Game demos can offer valuable insights into the early stages of game development. The Curse of Monkey Island demo, which was released around April 1997, is no exception. In this article, we examine the primary differences between the demo and the final game that was launched later that year.
I reached out to Bill Tiller, Lead Background Artist for comments. Here's what he had to say about the demo:
I do know the demo was well received at conventions/trade shows and garnered a lot of attention. I think I even heard that one of our publishing partners was not happy about CMI demos' popularity because it was drawing attention away from their game Toon Struck. So what I heard was they tried to hide the CMI demo in the back behind the Toon Struck display.
Here's a list of generic differences seen in the demo compared to the final game:
- The objects' names are shown below the coin instead of at the bottom of the screen
- Hovering an object doesn't show the object name
- Highlighted inventory items have a yellow border instead of red
- Wally crying animation has tear drops
- You must notice at least two fake pirate items instead of one before you recognise Wally
In this section we compare the main visual differences between the demo and the final version. You can move the slider horizontally on each image to compare both versions.
The demo had the upper right corner of the map bent. It's also more blurry in the final game.
The map was made into a texture and put on a 3D parchment so it could fly away. My guess is it looks darker and blurry due to compression and the setting in the 3D rendering.
The demo used a bigger font and the text was yellow instead of white. The clouds were only added for the final game and the overall colours got darker.
The scene was darkened and Guybrush zoomed in. The demo is missing the clouds.
The demo is missing the water waves. The sky is greener and the colours are more saturated in the final game.
A shadow was added to Guybrush's arm in the final game. The doodles are blurrier and Guybrush is slightly closer in the demo. The demo is also missing the waves.
The eyes were changed from white and blue to black and light green. His pupils also got smaller. LeChuck has fewer wrinkles and his teeth were simplified in the final game. His beard is also darker.
The silhouettes on the fort got lighter. They're also more detailed with the outline of the arms and face visible.
The steps in the background were removed in the final game. The scene is also darker.
A fort wall was added behind Elaine in the final game. The background of the bottom palm tree was fixed to match the sky.
The demo was still using an early sketch of the chest. The balloons were redrawn in the final version.
The voodoo cannonball was changed to a lighter green. The fire of the cannonball was changed from yellow to green. LeChuck is also darker in the final game.
LeChuck's ship was redrawn and is much bigger in the final version. The demo is still missing the water waves. The fort wall was extended.
The rain effect and the ship's wheel were added in the final game. Guybrush's arms were lowered in the final game.
The logo was changed from yellow to an orange gradient and a trademark symbol was added. The top letters got a fire effect. In the final game, the waves and debris were added. The background in the final version has a greener hue and Guybrush doesn't drift as far as in the demo.
LeChuck's pupils were removed in the final game. The demo is missing the outline of the bottom of LeChuck's eyes.
I do know there was some controversy about LeChuck's eyes whether they were going to be all yellow or have pupils, or irises, and pupils. But I don't remember how that was resolved. The animators thought it might be hard to see where LeChuck was looking if his eyes were just glowing.
Although the graphics underwent mostly subtle changes between the demo and the final version, the differences in music are more pronounced and suggest that they were still in the early stages of development.
If we disregard the cutscenes, the demo features five distinct pieces of music.
Inside LeChuck's ship (version 1)
This music can be heard inside the hold of LeChuck's ship before Wally starts crying. The music closest to the final one out of the five. The main melody could already be heard in the demo. The guitar was removed in the final version.
Outside LeChuck's ship (version 1)
This music can be heard when Guybrush Threepwood is looking through the porthole before Wally starts crying. The final version of the game is based on LeChuck’s theme. There are not many similarities between the demo and the final game.
Inside LeChuck's ship (version 2)
This music can be heard inside the hold of LeChuck's ship after Wally starts crying. The main beat could already be heard in the demo, but the music in the final game was greatly improved.
Outside LeChuck's ship (version 2)
The demo music is similar to the one played inside LeChuck's ship (version 2). However, the final version of the game features music that is quite different from the demo music.
The music that plays during the cannon mini-game is completely different from the music played in the final game.
Big thanks to Jimmi Thøgersen (Serge) for ripping the music from the demo and to The Cutting Room Floor for the idea.