By Marty Mulrooney
I can’t believe that we are already here: Alternative Magazine Online’s final interview with Guybrush Threepwood voice actor Dominic Armato. A constant every month since the site was born, Dom has always provided me with fantastic answers and humbled me with his absolute cooperation. Reviewing the games and then picking his brain have really helped me grow as a writer and in turn raised the quality of the site. I am therefore proud (and somewhat quite sad) to present our final interview, pertaining to the season finale of Tales Of Monkey Island, entitled Rise Of The Pirate God. Enjoy!
Hey Dom. First of all, congratulations! How do you feel now it is all over?
Bummed! I mean, I’m thrilled with the result, and it’s wonderful to see the whole epic saga come to a close, at least this particular chunk of it, but now the timing and nature of Guybrush’s return is once again in limbo. I miss him already!
As a body of work, looking back over the 5 chapters as a whole… how do you feel about it compared to the original games?
I really couldn’t be happier with it. I think it embraced the spirit of the series, it brought technological updates that were utilized in a positive manner, it had a beautifully structured story that took some of the series’ conventions in new directions while still honouring their spirit, it looked beautiful, sounded beautiful and was pretty much a joy to play and make, not that this should come as a surprise considering the fellas who worked on it. With the caveat that you can always pick nits, I just can’t imagine of how it could have been improved upon in any significant fashion. Hopefully we get to find out!
We scored the series final 11 out of 10 in our review… it went further than we could have ever imagined when we originally reviewed chapter 1. Does that sound pretty accurate?
Heh… well, in the sense that they took the story in places I didn’t think they’d go, yes, they stepped out of bounds a little bit. In a good way. It’s hard for me to judge given that I first got everything in a very rough plot outline format, so the final chapter didn’t quite have the same wallop for me that I imagine it had for some. But let’s just say that I’m not surprised – and very gratified – to hear you react like that.
Did Telltale let you in on the full extent of the series final, or did you get some surprises yourself along the way?
Pretty much. I got the keys to the castle early on, so to speak, so I’d know where everything was going. At the start, the materials I saw for the later chapters were a little sketchy, because I think they were still hammering out the details. But by the time work on episode three rolled around, I knew exactly where everything was going. And that’s when I started getting even more excited about how the fans might react.
Guybrush being dead was some pretty heavy stuff! Did you prefer his ghost or zombie form?
Ghost, I think. Love the ribs through that semi-transparent body!
LeChuck is scary again! Was it nice knowing that the focus was back on Guybrush and LeChuck duking it out?
And in so brutal a fashion! Yeah, it was nice to see LeChuck back, even nastier than before. On one hand, I’d love to see a Monkey Island storywriter figure out a way to successfully move somebody other than LeChuck into the role of chief evildoer – you don’t want that getting stale – but on the other hand, you wonder if that’s just an impossible task given their history at this point. Who knows? The groundwork has certainly been laid for some less conventional face-offs in the future.
How have videogames changed since you last voiced Guybrush in Escape From Monkey Island?
The biggest change for me has been that voice actors actually have some level of notoriety within gaming circles, now. Back in the CMI and EMI days, LucasArts was really the exception when it came to the level of attention they gave to the voice component of the games, and for most gamers I think the voice acting was, at most, an afterthought. Or perhaps something you only noticed when it was really, really bad.
But we always knew how powerful a tool it could be, and as developers seem to embrace traditional storytelling in their games – with varying degrees of success – the importance of those vocal performances is becoming more obvious. Along with that comes recognition. And that’s weird.
When I did Curse and Escape, I chatted on IRC and did a couple of brief interviews with a couple of the hardcore Monkey Island fansites like The SCUMM Bar. A few months ago, I went to PAX, met a horde of people and had something like 20 interviews, some with pretty major gaming publications. No sneaking under the radar anymore!
Is the adventure genre still relevant? Will TOMI help make it more so?
Absolutely, and I suspect it’ll only become more so as, again, we drift further away from the purely shooter-centric pixel-pushing era and as developers become more focused on working great stories into their games. The more examples of great storytelling in gaming people see, the more they’ll want and demand it. TOMI can only help.
Favourite chapter of the series?
Impossible to say, mostly because I don’t really think of them as distinct entities. Even though they’re released in episodic fashion, I think of them as one big arc. Though I understand why people do, especially since that’s how they’re presented, I almost feel like it’s a disservice to cognitively break them up like that.
There are episodic works where the episodes really are much more self-contained, but I feel like the chapters of TOMI are so interdependent that the breaks are largely arbitrary. They’re timed to certain arcs in the story, of course – you don’t want to hit pause at an inopportune moment – but you can’t play one of them as a complete work. They just aren’t.
