Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 4, 2013
My birthday is over, but the party continues! Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon is on sale for 50% off right now via this site, and also Desura. Even though I’ve been at the indie thing for a long time and know how it works, I’m still surprised at how many people I’d expect to have heard of the game actually have not. Like, most. Apparently, I suck at marketing. I appreciate the help you have all given me in trying to spread the word around.
Yesterday’s trivia contest answer was “Shiela Bones,” the poor rogue whose companions were all slain or turned into a small furry animal. The winner has received a copy of Dark Scavenger via Gamer’s Gate.
Today’s contest prize is also through Gamer’s Gate… the sci-fi indie RPG 3079. Inspired by Minecraft and Fallout, 3079 is a futuristic, open-world action first-person role playing game. You arrive on a planet experiencing constant war. It is your duty to find out why the warring factions cannot find peace on their own & hopefully restore it yourself. All areas, buildings, items, quests and characters are randomly generated. And it’s…. cubey. Quite cubey. But while it looks like Minecraft, it plays pretty differently.
Winning this game will be a little different today. There’s no right answer. Instead, I want to talk about the demise of LucasArts. You can skip down to the end for details, but basically – I want to hear about your favorite LucasArts game in the comments.
I think it was a bookstore where I first saw some games proudly displaying the logo for “LucasFilm Games.” Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalis, I think they were. I couldn’t afford them, and knew little about them beyond the screenshots and text on the cardboard boxes, and to this day I have never played them. But at the time, my thought was, “AWESOME! George Lucas is making video games now!” Even at the time, I realized that the filmmaker was probably not sweating 6502 Assembly code or anything, but I did believe he’d be overseeing production in some capacity. Maybe he did, on those first games. I don’t know.
Eventually, LucasFilm Games became LucasArts, and through the 1990s they were a powerhouse. Many of their best games were actually created externally, through companies like Totally Games (X-Wing and TIE Fighter). Formerly, Lawrence Holland had worked internally with LucasArts to create one of my favorite early flight sims (circa 1989), Their Finest Hour: the Battle of Britain. My favorite part of that game was actually the manual. It remains one of the best-written game manuals of all time – a distinction that it is unlikely to lose in an era where Pong‘s instructions are likely to be bypassed by the TL;DR crowd. Half of the manual was a history of the war, complete with stories told by pilots who’d been on both sides of the battle.
X-Wing was awesomeness surpassed only by the sequel TIE Fighter, but I still preferred the first game simply because it fulfilled a longstanding fantasy. I was a hardcore Wing Commander fan at the time, and the two games were very different in style. I was trying to explain to a friend (and fellow X-Wing addict) about how I’d like to blend the strengths of the two games, and she shook her head and explained, “For you, X-Wing is a game. For me, it’s more of a religion.”
Another great movie tie-in title that I loved was Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. It was a wonderful blend of Monkey Island style humor and adventure-gamey goodness, coupled with an all-new adventure for the bullwhip-wielding hero, which as far as I’m concerned might as well be canon. After all, it was better than that Crystal Skull movie… Actually, IMO it was better than all but the first movie.
Embarrassingly, I’ve never played Day of the Tentacle or Maniac Mansion. That may be grounds for evicting me from the adventure gaming fan club, but I can at least say I’ve seen good portions of both games being played. Really, Loom was my introduction to the graphic adventure games of the 1990s – which I sadly finished in only two days (and could have finished in a single day if I’d realized I was so close to the end). After waiting a couple of days to play it because LucasArts had to send a replacement for a bad disk (which they did promptly with no fuss, I should add), it was kind of a let down. We replayed it on maximum difficulty to get the somewhat lame special scene only available in hard mode, but I do remember the story being really enchanting and cool. Just… short.
Not short enough to dissuade me from trying out The Secret of Monkey Island. Wow. The first two Monkey Island games were… just beyond awesome. Except for the stupid “Monkey Wrench” puzzle in MI2. I was very gratified to hear that Tim Schafer has finally admitted that that puzzle was stupid and unfair. I feel vindicated, twenty years later. I didn’t play the later Monkey Island games to completion, but in retrospect they were really good games. And the far more recent Tales of Monkey Island series from Telltale Games continue the tradition admirably.
And there were others. Sam & Max, for example, which was bizarre yet cool – which I keep promising myself I’ll finish one day. And Full Throttle – another one I’m rather regretful that I missed, which people tell me was an even more spectacular example of the graphic adventure genre than Day of the Tentacle.
But the best adventure game of them all – to this day – remains Schafer’s Grim Fandango. I’m not sure I can tell you why – it’s been so long since I played through the whole thing. I think it was a combination of the delightful weirdness of the setting (an entire world based on the Mexican Day of the Dead festival mixed with film noir? Really?), and the absolutely rock-solid, lovable (and hate-able) characters.
And one of the most loveable was the main character. While Manuel Calevera was the source of plenty of comedy on his own (spoken with a Mexican Spanish accent), he was very, very different from other comic main characters like Guybrush Threepwood. He’s a film noir hero with comic timing – assertive, worldly, ambitious. At the end of one chapter, he finds himself stuck in a restaurant, inheriting the janitor’s job while he waits to find the girl, Mercedes (“Meche”). The scene shifts to the next chapter – one year later – and Manny is now the owner of said establishment, and has turned it into a hot nightclub on the waterfront that might as well have been named “Rick’s Cafe” from the movie Casablanca.
And then there was Glottis. Glottis the elemental, Glottis the mechanic, Glottis the guy who can turn a hearse into a hot-rod.
And, sadly, the game was quite nearly the end for LucasArts adventure games. And, at least for me, the end of the time when LucasArts really mattered to me. They had one more lukewarm Monkey Island sequel in them, and that was that. At least until they licensed some remakes and the Tales of Monkey Island.
It’s been over a decade since then, and while there have been some really awesome Star Wars licensed games (LEGO Star Wars, the Knights of the Old Republic RPGs) in the intervening years, LucasArts as a developer and publisher has really been dead for a long time for me. The people who made it awesome – who made these wonderful games – have since gone off and joined or started other companies. And they continue to do great things and make great games.
So really, the great studio that was LucasArts isn’t really dead. It’s just moved on. Literally. I feel bad for the approximately 150 employees let go by yesterday’s action, and hope they will rapidly find new employment and do great things in the games industry. Or maybe go indie and wow us with their skills. But yeah – LucasArts has really been pretty dead for a long time. So while I’m sad to see the era officially come to an end, if I were in Disney’s shoes, I’d probably have made the same decision.
WIN A GAME
Okay, so instead of doing Frayed Knights related trivia today, I just want your post in the comments telling us what your favorite LucasArts game is, and why. Please use your real email address, which nobody else can see but I can use to contact you. I’ll pick a winner at random from among the commenters. If for some reason you do not want the game (don’t want to deal with Gamer’s Gate, or you already have the game), add the note (N/G) (for “No Game”) to your comment, but feel free to participate.
Let’s all lift a glass to the LucasArts of old. The studio may be gone, but the legacy lives on in spades!
Filed Under: Adventure Games, Biz, Frayed Knights, Mainstream Games, Rampant Games, Retro - Comments: 16 Comments to Read