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.
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…
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.
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….
To be continued….