LucasArts Entertainment Company, LLC is an American video game licensor. Until 2013, it was also a video game developer and publisher. LucasArts is best known for its graphic adventure games, as well as games based on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Its headquarters are located in San Francisco, California.
It was founded in May 1982 by George Lucas as Lucasfilm Games, the video game development group of his film company, Lucasfilm. Lucas initially served as the company's chairman. During a 1990 reorganization of Lucas companies, the Lucasfilm Games division was renamed LucasArts.
Following the acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company in 2012, Disney halted all internal development at LucasArts on April 3, 2013, and laid off most of its staff. However, LucasArts remained open so that it could retain its function as a licensor.
Development of games based on the Star Wars license will be developed by Electronic Arts, through an exclusive license, for the core gaming market. Disney Interactive Studios retained the ability to develop, and LucasArts retained the ability to license, the franchise for the casual gaming market. Development of video games based upon other Lucasfilm properties will now be assumed by Disney Interactive Studios or licensed to third parties.
The long-lived LucasArts logo, affectionately known as the "Gold Guy", was introduced in 1991 and consisted of a crude gold-colored figure resembling a petroglyph, standing on a purple letter "L" inscribed with the company name. The figure had its hands up in the air, as if a sun were rising from behind him. It was also said to resemble an eye, with the rays of the sun as eyelashes. The logo was revised in late 2005, losing the letter "L" pedestal and introducing a more rounded version of the gold-colored figure.
In the games, the figure sometimes does an action like throw a lightsaber or cast Force Lightning. The logo is possibly a reference to the ending of George Lucas' first film, THX 1138, in which the main character stands silhouetted with his arms raised during a sunset. In 1998, LucasArts approached the Finnish game developer Remedy Entertainment, citing that their logo was copied from the top portion of the LucasArts logo and threatening legal action. Remedy was by that time already in the process of redesigning their logo, so they complied by taking the old logo offline from their website and introducing a new logo a little later.
The first decade
The company was founded in May 1982 as the video game development group of Lucasfilm Limited, the film production company of George Lucas. Lucas wanted his company to branch out into other areas of entertainment, so he cooperated with Atari to produce video games.
The first results of this collaboration were unique action games like Ballblazer in 1984, and Rescue on Fractalus!. Beta versions of both games were leaked to pirate bulletin boards exactly one week after Atari had received unprotected copies for a marketing review, and were in wide circulation months before the original release date. In 1984, they were released for the Atari 5200 under the Lucasfilm Games label. Versions for home computers were not released until 1985, by publisher Epyx. Lucasfilm's next two games were Koronis Rift and The Eidolon. Their first games were only developed by Lucasfilm, and a publisher would distribute the games. Atari published their games for Atari systems, Activision and Epyx would do their computer publishing. Maniac Mansion was the first game to be published and developed by Lucasfilm Games.
The early charter of Lucasfilm Games was to make experimental, innovative, and technologically advanced video games. Habitat, an early online role-playing game, was one such title. It was only released as a beta test in 1986 by Quantum Link, an online service for the Commodore 64. Quantum Link could not provide the bandwidth at the time to support the game, so the full Habitat was never released outside of the beta test. However, Lucasfilm Games recouped the cost of development by releasing a sized down version called Club Caribe in 1998. Lucasfilm later licensed the software to Fujitsu, who released it in Japan as Fujitsu Habitat in 1990. Fujitsu later licensed Habitat for worldwide distribution, and released an updated version called WorldsAway in 1996. The latest iteration of Habitat is VZones, which was released in 2003.
In 1990, in a reorganization of the Lucas companies, the Games Division of Lucasfilm became part of the newly created LucasArts Entertainment Company, together with Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. Later ILM and Skywalker Sound were consolidated in Lucas Digital Ltd. and LucasArts became the official name of the former Games Division.
iMUSE (Interactive MUsic Streaming Engine) is an interactive music system used in a number of LucasArts video games. It synchronizes music with the visual action in the game, and transitions from one musical theme to another. iMUSE was developed in the early 1990s by composers Michael Land and Peter McConnell while working at LucasArts. The iMUSE system is patented by LucasArts, and was added to the SCUMM game engine in 1991. The first game to use iMUSE was Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and it has been used in all LucasArts adventure games since. It has also been used for some non-adventure LucasArts titles, including Star Wars: X-Wing (DOS version), Star Wars: TIE Fighter (DOS version), and Star Wars: Dark Forces.
