Lucasarts – A Tribute to a genre defining studio

Some of the many classic adventure titles that Lucasarts was beloved for

Some of the many classic adventure titles that Lucasarts was beloved for

In 2013 a lamentable moment in videogame history occurred, the once prolific developer Lucasarts closed it doors.  The company was well know for the consistent quality of it's work as well as the myriad of popular licenses which were crafted into beautiful interactive experiences enjoyed by gamers worldwide.  

Early Beginnings

Lucasarts started life at the (in)famous Skywalker Ranch where George Lucas was investing time and money, creating new audio experiences for cinema goers and also new forms of entertainment.  In 1984 Lucasarts had began experimenting with game development, the end products being Ballblazer and Rescue of Fractalus.  These were released on several microcomputers, the Atari 8-bit computers and the Commodore 64.  In an era of gaming where most developers were creating clones of coin ops, both these titles were seen as groundbreaking, innovative and technically ambitious in scope.

Rescue of Fractalus was an early first person shooter

Rescue of Fractalus was an early first person shooter

Point and Click Innovation

In the early days of Lucasarts, the Star Wars franchise was strictly off limits, so it was up to the developers to create new franchises and characters.  The first defining release which heralded the golden era of Lucasarts was Manic Mansion in 1987.  This was a point and click adventure title which was designed as a loving tribute to B-movies and kitschy horror movies and 80's teen flicks.

Manic Mansion was the first game to use the might SCUMM engine

Manic Mansion was the first game to use the might SCUMM engine

The game give the player the ability to solve puzzles, navigate a large, fully explorable area fully of quirky horror cliches and for those who wanted to kill something - you could even microwave a hamster.  It was the heady mix of exploration and niche humour which helped propel this title into the popular cult classic that it is known as today.

Another reason that this title became one of the highest regarded adventure titles came from the SCUMM engine (Scripting Creation Utility for Manic Mansion).  As the title suggested this was created exclusively for the game and was so successful that versions of it were used in every subsequent Lucasarts adventure game. 

If you want to play this superb early adventure title it is now available on Steam

Monkey Island was the next adventure game to gain notice and became one of Lucasarts longest running franchise.   With Monkey island, the SCUMM system was upgraded and it could be said that the mouse-controlled graphic adventure (so enjoyed by tell-tale enthusiasts today)came of age.  The plot of the games begins with a wannabe pirate named Guybrush Threepwood, who is hapless but incredibly endearing, your initial goal is to guide him around Melee Island, where he has just landed and help him become the Pirate that he yearns to be.

Improved Graphics, intriguing plot and winning humour made The Secret of Monkey Island essential in your gaming collection

Improved Graphics, intriguing plot and winning humour made The Secret of Monkey Island essential in your gaming collection

Guybrush returned in several sequels -  Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck's Revenge, The Curse of Monkey Island, Escape From Monkey Island and the episodic Tales of Monkey Island by Telltale games.  That's an incredible amount of longevity for an original franchise, from the original Monkey Island to Tales, the series spans two decades!

If you want to play these titles, they are available from the excellent Good Old Games site

The Movie Franchises

Before the innovation in the adventure genre that culminated with Manic Mansion, Lucasarts had already looked at crafting interactive storytelling with film franchises.  Surprisingly, their first foray into this field was neither Indiana Jones nor Star Wars, that was to come much later.  The first film franchise that was chosen for the Lucasarts treatment was Jim Henson's Labyrinth, a beautiful, evocative fairytale which starred David Bowie as the Goblin King.  This game tasked the player with finding and defeating the Goblin king - Jareth, within 13 real time hours.  This was also a title which brought science fiction writing genius Douglas Adams on board and his ideas greatly influenced the end product.  It was, unsurprisingly, an innovative title and the game garnered more commercial success that the film which inspired it! 

