Skip to content

LucasArts, and those who love the 90s.

“On April 3, 2013, Disney confirmed that LucasArts would cease to operate as a video game developer and serve as a licensor, with video games being developed by either third-party companies or Disney Interactive Studios. As a result, all of its future projects were cancelled, and most of its staff was laid off from the company.” (Wikipedia)

The biggest problem I have with opinions online regarding LucasArts no longer developing games is that they haven’t made a reputable original game since 2000 (excluding the well-received Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a collaboration with Bioware in 2003. Not original, as it’s Star Wars).  People speak about the company fondly, and with good reason. Many state that they have childhood memories of the games, and that they’re upset or angry about the shift in the company’s role. The issue is that most games I’ve seen people talking about in this way were made before they attempted to purge original titles out of their products. They’ve actively tried to make nothing but Star Wars games, and were responsible for Star Wars Kinect, and Star Wars Lego (as well as a bunch of other Lego games).

“In 2002, LucasArts recognized that the over-reliance on Star Wars was reducing the quality of its output, and announced that future releases would be at least 50% non-Star Wars-related. However, many of the original titles were either unsuccessful or even cancelled before release and currently LucasArts has again mainly Star Wars titles in production.” That was the pre-2002. Eleven years later, and they continue to churn out numerous Star Wars titles (with the very occasional re-release or original game). “Disney indicated that the new business model would “[minimize] the company’s risk while achieving a broad portfolio of quality Star Wars games.” With the acquisition by Disney, it’s clear this will remain the case.

With all that in mind, I can’t say I’m upset about what’s happened to LucasArts. The developer can be a big part of the game production process, it’s the people who work on the game that create the experiences you know and love. The past decade or so has set artists and creators apart from their publishers, through the rise of crowd funding and even just the Internet being more accessible. There’s less of a reason for people to stay in companies they don’t enjoy, making things they don’t like for people they hate when they can make their own work and share it independently.

Tim Schafer moved on from LucasArts in January 2000 to work on his own projects. He founded Double Fine, and has recently received $2m in crowd funding for a new adventure game. Similarly, when Glen Keane resigned from Disney, many of his fans were was saying how Disney was never going to be the same, and were acting like it was the end of his career. While there would be some impact from his departure, it also meant he was able to begin work on personal projects that were otherwise ignored. He has made multiple visits to colleges in America to teach students, as well as had a few gallery shows. His work is still out there, it just isn’t under the name of Disney.

“The decision to shutter LucasArts comes as the developer and publisher, once known for humour-tinged adventure games like Secret of Monkey Island, has struggled in recent years to produce a hit in an industry increasingly dominated by action-oriented games.” (Reuters/AFP, Disney to Shut Down LucasArts) Ultimately, Disney is outsourcing the creation of Star Wars games to third-party developers. It’s crappy they fired a large portion of people, but LucasArts has been struggling for years to make something that competes with the market. In this haste, they’ve forfeited quality for quantity.

The change of management won’t inherently not solve the issue, but it may stop the slew of Star Wars games that are loved solely for their license. The games you loved in the 90s are still around. And unlike ten years ago, the creation of games has opened up to a much larger group of people. Despite LucasArts being closed, there are those who worked on those games, who loved those games, who want to make those sorts of games; if you love LucasArts’ work in the 90s, and want to find more like that, search for it.

I hope those employees from LucasArts find a new place to work, and I hope Disney doesn’t screw Star Wars up any more than Star Wars Kinect did.

Advertisements

What to write about..?

The compulsion to write about new games.

I’m pretty sure everyone has written about Skyrim in ways I couldn’t possibly match. I don’t own any new games. I’m not even sure what to write about. ACK. I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect lately, and have developed a concise list of pros and cons (and improvements) but it feels a little pointless to start dissecting games that are about to have another iteration released. And then there’s the whole ‘don’t write a list, give your personal opinion’ approach – that, mixed with my desire to write as professionally as possible results in stilted writing and over-thought prose.

I think the best, most obvious path is to simply write and hope that even a small amount of what you end up with is usable. This is something I learned through years of writing sub-par fanfiction and original stories, with little to show for it. I’ve got pages of notes, ideas, critiques and suggestions surrounding the games I play, yet can’t use any of it. Not yet, anyway. I’m not sure that’s even the best attitude to have towards writing. Shouldn’t it be put your all in, as soon as possible?

Well… I’ll just keep sitting here. Staring blankly at the Sims Social as I wait for energy points to reappear. That’s productive, isn’t it?