The first adventure game developed by Lucasfilm Games was Labyrinth in 1986, based on the Lucasfilm movie of the same name. The 1987 title Maniac Mansion introduced SCUMM, the scripting language behind most of the company's later adventure offerings. The adventures released in the following years, such as Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure (1989), LOOM (1990) and especially the critically acclaimed The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), helped Lucasfilm Games build a reputation as one of the leading developers in the genre. It was often referred to as one of the two big names in the field, competing with Sierra On-line as a developer of high quality adventures. The first half of the 1990s was the heyday for the company's adventure fame, with classic titles such as Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992) and the Maniac Mansion sequel Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle (1993).
In the latter half of the decade, the popularity of adventure games faded and the costs associated with game development increased as high-resolution art and CD quality audio became standard fare. The PC market wanted titles that would show off expensive new graphics cards to best effect, a change replicated in the home console market as the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 dictated the nature of the majority of games produced for those platforms. The adventure genre failed to find popularity with the masses of new gamers.
Despite their declining popularity, LucasArts still continued to release adventure titles. In 1997, The Curse of Monkey Island, the last LucasArts adventure game to retain traditional two-dimensional graphics and point-and-click interface, was released. This was followed by Grim Fandango in 1998, LucasArts' first attempt to convert a 2D adventure to a 3D environment. The highly stylised visuals, superb voice acting and sophisticated writing earned Grim Fandango many plaudits, including GameSpot's Game of the Year award. Escape from Monkey Island (2000), the fourth installment in the Monkey Island series, featured the same control scheme as Grim Fandango, and was generally well received. It is the last original adventure game the company has released.
Two sequels to existing franchises, Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels and Sam & Max: Freelance Police, were announced to be in development but these projects were cancelled, in 2003 and 2004 respectively, before the games were finished. When the rights to the Sam and Max franchise expired in 2005, the creator of Sam and Max, Steve Purcell, regained ownership. He then licensed Sam and Max to Telltale Games to be developed into an episodic game. Telltale Games is made up primarily of former LucasArts employees who had worked on the Sam and Max sequel and were let go after the project was canceled.
LucasArts halted adventure game development for the next five years, focusing instead on their Star Wars games. They remained silent and did not re-release their old games on digital distribution platforms, as other studios were doing at the time. However, in 2002, the company pledged that at least fifty percent of its releases would have nothing to do with Star Wars. It was not until 2009 that they returned to the genre. On June 1, 2009, LucasArts announced both The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition, a high definition remake of the original game with updated graphics, music and voice work, and Tales of Monkey Island, a new episodic installment in the Monkey Island series that was developed by Telltale Games.
Then, on July 6, 2009, they announced that they would be re-releasing a number of their classic games, including Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and LOOM, on Steam. The re-releases were, for the first time, native versions built for Microsoft Windows. This was the first time in many years that the studio had offered any support for its classic adventure titles.
The second game in the Monkey Island series also received a high definition remake, entitled Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge Special Edition in 2010. Both Monkey Island special edition games were released in a compilation, Monkey Island Special Edition Collection, exclusively in Europe in 2011.
The release of the unofficial SCUMM virtual machine, ScummVM, has led to something of a resurgence for LucasArts adventure games among present-day gamers. Using ScummVM, legacy adventure titles can easily be run on modern computers and even more unusual platforms such as video game consoles, mobile phones and PDAs.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lucasfilm Games developed a series of military vehicle simulation games, the first of which were the naval simulations PHM Pegasus in 1986 and Strike Fleet in 1987. These two titles were published by Electronic Arts for a variety of computer platforms, including PC, Commodore 64 and Apple II. In 1988, Battlehawks 1942 launched a trilogy of World War II air combat simulations, giving the player a chance to fly as an American or Japanese pilot in the Pacific Theater. Battlehawks 1942 was followed by Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain (1989), recreating the battle between the Luftwaffe and RAF for Britain's air supremacy. The trilogy ended with Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe in 1991, in which the player could choose to fly on either the American or German side. The trilogy was lauded for its historical accuracy and detailed supplementary material—Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, for instance, was accompanied by a 224-page historical manual.
