Letting Go is Hard To Do…
Disney has ended all internal development of games at LucasArts – cancelling Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault in the process. It now stands as a licencing platform, not an active developer.
Now, I for one am sad to see the end of LucasArts as a developer; but at the same time I am not. The thing is a lot of people won’t remember the LucasArts of my youth, a company that put out things like Day Of The Tentacle, Zombies Ate My Neighbours!, The Monkey Island games, Grim Fandango and more. They won’t remember the humour, the wit, the diversity of the content that LucasArts was once synonymous with in the video game market. There was once a time when a LucasArts game was an event; people would wait, queue for hours, wanting it badly. They had the world eating from their hands in what was still a brave new frontier, still a market growing and needing that sort of developer to shine a light and lead the way.
Of course, those days are long gone. It’s hard to remember anything that LucasArts have put out of late that is interesting and not related to Star Wars; in fact, I’m not sure I can name anything since Grim Fandango. The people who made these games – the likes of Tim Schafer, and the Zombies! team, have all moved on. Indeed, many could argue the writing was on the wall when they licensed out the Monkey Island series to Telltale Games, something which didn’t work out. In recent years, more and more projects have been external, such as the much-maligned Old Republic, and whilst Star Wars 1313 was looking interesting, the same can be said of most games in production. The delivery afterwards can be a horrifying reality check, and perhaps it’s better for people to imagine the superb game than be delivered the brutal truth; see Duke Nukem Forever as a testament to this notion that some things shouldn’t happen.
We have, as gamers, a big thirst for nostalgia and moreso for me, as I sit here flipping between BioShock Infinite and Vagrant Story (I don’t know how many hours I’ve put into the game, my old PS1 memory card hit the max at least a decade ago…), I sit back and think, “How awesome would an HD Vagrant Story be?” – however, then I remember the reality; Square-Enix is losing money, not very sharp on the finances right now as their expectations for Tomb Raider may have already proved, and for me hasn’t done a decent RPG in a rather long time, Infinite Undiscovery is the only recent one I can think of that I rather enjoyed and would still recommend. The Square-Enix, or rather Squaresoft, that got Vagrant Story to market doesn’t exist, or if it does it’s the horrible part that insisted the game be released and have lots of content cut from it (yup, it’s amazing how they cut loads from it and it’s STILL an impressively large landscape with a cohesive and great plot!). What I remember, what I am playing, was an ending, not a beginning. That company in the last thirteen years has disappeared from view and as much as it hurts me to say it, the idea of the current Square-Enix revamping Vagrant Story fills me with dread and fear. The company today stands on the shoulders of giants: it’s massive hits from the past, like Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy X. It has Grandia and a host of licenses that I remember from my youth, but we never see them again here in the West. The company has a wellspring of impressive content to utilise and yet it’s more interested in reboots and revamps, rather than a quality finish (see Tomb Raider – lovely as it is, it lacks polish!).
The LucasArts of my childhood is gone, and I have to accept that. Whilst I am terribly sad to see the end of them making games, I am reminded by the devil on my shoulder that they haven’t made anything that has impressed me in at least a decade. BioWare had the role of the old Old Republic titles, and they’ve tried shoehorning in Star Wars into things like SoulCalibur 4. LucasArts haven’t been with it for a very long time; they haven’t been the beacon of creativity and joy they used to be, and whilst I feel sad, it’s a nostalgic kind of sadness. I do not mourn their current form, but rather their prior form. It is now that I remember what they used to give us and how much I took for granted their flair and passions in the 90’s for video games, before it became all about milking the tits off of Star Wars as fast and hard as possible and too hell with the poor cow and if its udders shrivel up and die. It’s now that I think, “I don’t think I hated any of their games in the 90’s…”, a kind of remorseful realisation that those days are gone and I can never get them back again. It is now that I realise that the people involved with it all at the time have moved on, made other games and carved out their own careers.
I understand that people will be upset. But I do think we need to ask ourselves why we’re upset. The LucasArts I loved died a long time ago, and I think this just rammed home that I’ve never once mourned that loss. I just took it for granted and moved on, never once stopping to consider the implications of that action. We all have great gaming memories; some of them hold up today, like me and Vagrant Story. But you know what? I recently went back and played Tomba!, and I didn’t quite enjoy it in the same way I once did. The charm just… I don’t know, maybe I just grew up and it’s a little lost on me now. It’s something I should have left in the past, and don’t get me started on Alundra 2… UNCLEEEEAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN! Some of our memories don’t hold up to scrutiny more than ten years down the line.
Mourn and grieve, but know that in an odd Silver Lining, that licensing out some of those games might even make them better. Tim Schafer is still making games, can you imagine the joy of him asking and getting to do a new Day of the Tentacle title? Or the crisp madness of Platinum Games getting their filthy paws on Zombies! Ate My Neighbours? Whilst the heart of development has stopped, the organs can still be transplanted to more caring, grateful homes who could do so very much more with them than LucasArts ever could, or could be bothered to.
From death, hopefully, life. And if these things do happen, we will remember LucasArts more fondly as a result. It may not have been nice to us for years, it may have been stuck in a rut, but if the things it took for granted can be transplanted into new more loving and considerate homes, what it has done is of little importance. It’s what you do in death that can, in some cases, define your life.
I hope this is something Disney consider, because it would be such a waste otherwise to leave us like this…