The gutting of LucasArts earlier this week was a tragic loss for the video game industry, but for many of us, it was more than that.
It was more severe of a loss than the cancelled projects, the rumored 150 job losses, or the between-the-lines message that even a company as diverse and global as Disney puts little value in game development.
No, for us, the death of LucasArts was the death of a dream. A dream rose-tinted by nostalgia, perhaps, but a dream nevertheless. A dream that one day, the unique environment that birthed what may have been the most wildly creative studio in mainstream game development history would, somehow, come back.
It was a far-fetched dream, but as long as the name LucasArts continued to exist, a small part of us held onto it.
A lot of innovation came out of the studio, but without a doubt, the strongest legacy it left behind was its series of graphical adventure games from the '80s and '90s. Unique, story-driven, easily-accessible adventures with titles like Grim Fandango, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.
By most accounts the last truly great LucasArts (or Lucasfilm Games, if you go back far enough) game was released almost 15 years ago, and yet, many in the industry still hold these titles as the benchmark not only for comedy writing in games, but for narrative-driven games of all kinds.
But why is that? Why is it that we still consider these games among our pinnacle achievements as an industry? Why do developers still namedrop Monkey Island in pitch meetings when discussing their proposed game's story? Why do we all continue to mentally associate the word "LucasArts" as the splash screen we see before a graphical adventure game, even though the company hadn't released one in over a decade?
We turned to our game development community to find out. Specifically, we asked via Twitter and Facebook:
What is it about the classic LucasArts adventure games that makes them timeless? Why are we still talking about them today?
We've collected a good majority of the answers below. Following these responses, as a special treat, Lucasfilm Games veteran David Fox attempts to answer that question with his own insider perspective.
(Image credits: MobyGames, Lemon64, The Scumm Bar)
Helping Green Tentacle get a recording contract was the least of your worries in Maniac Mansion.
They often broke the fourth wall and made you feel like you were in on the joke. As if the joke was "Can you believe we get to make these things?"
It was exhilarating and inspiring. Even today, my fantasy of what game development nirvana feels like stems from my experience playing those games, and the insinuation that they were created in the most liberating and creative environment on earth.
- Mike Mika, development director at Other Ocean Interactive
People always talk about how hard it is to make a comedy game, and maybe it's true, but LucasArts made it look easy. I still go back and play Day of the Tentacle every couple years with my wife, and man, that game holds up thanks to its perfect delivery.
From that one game I have learned a lot about how to be funny despite players having control over the timing of a scene, and I learned when you really just have to yank control away from them in order to drive a joke home.
- Dragon Fantasy creator Adam Rippon, of Muteki Corporation
Steven Spielberg himself laid the groundwork for The Dig.