Book: Secrets Of Monkey Island (& The Rest)

By Alec Meer on August 2nd, 2010 at 10:38 pm.

All your favourites! And Loom.

A splendid, PC-loving chap has made a 500-page book about the history of point and click adventure games – yer LucasArts, yer Sierras, yer Revolutions, yer all the rests. Even Simon the bloody Sorcerer. All the way up to Grim Fandango, bless its skull-patterned socks. Your coffee table would probably very much appreciate straining under the weight of Graphic Adventures’ nostalgia-strewn, many-pictured pages – though you can also read a free digital version.

Interesting things about this book: it’s constructed primarily from Wikipedia pages. Which does sadly mean it’s a little (i.e. a lot) on the dry and roboty side, but it has been tarted up a bit, lavishly illustrated and then bulked up significantly with bespoke interviews conducted by compiler/author Philipp Lenssen – including Al ‘Leisure Suit Larry but not the incredibly obnoxious recent ones’ Lowe, and dudes behind the likes of Zak McKraken, Space Quest and Tex Murphy.

Also, you can buy it (from Amazon or Lulu) and stare at the pretty retro pictures in a comfortable setting such as on sofa, on the toilet or levitating on top of a cloud, OR you can download an editable digital copy for free, as per Wikipedia’s usage rules.

Obviously Mister Lenssen would much prefer you to buy a copy as he’s spent an awful long time compiling it, but you can at least suck it and see first, via the slightly cumbersome magic of HTML files. The link to that is towards the bottom of this page – I’m not going to link to the file directly, as he deserves some eyeballs at least reading his pitch rather than everyone going straight to the zip file and buggering off.

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46 Comments »

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  1. Optimaximal says:

    FAO Philipp Lenssen: Why is this not available from Amazon UK?!

    Sort this out, NOW!

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      Sagan says:

      Amazon is shipping internationally, and last time I used that it was pretty cheap.

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      phlebas says:

      I haven’t confirmed but if it’s a Lulu book it might be worth ordering from there rather than Amazon US – they print to order and ship within the UK for most books, so it may well be quicker and cheaper.

  2. pakoito says:

    Would love a remake of Grim Fandango, can’t stand the dated graphics and sloppy controls nowadays :(

    • Twerty says:

      Funny you mention that, I just started playing it the other day for the first time. I agree the relative walking directions are a bit bleh, and I don’t like the action keys (I keep pulling out items and stuff when I don’t mean to), and hardware acceleration crashes on Windows 7 64-bit, so upgrading the graphics at all for me is a nono. ._. But I’m glad it works at all!

    • pakoito says:

      I had the same problems a couple years ago in XP, and I just couldn’t cope with the control scheme so I just quit.

    • Thirith says:

      I don’t really see the dated graphics with Grim Fandango. It’s got clear, gorgeous stylised art direction that I doubt would improve much with shaders, higher resolutions and other bells and whistles. It’s not like the ultra-pixelated graphics of VGA adventures.

    • pakoito says:

      I like more ultra-pixelated VGA adventures. Just think for a second how many games try to emulate old 2D graphics as “retro” or “nostalgia” but nobody ever made a “retro 3D” game, because they look plain crap.

    • Demon Beaver says:

      I love Grim Fandango and must have played it dozens of times in the last few years. But I agree with pakoito, an HD remake would be most welcome. They need to re-render the backgrounds in higher resolutions, and either make high-poly models or, what seems to me the better option, change the 3D that was into complex sprites. Add a mouse controlling scheme, and it’ll be done. But most importantly, keep all the original voice files! They are pure gold…

    • sfury says:

      I last replayed Grim Fandango 3 or 4 years ago and was still pretty happy with the graphics – it is my most favorite game after all – and every replay and memory of it is pure joy for me.

      But also as Thirith said – it is very stylized, especially the characters, all the backgrounds are pre-rendered and beautiful – in short it uses its technology very well, achieves its unique feel/art (like Day of the Tentacle) so I see very little to improve there. Maybe an HD resolution and commentary from Tim Schafer would tempt me to buy it again – but as I said I’m pretty happy with it as it is.

  3. Gritz says:

    Here’s hoping LucasArts gives Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle and LOOM the fresh coats of paint that Monkey Island has gotten over the past year.

    While they’re at it, have Telltale update Grim Fandango.

    • Paul B says:

      Not forgetting The Fate of Atlantis too – my favourite LucasArts game…

  4. Paganite says:

    Compiled from Wikipedia pages – are you seriously promoting something compiled from Wikipedia pages? Interviews might be interesting and added to a real book would maybe make something worthwhile – but what kind of analysis are we going to get from Wikipedia pages? Wikipedia level analysis – not worth the glowing pixels you read it off.

  5. Paganite says:

    And why do you all want remakes for? Shouldn’t you be hoping for something that advances beyond those games rather than rehashing them?

    • pakoito says:

      I couldn’t play it in his day, and now i Won’t because it’s dated as shit.

    • Carra says:

      Good point. I’d rather see a Grim Fandango 2 or some really new IP.

      The old games are still playable. If you think they’re dated, don’t play them.

  6. GameJournos says:

    You misspelt “Sorcerer”.

  7. Rick says:

    A few of these articles are in good shape by Wikipedia standards (Grim Fandango and Myst have quite good articles), but most are quite badly put together. This sort of book would make sense if all of the relevant Wikipedia articles were properly filled out and referenced, but they’re not.

  8. Jockie says:

    Although I’m pre-judging something I’ve not yet read (and thus cannot comment on the level of effort put in by the ‘author’), isn’t it a bit cheeky to basically compile a load of wikipedia pages then sell it as your own work?

