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A Bit About Making Maniac Mansion

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the oh-the-memories dept.

Games 34

Over at the Grumpy Gamer site, Rob Gilbert is reminiscing a bit about the making of Maniac Mansion, prompted by a YouTube video depicting a 9 minute speed run for the game. "I found it fascinating to watch this video. It's was like thumbing through an old family album of childhood photos. Memories long forgotten are jarred to the surface by the smallest of details. An old and forgotten toy. The front grill of your fathers car. Things you could never have remembered if you tried become so clear they could have happened yesterday. I'd see little things like Dave hitting the edge of the porch, turning around, then walking forward and then continuing on his way. I remember this from development. It was a weird bug having to do with the walk-boxes that told the character where they could walk. I knew how to fix it, but it would have broken oh-so-many of other things. It always drove me crazy that he did that." Many thanks to Mr. Gilbert for his work on the game; Bernard's Theme still pops into my head every once in a while for no particular reason.

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34 comments

Why MM? (1, Interesting)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | about 7 years ago | (#18710283)

What is it about Maniac mansion that so many people remember stuff from? We never hear this kind of thing about Broken Sword or Monkey island, so why does this one game seem to have talkative developers?

Re:Why MM? (2, Informative)

kinglink (195330) | about 7 years ago | (#18710383)

Perhaps it's the class of people that worked on Maniac Mansion, or perhaps it was a different enough group than monkey's island. Hell it could just be the freedom they had to work on it.

Personally I'd like to think the later because there's just so many ways to "win" the game with so many different groups that I have to imagine it was hard but fun to develop and design, which produced a better relationship that the developers had with the product. But it could be any number of reasons.

Re:Why MM? (4, Informative)

SydShamino (547793) | about 7 years ago | (#18710497)

There's a fan base for Monkey Island as well, but that game came later. For whatever reason, Maniac Mansion is the one that "clicked". Maybe it's the same for the developers.

See the "syd" in my username? Yeah, that's from Maniac Mansion. I've used it ever since.

Incidentally, I was only able to solve Maniac Mansion using one particular method with one set of people. (Very sadly, that didn't include Syd.) I've *always* wanted to go through the game to reach every possible ending. Is there a web site that charts out all the possible events that can occur with each set of characters, and all the possible end sequences?

Whenever I played a game after this where I could make personnel choices, or where the game was set up for me to interact and explore the environment, I always felt a little cheated if the game only had one way to solve a particular puzzle. ("Damn, I have to flip *that* switch? Why can't I instead use this chair to break through the glass?) Compares to the seemingly-endless combinations that could produce different results in Maniac Mansion, everything else seemed like it ran on rails...

Re:Why MM? (4, Informative)

lavid (1020121) | about 7 years ago | (#18711633)

I think this: http://www.gamefaqs.com/computer/doswin/game/46872 2.html [gamefaqs.com] might be what you're looking for. I take no responsibility for your lack of productivity at work.

Personally, I always preferred Day of the Tentacle

Re:Why MM? (0, Troll)

seaturnip (1068078) | about 7 years ago | (#18712089)

Yeah, what kind of videogame fan lives in a cave to the point of not having heard of GameFAQs?

Adventure gamers, apparently.

Re:Why MM? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18725033)

You have entered the cave. It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Re:Why MM? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 7 years ago | (#18719747)

Alas, I've read that, but they seem to have at most four unique walk-throughs that use different characters. The rest of them all say "Just use Bernard and whoever".

Re:Why MM? (3, Funny)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | about 7 years ago | (#18710745)

In my opinion, Maniac Mansion has the best music of any video game ever, I have it on a CD in my car that I listen to regularly. I think the only other game music that compares is from the Megaman games and possibly Duck Tales.

Re:Why MM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18710925)

Well that's one hell of a claim. I've been meaning to play MM for a long time, but saying the best music of any videogame ever sounds a bit grandoise. I can't really rank them, but here are some of my all-time favorite videogame soundtracks:

Silent Hill 2
Unreal (original)
Rama
Super Metroid
Tyrian
Descent 1/2
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

And then there are countless others which have some weak spots as a whole, but will have an absolutely amazing track or two in them. I'd be pretty surprised if it topped all of those.

Re:Why MM? (4, Informative)

BumBiscuit (744070) | about 7 years ago | (#18711731)

In my opinion, Maniac Mansion has the best music of any video game ever, I have it on a CD in my car that I listen to regularly.
Maniac Mansion did have some pretty cool music [djgallagher.com] for the time. It wasn't in the DOS version of the game, since the AdLib didn't exist yet.

Re:Why MM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18712521)

I've always loved that music, what a great link, thank you.

Re:Why MM? (1)

david.given (6740) | about 7 years ago | (#18715975)

Wow. I never realised there was real music --- I only ever played the DOS version, which produces... er... sounds via the PC speaker. Cool.

Don't forget the OCRemix remixes [ocremix.org] .

Re:Why MM? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18710809)

How appropriate, you fight like a cow.

Re:Why MM? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18712111)

So what, you ruminate like a human!

Wholeheartedly agree (2, Interesting)

joeflies (529536) | about 7 years ago | (#18710903)

I think it has to do with the numeber of platforms it was available on, including consoles such as NES.

Frankly, I think that Loom is a real masterpiece, and nobody really played it all that much.

