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The Secret of Monkey Island

The Secret of Monkey Island DOS BoxThe Secret of Monkey Island is a graphic adventure video game developed and published by Lucasfilm Games.  The game follows a young man named Guybrush Threepwood who travels to Mêlée Island to become a pirate.  With his desire to become a pirate he seeks out the island’s pirate leader who tells him he must complete three trials to become a pirate.

The three trials entailed winning a sword duel against the island’s resident sword master, finding a buried treasure, and stealing a valuable idol from the governor’s mansion.   Players take control of Guybrush on his quests to complete the three trials.   As players explorer the island Guybrush learns of stories of the Ghost Pirate LeChuck.  It is said that LeChuck died in an expedition to the mysterious Monkey Island.  The journey was meant to win the love of the governor Elaine Marley.

As players work to complete the three tails Guybrush encounters the governor Elaine Marley and is instantly infatuated with her.  As the governor’s feelings towards Guybrush start to evolve the island is raided by LeChuck and his undead crew.  They abduct Elaine and retreat to their secret hideout on Monkey Island.  Guybrush’s quest quickly shifts from completing the three trials to finding a way to Monkey Island and rescuing Elaine.

The core concept of the game was conceived by Ron Gilbert in 1988.  He completed a draft of the story which involved pirates with unnamed villains that would eventually become LeChuck and Elaine, Guybrush was absent from the draft when he pitched his idea to Lucasfilm Games as a series of short stories.

Gilbert’s proposal was warmly received by Lucasfilm Games however production of the game would have to be placed on hold as plans to create “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure” were already made and the designers including Gilbert where required on the title.  Development of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure” wrapped up in 1989 freeing up the team to start working on Gilbert’s concept known internally under the working title Mutiny on Monkey Island.

The game’s ambiance was inspired by Gilbert’s favorite childhood amusement park ride, Pirate of the Caribbean.   While the game’s world was influenced by Pirates of the Caribbean the characters and tone were inspired by Tim Powers’ historical fantasy novel “On Stranger Tides”.   After reading “On Stranger Tides” Gilbert decided to add paranormal themes to the game’s plot and influenced the characters Guybrush and LeChuck.

The Secret of Monkey Island Logo
Developer(s)Lucasfilm Games
Publisher(s)Lucasfilm Games (NA)
U.S. Gold (EU)
SeriesMonkey Island
SuccessorMonkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
Media Type5.25″ Floppy Disk
3.5″ Floppy Disk
ReleaseEGA Version (16 colors)
NA: October 1990

VGA Version (256 colors)
NA: December 1990
Game EngineSCUMM
Development Time9 Months
RatingPre-Dates ESRB
Rereleased Platform(s)Ports
Amiga -1991
Atari ST -1991
DOS (CD-Rom version) -1992
FM Towns -1992
Macintosh -1992
Sega CD -1993

Special Edition (Remake)
Xbox 360 -2009
PC -2009
PlayStation 3 -2010
Macintosh -2010

In order to flush out the story and characters, Gilbert brought Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman onto the project as writers.  Gilbert’s vision was for the story to have a comedic tone and felt that Schafer and Grossman’s personalities were perfect fit for the game.  As work began Gilbert discovered that although both Schafer and Grossman’s personalities were a perfect fit for the game their writing styles were vastly different and did not form a cohesive whole.    Grossman had a dry, sarcastic sense of humor while Schafer’s style was more in your face.

In order to effectively mesh both writing styles Gilbert assigned them to different characters and sections of the story depending on what type of comedy was more fitting.  Along with the creation of the story and characters Gilbert, Schafer and Grossman also handled the programming for the game.  Schafer and Grossman wrote most of the character dialogue while programming the game resulting in much of the content being improvised.

The game was designed using the SCUMM engine, originally developed for the creation of Maniac Mansion.   It was the fifth game to use the engine which was gradually modified by Lucasfilm Games since its creation.  Originally developers hard coded verb commands in the SCUMM scripting language, these commands would become more abstract in subsequent versions of the engine.  Alterations to the engine such as the addition of a dialogue tree that facilitated conversation options and the sword-fighting puzzles.  The game’s improved interface became the standard for future Lucasfilm Games titles.

After nine months of development the game released on DOS in October 1990.  The original EGA version of the game released on eight 5.25” floppy disk and included a joke that referenced disk that did not exist which caused Lucasfilm Games some headaches.  When players examined a tree stump in the forest, Guybrush would exclaim that there is an opening to a system of catacombs then attempt to enter, resulting in a message stating that the player needed to insert disc 22, then 36, then 114 in order to continue.  The joke resulted in numerous calls to the Lucasfilm Games helpdesk with customers inquiring about missing disk.  As a result, the joke was removed from later editions including the VGA version which released in December of 1990 on four 3.5” floppy disk.

The Secret of Monkey Island DOS Code WheelDue to how easy it was for consumers to be able to copy disk-based media the game came bundled with a cardboard wheel, dubbed “Dial-a-Pirate” as a form of copy-protection.   Player would be presented with a pirate on-screen during the start up of the game which they would have to match on the wheel to get the answer to a question.  After obtaining the answer by matching the pirate on the “Dial-a-Pirate” insert the player would enter it into the game to proceed with the start of the game.   If the question is answered incorrectly the game would not start.

