LucasArts: A Staff Retrospective

LucasArts Logo

The recent announcement of the closure of LucasArts’ game development wing by Disney has many of us here at Geekenstein saddened. LucasArts has been a large part of the gaming scene since the 80’s, and their death marks the end of a legacy. In this retrospective, we’ll give a brief history of the company, as well as the reactions of some of our editors and contributors about what LucasArts meant to them, and what this closure may mean for the industry.

LucasArts was founded in 1982 as the game division of Lucasfilm. Their hits in this era were Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, LucasArts was best known for its point and click adventure games, such as the Maniac Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and the Monkey Island series. These games were the brainchild of legendary game designer Tim Schafer, who later went on to found Double Fine Productions. In the latter half of the 90’s, LucasArts began making the Star Wars games that would become most tied to its image, such as the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series, Rogue Squadron, and Shadows of the Empire.

Star Wars: Battlefront

In 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace released, kicking off  the new prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, and kicking Star Wars games into overdrive for LucasArts. The next decade of games is a long, long list of Star Wars games, from flops such as Super Bombad Racing to clear winners like Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Battlefront.

This stream of Star Wars games ended with the advent of the current generation, during which LucasArts’ published far fewer titles, the most notable of which was the ambitious, but ultimately flawed The Force Unleashed. However, LucasArts was just on the way back into the spotlight, with its announcement of Star Wars 1313, a game set in the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe, and Star Wars First Assault, a spiritual successor to the beloved Battlefront franchise. Both of these games showed promise, but we never got the chance to see them completed.

Star Wars 1313

Unfortunately, this revival was cut short when Disney shut down the game development side of LucasArts in favor of licensing out the Star Wars franchise to other developers. But what does this closure mean for gamers? Here to discuss their history with the company and what they think its closure will mean to the industry as a whole are some of Geekenstein’s phenomenal founders, editors, and contributors:

Kate Reilly, Executive Editor:

“I, like many people under thirty, was first acquainted with LucasArts through their Star Wars licenses, though for me it took on something of a voyeuristic quality. I grew up in a sci-fi household. My father is a huge dork, and so I grew up with Star Trek, Star Wars, reruns of classic Doctor Who and so forth.

We were not, however, a gaming household for many years. As I’ve stated elsewhere, my first console was a second hand Genesis in 1999. So, when I went to a friend’s house and saw Rogue Squadron in action on their N64, I might have cum. Just a little. At the time, it looked amazing, and I resigned myself to my 16-Bit clunker.

I remember buying a big fat annual codebook issue from (I think) Tips & Tricks. This fucker was like 300 pages long, and I used to just play those Star Wars games I never owned vicariously by reading their cheat code entries in the book.

As an adult, I discovered and fell in love with their much earlier, and much more amusing point-and-click adventure games, and that’s the LucasArts I look back on fondly these days. That era was just lightning in a bottle, plain and simple. They produced classic after classic. Day of the Tentacle remains one of my favorite titles of all time.

And now they’re gone. I have to be honest: The recent closure doesn’t mean much for me. The LucasArts I really have a soft spot for is gone. The creative talent long since moved on, and even the point-and-click style of gameplay had fallen out of favor for quite a while. The recent output of the company hasn’t been anything to write home about.

While I’m sad to see it go, I don’t think Disney’s entirely wrong to want to farm out Star Wars games to external studios. All it does is open up doors for the franchise. Remember Knights of the Old Republic? I’m hopeful that Disney will take care and license the IP to talented developers that can do something very special with it.”

Day of the Tentacle

Jake Petersen, Staff Writer:

“The closure of LucasArts saddens me deeply. The company was responsible for the video game adaptations for Star Wars, my favorite movie/book/game franchise of all time. LucasArts was partially responsible for 3 of my favorite games of all time: Star Wars: Battlefront II, Knights of the Old Republic, and Mercenaries 2. In fact, I’ve pumped hundreds, if not a thousand, hours into Battlefront II, between the PC and PS2 versions. It’s my favorite game of all time, and the cancelment of First Assault, a spiritual sequel, cuts me especially deeply. I was also really sad to see 1313 cancelled, since the gameplay footage was looking pretty cool, and I like the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe and would have loved to see it focused on for an entire game.

That’s enough of the could-have-beens, however. As for what the closure means for the industry, I have to be honest: LucasArts has had a bad track record over the past few years, with The Force Unleashed, The Force Unleashed II, and Clone Wars: Republic Heroes being their most recent games. This collection of mediocrity was all Star Wars fans had to work with this generation, the worst showing the franchise has seen in a single console generation since the NES era. I’m glad Disney is willing to outsource the franchise to more specialized developers, and hopefully we will see a resurgence on the next generation of consoles for all of us Star Wars fans who have been patiently waiting for more good games from a galaxy far, far away.”

