Editor's note: This Postmortem appears in the August issue of Game Developer magazine.In the fall of 1998, Lucas Learning emerged from its shell with the offering of its first educational software product, Star Wars DroidWorks. The game combines first-person shooter game technology with solid educational content to create something different: a thoughtful game that's actually fun and helps kids to learn within the game medium.
In Star Wars DroidWorks, you take on the role of a rebel spy disguised as a Jawa droid engineer, assigned the mission of learning the art of droid building. You use your skills in solving several physical puzzles, collecting clues that lead you along the path to a secret factory, where Jabba the Hutt has been making evil assassin droids for the Empire. To defeat Jabba, you have to engineer droids that roll, jump, walk, and run. In many cases, you have to build droids with special abilities — they have to move heavy objects, see in the dark, or perform some special task — and you have to explore and apply basic physical principles in order to infiltrate the factory and re-program the assassin droids.
DroidWorks met with rave reviews from family magazines, online educational sites, teachers, kids, parents, and even from many hard-core gaming sites. We did see a number of gamers scratching their heads and thinking "what's the point?" but for the most part, people seemed to love it both for its entertainment value and its educational value. Eventually, we won several awards including the first-ever award for children's interactive software from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the NewMedia Invision gold medal in the children's category, the NewMedia Invision award in the entertainment category (against "pure" entertainment titles including Age of Empires, Unreal, and The X-Files), and the 1998 Codie award in the young adult category.
As a company assembled to create a new kind of educational software, we knew we couldn't create just another action game. In addition to the unique challenges introduced by an educational bent, DroidWorks faced the same technical, artistic, and design hurtles as strictly entertainment computer games. We combined gaming styles as diverse as 3D puzzle games used in Tomb Raider, engineering and outfitting games like Terra Nova, adventure games like Monkey Island, and RPG games like Diablo, and we took ambitious steps forward to tackle them all at once.