The secret(s) of Monkey Island will be revealed on Oct. 30 when Video Game Source Project deconstructs a beloved classic
The Video Game History Foundation (VGHF), a nonprofit that brings old video games back to life by preserving, celebrating, and teaching their history, is today unveiling the Video Game Source Project, an effort to save and study source code and related development materials before the stories around these games’ creation are lost forever.
“For a video game historian, an archaeological dig through source material is the next best thing to time travel,” said Frank Cifaldi, founder and co-director of the VGHF. “Unfortunately for us, most of that material — especially from our earliest days — has been lost forever. The Video Game Source Project will help us surface more of this material and normalize its use as an educational tool.”
To jump-start this initiative, the VGHF is putting out a call to developers, publishers, and anyone else in possession of source code, documentation, concept art, demo builds, or other materials that can help tell a game’s origin story. Donated materials will be maintained in the VGHF’s Northern California archives and made available to video game historians.
The first games to benefit from the Video Game Source Project will be Lucasfilm Games’ legendary point-and-click adventure The Secret of Monkey Island, which celebrates its 30 year anniversary this month, and its sequel Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.
The VGHF’s staff and volunteers have spent the past several months studying the Monkey Island games’ source code, uncovering unshipped secrets, and even reconstructing cut rooms and cinematics. Much of this content will be shown for the first time on October 30 when Ron Gilbert, the creator of Monkey Island and of the SCUMM game engine, joins Cifaldi for a livestreamed “fireside chat” and Q&A. Tickets for “The Secrets of Monkey Island” are available for $10 with sales benefitting the VGHF.
“Monkey Island is a special game to me and the creation of the SCUMM system is a large part of that. Looking at the source always jogs my memory and now gives me a chance to answer questions people didn’t even know to ask,” says Ron Gilbert. “As a developer, I see real value in preserving and learning from the work that we never imagined people in the future would care about. I’m glad the Video Game History Foundation is making this a priority while there’s still time to salvage history that’s becoming scarcer by the day.”
Beyond Monkey Island, members of the VGHF are currently studying source material from a beloved 16-bit RPG, abandoned Sega hardware from the 1990s, and a never-before-seen follow-up to a legendary arcade game. Historical analysis and content related to these games and others will be unveiled in the coming months. The VGHF has also established an advisory committee of developers, publishers, academics, and historians to tackle the problems related to source conservation and to encourage industry participation.