charmingly so. Most Monkey Island plots, when viewed from on high, are actually pretty spooky.
    Tjibbbe wrote: »
    All right, one more question. Seeing as how you're the lead designer on the first episode, what do you do after that one is finished (which, I guess, is right about now, except for all the bug-hunting etc.)? Do you stick around to help on the other episodes, or are you going right into the next project (Sam & Max)?

    What a timely question. As it happens, in about an hour I'll be holding the first design meeting for episode 4 of Monkey Island, in which a whole lotta horrible stuff happens to Guybrush. Mark and I will also be keeping a watchful eye over the whole season, to make sure everything continues to hold together.

    After that, there's a dog a rabbity thing I've just GOT to muck with.


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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Alumni
    Azure wrote: »
    Wow awesome! How important would you say technical knowledge is for a games writer?
    I'm guessing for you the 'designer' part of your job title is referring to more technical skills.

    Over at Telltale, our designers are a varied bunch. While all of us have abstract game design and dialog writing chops, the other skills we bring to the table vary considerably.

    Some of us have honest-to-Oa programming degrees, and are dangerously unafraid of wallowing deep into the code, while others of us glaze over whenever someone starts talking about LUA's appalling lack of unary operations.

    Some of us are spectacularly accomplished artists, while others of us couldn't draw flies with a rotted dingo carcass.

    Some of us are beautiful singers, while others of us, well, aren't. Of course, that doesn't really play into game designing, but it bears mentioning.

  • Some of us are beautiful singers, while others of us, well, aren't.

    Are you one of the singers? If so, are you singing songs while working and which song is / songs are in your head?
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    ttg_Stemmle Telltale Alumni
    viz wrote: »
    I've got one for Mike "Sea++" Stemmle, what is your favourite game barring the ones you've worked on of course?

    Games I played a lot:

    City of Heroes I'm a super-hero comic addict, so this thing was like crack for me. I deeply covet an account for the upcoming DC Online, but I fear that I will have no time to play it... ever.

    Sims 2 I love the way numbers are dancing in the background of this game.

    The Zelda Games They (usually) do a great job of hand-holding.

    Grand Theft Auto Evil, evil games that my sons will be forbidden to play until they're 30... but they're great.
  • Hello Mike!

    First, it's a great privilege to talk to you and I want to thank you (as I thanked everybody on the team) for bringing back our childhoods once more.
    Second, the questions (I'll try to keep them short):

    1. What was the first line that you wrote for the game (the first thing you actually put on paper)?
    i.e. One of Guybrush's lines, the plot summed up in one sentence, a minor detail regarding one character or something more practical such as "must buy milk" etc.

    2. How does a normal work day go for you? Do you enter work place - sit down - drink coffee - write ideeas - watch youtube - write some more - draw - go home? :) I'm really curious how much work there is to be done on a normal day.

    3. What exactly did you work on in MI4? I am talking about an ideea that was 100% yours that made it into the game (i.e. the duck or Giant LeChuck Statue)

    4. Would you work on a Monkey Island Movie? (I know it will never happen, but if someone would just have sooo much money on his hands and was a MI fan?) :p

    5. What is the most dearest memory of them all, regardin the MI series?

    Thank you! For everything...
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