Monkey Island 2: Special Edition – Look behind you, a game review!


The Monkey Island franchise follows the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, a pirate wannabe. He previously defeated the evil ghost-pirate LeChuck, and (sort of) wooed the lovely Elaine Marley, governor of Scabb Island. Of course, LeChuck is alive again, and Elaine is unimpressed with him.

It’s up to the player to help guide Guybrush through the point-and-click adventure puzzle game, combining items, stealing things, and trying to talk their way out of situations. The movements in game is dictated by clicking to where you want to move to. The main premise is item collection, combination and word puzzles. There is also insult sword-fighting, which plays combat off as a verbal sport rather than a physical sport. It’s incredibly witty, and fits perfectly into the world of Monkey Island.

The writing and musical score really set this game apart from most other P&C adventure games, and remains a cult classic to this day.

PROS

  • Monkey Island 2: Special Edition revitalized an old game in a visually/musically appealing way. The new music and spoken dialogue really added to the overall experience. I had a demo of the game when it was 8-bit and the dialog wasn’t spoken, which bored me very quickly. This might not be an issue for gamers who prefer the originals due to nostalgia, but I missed the opportunity to develop such nostalgia.
  • The characters, dialogue and sheer wittiness of some of the jokes. Monkey Island (and a lot of Lucas Arts’ products) are still so emphatically applauded for their writing, and their ability to create likeable, original characters. Guybrush Threepwood and Manny Calavera are both perfect examples of this brand identity. I felt that the Special Edition really helped add that extra bit of character to Guybrush (and others). Some lines had a very short pause before/after they were spoken, but that was a minor issue for myself.
  • The puzzles themselves were more often than not intelligently designed, and flowed quite well. There aren’t any real faults that I can denote (except of course the few I list below). I felt that the hint system would be incredibly helpful to the casual gamer, or someone who was playing more for the humour of the series than the mental challenge. There are achievements/trophies for not using the hint system at all, something that adds an extra challenge for those who want it.
  • The right-click system for item interaction was so much easier than the predecessor’s attempt (the Verb system, with CTRL as the options menu for possible interactions). Once I worked it out, I found puzzles were much easier to navigate. Occasionally it would stick, or re-select something I wasn’t intending on, but that was the fault of my mouse’s shoddy track system. The Open/Close/Pull/Push options were also interesting to play with, though they were less used than the Talk/Use/Pick Up options.
  • Guybrush in a pink dress, nonplussed. (A tribute to just how incredibly secure in his sexuality Guybrush is, as he stands in the doorway cock-hipped and smiling).
Doesn't he look fetch?

Guybrush arriving at Governor Marley's Mardi Gras party.

CONS

  • A small inconsistency in terms of naming on Steam. Most other Money Island games are referred to “The […] of Monkey Island”, while this is titled Monkey Island 2: Special Edition. It’d be better branding if they kept the naming consistent, like most other franchises like The Elder Scrolls series, and how they maintain the initial “The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall/Morrowind/Oblivion/Skyrim”. It just makes for easier navigation through your library.
  • Audio commentary didn’t pause gameplay, so the player can miss dialogue/information if they chose to listen to it. This could deter people from listening to it at all. The commentary was repeated in some areas (IE: the pop-up continued to appear, even though it was the same information). This was annoying rather than game-inhibiting.
  • During “The Largo Embargo”, Largo will come back to his room at random intervals. This gives the player very little time to collect the required items (as Monkey Island is known for looking/using/trying to pick up everything in order to hear Guybrush’s quips). In order to go back into the room you have to wander between locations, trying to reset Largo. It’s a waste of time. A potential way to improve this would be to signal Largo’s arrival with the sound of walking, or yelling, and the ability to hide in the room. It would make it much more engaging if there’s the opportunity to hide, especially when such an action is taken by Guybrush later in the chapter. The changing frame in the corner obviously provides cover, but you’re unable to make use of it.
  • There was a section where two skeletons sung and danced. The joke lost value as it went for too long, and definitely fell into “annoying” rather than “funny” category.

You can switch between graphics!

I couldn’t fault this game much beyond the annoyance of the audio-commentary being clumsily played over the game, or the annoying Largo puzzle mentioned above. It’s definitely good for those who enjoyed the original, and those who never got the chance to play it when it first came out. As you can play either mode, there’s nostalgia for those who want it, and pretty art for others.

Overall Rating: 9/10