    • MD says:

      He’s apparently done some pretty heavy editing, as well as a bunch of original interviews. And he’s not selling it as anything it’s not; the front cover says ‘By the authors of Wikipedia’, followed by ‘Collected & edited by Philipp Lenssen’ in smaller type. And he’s releasing a digital version for free, under (what I assume is) the appropriate licence.

  9. day says:

    Reading your first few lines, I was SO going to get this, but..
    £20 for illustrated Wiki articles? No Georgey Stoabbart? Hmm, not sure.
    Come on, sell me summore!

  10. John Arbuckle says:

    George Lucas: “NO! LucasArts makes Starwars games that’s all!”

  11. Rince says:

    So.. who can name the protagonists in that image?

    1 Guybrush Threepwood
    2 Leisure Suit Larry (Larry – Laffer)
    3 Bobbin Threadbare
    4 ??
    5 Manny Calavera
    6 ??

  12. JohnnyMaverik says:

    So no Longest Journey then? :(

  13. Fomorian says:

    I had the same problems with those two characters – must due to the fact that I haven’t played Maniac Mansion (only its sequel) and the only King’s Quest game I played is V.

  14. Fomorian says:

    I had the same problems with those two characters – must likely due to the fact that I haven’t played Maniac Mansion (only its sequel) and the only King’s Quest game I played is V.

    • Fomorian says:

      Whoops. This post was meant to be a reply to Rince’s post.

      @JohnnyMaverik: yeah, a sad thing, too – there’s no reason for it not being there. Also, Syberia.

  15. Dean says:

    Was excited about this but then downloaded the onlne version and…yuck. I don’t know how heavy the editing was, but it still reads like Wikipedia. There’s no sense of style or craft in the writing, which means it’s just not an enjoyable read. There’s some argument for it as a reference book, but who really needs a reference book on graphic adventures?

  16. m_s0 says:

    “it’s constructed primarily from Wikipedia pages”

    And the guy is selling this? And people are willing to pay for that? Unless he himself wrote these wikipedia pages, it’s not exactly ethical the way I see it. Regardless whether he’s done some heavy editing or not. I’ll take a look at the free version, why not, but I’m not paying for this. Give me a properly written (not ctr+c, ctr+v and some re-writes) history of adventure games and I’ll gladly pay for that, though

  17. Xercies says:

    Hmm yeah i’m a bit wary on the wikipedia front, Wikipedia is great but I wouldn’t buy a book on it. And i don’t know the ethics of that even if its edited a bit its still not your own work and the author is still being paid for it. Also Wikipedia is very dry…i want a book which has personality in it and a fun read while being informative.

  18. Urael says:

    Pictures/screenshots were one of the things missing from that Replay book Keiron was touting not long ago. wht talk about games if we can’t see the things, at least in their frozen-in-time glory?

    At least this book attempts to provide something to look at.

  19. Raum says:

    I recommend you all read You Are Not a Gadget instead.

  20. Tuor says:

    No Zork I, II, or III? Phillipp Larssen should be eaten by a grue!

    ‘O ye who go about saying unto each, “Hello Sailor”:
    Dost thou know the magnitude of thy sin before the gods?
    Yea, verily, thou shalt be ground between two stones.
    Shall the angry gods cast thy body into the whirlpool?
    Surely, thy eye shall be put out with a sharp stick!
    Even unto the ends of the earth shalt thou wander and
    Unto the land of the dead shalt thou be sent at last.
    Surely thou shalt repent of thy cunning.’

  21. paganite says:

    So not only is it WP articles but it also misses games like Zork… That’s a piss poor effort – on your behalf for promoting it.

  22. Philipp Lenssen says:

    I’m the editor of the book and I agree with you, it would be lovely to have a book on the subject written from scratch and personally. What I did, as a fan of the genre, was try to do the next best thing to that. It was planned as a small project (naively I was thinking weeks), but with the interviews and all, it still took me over a year before I could release it. I don’t know if this ever makes money — I think it’s very much a niche book, and half of potential profits will go to Wikimedia as donation — but that is not the point (I think it would be in the top 10 of the worst ideas to make money, if that was my goal! I am not even sure if I ever cover my cost of buying the font and ISBN, but again, that doesn’t matter). I compiled the book I wanted to read myself, and if there will be a better book on the subject, I’m happy and will buy that one too. And certainly, I don’t claim the authorship to the book.

    As for the Wikipedia ethics, they have a pretty clear copyright license — authors who edit Wikipedia (like me too) agree to this license, which says that they *want* to allow their stuff to be republished (even commercially) in other forms, as long as the license sticks to it (so you could freely download this book I compiled, and then hash it yourself, as it includes the same “copyleft” GNU license [back when I started, Wikipedia still used GNU, not Creative Commons, but either one would have worked]). Wikimedia doesn’t own these articles — all of us do, and that’s inspiring and great, I think! We have the right to mash these works, and I hope more people do.

  23. Philipp Lenssen says:

    There are Zork games in it — I loved to play some of them myself, both text-based ones as well as graphical ones (the book is just about graphical ones though) — but I’m definitely on the look-out for feedback for what’s missing. So thanks for that, it will be interesting if there’s ever a new version or sequel to the book.

  24. Philipp Lenssen says:

    Hmm, I ordered an Amazon distribution package from Lulu and now hope for the best in terms of worldwide shops. Perhaps it also has to do a bit with how many items are sold in the US store, I’m not sure. So far Lulu counted 6 sales overall :)