It’s a sad truth that all technology soon becomes obsolete as new innovations and inventions eventually overwhelm those that came before it. It’s the same in the world of business. Buggy whips used to be big business. Not any more. Businesses that don’t succeed at evolving with the times soon find themselves in the dustbin of history. Today LucasArts joined a long line of game developers that failed to evolve.
LucasArts will always be known as the developer of anything and everything Star Wars. But that’s not all they were. While many of their games bore the logo of the galaxy far far away, it was some of the games they produced which occurred a little while ago and really not all that far away that earned the developer some of its fondest places in our memory. Games like Maniac Mansion or Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffs or Full Throttle. Or how about the Monkey Island series, or Grim Fandango and The Dig? Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was a far better fourth Indiana Jones adventure than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could ever hope to be. These were adventure games that spawned a golden age for some gamers.
Of course, there were the Star Wars games as well – so many it’s impossible to remember all of them at this point. Quite frankly, not all of them were very good. But for a while there, when there was no official expanded universe beyond a couple of books, Star Wars games were both amazing and something like bonus content for people hungry for new adventures, new worlds, and new villains. Games like Tie Fighter and X-Wing, Dark Forces, and Jedi Knight each blazed a trail into the expanded universe, allowing fans to feel like they were experiencing what it was like to fly a starfighter in combat, or to wield a lightsaber and use the Force for good or ill.
Painfully, when a company experiences such heights they will sooner or later come crashing down. For LucasArts, that time clearly began with the rush to cash in on the prequel trilogy of Star Wars movies. Abandoned was the rich history of adventure games and well thought out simulators. Suddenly any idea seemingly was good enough. For every Armed and Dangerous there were five games that were just â€œXâ€ in the Star Wars universe. Want vehicular combat? There’s a Star Wars game for that. F-Zero like racing game? Star Wars game. Battlefield 1942? There’s a Star Wars game or two for that. MMO? We’ll take two! Not all of these games were bad, some of them even have rabid followings. But it did establish a tradition of no imagination, which was worse than a bad game ever could be.
The sad truth is LucasArts was dead long before Disney finally put everybody out of their misery. Kinect Star Wars may have been the final straw, but LucasArts hadn’t made a truly remarkable game in quite some time. As I sit here typing I’m having a really hard time coming up with the last internally developed LucasArts game that was truly spectacular in every way. Yet it’s because of that fact that I’m hopeful for the future. Knights of the Old Republic was developed externally and felt more like Star Wars than anything in years. So too were the hugely entertaining Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones games. LucasArts published the first Mercenaries game. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to let these games be developed externally. It is sad for those who worked for the company and who were let go? No question. Is it sad that 1313 will apparently never see the light of day? Sure, but even that seemed to be following the tradition of being Uncharted in the Star Wars universe. So perhaps it’s for the best.
For now I will simply be happy that when I look back at the games LucasArts gave us, the happy memories will easily outshine any of the lesser games. And that is really all that anyone can ask from an entertainment provider.