The World War II trilogy was created by a team led by Lawrence Holland, a game designer who later founded Totally Games. Totally Games would continue to develop games almost exclusively to LucasArts, the most noted outcome of the symbiosis being the X-Wing series. They were also responsible for LucasArts' 2003 return to the aerial battles of World War II with Secret Weapons Over Normandy, a title released on PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC.
First Star Wars games
Even though LucasArts had created games based on other Lucasfilm properties before (Labyrinth, Indiana Jones), they did not use the Star Wars license until the early 1990s: Star Wars action games began appearing on the Nintendo consoles, but were developed by other companies for LucasArts. The first in-house development was the space combat simulator X-Wing, developed by Larry Holland's independent team, which went on to spawn a successful series.
The CD-ROM-only Star Wars game Rebel Assault became one of the biggest successes of the company and was considered a killer app for CD-ROM drives in the early 1990s. From 2005 to 2007, LucasArts published the three games in the Lego Star Wars series.
After the unprecedented success of id Software's Doom the PC gaming market shifted towards production of three-dimensional first person shooters. LucasArts contributed to this trend with the 1995 release of Star Wars: Dark Forces, a first person shooter that successfully transplanted the Doom formula to a Star Wars setting. The Dark Forces Strategy guide claims that development was well underway before Doom was released and that the game was pushed back once Doom hit shelves so that it could be polished. The game was well received and spawned a new franchise: the Jedi Knight games. This began with the sequel to Dark Forces, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II released in 1997; this game reflected the changing face of PC gaming, being one of the first games to appreciably benefit when used in conjunction with a dedicated 3D graphics card like 3dfx's Voodoo range. The game received an expansion pack, Mysteries of the Sith, in 1998 and a full sequel in 2002 with Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. 2003's Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy can be seen as a spin-off from the series, but was less well received by reviewers, who complained that the franchise was becoming formulaic. Apart from Star Wars-themed 3D shooters, LucasArts also created the western-themed game Outlaws in 1997 and Armed and Dangerous (in collaboration with Planet Moon Studios) in 2003.
In the New Millennium
As the quantity of Star Wars games increased, many critics felt the quality began to drop; this was especially noted with the titles released since the cinematic release of The Phantom Menace.
In 2002, LucasArts recognized that the over-reliance on Star Wars was reducing the quality of its output, and announced that future releases would be at least 50% non-Star Wars-related. However, many of the original titles were either unsuccessful or even cancelled before release and currently LucasArts has again mainly Star Wars titles in production.
2003 saw the fruitful collaboration of LucasArts and BioWare on the exceptionally well reviewed role-playing game, Knights of the Old Republic. Combining a three-dimensional environment with the type of storytelling and writing that made LucasArts' early adventure games so memorable, this game was seen as breathing new life into the Star Wars franchise. Its 2004 sequel Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords continued in the same vein, attempting to adopt a similar template as the original, uniting voice acting with an unfolding story which picked up where the last game left off. However, LucasArts was criticized for forcing the developer Obsidian Entertainment to release the sequel too early, resulting in a significant amount of unfinished content being cut from the game and what many consider to be a disappointing and convoluted storyline with an incomplete ending. Also the rush release of this game to the PC platform caused many bugs and crashes. This still has not been fixed by patches.
In 2003 LucasArts and the Star Wars franchise also branched out in a new direction—the world of the MMORPG, with the creation of Star Wars Galaxies. After a successful launch, the first expansion, Jump to Lightspeed, was released in 2004. The new expansion featured the addition of real-time space combat. This was continued in Rage of the Wookies, an additional expansion which added an additional planet for users to explore. Also, a new expansion, Trials of Obi-Wan was released on November 1, 2005 consisting of several new missions focusing on the Episode 3 planet, Mustafar. While Star Wars Galaxies still retains a devoted following, it has also alienated many players. Star Wars Galaxies has chosen to ignore the timeline established in the original films, during which the game is set, and has allowed players to play as Jedi characters. The game has also undergone several major redesigns, which have been received with decidedly mixed reactions by players.
