On April 3rd, one of the consequences of Disney’s takeover of the Lucasfilm empire is that LucasArts, the publisher and developer of games, is going to be shut down. One of the most notable announcements related to this was that the Star Wars: 1313 game project will not continue, and was considered to be the great white hope for the future of Star Wars gaming.
Some people have spoken of the non-Star Wars games that Lucasarts was well known for, particularly the way that games such as Secret of Monkey Island or Sam and Max challenged our assumptions about games. I thought I’d give an highlight of the things I really loved about LucasArts that were definitive to my growing up. If LucasArts will no longer continue I will be sympathetic to the fact that some of the later games were sub-par, but I will miss what LucasArts meant for me during my formative years. I thought I’d talk about some of my highlights.
Dark Forces/Jedi Knight/the Kyle Katarn games
Whenever one is having a night in with my crew, one of the staples alongside blues-based jamming, ordering unhealthy takeaway and watching bad action movies is to play a first person shooter. One of the cliches I say at this point is ‘guys I should let you know I have motion sickness, but I’m happy to watch you play’. This is the legacy of me playing Dark Forces!
Dark Forces was a shooter in a Star Wars setting, addressing stories that were sideways to the main films. I especially liked the original story, and how it created a new situation within a universe that I already knew and loved. Then came Jedi Knight (the Sequel) and this was one of the defining games of my early teens! I absolutely loved the multiplayer and it indulged my fantasy of having lightsaber battles in the most interesting of settings, over walkways with a massive pit underneath. I also was introduced to modding through Jedi Knight. Modding was one of the most awesome things about gaming in the late 90s in my view, plus I learned a few skills from the community. One of my first email addresses was from a server that hosted Jedi Knigth Mods (Massassitemple.net).
Then came the sequels to Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast and and Jedi Academy, which are games which had a big impact on my late teens. I absolutely loved the way that those games engaged my imagination, and gave me the satisfying indulgence of being part of a science fiction world. Although in that world most people were trying to kill my almost all of the time. That’s probably not a good life lesson.
Rebel Assault and Rebel Assault II
Another couple of games I loved from LucasArts are by objective standards, pretty bad games. Rebel Assault and Rebel Assualt II were my first introductions to PC gaming. Most of my experience had been from console games. What marked the games as significant to me was the ways in which different modes of gaming were within the same game – from flying to first person shooting to differing arcade modes.
I loved the way I engaged with the game, and introducing family friends to the game. I would play Rebel Assault II repeatedly, even though I knew how this game on rails would turn out, there was the illusion of real agency in this game that had replayability. Also the 90s were a pretty dull time compared to today, so replaying games was something that was probably a bit more common.
X-Wing, Tie Fighter, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, X-Wing Alliance
One of my family friends had a demo on a floppy disk of Tie Fighter. We played it endlessly for the longest time. I was introduced to the X-wing series of games through the later game: X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. I loved the fact that Tie fighter and XvT was that you could play as the bad guys. I also liked the narratives present in X-Wing and Tie Fighter, and the ‘awards’ system and presence of secondary objectives. I loved learning about flying the spacecraft, where later on in XvT, and X-Wing Alliance, involved an extremely complicated system, like adjusting shields, laser power, targeting system and mapping.
The Star Wars flight simulators were a big part of my growing up. They were so monumental to me as say, my musical interests. They introduced a more abstract way of perceiving the world, thinking about memorising keyboard combinations and even the clunky 1990s joystick was a lot of fun. Back in the day, joysticks had this really awkward input plug that my modern laptop would have no hope of using. Ah, the days before USB!
I’ll miss the decline of LucasArts, not for what it is now, but for what it was. That’s how I’ll remember LucasArts.