Author Topic: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)  (Read 7585 times)

The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« on: March 16, 2015, 12:06:00 AM »

To begin at the beginning, George Lucas assembled his own special effects team during the production of Star Wars when he discovered Fox's own production office had been shut down, this team became known as Industrial Light And Magic. Lucas would use this team for the effects for all of his movies, but began to hire them out for other productions, notably to people like Steven Spielberg. The first big computer only production was the famous 1982 Wrath Of Khan Genesis sequence.




Loren Carpenter, a Boeing computer engineer, had in 1980 created an algorithm which generated fractal landscapes at random dynamically which enabled him to create amazing flyover vistas without modelling on surprisingly little computer power.  Off the back of this work he was offered a position at ILM, this technology is what is shown off in the Khan sequence along with Bill Reeves' particle system, some texture mapping and a generated star field. Carpenter went on to found Pixar and co-developed the rendering software all their movies are made with. The other famous early ILM sequence were the Stained Glass Knight from the 1985 Young Sherlock Holmes,  and the morphing sequence from Willow in 1988.


Now George Lucas wasn't really interested in computers but was aware the future of movie production would be intertwined with their development so funneled a small part of his massive fortune into ILM and a small division which worked on games. Perhaps with an eye on ILM's gestation at some point being mature enough for him to produce the later Star Wars trilogy as he envisioned it - and we know how this turned out - but you have to admit there was a massively innovative use of computers in their production. The Lucasfilm games division remit was to stay small, be the best and don't lose money. Lucas had minimal involvement with their team except maybe checking on what they were up to once or twice a year, and because of rights issues couldn't really let them produce anything Star Wars or Indiana Jones related. This made the team dejected but forced them to be creative, to think of new worlds of their own.



The first few things they created were as a result of being involved with ILM, David Fox wondered if Loren Carpenter's fractal algorithm could be adapted for home computers like the Apple II or Atari 5200, he said there was not but came back later after thinking about it for a few days with a working model. This became Rescue On Fractalus, Fox wanted the game non-violent where you would lead chasing spaceships into crashing to the landscape, Lucas contributed the notion there should be a fire button and some sense of trepidation which introduced the surprising appearance of aliens when trying to rescue crew members which shocked many players. The other title released in 1984 was BallBlazer which was also technologically innovative but neither made huge profits as it seems people at ATARI leaked their advanced test copies which were heavily pirated months before they were finally released. This made the early team very aware about the problem of piracy which was apparent in some of their later titles.



The next couple of titles were further extensions of the fractal algorithm, flipping the landscape upside down and clipping it turned the game into one where you traversed underground caves and battled dragons in The Ediolon. There were a few other similar titles but where we start to pick up speed is with the first movie tie-in the team were allowed to work on - Labyrinth. They jetted off to London during filming to acquaint themselves with the script and some early pieces of footage, Douglas Adams came in to work with them on the game design. They decided to do a graphical adventure game, though an idea floated by Adams was that like the Wizard Of Oz 1939 movie changing from black and white to colour, the game could begin as text adventure and then expand into a graphical experience. This stayed in the game because it was Adams' but was probably a bad idea, people starting the game up would feel gypped when they saw a text adventure when it was advertised with graphics. Though it did feature something innovative, the verb commands and nouns were on a scrolling list instead of having to guess and type in the parser. This removed the need to guess whatever scenario the game designer had imagined you doing, and enabled you to try all the options until you could solve the puzzle. Including Adams' other bizarre idea of 'adumbrate the elephant'. The short schedule they had to produce the game in time to tie-in with the film meant that much padding could be made of the fact the game was set in a Labyrinth, meaning repeating graphics in the form of a maze could fill up a lot of the game - this will be become a repeating feature.                               


Ron Gilbert was brought in as a Commodore 64 programmer to help convert their games to this platform, though began to show himself as a talented and imaginative addition to the team. He and one of the staff artists Gary Winnick were given time to develop a project of their own, an idea shaped from a shared love of Horror came up with the concept of a group of kids investigating a creep old house for their missing friend, this became Maniac Mansion. Gilbert didn't have much in the way of gameplay beyond this concept but spent time at home watching his younger brother play Sierra's King's Quest 1, which sparked how the game should work - an adventure game. Though noticing some of the pitfalls of Sierra's game - the unforgiving illogical and constant unnecessary deaths, having to steer your character around to interact with objects, having to guess the names of objects and actions constantly in order to interact. Perhaps taking some idea from the earlier Labyrinth title which he did not work on, Gilbert came up with a point-and-click interface with a cursor. You didn't have to maneuver your character around to interact, you just clicked on the screen and the character would walk there, or clicked on an object and your character would intuitively walk over to it avoiding any obstacles. You also had a menu of verbs and inventory objects which you clicked on in order to construct a logical action, or hovered your cursor over the game environment to see which objects were available to interact with, you didn't have to guess anymore. These changes made everything much more accessible and allowed a player to be curious with the trepidation of earlier titles.