Restructuring under Jim Ward
In April 2004, Jim Ward, VP of marketing, online and global distributions at Lucasfilm, was appointed president of LucasArts. Ward performed a top-to-bottom audit of LucasArts infrastructure, describing the company's state as "quite a mess." In 2003, LucasArts had reportedly grossed just over $100 million according to NPD, primarily from its Star Wars titles – significantly less than the grosses from the year's top single titles such as Halo. Ward produced a five-year investment plan to refit the company. Previous Star Wars games had been produced by external developers such as Raven Software, Bioware and Obsidian; Ward now prioritized making LucasArts' internal game development work effectively and adapt to the evolving games industry. Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Republic Commando, and Star Wars: Episode III survived cuts that closed down other in-development games and reduced staff from about 450 to 190 employees.
In 2004, LucasArts released Star Wars: Battlefront, based on the same formula as the popular Battlefield series of games. It ended up becoming the best-selling Star Wars game of all time to that point, aided by a marketing tie-in with the original trilogy DVD release. Its sequel, Star Wars: Battlefront II, was released November 1, 2005 and features new locales such as Episode III planets Mustafar, Mygeeto, etc., in addition to space combat, playable Jedi, and new special units like Bothan spies and Imperial officers. In this same year, the second "Knights of the Old Republic" game was in production. LucasArts told Obsidian Entertainment that the project needed to be finished by that year's holiday season. Obsidian was forced to cut huge amounts of content from the game, resulting in a rushed, unfinished KotOR II.
In May 2005, LucasArts released Revenge of the Sith, a third person action game based on the film. Also in 2005, LucasArts released Star Wars: Republic Commando, and one of their few non-Star Wars games, Mercenaries, developed by Pandemic Studios. On February 16, 2006, LucasArts released Star Wars: Empire at War, a real-time strategy game developed by Petroglyph. September 12, 2006 saw the release of Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, the sequel to the popular Lego Star Wars: The Video Game. Lego Star Wars II follows the same basic format as the first game, but, as the name indicates, covers the original Star Wars trilogy. On September 16, 2008, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was released to mixed reviews, though quickly became the best-selling Star Wars game of all time.
In May 2007, LucasArts announced Fracture and stated that "new intellectual properties serve a vital role to the growth of LucasArts". Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction was labelled the number one new IP in 2005 and Thrillville the number one new children's IP in 2006. Fracture was released on 7 October 2008 to average reviews. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction was released on January 11, 2007 to critical and commercial success which led to a sequel, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Thrillville was released on November 21, 2006, and Thrillville: Off the Rails was released on October 16, 2007. The rapid scaling down of internal projects at LucasArts was also reflected in its handling of 3rd Party developed games. During the tenure of John Ward, Free Radical was contracted to produce Battlefront 3 and had been in production for 2 years. Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis described how working with LucasArts evolved from being "the best relationship we'd ever had with a publisher] to withholding money for 6 months and abusing the independent developer's position to withhold the full project cancellation fee - ultimately resulting in Free Radical entering administration.
Development under Rodriguez and beyond
Jim Ward left the company early February 2008, for personal reasons. He was replaced by Howard Roffman as interim president. Darrell Rodriguez, who came from Electronic Arts, took Roffman's place in April 2008. About a month prior to release of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II LucasArts scaled down the internal development studio. The aforementioned game received a mediocre score from some media outlets such as IGN, Gamespot and GameTrailers. After release, minor adjustment in staffing resulted in even more layoffs.
The successor to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, in the form of the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, was announced on October 21, 2008, at an invitation-only press event. developed by BioWare. It was released in December 2011. They also published Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes in 2009 for all current systems. The game is a tie-in to The Clone Wars television series and was released on October 6, 2009, receiving generally negative reviews. During television network G4's coverage of the 2006 E3 Convention, a LucasArts executive was asked about the return of popular franchises such as Monkey Island. The executive responded that the company was currently focusing on new franchises, and that LucasArts may return to the "classic franchises" in 2015, though it was unclear as to whether the date was put forwards as an actual projection, or hyperbole. This turned out to be hyperbole, as LucasArts and Telltale Games announced new adventure games in a joint press release in 2009. The games announced were Tales of Monkey Island, which was to be developed by Telltale, and a LucasArts-developed enhanced remake of the 1990 title The Secret of Monkey Island, with the intent of bringing the old game to a new audience. According to LucasArts, this announcement was "just the start of LucasArts’ new mission to revitalize its deep portfolio of beloved gaming franchises". Following the success of this, LucasArts released the sequel, Monkey Island 2 Special Edition in the summer of 2010.
