Looking back at what it was like to work at Lucasfilm Games
"He once said in a company meeting, ‘they're out there somewhere in the desert...We don't really know what they're doing, but someday they'll come back to us with tales of great stuff, heroic deeds that have been done.'"
- Lucasfilm Games expat Chip Morningstar remembers George Lucas speaking fondly of the developers who staffed his now-defunct game studio.
The folks over at USGamer have published an excellent, lengthy Lucasfilm Games feature
today that offers interesting insight into the work that went on at one of the industry's seminal studios.
The feature is culled from a lengthy interview that took place in the wake of the Lucasfilm Games postmortem
at GDC earlier this year.
During the panel, former Lucasfilm Games members Ron Gilbert, Chip Morningstar, David Fox, Peter Langston, and Steve Arnold spoke at length about the formation of Lucasfilm Games -- which later became LucasArts -- and their work on classic titles like Rescue on Fractalus
and Maniac Mansion
Afterwards they spoke with USGamer in deeper detail about what it was like to work at Lucasfilm Games, and how George Lucas involved himself in the studio's day-to-day operations after founding it as a tax dodge.
"He was looking for ways this new technology was going to expand the way that people engaged with stories," said Arnold, who pointed out that George Lucas rarely played games and entrusted the business of making good ones to the developers he'd hired. "He would say, 'I don't know your market, you guys should figure out what you're supposed to be doing.'"
The Lucasfilm Games team was also initially barred from working with established Lucasfilm IP, which forced them to get creative when it came to pitching projects.
"With those early games, especially Maniac Mansion
, we were so constrained that we had to make really smart choices on stuff. I think that's a benefit," said Gilbert. "If we could have done Star Wars, that's all we would have done."
Working within those constraints drove them to build genre-bending games like Habitat
During the interview the group also shared some of the interesting challenges faced during development of early Lucasfilm titles -- like figuring out how to let players pick their own team of three from among the seven protagonists in Maniac Mansion
"Gary and I created a little map of the mansion on this big sheet of cardboard. Then we had these sheets of acetate, that clear stuff. We had six or seven sheets, and we'd write all the objects – where it was picked up and where it was used – and then each of the characters were on a different sheet of acetate," said Gilbert. "We could layer these sheets down over the thing. But at the end of the day, it was completely flawed at some level."
The full interview is rife with similar anecdotes from the early days of Lucasfilm Games, and is well worth reading over on the USGamer website