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To wrap this article up, we asked David Fox -- a Lucasfilm Games alum who was there from the very beginning -- to contribute his thoughts on why the studio's graphical adventures are still held in such high esteem. Here's what he had to say.
When I first started working at Lucasfilm in 1982, we had a heavy burden to bear. How could we create games that were as compelling as the Star Wars films but without mining ideas from the Star Wars universe? While other game companies of the 1980s had to rely on the income from their games to survive, we had the unheard-of luxury of taking our time to get our games right, with years to experiment, try new things, push the envelope, and with no pressure from marketing, focus testing, or even George Lucas. We also had time to develop our company culture, starting where the Lucasfilm culture left off.
So we’d spend months thinking about our games... brainstorming with the other brilliant designers, refining, reworking, revamping, tossing out the parts that didn’t work (or the entire concept) and starting again. One of our edicts was “don’t ship shit” and we wanted to make sure we never did.
Maybe working in a creatively supportive environment like that, one that wasn’t just focused on the bottom line, enabled us to think outside the box, take time to add tons of backstory and detail... tune, tune, and tune again. Until WE felt it was time to ship. Unheard of then and I’m sure even more unusual now (other than with indie games done by people in their spare time).
And yes, we had wonderfully creative people to work with. And that wasn’t an accident. For years, whenever a new designer was about to be hired, they had to run the gauntlet... interviewing with all the other designers. Would they fit in? How collaborative were they? How creative? It was a club where all the members had to vote to let the next one in. We weren’t about to change our culture or quality level, so we all took this responsibly very seriously. And our games showed it.
We never thought about our games lasting for more than a year or two on the shelves. Hardware was changing so fast then. We didn’t consider that people would build emulators and SCUMMVM so they could continue playing them on successively more powerful platforms. I wonder if we had known that if we wouldn't have been much more self-conscious about our designs?
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, David Fox's contribution to the graphical adventure genre.
I think one thing that differentiated our graphic adventure games from "the competition" was our goal of creating puzzles that made people laugh with joy when they solved them. We wanted people to have that a-ha! moment when they figured it all out. I think "the competition's" graphic adventures were sometimes mean-spirited, adding barriers to play that sometimes seemed like they were messing with the player.
I know that we learned a lot as we continued to refine the art of creating these games, but you can see elements of the above even with our first ones. We wanted to play with the player, and reward him/her for being outrageously creative in their solutions.