The Evil, yet Charismatic Goblin King

The Evil, yet Charismatic Goblin King

But, as we all know, Lucasfilm had so many iconic heroes and cinematic masterpieces which were ripe for translation into videogames, it was only a matter of time before Lucasarts raided their cupboard.  So it was, that the fedora hat wearing, stubbly beard and whip totting archaeologist, Indiana Jones was propelled onto our videogame screens.

There are an incredible amount of games based on Indy's adventures, so it's almost impossible to cover them all.  Some of my favourites include :

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Lucasarts oversaw three Last Crusade titles, but the stand out version, at least in my opinion, was the adventure game.  Again powered using the SCUMM engine, this follows the majority of the film's plot, seeing the player take Indy to the Venice catacombs and rescuing his dad from the Nazi's in a castle.  This was far from a run of the mill adventure game, Lucasarts could help but sneak in innovation where it was least expected.  When you solved puzzles successfully you gained Indy Quotient (IQ) points.  In order for a player to get the perfect score they would be encouraged to be creative with their answers and techniques.  A fantastic movie tie-in

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Indiana's Greatest Adventures

This was a fantastic console game - released on the SNES in 1994, Greatest Adventures takes it's lead from the series of popular Super Star Wars games which were released to popular acclaim.  This side-scrolling adventure took the player through most of the famous scenes in the classic trilogy, boasting still frames from the movies, mode 7 action sequences and recreated soundtracks, this is a fantastic platformer which really portrays the heart and soul of movie franchise and delighted Indy fans worldwide.

Many famous scenes were recreated in this classic platforming adventure

Many famous scenes were recreated in this classic platforming adventure

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Another classic adventure title which ran on the SCUMM engine and remains one of the best adventure titles ever developed by Lucasarts.  Indy (with his partner Sophia) must beat the Nazis to the underwater city of Atlantis.  After the first act, the game split into three parts, enabling the player to choose which way they wish to progress through the game.  The Wits path offered a more puzzle solving approach, whereas the Fists path gave the player a more combat orientated method to tackle the game.  The final choice, the Team path, keeps the two characters together as they solve different types of puzzles.  The game was also released on CD which featured phenomenal soundtracks and speech.

This game can be found on Steam or GOG

Wars Amongst the Stars

There had been a few video games released for the Star Wars franchise since Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600, but Lucas's own in-house game development company didn't get to work on the franchise until the fabulous X-Wing series.  This DOS based space combat simulator placed you in the cockpit of various Rebel starfighters - X-Wings, Y-Wings and A-Wings with the ultimate aim of assaulting the Death Star itself.  The title boasted an incredible new 3D engine which became the template of every successive space combat sim and the game itself won the Origins award for the Best Fantasy of Science Fiction game of 1993.

X-Wing can be found on GOG

X-Wing put you straight into the cockpit for explosive Tie Fighting Action

X-Wing put you straight into the cockpit for explosive Tie Fighting Action

But it was X-Wing's sequel which truly captured gamers and Star Wars fans imagination.  Long had many players wished that they could not only play as the Rebels, but as the Empire, gamers wanted to be free of the shackles of the light side and fully embrace the ways of the dark.  This wish was promptly granted with the release of the excellent Tie Fighter in 1994, giving you a chance to play as the bad guys.  It featured secret missions with enabled you to directly work for the emperor and his number one henchman - Darth Vader.

Tie Fighter can be found on GOG

Tie Fighter also featured the new character Admiral Thrawn created by Timothy Zahn

Tie Fighter also featured the new character Admiral Thrawn created by Timothy Zahn

A series of movie style games followed, utilising the now popular FMV cut scene technology, pre-rendered 3D backdrops and digitised soundtracks and clips from the movies to recreate the sensations of the films as you played as 'Rookie One'.   Star Wars Rebel Assault and it's imaginatively named sequel Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire, incorporated real life footage of actors, high production value and expert use of John Williams epic score in an attempt to bring players new Star Wars experiences through truly cinematic gameplay.  However it's on-rails nature kept it from achieving the glory that it was hoping for.

