LucasArts Entertainment Company is no more, but their best games will endure forever. Here are a few well worth remembering.
Disney's much-reported recent closure of LucasArts is depressing for a variety of reasons. First, it's depressing because of all the good people who lost their jobs in today's difficult economy. Second, it's depressing because it marks the end of one of video gaming's old guard. Lastly, it's depressing because the media has focused so much on the tragedy of the cancelled games (1313 chief among them), but not so much on the games that make up the company's storied history.
The legacy LucasArts leaves behind is, in my mind, much more worthy of comment. Here is a company that -- conceived by Star Wars creator George Lucas -- actively avoided making Star Wars games in its first few years of life. Instead, their mandate was to create new IP and attempt to pave the way for innovative digital story telling. Under that mandate, they created some of the most interesting and enduring PC games of their day, including the Maniac Mansion and the Monkey Island games.
Later, as they inevitably jumped into making Star Wars games, LucaArts created and/or published some of the best games (not just Star Wars games) that have ever graced the medium. Games like Jedi Knight, Jedi Knight 2, Knights of the Old Republic, the X-Wing series, the Rogue Squadron series, and more: these are the games that kept the fantasy of the Star Wars universe alive in the years between Return of the Jedi and the prequel trilogy.
LucasArts created the iMUSE engine, which revolutionized how games use music in the interactive form. When you hear modern games transition from quick, tense music to more natural, calm tunes after you beat a difficult swarm of enemies, you're hearing the direct result of LucasArts' innovations.
But the tech and games resulting from it are only part of the LucasArts legacy. The passion and creative juices that went into the games came from people who genuinely loved to entertain. They were given the rare opportunity to make masses of people happy, and they did so with little individual fanfare. It was a job, to be sure, but it was also a service that LucasArts was uniquely suited to provide. Because of LucasArts, the world became a slightly happier, slightly more wondrous place. Through good games and bad -- and there were plenty of bad, as no game developer with such a long history can avoid the occasional stinker -- LucasArts was an engine of entertainment in a world so capable of horror, sadness, and evil. LucasArts was a "fun factory," and its absence has made the world a slight bit darker.
// 19 May 2013 10:25am
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