Did you cry at any point? (I sniffled a little, I’ll be honest!)
Nah. But only because I knew what was coming! 🙂
Best new character of the series? (Not from a previous Monkey Island.)
Winslow’s such a lovable ol’ chap, isn’t he? I’ll give him my vote.
Best returning character of the series?
Murray. And not just because of his inherent awesomeness – there were some others I loved, too – but because he was used so well within the context of the story.
The pyrite parrot returned! (Sort of!) You know I love that guy… were you glad to have him back?
Seeing as I wouldn’t have made it out of the crossroads without him, it’d be pretty ungrateful to say otherwise, wouldn’t it?
Insult swordfighting… three ways! Did you find this as cool as I did?
I did! And it’s a tricky little creative mechanic. I almost would have liked to see just a little bit more of it. Great idea, though.
Telltale seem to have made the Voodoo Lady an antagonist now… how do you feel about this bold change?
Well… we think she’s an antagonist? Maybe? Who knows! I think it’s great. I’m on record as being behind stretching the series a little bit, and she seems like the perfect character for it. She’s always there, she plays a central role, but really, she isn’t a character that’s had a lot of depth in the past. She’s been sort of a nondescript oracle with a funny accent. So if you want to try to add a surprising new dimension to a regular character, what better one to use than somebody who’s mostly been a blank slate for four games?
Guybrush and Elaine or Guybrush and Morgan?
Please. Guybrush and Elaine. Always. But I will say that as awesome as Elaine is, she’s always just sort of had Guybrush’s devotion by default, and I’d love to see her really earn it someday.
The puzzles in the final felt the best yet. Very polished and always fair. How good are you with the games… do you ever use a walkthrough?
Almost never. I did once or twice while playing TOMI, only because I got hung up on something and needed to finish so I could discuss it for an interview or whatever. But generally speaking, I will beat my head against a brick wall for a long, long time before I resort to a walkthrough.
Do you feel that this game finally comes close to the mighty Curse, even though it is in 3D?
I’m a little leery of making direct game-to-game comparisons, especially out of time and place. But I think the Telltale guys really hit a home run with TOMI, and if you’re the type of person who’s inclined to rank them, I don’t know how you don’t at least consider TOMI for the top spot.
Winslow really comes into his own during this episode. Do you think he would make a good regular sidekick to Guybrush if we get a new series?
Regular? I don’t know. The downside to settling down with additional regulars is always that it makes it harder to introduce new ones who you could end up loving just as much or even more. That said, I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed to see more of Winslow in the future.
After the final post-credit’s cutscene, would you like to see if Morgan still has a shot of becoming a main character sailing with Guybrush and co., or do you think she’ll be better as more of a background regular like Stan and Murray? (Thanks for the question Stewie!)
I think it all depends on how she’s handled. She’s certainly been set up with the potential to be a central character in another instalment. It really all depends on the writing. If somebody can use her in a compelling and interesting way, I’d love to see her back. But I hope she isn’t brought back out of a sense of obligation. I hope that never happens with any character.
On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being highly unlikely and 10 being very likely… do you think we will be getting a series 2?
Oh, gosh, I really don’t care to speculate. First, because while I get to work on the games, I’m still on the fringes of production. The folks at LucasArts and Telltale are always kind enough to welcome me and treat me like a member of the team, but I’m not sitting in marketing meetings or hearing the buzz around the water cooler every morning. I don’t know much more about the likelihood of that happening than you do. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as every chapter closes, I need to tell myself that it’s the last unless I’m surprised with more at some point in the future. It’s for my own sanity.
Same scale for LeChuck’s Revenge SE?
Ditto previous answer.
Do you plan to do more voice work now you have returned to your defining role? Or is Guybrush the only role that you feel compelled to play every time?
Well, I’d love to do more voice work. I’d love to work like crazy. But, you know, life takes you in different directions and the circumstances at the moment dictate that VO be kind of a backburner thing for a little while. I’d never turn it down, and I’d be thrilled if the Monkey Island comeback led to other opportunities. But at the same time, I’m not about to pack up and move back to California right now. That’d have to be one helluva job. But, you know… make me an offer. 🙂
If series 2 does happen, can Alternative Magazine Online continue to annoy you with questions like a squeaky wheel? (Just to explain, Dom actually encourages me to bother him with relentless emails “like a squeaky wheel” until he replies every month! :P)
Have our regular interviews been refreshing for you to express to fans how you feel about the whole experience month to month? It will feel very empty next month now for Alt Mag Online!
