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Noah Falstein on Insult Swordfighting

One of the best aspects of working on the new book, Beyond Game Design, was the chance to work with some of the great names of the videogames industry. Noah Falstein, who writes the bookend chapter which ties it all together, has had a career that would be the envy of any game designer, having worked for some of the most innovative and influential developers in the history of videogames, including seminal arcade developer, Williams Electronics, and the king of adventure games, LucasArts. During our email discussions while working on the book, this anecdote came up; I thought I would share it with the few surviving adventure game fans.

Monkeyisland Ron [Gilbert] managed to forget the origin of the insult swordfighting idea [in The Secret of Monkey Island], not surprisingly as it meant more to me than to him, and of course I wanted to grab all the credit I could! The full story is pretty amusing.

We'd collaborated on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and one of my contributions to that game was a boxing mini-game that Indy uses in his college (a scene with the college boxing ring was actually in the script we used as our Brand Bible, but it was cut from the movie) and then we used the same interface to fight various Nazi guards as I mentioned later in the chapter. I borrowed Sid Meier's swordfighting system from his original Pirates! game, figuring it would be disguised enough in the boxing game that no-one would mind, but somehow neglected to mention that to Ron. 

Then Ron was working on Monkey Island and came to me one day with the idea, “You know, I was thinking that boxing interface you came up with would make a fantastic Pirate Swordfighting interface.” So I had to confess, and as often happens in brainstorming, the pressure of having to come up with a replacement actually pushed us into an even better idea, via The Princess Bride first swordfight scene as an inspiration. The real crowning touch, though, was the idea of having the climactic fight with the Swordmaster involve different insults, letting the player realize that they could re-use specific rejoinders to match the new insults. That bit was not my idea - I'm not sure who came up with it, but I think Hal Barwood and Orson Scott Card did most of the insult writing.

More ramblings from the Beyond Game Design authors in the months to come.


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Hey, thanks for this! I am indeed one of those few surviving adventure game fans -- I'm even working with Ron on his newest project right now. :)

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