Rebel Assault 1 + 2 can be found on GOG

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In 2003, another landmark title came out from the Lucasarts stable - Knights of the Old Republic, a truly epic role playing game set thousands of years before the original movie trilogy, featuring customisable classes, fantastic and sharp dialogue and a multilayered narrative which gripped the player throughout the experience.  It and it's sequel, brought to Star Wars fans everything that the Prequels had tried, but failed to be.

  • Knights of the Old Republic can be found on GOG
  • Knights of the Old Republic 2 can be found on GOG

End of an Era and Rebirth of Old Titles

When Disney acquired the Lucas empire in 2013, they promptly shut this development behemoth down.  This was indeed a sad day for gamers who had experienced and became enraptured by the titles that this company had produced for over two decades, their reputation for outstanding quality and innovative approaches will live on.

For gamers of this current generation who haven't yet experienced some of these classic titles or who wish to relive their fond memories, there is some good news.  Some of the Classic Lucasarts adventure titles have been revived, given a dust off and made available for PC and console.

Full Throttle Remastered

Holding a PS4 controller and enjoying the great narrative design and laughing out loud at the superbly crafted humour which peppers the script, I fell in love with this title all over again.  It's obvious to see after a play through (the first in over 10 years) that this game is far more ambitious in scope than most commercially made games today.  It's a game completely fuelled by beautiful complexity of narrative, making this an incredibly satisfying adventure title.  

It's set in a vaguely futuristic time period (which is undisclosed) it's not quite as bad as the dystopia which is featured in the Mad Max films, but it's definitely heading there.  You play as Ben, the leader of a biker gang, who is framed for murder and becomes embroiled in  a conspiracy featuring a corporation which is the last to make classic motorcycles (the kind which don't hover above ground)

It's a simple plot, but fleshed out by fantastic character design and superb voice acting, including a turn from Mark Hamill as the slimy, corporate villain of the piece.  This is a fantastic gaming experience and has been remastered to enable 4K functionality, bringing the sharp cartoon graphics truly to life.

In 4K the cartoon visuals are beautifully crisp and the whole story is mesmerising to watch

In 4K the cartoon visuals are beautifully crisp and the whole story is mesmerising to watch

Grim Fandango

This title is often held up as the Last Best Adventure game ever made, at it's release in 1998, it held almost universal critical acclaim and brought the player into the land of the dead and introduced them to Manny.  Manny Calavera is a supernatural travel agent who (like death) reaps the souls of the recently departed and sells them passage across the land of the dead.  The narrative is based on Aztec myths and the game is loaded with funky art deco design motifs.

Grim Fandango has aged incredibly well and it's gameplay holds up today, remastered for the PS4, like Full Throttle, the control style has been changed suitably so that the whole thing feels comfortable and is overall a fantastic remastered conversion for modern consoles.

This is definitely a game to pick up, it showcases exactly why Lucasarts were seen as the premier game studio for producing adventure titles.  Fantastic character design, good acting and a killer soundtrack, this is a title which you will be talking and thinking about in years to come.

This was a brief history of Lucasarts, I featured some of my favourite games and memories, but I know there were so many more highlights of this developers library.  Please share your opinions and your gaming memories in the comments section, I would love to read them!

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STRANGER THING’s David Harbour is Becoming Everyone’s Favorite Star

Many people are fans of Netflix’s Stranger Things and its cast. However, a lot of the times that we talk about the cast, we typically talk about the amazing child actors. David Harbour, who plays Sheriff Jim Hopper, is becoming more and more popular with fans though. I attribute part of this to the fact that he’s doing Hellboy and thus is in the light a bit more at the moment. Combine that with fans always asking for ridiculous things (thank you, social media) of their favorite celebrities and you get greatness. Just look at this fan who asked Harbour to be in her high school senior pictures:

Voted most likely to hijack someone's high school senior photos 24 years later. Many thanks to @postydamaris and her kind family and @iamtommyg photography for making a dream come true and proving my high school classmates right!!

She asked and only needed 25,000 retweets in order to get this magical moment to happen. What would it take to get Harbour to officiate your wedding, though? Ericka found out exactly what that would take.