The company began experiencing turnovers in layoffs in 2010. Darrell Rodriguez, left in May after just two years on the job. A Lucasfilm board of Directors and a games industry veteran, Jerry Bowerman, filled in during the transition. Rodriguez was ultimately replaced in June by Paul Meegan, formerly of Gears of War developer Epic Games. In July 2010, Haden Blackman, who served as creative director on the original Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, LucasArts' most successful internally produced title of recent years, and the sequel, unexpectedly left. However, the company scored a surprise coup in August 2010 when Clint Hocking, a high-profile game director from Ubisoft, announced that he would be joining LucasArts. His tenure at LucasArts was short lived however, as Clint Hocking left LucasArts in June 2012 before the game he was working on was released. In September 2010, a third of the employees at LucasArts were fired. In March 2011, LucasArts published a sequel to the popular Lego Star Wars series, Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, based on the Clone Wars animated series, once again developed by Traveler's Tales. Sony Online Entertainment announced in June 2011 that Star Wars Galaxies would be shutting down at the end of 2011. It's services were terminated December 15, 2011
In April 2012 they published Kinect Star Wars, developed by Terminal Reality, for the Xbox 360. It was poorly reviewed by critics, receiving an aggregated score of 53.32% on GameRankings and 55/100 on Metacritic.
In August 2012, Paul Meegan, who replaced Rodriguez as president in 2010, also left his position at LucasArts after just two years on the job. Kevin Parker and Gio Corsi were named to co-lead the studio until the studio would choose a permanent president, with the former as interim head of business operations and the latter as interim head of studio production.
Acquisition by Disney
On October 30, 2012, LucasArts was acquired by The Walt Disney Company through the acquisition of its parent company Lucasfilm in a deal for $4.05 billion. Disney stated that its present intent was for all employees at Lucasfilm and its subsidiaries to remain at their present positions. A LucasArts representative said that "for the time being, all projects are business as usual".
The first game to be released through LucasArts under Disney ownership was Angry Birds Star Wars, which was released on November 8, 2012. The game was developed and published by Rovio Entertainment, and licensed by LucasArts.
Information that surfaced in March 2013 suggested that Star Wars games already in development, such as Star Wars: 1313 and First Assault, may have been put on hold in order to put more focus on Star Wars Episode VII. At the time, LucasArts also had three untitled games in development: an open-world RPG, an FPS, and an aerial combat game. According to a job listing posted via the Lucasfilm website, LucasArts was also planning on creating a new online service which they claimed would "revolutionize the industry."
On April 3, 2013, Disney confirmed that LucasArts would cease to operate as a video game developer. Future video games based on its properties will either be developed by Disney Interactive Studios or licensed to third-party developers. As a result, all of its future internal projects were cancelled, and most of its staff were laid off from the company. However, LucasArts remained open with a skeleton staff of fewer than ten employees so it could retain its function as a video game licensor. Disney indicated that the new business model would "[minimize] the company's risk while achieving a broad portfolio of quality Star Wars games." Around 150 staff members lost their jobs as a result of the closure. The shutdown of LucasArts also resulted in layoffs at fellow visual effects subsidiary Industrial Light & Magic; as many of LucasArts' employees also worked for ILM, the company was left overstaffed.
On May 6, 2013 it was revealed that Electronic Arts would develop Star Wars games, through an exclusive license, for the core gaming market. Through this agreement, Disney Interactive Studios retained the ability to develop games for the casual gaming market.
After the acquisition
On May 6, 2013, it was revealed that Electronic Arts would develop Star Wars games, through an exclusive license, for the core gaming market. Through this agreement, Disney Interactive Studios retained the ability to develop, and LucasArts retained the ability to license, the franchise for the casual gaming market.
On July 15, 2013, a prequel to Angry Birds Star Wars based on the Star Wars prequel trilogy, titled Angry Birds Star Wars II, was announced. It will be the first game released through LucasArts under Disney ownership when it launches for iOS platforms on September 19, 2013.
The first Star Wars game announced under Electronic Arts' exclusive license was Star Wars: Battlefront, a reboot to Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II, being developed by DICE. The game is scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2015.
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