To think of LucasArts (formerly Lucasfilm Games) is to think of George Lucas, the man who created it all. The pompadour sporting and flannel wearing visionary gave us Star Wars and Indiana Jones, for which he should be canonized. Some would be happy evolving just one form of media, but it appears that forever changing the face of cinema and inventing the Wookie wasn’t enough for Mr. Lucas. He still had to revitalize another form of entertainment– video games.
In 1982 the video game industry was on a precipice after some very tumultuous years. By the end of 1983, the video game crash was in full swing. Angry gamers were becoming frustrated by aging consoles and yearned for a breath of fresh air. It may not have been the best time to form a new software company, but many of Lucas’s undertakings were never considered financially viable by economic groupthink.
The company began by making low-key action games for the Atari 5200, but would soon find success with adventure games. The adventure genre was a huge market in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and LucasArts became one of the forerunners in developing memorable titles. They got their feet wet with the 1987 classic Maniac Mansion, a hilarious adventure that played off America’s love of B-grade horror films.
Maniac Mansion was the first game to utilize the SCUMM scripting language that would go on to create the company’s most memorable entries over the next 10 years. It also introduced something that would become a staple of LucasArts’ adventure games – humor. Games like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max and the beloved Monkey Island series would set the bar for the funniest and best 2D adventure games of the day. But LucasArts didn’t stop there.
George wasn’t going to let his lucrative franchises in the film industry go unused in this newly discovered market, and Star Wars became the basis of dozens of games for the developer. These games sent fans of the series running to their nearest software retailers faster than Han Solo making the Kessel Run. LucasArts used the Star Wars name to contribute to the flight-sim (X-wing Series), first person shooter (Dark Forces and Jedi Knight Series), role playing (Knights of the Old Republic Series by BioWare) and MMO genres (Star Wars Galaxies). If it was a genre, it had a LucasArts game.
LucasArts continues to make its mark in the gaming world today, with a level of quality that has remained consistent over the majority of the last two decades. While adventure games don’t tend to be a popular commodity and some licenses have failed to make a smooth jump to 3D (I’m looking at you, Dr. Jones), Lucasarts still offers plenty of promise for the future. From the recent collaboration with Industrial Light and Magic and the huge budget that pact provides, we can only hope that Lucasarts will continue to rocket the gaming community to a galaxy far, far away.
Grim Fandango (PC),
The Monkey Island Series (PC),
Star Wars: X-wing (PC)
Star Wars Obi-Wan (XBOX),
The Dig (PC)