What made the game so quick to produce under such a small team was the SCUMM engine Ron Gilbert developed with Aric Wilmunder, SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) enabled an easy scripting approach that avoids having to code in each platforms independent language meaning it was very quick to implement ideas into the game and convert to other systems. It was not the first point-and-click game, there had been earlier titles such as Enchanted Scepters or Déjà Vu on the Apple II, but these were monochrome, more RPG in style from a 1st person static view and had no real animation - innovative but not very fun. There has been no real comment whether Maniac Mansion was influenced by such titles but I think not. Maniac Mansion's graphics, animation, cast of characters and innovative cut-scenes made it as close to watching an interactive movie as it was at the time. The mysterious meteor, the missing teenage girl, the weird Edison family, the Green and Purple tentacles, the hamster in the microwave. The ability to select from multiple lines of dialogue gave you several humorous options to choose from and gave you further ability to go with whichever particular slant you wanted. But it wasn't perfect, the combination of 3 characters from a selection was 7 made the game extremely complicated, so much so there were many bugs and dead-ends in the game. After completing certain actions you effectively could not progress any further with certain combinations of character yet the game would not alert you to this happenstance leading obviously to frustration.




Concurrently David Fox developed Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders using Gilbert's SCUMM engine which was very similar to Maniac Mansion but used a theme of a journalist travelling between various continents and eventually Mars investigating a mysterious alien conspiracy. It contained a lot of new-age themes and wacky ideas and is generally a good game but thanks to Fox's paranoia about piracy there are points where your progress is obstructed by having to use copyright protection codes, and many mazes in the game to increase the length. Also a lot of the puzzles in the game were very difficult without the aid of a comical newspaper that came in the box. Ron Gilbert had been looking for another world to create after Maniac Mansion and after seeing Disney's Pirates Of The Carribean ride he had loved since he was a child came up with the theme of pirates. This is what would become Monkey Island. In the initial development for the game Steve Purcell would save the sprite drawings in Deluxe Paint with the filename *.brush and after forwarding the pictures of the main unnamed guy as Guy.brush the name stuck, Dave Grossman contributed his old D&D character's name 'Threepwood'.



The Secret Of Monkey Island's production came to halt when Lucas decided another film title was available to the team with Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, a game needed to be quickly developed in order to be release at the same time as the movie. The challenge was accepted but this title needed to be finished in something like 9 months therefore Ron Gilbert, David Fox and Noah Falstein were all drafted in as designers to get it done. While the game is of a decent quality it is flawed in that it has an incoherent style, it is a point-and-click graphic adventure incorporating a fist-fighting mechanism, and many maze sections again to easily fill out the game. Also there was a strange IQ system where points were scored from discovering various clues that were necessary to complete the game but may come in handy finding another route around certain portions, picking up a copy of Mein Kampf and giving it to a Nazi guard instead of having to fist-fight him for instance. Though there were many alternative routes through the game the majority of it including the ending was the same which made these alternative routes superfluous without much replayability. Curiously Ron Gilbert wrote a lot of jokey dialogue for the game which the others thought were `placeholder' until Falstein wrote the actual serious dialogue, Gilbert was not in agreement with this so Fox developed a random generator which would decide whose dialogue was used for each part of the game! While well received it seemed the team were in some portion working backwards by incorporating such anachronistic elements such as fight scenes and the ability to die.


Perhaps working on this rushed title enabled Gilbert to realise what simply wasn't working and revised a list of these elements returning to designing The Secret Of Monkey Island. He was joined in the development by Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer and tried to create a world of intrigue, adventure and more importantly humour. This is a landmark game in terms of being an engrossing and entertaining game where there is a definite sense of being in the character's skin, you know Guybrush's motivations and though might not quite know how to get there, you know what each objective is. With fun and interesting characters, dialogue and puzzles you could get lost questioning each character to discover what other funny things they might say. There was a real sense of exploring a world and trying to wring it dry of its detail, there was no chance of dying in this game with the exception of a few jokes at Sierra's expense, so there was no trepidation to your interaction. The hoary old maze sections and fighting returned though, but thanks to prevailing heads the maze sections in the game but very short and presented logically which greatly reduced the frustration of them. The jewel in the crown however is when you did have to enter the fighting mechanic in this game, instead of mashing at keys like previous titles while sword-fighting you simply rejoined with the appropriate remark. Taking advantage of the SCUMM system they already had by brilliant turning the fights into a dalliance of wits where you chose the best retort to a pirate's barb, it was a genius move and probably one of the most memorable aspects of the game, nine out of ten dairy farmers agree. Couple this with the heavily storied cut-scenes, love interest Elaine Marley and a brillaint antagonist in the ghost pirate LeChuck. It was as magnatising a game as it could be if I'm a three-headed monkey's uncle. One aspect that can't be forgotten is the brilliant score provided by Michael Land, absolutely pitch-perfect memorable tunes that punctuated each scene and still play around in your head years later. Lucasfilm had been self-publishing games since Maniac Mansion but around the time of Monkey Island changed their name to LucasArts to differentiate themselves from the movie part of the company. The same team somewhat expanded then came up with Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, another milestone in the genre with many other advancements to the SCUMM system including better graphics and a new music system iMUSE - where the music could seague dynamically between scores depending on actions onscreen.