Five times the number of retweets as the senior picture request, the first slice of cake, and the opportunity to read a love letter. Does not sound like a bad deal for a fan. I’d probably agree to these terms. I have no doubt that Harbour continues to be getting many, many requests since the senior picture experience and I’m sure the wedding will only increase the number that he gets. However, this would be amazing. At the time of writing, the retweet count is at 96,320. Please go retweet this so this can happen! Fly my pretties! Fly!

Denis Villeneuve Says DUNE Adaptation Will Be “STAR WARS For Adults”

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If you weren't already excited for Denis Villeneuve's take on Dune, you should be.  The director recently spoke to Fandom about his adaptation, and said he wants to make it the Star Wars film he never saw: 

Most of the main ideas of Star Wars are coming from Dune so it’s going to be a challenge to [tackle] this.The ambition is to do the Star Wars movie I never saw. In a way, it’s Star Wars for adults. We’ll see.

With that kind of ambition, Villeneuve can hopefully top the effort of David Lynch's adaptation, which was a critical and commercial failure. Despite that, the film still has its fans today, probably because that scene of Patrick Stewart playing the sitar is so rad:

As far as how he Villeneuve will look to tackle the franchise, the director shared his vision is to start with the first book, and then remain with the franchise for a couple films if it's successful:

“I could be involved with one or two movies if it happens. That’s the thing. Today you’re asking me this question about a project that doesn’t exist yet. I’m used to talking about projects when they’re shot, finished, I’m in the editing room, I’m about to release the movie. Then you talk about something real. Right now, I might in three weeks or two months learn that nobody agrees on a screenplay, it will be with someone else. It can happen. And when the movie will be made? It’s all theory right now."

I think Villeneuve is the right man for the job to bring Dune back to life, although I'm not sure how you can make an "adult Star Wars," beyond adding boobs. What are your thoughts on Villeneuve's goal, and do you think he can pull it off? Is the world ready for more Dune? 

Disney Hires a Screenwriter For Ice Cube’s Remake of The Musical OLIVER!

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Disney is moving forward with the development of a remake of the classic musical Oliver! which as you know, is based on Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist. The project was announced last year and it has also got a solid team of talent on board to bring it to life.

According to Deadline, the script for the film will be written by Danny Strong (The Hunger Games, The Butler). The director of Broadway's Hamilton, Thomas Kail, is set to helm the movie. Then there's the music, which will be handled by Marc Platt, who worked on La La Land. Oh, and I should probably mention that Ice Cube is producing and he's taking on the of the villainous Fagin.

I know you all know the story, but just in case you've been living under a rock since you've been born, the story follows the journey of an orphan boy who escapes the harsh conditions of a workhouse and ends up joining up with a group of young thieves led by Fagin. This time, the music will include a cross-genre soundtrack that will include hip-hop. I guess that should be a surprise with Ice Cube on board. 

I actually really like the original 1968 film, which won five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. It'll be interesting to see how this updated remake of the film turns out, especially with the hip-hop flair. 

Nintendo Labo Is The New Way To Play With Your Switch

In an announcement yesterday, Nintendo has unveiled a new way for players to interact with their Nintendo Switch system. The company teased that this new announcement will be directed mainly for kids and adults who are kids at heart. True to their word, the Nintendo Labo was revealed. The new invention by Nintendo allows players to insert their Switch consoles into pieces of cardboard that can be turned into fun items like robots, fishing rods, and pianos. Nintendo described the Labo as: 

“Nintendo Labo combines the magic of Nintendo Switch with the fun of DIY creations,” said Nintendo through the Labo website. The Labo is a piece of cardboard that can be used to build items mentioned earlier, and then players will have to insert their Nintendo Switch to power it up. From there, you’ll be able to play numerous games depending on the creation you made. 

