LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC is an American video game developer and publisher. The company was famous for its innovative line of graphic adventure games, the critical and commercial success of which peaked in the early 1990s, although today it mainly publishes games based on the Star Wars franchise.
The company was founded in May 1982 as the video game development group of Lucasfilm Limited, the film production company of George Lucas. Lucas had wanted his company to branch out into other areas of entertainment, and so he cooperated with Atari to produce video games.
The first results of this collaboration were unique action games like Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus!. Beta versions of both games were leaked to pirate bulletin boards exactly one week after Atari received unprotected copies for a marketing review, and were in wide circulation months before the original release date. In 1984, they were released for the Atari 5200 under the Lucasfilm Games label. Versions for home computers were not released until 1985, by publisher Epyx. Lucasfilm's next two games were Koronis Rift and The Eidolon. Their first games were only developed by Lucasfilm, and a publisher would distribute the games. Atari published their games for Atari systems, Activision and Epyx would do their computer publishing. Maniac Mansion was one of the first games to be published and developed by Lucasfilm Games.
In 1990, in a reorganization of the Lucas companies, the Games Division of Lucasfilm became part of the newly created LucasArts Entertainment Company, together with Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. Later ILM and Skywalker Sound were consolidated in Lucas Digital Ltd. and LucasArts became the official name of the former Games Division.
The original Lucasfilm Games logo was based upon the existing Lucasfilm movie logo. There were a number of variations on it.
The long-lived LucasArts logo, affectionately known as the "Gold Guy", was introduced in 1991 and consisted of a crude gold-colored figure resembling a petroglyph, standing on a purple letter "L" inscribed with the company name. The figure had its hands up in the air, as if a sun was rising from behind him. It was also said to resemble an eye, with the rays of the sun as eyelashes. The logo was revised in late 2005, losing the letter "L" pedestal and introducing a more rounded version of the gold-colored figure. In the games, the figure sometimes does an action like throw a lightsaber or cast Force Lightning. The logo is possibly a reference to the ending of George Lucas' first film, THX 1138, in which the silhouette of the main character stands with his arms raised during sunset.
Main article: LucasArts adventure games
The first adventure game developed by Lucasfilm Games was Labyrinth (1986), based on the Lucasfilm movie of the same name. ICOM's Deja Vu inspired the 1987 title Maniac Mansion which introduced SCUMM, the scripting language behind most of the company's later adventure offerings. The adventures released in the following years, such as Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure (1989) and especially the critically-acclaimed The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), helped Lucasfilm Games build a reputation as one of the leading developers in the genre. It was often referred to as one of the two big names in the field, competing with Sierra On-line as a developer of high quality adventures. The first half of the 1990s was the heyday for the company's adventure fame, with classic titles such as Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992) and the Maniac Mansion sequel Day of the Tentacle (1993).
In the latter half of the decade, the popularity of adventure games faded and the costs associated with game development increased as high-resolution art and CD quality audio became standard fare. The PC market wanted titles that would show off expensive new graphics cards to best effect, a change replicated in the home console market as the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 dictated the nature of the majority of games produced for those platforms. The adventure genre — two-dimensional, focused on story, script and puzzle solving — was no longer popular with the masses of new gamers.
LucasArts still managed to release commercially moderately successful titles: The Curse of Monkey Island (1997) was the last LucasArts adventure game to retain traditional two-dimensional graphics and point-and-click interface. Grim Fandango (1998) was LucasArts' first attempt to convert 2D adventure to a 3D environment. The game interface suffered most from this conversion, with control of the protagonist becoming unwieldy and less intuitive than with the traditional mouse interface. However, the highly stylised visuals, superb voice acting and sophisticated writing more than made up for this flaw, earning Grim Fandango many plaudits, including GameSpot's Game of the Year award.
Escape from Monkey Island (2000), the fourth installment to the Monkey Island series, featured the same control scheme as Grim Fandango and was generally well received. It is to date the last adventure game the company has released. A sequel to Full Throttle and a new Sam & Max game were in development but these projects were canceled, in 2003 and 2004 respectively, before the games were finished. When the rights to the Sam and Max franchise expired in 2005, the creator of Sam and Max, Steve Purcell, took ownership. He then licensed Sam and Max to Telltale Games to be developed into an episodic game. Telltale Games is made up primarily of former LucasArts employees who had worked on the Sam and Max sequel and were let go after the project was canceled.
The release of the unofficial SCUMM virtual machine, ScummVM, has led to something of a resurgence for LucasArts adventure games among present-day gamers. Using ScummVM, legacy adventure titles can easily be run on modern computers and even more unusual platforms such as video game consoles, mobile phones and PDAs.
First Star Wars games
Even though LucasArts had created games based on other Lucasfilm properties before (Labyrinth, Indiana Jones), they didn't use the most promising Lucasfilm license until the early 1990s: Star Wars action games began appearing on the Nintendo consoles, but were developed by other companies for LucasArts. The first in-house development was the space combat simulator X-Wing, developed by Larry Holland's team, which went on to spawn a successful series.
The CD-ROM-only Star Wars game Rebel Assault became one of the biggest successes of the company and was considered a killer app for CD-ROM drives in the early 1990s.
