Star Wars Wednesday - LucasArts Shutdown

Sad Star Wars news today. LucasArts is officially closed, all current projects cancelled. Disney says they'll be licensing Star Wars and other IPs out to other game studios. No matter what you may think of LucasArts efforts over the years, they'll always be one of the iconic video game companies in history, thanks to fun and sometimes groundbreaking games.

Of course, most of my experience with LucasArts is with Star Wars games. I didn't really get into their other titles, partly due to interest, partly due to the fact that due to wrist issues, I had to severely limit my video game playing time. Actually, I still do. Anyway, that meant sticking to games I really wanted to play. While I played Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe at a friend's house, along with a bit of CD blockbuster Rebel Assault, X-Wing was the first real jump into a LucasArts game. I eventually got a computer that could run it. It was the first real Star Wars flight sim, complete with music. Even Star Wars midi music was great fun to play the game to. Having the Imperial March kick in when the Imperial reinforcements arrived was always a jolt, and made the game that much more cinematic.

Below is a very typical mission. One of the best things about the game was that you had to worry about power levels to Engines, Shields and Weapons, trying to balance out what you needed at any given moment to accomplish the mission and keep from getting blasted out of space. Frantically jamming the keyboard to desparately power up failing shields while executing some crazy maneuver was great fun. I've had this video running while doing other things, and I can still recognize every sound effect and music cue.

And, of course, the moment everyone was waiting for: the Trench Run, as a historic mission. Of course, they had to throw a bunch of stuff in the trench that wasn't in the movie...that would never bother me...every single time...right?

Then TIE Fighter came along and really upped everything about the game. It was a blast. I had a great screen shot where I was flying a TIE Intercepter (I think) and I suddenly realized there was green lasers flashing by my ship to hit my target. I paused, changed to 3rd person view and saw that  my wingman was behind me but angled about 90 degrees in rotation to my ship, firing his lasers above and below my cockpit, and between my bent wings.

By the end, you flew missions with Darth Vader. You could record missions and then view the mission from any ship in the battle. Watching Darth Vader fly was....interesting. He would fly on his own for awhile, then radically swoop in to blow away a target, then fly away again.

Later came Xwing vs TIE Fighter, but I never got much of a chance to play against other opponents, which was the main point of the game. Fun, but never worked out like I hoped. And I didn't play much X Wing Alliance for reasons I don't actually recall.  I think it fell into a gap when my computer wasn't up to the task, and maybe arm issues.

I always hoped they would do an update to the series, and while the space battles in games like Battlefront were ok, they just didn't live up to the detail of the earlier efforts. Still....maybe some publisher will go for it. Maybe a kickstarter revival with Lawrence Holland? Might set a kickstarter record.

I'll get into another favorite - Dark Forces and its sequels - in an upcoming blog post.

So, while Star Wars video games aren't finished, it will seem odd to see LucasArts on there as just a licensor. Sort of like seeing Atari on new games now....the name is there, but it isn't quite the same.

Oh, and if you're up to the task, apparently you can upgrade your X-Wing game to more modern standards.

Update........Wow....Raven has just posted the source code for Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy....that might lead to some interesting stuff in the future. Not sure how they can do that, but there it is.

Update 2: Layoffs at ILM as a ripple effect of the LucasArts shutdown. They couldn't adjust fast enough, even with new movies and projects in the future.