Nintendo Labo will be available on April 20 and as of today, there are two sets available. The Variety Kit, which will cost $70, that will include “two Toy-Con RC Cars, a Toy-Con Fishing Rod, a Toy-Con House, a Toy-Con Motorbike, and a Toy-Con Piano.” You can check out the detailed descriptions of those here

On the other hand, the Robot Kit, which is slightly more expensive at $80, will allow players to create their own interactive robot suit, complete with a visor, backpack, and straps for your hands and feet. The latter will be worn by the player to gain control of the in-game robot. Check out more details of the Robot Kit here

Although the Labo is far off from our predictions earlier, it is still a fun way for kids to play with their Switch. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the announcement, due to the fact that I may be desperate for a Virtual Console to be released on the Switch. Nevertheless, I believe Nintendo Labo is definitely going to be a hit with kids and kids at heart. Besides, I was really impressed that Nintendo made the Labo with cardboard rather than the standard plastic, that definitely makes it quirkier and more friendly to the environment, so kudos to Nintendo. 

What do you think of the Nintendo Labo? Is it something you’ll pick up once it’s released? 

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Samuel L. Jackson Says Nick Fury Will Have “Another Guy’s Face” in CAPTAIN MARVEL… What!?

We know that Nick Fury is going to play a decent sized role in Captain Marvel. The movie is set in the 90s and he will be fighting alongside Carol Danvers as they find themselves in the middle of a war with the Skrull alien race.

With the film being set in the 90s, I've been wondering how they will handle Nick Fury's age. Would they cast a younger actor? Would they digitally make Samuel L. Jackson look younger? Well, in a recent interview with AV Club, Samuel L. Jackson offered some interesting information about Nick Fury, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. He says that he'll have another guys face! Here's the quote:

"We’re going back now, and I meet Captain Marvel in more of an origin story. You’ll see Nick Fury with another guy’s face, somebody that’s got two eyes, so that’s a whole big deal. You’ll see. It’s prior to the eye injury, no eye patch." 

Another face? What the hell does that mean!? Will he use some kind of technology to change his appearance like he has in the comics? Does it just mean that he'll have two eyes? I don't know, but saying that Nick Fury will have another guys face is certainly an intriguing comment. He goes on to talk about how having two eyes will make it easier for him to learn his lines:

"It’ll be easier to learn my lines. It’s one of those weird kind of things. The first day I shot as Nick Fury with one eye, I couldn’t remember my lines. I was tired since we were coming from somewhere, so I thought it was fatigue. Then I realized I had learned my lines with two eyes. So, I had to start blocking my eye to learn my lines. It’s a stupid kind of thing, but it totally worked." 

I think the most likely scenario for the whole " another guy's face" thing is that Jackson will be made to look over 20 years younger, but we'll just have to wait and see. What do you think he meant with his comment? 

Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel whose alter ego is Air Force pilot Carol Danvers whose DNA is fused with that of an alien resulting in her superpowers. Ben Mendelsohn will play the main villain in the film, and Law is set to play the lead male role.

Captain Marvel is slated to be released on March 8th, 2019.

The STAR WARS REBELS Series Finale Trailer Has Landed! There Are Only 6 More Episode Left!

There are only six episodes left of Star Wars Rebels! The series is coming to an end and today we have a trailer for the series finale. This show has been an awesomely well-made wild ride and I can't wait to see how it all comes to an end. 

This is a very exciting and action-packed trailer that fans are going to flip over! One of the coolest things about it is that it features Emperor Palpatine making his debut in the series! Ian McDermid, who played the character in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and all three prequel films, also returns to provide the voice of the character!

Disney XD has announced that the final six-episodes will roll out over three consecutive Mondays. The beginning of the end starts on February 19th at 9pm. It's going to be sad to see the series end, but it looks like it's going to end on a high note!

The Emmy-nominated series that blasted off in 2014 is ending as Disney’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues its billion-dollar assault on Planet Earth. Disney XD will air back-to-back 30-minute episodes on February 19 and 26, culminating with another new half-hour and the 90-minute series finale on March 5. All of the new episodes will be available on VOD and digital platforms the day after their TV airings.

