Saturday, 13 April 2013
Disney and LucasArts
Gaming fans around the world are still reeling from the news that Disney chose to close down LucasArts, the gaming arm of LucasFilm, which it bought last October for a record $4 billion. There have been many divided opinions on it across the board as some loved LucasArts and some thought they went downhill over the years. However, the fact is, it's still a sad day to see a beloved developer finally close it's doors for the final time and no longer make games.
First conceived in 1982 by George Lucas as a way of expanding what he had and making a multitude of entertainment across all formats. Their first game, Ballblazer was released in 1985 for all home computers and the NES under their name of LucasFilm Games. They released several other games under this brand, the most iconic of which was Maniac Mansion in 1987.
As a gamer, I started playing LucasArts games. I remember playing some of their best games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Last Crusade, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, The Dig, Monkey Island, Zombies ate my Neighbors. Dark Forces, Rebel Assault, TIE fighter, X-Wing and so much more. They were a staple of my childhood and I will remember them fondly. I'm not blinded by nostalgia, LucasArts is far from perfect. Who can ever forget stinkers like Masters of Teras Kasi or Demolition? It seems that in the era post 1998-2004, LucasArts were more interested in quantity and not quality, pumping out loads of sub-par Star Wars games and licensing them to other developers.
However in 2004, Jim Ward took over and I respect him. He made some very difficult and tough choices for LucasArts at time time, such as making games that would put LucasArts back at the top of the ladder. He also reduced the staff from 450 right down to 190. He was concerned with making games that were about top quality, rather than just pumping them out. Under Ward, there were major successes in the Republic Commando game as well as the Battlefront games. As well as having later hits with episode 3, Galaxies and Force Unleashed, he also made new IPs in Fracture, Mercenaries and Thrillville. He also kept up the good relationships with other developers like Free Radical.
However, when Ward left in 2008 for personal reasons, his replacement Darrell Rodriguez changed things up. Things went back downhill with the mediocre Force Unleashed 2 and because of it's low scores, Rodriguez reorganised LucasArts once again and laid off more staff. His only success so far is the hugely popular MMO The Old Republic, which is one of the most played on the planet. LucasArts kept experiencing layoffs until 2010, when he was replaced by Paul Meegan. Under Meegan, the average Star wars Kinect was released and then we got the talk of Battlefront 3 and Star Wars 1313.
However, with the subsequent news of Disney shutting down LucasArts, all future projects have been canned to make way for Episode VIII. Disney later revealed that LucasArts would no longer create or develop any games and all future titles would be made by Disney Interactive or licensed to third party developers. This resulted in massive lay offs from LucasArts and ILM.
As a gamer, I am sad it's happened and we have lost an awesome studio with an awesome library of games. Sure, not all of them were perfect, but what studio is? It was inevitable as the quality of games had indeed slipped over the years and things were getting worse. I hope though with the licenses they do have, the best ones end up with studios who will cherish them, like Telltale and I hope this doesn't mean the end of classic franchises and IPs.