The Force Unleashed

Dan Singe Connor, Contributor:

“So while I sit and ponder my LucasArts favorites,  thinking I’ll probably never have those feelings again, I realised that there aren’t actually that many. Upon some deep consideration I realised that there’s no need. It’s always quality over quantity; good and bad quality, that is. While I remember ‘Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace‘ on PlayStation being my earliest experience with a LucasArts game (to my knowledge, I have a hazy childhood), and while I remember it being awesome and running around, swinging a lightsaber everywhere and generally feeling like the most badass of all nine year old kids. I also remember hidden gems like Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction for the PlayStation 2. By hidden, I of course mean all the goodness was trapped under a buggy game. However, it was spectacular to play and kind of groundbreaking at its time as well, without me even really realising it back then.

My fondest memories are most definitely the Battlefront series. My friends and I spent so many hours playing it together, playing it alone, or watching each other play. I’d go as far as to say I’ve found more enjoyment in Battlefront than I have with the movies in general (in terms of the exact amount of time spent enjoying them). It’s in Battlefront that I find the biggest loss from Lucas Arts. Battlefront III would have been an absolute game changer for me and my day-to-day gaming. I could have even got by the fact it would have most probably have been an FPS, just for the fact that it was Battlefront III. I really don’t think I can find any passion for new Star Wars IP’s the way I would with LucasArts’ name on the box; I assume only time will tell. Disney have never let me down before, I pray they don’t now.”

Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction

Dustin Triplett, Co-founder of Geekenstein Media:

“LucasArts has always been a hit and miss studio in my eyes. The Star Wars geek in me always found a place for their misses in my heart, despite the often vocal backlash. Being a Star Wars fan is often hard enough, but being a LucasArts fan is even harder with their hit-to-shit ratio in a galaxy far, far away. Maybe I’m being hard on them, but that’s because they were such a large part of my life growing up… and it’s hard to accept that the studio is finally gone.

The Battlefront series is the one that hit home with me. Growing up I didn’t have many friends. I found solace in playing bot matches of Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel because it felt like I was a part of an epic intergalactic battle. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. It was an odd experience, to say the least – but it’s an experience that will always stick with me.

I can only hope that this doesn’t mean the end to the franchises we love and hold dear to our hearts. Disney is getting a lot of hate for dismantling LucasArts, but I’m starting to see it as a godsend. Those franchises that have been getting ignored and mistreated now have a fighting chance at getting picked up by studios that actually want to see the series succeed. I’m not knocking LucasArts’ abilities, but at this point I’d rather see a completely different studio try to pull some amazing IPs out of the depths of development hell.”

Grim Fandango

Willy Fretschl, Contributor:

“Though the late 90’s were, for me, mostly about Batman, Pokémon, and crying, LucasArts will always be a part of my childhood. Like many young boys, I was completely infatuated with the Star Wars universe. And there was no better way to immerse oneself in it than to play LucasArts’ Star Wars titles (I missed out on the adventure games, I know. Nobody could afford computers in the 90s.). I spent countless hours dogfighting in Rogue Squadron. I became a soldier on the frontlines of battle in Battlefront. I earned my credits as Jango Fett in Bounty Hunter. I force juggled stormtroopers in The Force Unleashed. Hell, I even won podraces in Episode I Racer. Now looking back, I guess I’ve been missing LucasArts for years now.”

Craig Kandiko, Co-Founder of Geekenstein Media:

“The games that influenced me the most were Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango, for their awesome story and puzzles. Unfortunately, even though I am a HUGE Star Wars fan, I never got into Knights of the Old Republic, but I loved the Super Star Wars franchise on Super NES, Star Wars arcade games, and the Force Unleashed games, because they let you play the movies and expanded the canon of the Star Wars universe. It’s a shame to see them go.”

Frank Falcone, Contributor:

“I was a young kid when I had my first introduction to LucasArts, in the form of Day of the Tentacle. It was the first game I knew to be funny, and thinking back nearly twenty years later, it was my first introduction to time travel. There was something so poignant about it all. Every item you picked up, every line spoken, every location to visit all served a purpose towards getting you to the end of the game. It was bliss then, and will stay with me for a very long time.”

Goodbye LucasArts

What are YOUR opinions on the closing of LucasArts? Let us know in the comments below!