The series also stars Freddie Prinze Jr, Vanessa Marshall, Steve Blum Tiya Sircar, Taylor Gray, Dee Bradley Baker, David Oyelowo, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Lars Mikkelsen and Warwick Davis.

Ian McShane Offers New Details on Hellboy’s Relationship With Broom in New Film

The new theatrical incarnation of Hellboy, starring David Harbour is going to be a lot different from what fans have become accustomed to with Guillermo Del Toro and Ron Perlman's initial films. The new one is set to have a hard-R rating and will be jam-packed full of witches and demons. But we're now learning that the changes don't stop there.

Actor Ian McShane was cast in the reboot as Hellboy's adopted father, Professor Broom. McShane recently spoke with Fandom and revealed that Broom and Hellboy will have a much different relationship than in the previous films, and a lot of that comes from where the movie chooses to begin their story.

“You don’t start with the birth of Hellboy… but the relationship between [Hellboy and Broom] is quite crusty. Does he trust his father? [Hellboy asks], ‘Why didn’t you kill me? I’m a monster.’ It’s a little bit of a psychological battle against Hellboy.
"There’s one important moment in [the film] when [Hellboy] sort of thinks he’s fighting his own people, the outsiders. So, he’s being used by the insiders, which is me, if you like.”

Even though the relationship between the two might go in a different direction, McShane says he will take a similar approach to the role as the late John Hurt did in the previous films.

“I’m sort of playing this part as a slight homage to John [Hurt]. I mean, I’m not playing it like him, obviously… but the relationship [with Hellboy] is very much the same.”

The Neil Marshall directed film will be released on January 11th, 2019.

The Original HALLOWEEN 6 Script Featured Virtual Reality And A Homeless Michael Myers

Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers is not a horror film a lot of people like, but it always could've been much worse. It also could've been better, but that ultimately depends on how you feel about the alternate script for Halloween 6 written by Phil Rosenberg, which was only uncovered recently when a fan purchased it on eBay. According to Comicbook, the script contains a homeless Michael Myers, a virtual reality Ouija board, and somehow, more disappointment than the original Halloween 6.

In "Halloween:666" Michael Myers is homeless and living on the streets, unmasked. That's not too much of a problem, considering no one knows what he actually looks like, and the town of Haddonfield, Illinois is still recovering from the havoc the killer has brought upon their town in the past two films. 

Here's where it gets ridiculous. Remember Paul Rudd's character? He has a virtual reality ouija board that allows him to explore the past of the Myers family and learn the secrets of Michael's origin. I'm not sure why a normal ouija board wouldn't suffice for this task, but that's a question you can ask about 90% of VR software, so I'll allow it. 

Oh, by the way, this film wouldn't follow Jaimie Lloyd, but instead reporter Dana Childress who discovers she's ALSO a long-lost sister of Michael Myers! What a coincidence right?!

That's just the outline, so if you're looking to dive into this script full force, and maybe recreate a scene or two for the world to enjoy, check out the full script right here. It's a bad script, sure, but is it really worse than what we ended up getting?

The BAD BOYS Show Just Got A Pilot Order At NBC, Gabrielle Union Set To Star

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Bad Boys has spawned sequels, a chart-topping Nelly song, and now a television series as NBC just gave a pilot order to its Gabrielle Union-led spinoff. Deadline reported the series is still untitled, but given the fact that it will center around Union's character from the film Agent Syd Burnett, it probably won't be called Bad Boys. 

The series will follow the sister of Martin Lawrence's Marcus Burnett to L.A. as Syd is now an LAPD detective. The potential series is penned by two writers/producers for The BlacklistBrandon Margolis and Brandon Sonnier, which is good news for anyone who likes the currently running NBC drama. 

The scenery shift from Miami to L.A. is a bit disappointing, although necessary as the series won't have to address the obvious reason as to why Burnett and Lowery aren't along for the ride. The series will mark NBC's fourth drama pilot order, so it'll have some competition when the network starts handing out series orders. Would you like to see this series get an order? Do you think it will succeed?