After the unprecedented success of id Software's Doom the PC gaming market shifted towards production of three-dimensional first person shooters. LucasArts contributed to this trend with the 1995 release of Star Wars: Dark Forces, a first person shooter that successfully transplanted the Doom formula to a Star Wars setting. The Dark Forces Strategy guide claims that development was well underway before Doom was released and that the game was pushed back once Doom hit shelves so that it could be polished. The game was well received and spawned a new franchise: the Jedi Knight games. This began with the sequel to Dark Forces, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II released in 1997; this game reflected the changing face of PC gaming, being one of the first games to appreciably benefit when used in conjunction with a dedicated 3D graphics card like 3dfx's Voodoo range. The game received an expansion pack, Mysteries of the Sith, in 1998 and a full sequel in 2002 with Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. 2003's Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy can be seen as a spin-off from the series, but was less well received by reviewers, who complained that the franchise was becoming formulaic.
In the New Millennium
As the quantity of Star Wars games increased, many critics felt the quality began to drop; this was especially noted with the titles released since the cinematic release of The Phantom Menace.
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.
2003 saw the fruitful collaboration of LucasArts and BioWare on the exceptionally well reviewed role-playing game, Knights of the Old Republic. Combining a three-dimensional environment with the type of storytelling and writing that made LucasArts' early adventure games so memorable, this game was seen as breathing new life into the Star Wars franchise. Its 2004 sequel Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords continued in the same vein, attempting to adopt a similar template as the original, uniting voice acting with an unfolding story which picked up where the last game left off. However, LucasArts was criticized for forcing the developer Obsidian Entertainment to release the sequel too early, resulting in a significant amount of unfinished content being cut from the game and what many consider to be a disappointing and convoluted storyline with an incomplete ending. Also the rush release of this game to the PC platform caused many bugs and crashes. This still has not been fixed by patches.
In 2003 LucasArts and the Star Wars franchise also branched out in a new direction — the world of the MMORPG, with the creation of Star Wars Galaxies. After a successful launch, the first expansion, Jump to Lightspeed, was released in 2004. The new expansion featured the addition of real-time space combat. This was continued in Rage of the Wookies, an additional expansion which added an additional planet for users to explore. Also, a new expansion, Trials of Obi-Wan was released on November 1 2005 consisting of several new missions focusing on the Episode 3 planet, Mustafar. While Star Wars Galaxies still retains a devoted following, it has also alienated many players. Although it is currently the most popular class in the game, Star Wars Galaxies has chosen to ignore the timeline established in the original films, during which the game is set, and has allowed players to play as Jedi characters. The game has also undergone several major redesigns, which have been received with decidedly mixed reactions by players. Perhaps in one of the most telling examples of problems with the game, smugglers are actually still unable to smuggle, over three years after the game launched. Improvements into the game are still undergoing with the publish plan giving all the combat and non-combat professions diversity in skill tree boxes similar to the well-known MMO World of Warcraft.
In 2004, LucasArts released Star Wars: Battlefront, based on the same formula as the popular Battlefield series of games. It has ended up being the best-selling Star Wars game of all time. Its sequel, Star Wars: Battlefront II, was released November 1, 2005 and features new locales such as Episode III planets Mustafar, Mygeeto, etc., in addition to space combat, playable Jedi, and new special units like Bothan spies and Imperial officers.
In May 2005, LucasArts released Revenge of the Sith, a third person action game based on the film. Also in 2005, LucasArts released Star Wars: Republic Commando, and one of their few non-Star Wars games, Mercenaries, developed by Pandemic Studios.
On February 16 2006, LucasArts released Star Wars: Empire at War, a real-time strategy game developed by Petroglyph. September 12 2006 saw the release of Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, the sequel to the popular Lego Star Wars: The Video Game. Lego Star Wars II follows the same basic format as the first game, but, as the name indicates, covers the original Star Wars trilogy. In September 16, 2008 the Star Wars game Force Unleashed was released to mixed reviews, though quickly became the best-selling Star Wars game of all time.
Jim Ward left the company early February 2008, for personal reasons. He was replaced by Howard Roffman as interim president, with Darrell Rodriguez taking Roffman's place in April 2008.
A new game based on the Indiana Jones franchise will be released on next-gen consoles (it is currently listed as an Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PS3 game). An expansion for Star Wars: Empire at War was released on October 26, 2006.
In May 2007, Lucasarts announced Fracture and stated that "new intellectual properties serve a vital role to the growth of LucasArts". Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction was labelled the number one new IP in 2005 and Thrillville the number one new children's IP in 2006.
The English development studio Free Radical Design, of TimeSplitters fame, has revealed that they are working on a project for LucasArts; however there is no further information other than it is a work in progress, but the game in question is rumored to be the fourth installment of the Star Wars Battlefront series. Bioware and Lucasarts have also agreed to make a new game. Lots of speculation hint that it will be a new MMORPG for Star Wars or, alternatively, a continuation of the Knights of the Old Republic series of games.
The new LucasArts studio in Singapore (part of Lucasfilm Animation Singapore) has announced Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance on the Nintendo DS in 2008. Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels is being developed for the Wii by Krome Studios from Australia.
From 1995 to 1998, LucasArts released an annual compilation of games, the LucasArts Archives series, each containing three to six games plus a selection of demos of recent and upcoming games. The second and fourth volumes of LucasArts Archives were Star Wars-themed. Later games published under the LucasArts Archives brand were budget-priced reissues of individual games.
In 2002, LucasArts released a compilation CD filled with music from their past games. The album is entitled 'The Best of LucasArts Original Soundtracks', featuring music from The Monkey Island Series, Grim Fandango, Outlaws, and The Dig.
A video game titled Traxion was announced. Traxion was a rhythm game which was under development for the PlayStation Portable by British developer Kuju Entertainment, scheduled to be released in Q4 2006 by LucasArts, but was instead cancelled in January 2007. The game was to feature a number of minigames, and would support imported songs from the player's own mp3 library as well as the game's bundled collection.
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