It’s always nice to be able to get your thoughts out. When you read the comments floating around the ‘tubes – and I do – there are times where you’d love to add a little context, or explain something, or whatever. Plus, it’s been such a great experience, from a fan standpoint, that it’s nice to be able to share a little bit of that.
I’ve always felt that when it comes to Monkey Island, I kind of straddle the fan world and the developer world, and being able to talk about it like this kind of helps me bridge that gap. Let’s just say it’s a good outlet, and hopefully one that some people find interesting.
You recently left a message of thanks for the fans on the Telltale forums. How much has all the support meant to you?
I’m floored. Totally floored. I mean, seriously. There’s another thread that went up on the TTG site this week about my voice work on the game, and I couldn’t respond because I just didn’t know how. I mean, how do you even begin to address that level of encouragement and support? What can you say that isn’t going to sound flippant and hollow in response? “Thanks” doesn’t exactly cover it. I tried to get it out as best I could in my little thank you, but I suppose the best thing I can do is just give it everything I have every time I go back to record a little more Guybrush, so that’s what I intend to do.
Best memories over the past 5 months of Monkey Island?
Getting back to California to work with both LucasArts and Telltale and seeing so many old friends. Hanging out on the Presidio during the recording of MI:SE and realizing that, yes, it really is back. Stepping into the booth to do Guybrush for the first time in nine years and realizing within the first three lines that we weren’t going to miss a beat.
Getting to read some of the classic lines from Secret of Monkey Island that I’d always loved but had never had the opportunity to perform. Reading the early synopsis for the TOMI story arc and thinking, “Yes, Yes, YES… THIS is how you stretch the series just enough to keep it fresh and interesting.”
Meeting a horde of people working on the two projects and realizing just how badly everybody wanted – needed – to do the series justice. Freezing my ass off in Studio Jory for a few hours, then stepping out into the California sun to grab a cheeseburger with the fellas.
The people – good golly – the people at PAX, and seeing firsthand just how much happiness people derive from your work. Finally… FINALLY… meeting Ron Gilbert, getting to hang out with him, learning that he’s one swell fellow, and finally feeling a little relief at the notion that he’s pleased with what I’ve brought to his character.
Hanging out, screwing around, eating and drinking with the folks at LucasArts and Telltale who took me in and – even though my role in production is kind of a peripheral one – welcomed me and really made me feel like part of the team. And watching the shocking outpouring of love and support on the ‘net, both from the old and new fans, telling me that we’re doing something right.
Super special bonus questions:
Do you prefer Guybrush with or without his hook? Favourite uses of the hook throughout the chapters? (Thanks bobhobbit!)
Heh.. I’m amused by the hook. Even more amused by Guybrush’s pleased reaction to finally having one! But not so much that I’m not happy he has his hand back. I don’t know about my favourite use, but it sure is handy for opening locks. I think puzzle solving just got a whole lot tougher.
Was it a challenge playing Guybrush so pained during his fight with LeChuck? Guybrush has shown us many new emotions this series! (Thanks BeeKay84!)
Simply to act like Guybrush is in pain, not so much. I’ve always felt like that was something I did pretty well, and it so happened that it played a prominent role in TOMI. To do so many lines of it, while trying to ensure that they don’t all sound the same? That’s the hard part, and it’s very hard.
I don’t know precisely how many, but there had to be at least a couple hundred lines that Guybrush uttered while in pain for the final chapter. With every line, I’m thinking, “Is this level of pain appropriate? Is it too much? Too little? Will it stand out against the other lines? Is this delivery too flippant? Am I grunting too much? Is this overkill? Am I reading this pained line the exact same way I read the last ten pained lines?”
The difficulty isn’t in reading a line in pain, it’s in making sure, when you’re reading so many, that they don’t all sound the same, yet aren’t so varied that it can be jarring going from one to the next. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that it worked out as well as it did. Of everything we recorded, that’s what scared me the most.
Thanks as always Dom, interviewing you over the last five months has been an absolute pleasure.
Glad this has been so great for your site, Martin! Good luck and with a little luck, we can do this again sometime. 🙂 – Dom
Special thanks to Dom Armato, Alexandra Boyd, Telltale Games, Mike Stemmle, Jacob DiGennaro, Chris Schmidt, the gang from the Telltale forums and of course… you, our readers! It has been an absolute blast!
You can also read our recent score-breaking review of Rise Of The Pirate God here.
We have a much longer and more comprehensive interview we did earlier on with Dom here as well.