The Secret of Monkey Island received positive reviews from critics upon launch and spawned four sequels, the first of which released the following year in 1991.  The game would receive numerous ports for various home computers such as the Amiga, Atari ST, FM Towns, etc. and eventually made its video game console debut on the Sega CD in 1993.  In 2009 LucasArts released a remake of the original entitled The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition for the Xbox 360 and PC.  The remake released the following year in 2010 for Macintosh and the PlayStation 3.

Game Screenshots:

Pushing Up Roses Review & Complete In Box

Ron GilbertRon GilbertWriter
Interpreter / Development System
David GrossmanDavid GrossmanWriter
Tim SchaferTim SchaferWriter
Profile PlaceholderGregory HammondProducer
Aric WilmunderAric WilmunderInterpreter / Development System
Profile PlaceholderBrad TaylorInterpreter / Development System
Tami BorowickTami BorowickGraphics / Artwork
Last Minute Assistance
Additional Testing
Martin CameronMartin CameronGraphics / Artwork
James Alexander DollarJames Alexander DollarGraphics / Artwork
William Eaken 2William EakenGraphics / Artwork
Profile PlaceholderMike EbertGraphics / Artwork
Mark FerrariMark FerrariGraphics / Artwork
Profile PlaceholderAvril HarrisonGraphics / Artwork
Additional Art
Iain McCaigIain McCaigGraphics / Artwork
James McLeodJames McLeodGraphics / Artwork
Additional Art
Steve PurcellSteve PurcellGraphics / Artwork
Michael StemmleMichael StemmleGraphics / Artwork
Additional Testing
Sean TurnerSean TurnerGraphics / Artwork
Profile PlaceholderBarney JonesMusic
Michael LandMichael LandMusic
Profile PlaceholderPatrick MundyMusic
Profile PlaceholderAndy NewellMusic
Profile PlaceholderBret BarrettTester
Mark CartwrightMark CartwrightTester
Profile PlaceholderWayne ClineTester
Profile PlaceholderJim CurrentTester
Profile PlaceholderDavid DahleTester
Profile PlaceholderJustin GrahamTester
Carla GreenTester
Product Support
James HamptonJames HamptonTester
Profile PlaceholderHoward HarrisonTester
Profile PlaceholderAri HollanderTester
Profile PlaceholderMike KerryTester
Profile PlaceholderKirk LesserTester
David MaxwellDavid MaxwellTester
Bret MogilefskyBret MogilefskyTester
Aaron MuszalskiAaron MuszalskiTester
Liz NagyTester
Product Support
Profile PlaceholderEzra Palmer-PersenTester
Profile PlaceholderDarrell ParkerTester
Joe PinneyJoe PinneyTester
Profile PlaceholderDavid PopovichTester
Kirk RoulstonKirk RoulstonTester
Profile PlaceholderDave RuedgerTester
Matt SchneiderMatt SchneiderTester
Profile PlaceholderDamon TripodiTester
Judith LuceroTester
Profile PlaceholderJon VanTester
Profile PlaceholderJ. WhiteTester
Profile PlaceholderMatthew WoodTester
Noah FalsteinNoah FalsteinAdditional Design
Orson Scott CardOrson Scott CardSword Fighting Insults
Profile PlaceholderRon BaldwinLast Minute Assistance
Additional Testing
Gary WinnickGary WinnickAdditional Art
Art Department Supervisor
Jennifer SwardJennifer SwardArt and Animation for Disk 22
Hal BarwoodHal BarwoodSpecial Guest Film Director
Alexa EurichAdministrative Support
Chocolate Supply Supervision
Administrative Support
Chocolate Supply Supervision
Steve ArnoldSteve ArnoldLucasfilm Games General Manager
Doug GlenDoug GlenManaging Director
David FoxDavid FoxDirector of Operations
Stacey LamieroMarketing Manager
Betsy IrionPublic Relations
Kelly FlockAssociate Marketing Director
Meredith CahillManufacturing Coordinator
Brandy WilsonProduct Support
Profile PlaceholderCarol TraylorProduction Assistants
Profile PlaceholderJames WoodProduction Assistants
Wendy BertramAdministrative Support
Profile PlaceholderPaula HendricksenAdministrative Support
Debbie RattoAdministrative Support
Lisa StarLisa StarAdministrative Support
Additional Testing
Profile PlaceholderSam ChanAdditional Testing
Wendy Rae ClarkAdditional Testing
Profile PlaceholderWallace PoulterAdditional Testing
Profile PlaceholderJohn SinclairAdditional Testing
Profile PlaceholderFrank TorielloAdditional Testing
Randall MageRandall MageSpanish translation
Boris Schneider-JohneBoris Schneider-JohneGerman Version by
Cathrine FlandersBox Design
Peggy SkycraftMammor Paper
Lyza Swearingen LathamLyza LathamPackaging Coordination
Mark ShepardMark ShepardManual Design
Carolyn KnutsonSpecial Thanks
George LucasGeorge LucasSpecial Thanks

DOS (North American Release)

Amiga (European Release)

Atari ST (North American Release)

FM Towns (Japanese Release)

Sega CD (North American Release)

Media & Promotional Material