retr0spective: LucasArts Adventure Games (Part One)

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In terms of film companies that have had the biggest influence on the medium, Lucasfilm is hands-down one of the most recognizable ones. Throughout their 45 years and counting years of existence, they’ve took us to a galaxy far far away, raided lost arks, and, uh…well, I think Nostalgia Critic summed it up best.

However, what most people are sadly starting to forget is that there once was a time where they were climbing their way to the top as one of the leading developers of the gaming industry, and although it’s pretty much dead in the water, its’ legacy deserves to be spread. I am of course talking about their now-defunct video game division, LucasArts.

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Known for several beloved titles including but not limited to the Monkey Island series, Sam and Max Hit the Road, and Day of the Tentacle, they have sadly slipped through the cracks following the acquisition of their parent company, who I won’t name since you all probably know who it is. But exactly how did they end up going out the way they did? That is what you are about to find out right now…

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In May of 1982, while production on Return of the Jedi was underway, George Lucas had decided that it was time that his company ventured out into other forms of entertainment rather than just focusing on movies. Thus, Lucasfilm Games (the original name of the division) was born, and in 1984 they began to pump out titles for the Atari 7800. While the games they had made at the time where fairly well-received, it wasn’t until the release of Maniac Mansion when they truly began to receive significant attention.

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Released in October of 1987 across several computer systems (and later, the NES), the game’s plot revolved around college student Dave Miller, who must infiltrate the titular mansion with the help of his friends to rescue his girlfriend Sandy from the insane Dr. Fred. The game was quite different than any of Lucasfilm’s previous gaming endeavors in the sense that it was a point-and-click adventure game rather than being just a stereotypical arcade-style game, as well as the fact that it was the first ever game made by them that was both developed AND published by them. During the game’s development, one of the game’s designers as well as an employee of Lucasfilm at the time, Ron Gilbert, was quickly growing tired of the stereotypical command-line interface that had dominated adventure games, and wanted to do something completely different. As a result, he created an engine of his own which he referred to as “Scripted Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion”, or “SCUMM” for short. When the game was released, it received a great deal of positive reviews, with many critics praising its’ sense of humor, clever gameplay mechanics, visuals, and animations. In the wake of the game’s massive success, a sequel as well as a television series were spawned. However, little did Lucasfilm know, this would only be the beginning….

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To be continued….

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11 thoughts on “retr0spective: LucasArts Adventure Games (Part One)

    • I’d honestly go as far as calling them the Rare of computer games. I know it sounds a bit far-fetched, but when you think about it, they have a LOT of similarities:
      -They were both extremely well-known and regarded game developers in the 90’s
      -They both began to lose their way during the 2000’s
      -Many of their core employees and founders have left and moved on to start their own studios (Tim Schafer founded Double Fine and Chris Sutherland and Gavin Price founded Playtonic)
      -They were both brought out by big-time corporations which ultimately resulted in things taking a turn for the worse (LucasArts was brought out by Disney and Rare was brought out by Microsoft)
      I’m sure there are more similarities, but those are the ones that I can think of at the top of my head.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I always remember them more for the X-Wing series (my sister was more into the point-and-click games, not that I didn’t enjoy them), the original of which was one of the first PC games I owned. That era of space sim seems to have utterly vanished. Games like Elite Dangerous attempt to fill the void, but the story driven, mission-centric games have all but died out. Come back LucasArts! I miss you so!

        Liked by 1 person

      • With the resurgence of the Star Wars movies and the collapse of Disney Interactive, I don’t think it’ll be long until we see them make a comeback. At least. I hope.

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  1. I enjoyed games like Maniac Mansion. I miss the days of LucasArts adventure games. I honestly enjoy them more than their Star Wars offerings. I haven’t yet played Day of the Tentacle though, but I know that it was just rereleased on PS4…

    Looking forward to more of your Retr0spective! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Telltale has been doing a pretty good job keeping the genre alive, though I haven’t played all of their games. I also enjoy a lot of the Japanese visual novel adventure games that have come out in recent years including the recently released Zero Time Dilemma. But yes, I would love to see more of this genre. It’s one of my favorite gaming genres.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Secret of Monkey Island was the turning point for me with LucasArts, the point at which I realized they were geniuses. Ron Gilbert had a remarkable instinct for game construction, as opposed to certain concurrent designers at Sierra who shall remain nameless. I’m going to plug my own game blog here, Sublime Confusion, where I just talked about this at great length in the context of the Blackwell adventures. Gilbert had an astonishing and carefully thought out set of rules for adventure game design, which you can find if you google “Why Adventure Games Suck.” After he left to form Humongous, other great designers like Tim Schafer played by the same rulebook and produced glorious results.

    Liked by 1 person

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