The Fall of LucasArts

LucasArts was, at one point in time, one of the leading video game studios, responsible for many groundbreaking adventure games like Sam & Max, the benchmark FPS Star Wars: Dark Forces (and its sequels), and Star Wars: Battlefront (the sequel to which is one of the best Xbox games ever published).

But the studio faltered during the last decade. Battlefront II was the best-selling Star Wars game of all time, yet the studio let an entire console generation pass without a follow-up. Newer games were panned, commercially and critically, and in retrospect, Battlefront II was the last great hurrah of a dying behemoth.

So why did the studio die? George Lucas.

Lucas acted like the studio was his toy, not a business. He’d drop in, change everything on a project (wasting literally years of work for the team), then ignore LucasArts for a couple of years, until the next bout of interference. (In the movie industry, this is known as “executive meddling”.)

The entire sorry story is told in this post over at Kotaku. Take a look.

6 thoughts on “The Fall of LucasArts”

  1. Great read. Having watched the Plinkett review of Episode 1 just a few days ago, and see the footage from the editing room, you really do get the feeling that Lucas was the problem. People standing around him with pads and pencils to note down every drop of wisdom he says, regardless of whether it makes any sense for the months of work already done on the already determined direction of the project. In video games small changes make differences – especially in balance and style of play. The haphazard introduction of new elements into a project already well down the line is disastrous. With a game you have to decide your vision and pretty much stick to it.

    I played Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, the PS3 game that was never released, on PSP. It wasn’t a bad game for a PSP game, but it was nowhere near the game that was teased for the PS3. That looked awesome. Teaser footage may still be available on YouTube or somewhere. I also played The Force Unleashed on PS3 (and still have TFU2 sitting around unplayed) and the same can be said of it. A good game that really should have been great. But Star Wars has also long been stymied by ploughing the same fields. There is a whole universe to tell stories about, and they just keep returning to the same planets and supporting cast. TFU brings in the original cast members, albeit in an a clever twist. Maybe it’s a lack of creativity, or maybe it’s executives playing it safe (like in Star Trek: Generations) but you can see it here with 1313. A game that could have launched a new protagonist on a new world ends up being Boba Fett on Coruscant. Yawn. Have Boba Fett as an unlockable character if you really want him.

  2. Robin Williams said it best “Cocaine is God’s way of saying that you’re making too much money.” I think this is gods way of telling Lucas the same thing.

  3. To get you started I recommend the Uncharted series. Brilliant. But the first is frustratingly hard on the highest difficulty. Rage quit hard at a couple of points. If you just want to enjoy the story don’t go there. Two and three get the balance better, and prune some of the extraneous gameplay elements from the first that didn’t quite work. Especially the useless motion controls for walking across thin beams. Two is considered one of the best games of this generation for very good reasons. It helps that they introduced fantastic multiplayer into a game in which many thought never needed it; that is until they played it.

    Three is now free on the PSN for PSN+ subscribers.

  4. Thanks for the advice. I was going to ask about it, but you beat me to the punch.

    I’ve got a Gamefly subscription, so I queued up several games to try out. All PS3 exclusives, of course, because I played everything else on the 360.

    I’ve got the following series: Uncharted, Resistance, Infamous, and Killzone. Then there’s a grab bag of other titles: Last of Us, Heavy Rain, etc.

    I’m really looking forward to Uncharted. I’ve heard great things about it.

  5. The first Uncharted did everything it was supposed to do. I really like it, but as I said be prepared for some tough times if you try it on the hardest setting. I’ve never played inFamous, but actually have one and two in my pile of shame. I’ve also got TLoU there, too. But my friend has played it and really enjoyed it.

    I’m off to Arkham City next. Loved Asylum and just finished a third play through of it so am looking forward to its sequel. I’m winston_in_a_box on the PSN so send me a friend request. Just make sure you say it’s you in it.

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