Re:Why MM? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18711061)

Ron Gilbert made Monkey Island too, but Maniac Mansion was the first game to use the SCUMM system that the later games like Monkey Island, Loom, Zak McKraken etc. were based on. It was new and special at the time it was made, so that's the game people remember first. The Broken Sword games weren't made until years later when point 'n click was an established genre.

Re:Why MM? (4, Insightful)

BumBiscuit (744070) | about 7 years ago | (#18711613)

What is it about Maniac mansion that so many people remember stuff from? We never hear this kind of thing about Broken Sword or Monkey island, so why does this one game seem to have talkative developers?

Because it was the first of its kind.

Sierra On-Line broke a lot of ground with the King's Quest games, but those early Sierra games required a combination of arrow keys and typed verb-noun phrases. Maniac Mansion was the first completely point-and-click adventure; all others, including Broken Sword and Monkey Island (another Ron Gilbert game, by the way) sprung from its fertile loins.

Incidentally, that's also why the subsequent LucasArts games run on an engine called SCUMM. It stands for "Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion."

Re:Why MM? (0)

MilenCent (219397) | about 7 years ago | (#18711759)

Perhaps because Maniac Mansion was such a seminal game. Monkey Island ultimately just uses a prettier implementation of the engine from it. Before Maniac Mansion, the major adventure creators were Sierra and Infocom, both of whom used parsers. MM was the game that made adventure games truly graphical. After that, it was the basis of all Lucasfilm adventures until Grim Fandango.

When you revolutionize a genre of computer games, you're allowed to crow a little about it. At least, that's what I think.

Re:Why MM? (3, Insightful)

Runefox (905204) | about 7 years ago | (#18712073)

SCUMM - Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion

This is why people care so much for it - It was the first to use the engine, which has gone on to be used in such games as you mention.

Re:Why MM? (1)

ProppaT (557551) | about 7 years ago | (#18720509)

I think a large part of it comes from the fact that it's more widely known/played due to the NES port.

Re:Why MM? (1)

dank zappingly (975064) | about 7 years ago | (#18735799)

Manica Mansion marked the beginning of the Scumm interface. Before then, there was only the guess-what-the-developers-were-thinking-text-parse r. I remember a puzzle from the first King's Quest where an elf asks you his name, and the answer is rumplestiltskin, but you have to do a letter substitution where z=a y=b etc. This was before online walkthroughs were ubiquitous. A puzzle like that could pretty much end your game right there. You can see why the point and click interface pioneered by Maniac Mansion is still remembered fondly.

RON not ROB (5, Informative)

The Velour Fog (1087217) | about 7 years ago | (#18710295)

His name is RON Gilbert He also worked on most of the classic Lucas Arts graphic adventures like Monkey Island

Re:RON not ROB (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18714573)

Yeah but he got robbed. For realz.

Purple? (1)

Xner (96363) | about 7 years ago | (#18711265)

Allright, I must have missed something. How does he get Purple to stand quietly in the corner as he enters the lab? Usually you'd need the writing contract or the meteor police (or green or Ed) to get past him.

Also, guessing the code to the lab is slightly dishonest...

Re:Purple? (2, Informative)

Xner (96363) | about 7 years ago | (#18711319)

Found it! Apparently it's a glitch related to the cut scene that immediately precedes it.

Great game! (1)

masterzora (871343) | about 7 years ago | (#18714587)

I remember when I first picked this one up. I got it at a yard sale for a buck during the N64 era. I had never heard of it. Then I played it. I spent a good long time on it, but I finally beat it. Then I picked a different group of people and tried again and found myself getting stuck again. The realization that there were multiple paths was the moment that realized the gravity of how awesome the game was. Now, suddenly, the past few years I've been seeing it all over the Internet, somewhat surprised that it was so popular and still took me so long to even hear of it.

I wish the PC version had music like NES (1)

Myria (562655) | about 7 years ago | (#18714655)

I played the NES version first and loved it... Eventually, I tried the PC version because I figured it would have better graphics. It did, but it didn't have the music from the NES =(

Re:I wish the PC version had music like NES (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | about 7 years ago | (#18719685)

Personally, I think The Fat Man's musical themes for Maniac Mansion were great, but the NES realization of them weren't very good. Instead of using the triangle-wave channel as a bass line or melodic lead, as most NES games did, Maniac Mansion often used it as an inner harmonic voice, and it stuck out odd. And since the triangle channel lacked a volume control, the other channels had to be kept at full volume constantly, too, at the expense of dynamic variety.

What about the versions of the game besides PC and NES: the Amiga, the Apple II, the MIDI juggernaut called Atari ST? Did they have better music?

Maniac Mansion Deluxe (5, Informative)

Novus (182265) | about 7 years ago | (#18715195)

The fan remake Maniac Mansion Deluxe [bigbluecup.com] may be of interest to the Maniac Mansion fans here. Looks mostly like the PC version, but with more colourful graphics (partially influenced by the sequel, Day of the Tentacle) and added sound and music.

The beauty of speed runs (1)

DoubleCover (200745) | about 7 years ago | (#18717179)

"It's was like thumbing through an old family album of childhood photos."

There's a speed run/time attack of Castlevania [tasvideos.org] that really takes me back too. Perhaps turning such speed runs into blipverts [wikipedia.org] could cram all that nostalgia into a delicious dense nugget.

Games and drugs (1)

stm2 (141831) | about 7 years ago | (#18717403)

I don't know why, but every time that subject of games and drugs are raised, I think on this game (and Manic Miner).
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