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Regarding E3: Welcome Back, Lucasarts


A short while ago, on Pondercast, I described LucasArts as "A hulking zombie of a company which I wish someone would just shoot in the head so it could die." Those who didn't grow up with LucasArts games - perhaps console gamers or the younger among you - might not understand this response to the company but I haven't been alone in sharing it.

The short version of the story goes like this: From the early to mid-late nineties LucasArts were kings of the graphic adventure (and had a fair few great games in other genres, too), story based games which would involve a cast of characters, puzzles ranging from ingenious to irritating and boasting writing, stories and a level of artistic polish that few other games have managed to match. But slowly the talent that had fostered that golden age began to leave and start their own projects and the popularity of the adventure fell. The day that the excellent looking sequel to Sam and Max Hit the Road was cancelled was, for many, the final nail in the coffin. The LucasArts we knew and loved was dead. Even the leaked rumour of Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition provoked few expectations before details emerged, merely a few disgruntled murmurs of 'oh well, it's something, I suppose...'

And then came E3...

I don't want to go into the details of the news because it's all over the place and available in a more coherent manner than I would ever be able to manage to process through my hysteria-soaked brain. Here are the headlines though: the first Monkey Island game remade for XBLA and PC complete with voice actors from previous games, updated 2D graphics and re-recorded music, and an option to switch back to 'classic' mode a la R-Type Dimensions. On top of that, a brand new episodic series, Tales of Monkey Island developed by Telltale Games (and many of the team were part of that LucasArts golden age I mentioned) for Wiiware and PC with the first episode out in a little over a month.

Apart from the fact that all of this sounds great and that I have been extremely encouraged by some of the conversations I've had with a few the Telltale Games staff (many are long time fans and have frequented the #monkey-island IRC channel on Gamesurge for years), it marks a promising change in attitude from LucasArts itself. The last word we had from them about adventure games was back in those dark days of the Sam and Max cancellation. Then, we were told that the 'marketplace realities' meant they just couldn't release an almost-finished and great looking adventure game. Us fans got the message. They were no longer interested in adventures, and so all of this great intellectual property they had built up over more than ten years was just sat on, unlikely to see the day any time soon.

That was the worst part - not only did they neither have the talent nor the desire to make adventure games but as years went on they seemed completely oblivious to the growing market for this stuff and all the people who would simply love to make these games given the opportunity.

These latest announcements show that, at long last, LucasArts get it. Concentrating on a remake in-house, it's difficult to go wrong. A fully voiced Secret of Monkey Island has long been the dream of many a fan and people are genuinely excited to see the level of work that seems to have gone into this. Meanwhile, outsourcing the new Monkey Island to Telltale Games is a great move. It's a company which is comprised of old hands at LucasArts (including one of the holy trinity of Gilbert, Grossman, and Schafer that created the original) and genuine fans, and so just about the only developer in existence today that has a chance of doing the series justice.

Yes - finally someone up there in LucasArts is making some smart decisions: finding ways to get the old games out to an old audience while at the same time satisfying the fans, then allowing the old IP to be licensed out to those who genuinely want and are able to make the games.

LucasArts may not be the developer that I knew and loved but these announcements herald a marked change in attitude - if someone had predicted this a month ago I would simply have laughed. So, hulking zombie LucasArts, you've given me reason to stay my trigger finger - long may it continue.

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About KestrelPione of us since 4:37 AM on 07.16.2008

Age: 30
Location: S.E. London, UK
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