There has been much insinuation that the Pirates Of The Carribean movies have taken much from the Monkey Island series, though Ron Gilbert counters that he had taken his initial idea from Disney's ride I feel when you compare many of the characters, scenes and humour that it may have evolved from elements of the game.



One special mention should be made for Brian Moriarty's Loom which came out just prior to Monkey Island. Another Lucasfilm title using the SCUMM engine it innovately used a system of a musical scale to interact with the environment. It was similarly dialogue and cut-scene driven with some clever elements and an interesting fantasy universe and is definitely work checking out, though it is a very short game and was meant to be expanded by two further sequels called Forge, and The Fold, which sadly never came to fruition. Noah Falstein and Hal Barwood meanwhile worked on Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, with much improved graphics and an interesting two character dynamic it was a great update on the earlier title, but still featured many backward-stepping elements: a three way game mode of a Wits Path, Fists Path or Team Path which affected how the game progressed. Character death was also a happenstance that had returned.



After the success of Monkey Island 2 development began on Maniac Mansion 2: Day Of The Tentacle, though Ron Gilbert left during initial production to start Humungous Entertainment to make adventure games for children. Grossman and Schafer continued and came up with yet more innovative game elements, three characters investigating the same environment between three different eras in time, enabling puzzles having to require parts to be completed in three different ages in order to progress. A very complicated and confusing sounding system but handled very well through the games narrative and system of logic. A fantasic game also with a good sense of humour where jokes can span 300 years, as a special irony to show how far games had come you could play the full original Maniac Mansion game on Weird Ed's bedroom computer. Dave Grossman left to join Gilbert at Humongous Entertainment after the completion of this title.



Steve Purcell one of the resident Lucasfilm artists was given the chance to develop his own comic series Sam & Max: Freelance Police into a game title in its own right. The characters were created by his brother as kids but signed them over to him in a contract during a childish fit of hubris and Steve developed them into his own quirky and humorous series of adventures. Purcell's great graphic style was showed off in this great game by removing the SCUMM verb system and allowing a fullscreen view by using the mouse buttons to scroll through different cursor elements - though this kind of system had been used earlier in something like Sierra's King's Quest 5. Tim Schafer worked on Full Throttle, another game which was slightly more serious investigating the pirates of the land instead - motorcycle gangs. Using lots of graphical advancements in animation and particularly 3D, it created a much closer movie atmosphere than had come before. However, at a detriment of the game being short, the long cutscenes left much less actual gameplay and superflous fighting elements were reintroduced.


Brian Moriarty returned with The Dig, a film tie in with a Steven Spielberg film. The actual film was canned during production but all efforts were turned to working on the game. Again, a very movie-like experience with great animation and long cut-scenes but a short and lonely if bleak game, trapped on an alien world with two disperate crewmembers. It missed the fun of previous titles but was an interesting effort. The Curse Of Monkey Island was another title which was released but without any input from its initial creators, with a very cartoony art style and somewhat lacking in the humour and imagination of its previous incarnations - it was by no means a bad game but did not live up to the standards of fans of the franchise. Steve Purcell left after production was finished and worked on a TV cartoon iteration of Sam & Max, and later moved to Pixar.



3D art has slowly been gaining momentum as the new art style for computer games, what with the success of CD-Rom titles such as Myst and 7th Guest, and movies like Pixar's Toy Story. Schafer went back to the grindstone with Grim Fandango, this time canning SCUMM and coming up with a new engine called GrimE, this time in 3D. This may have been an interesting turn but the control system returned to moving your character around the environment with keys before you were able to intereact with things - this was a step backwards back to the days of the early King's Quest. While it seems a lot of effort went into Grim Fandango's movie noir storyline and graphics the intuitive point-and-click interface had been somewhat removed and it seems people noticed when sales were sub-par. Shafer left LucasArts in 2000 to found Double Fine Productions. Work did continue on a sequel for Sam & Max and for Full Throttle but both were canned after sales for adventure games were waning, as demonstrated by Grim Fandango. LucasArts growing singleminded production of Star Wars related titled had been steadily been growing in the intervening years and become its one obsession. A few more adventure titles were attempted such as Escape From Monkey Island, but with diminishing returns and characterless 3D graphics without the engaging humour and characters of earlier titles the series fizzled out.

Telltale Games is a company that managed to acquire the rights to produce episodic adventures based on Sam & Max with input from Steve Purcell, they also acquired the rights to Monkey Island putting out episodes of Tales Of Monkey Island. Though more simplistic than the original LucasArts titles, they have some level of humour and inventiveness, though still use an ugly 3D graphics design which considering Purcell's involvement seems an abject waste.



Schafer has tentatively returned to the format with his crowdfunded project Broken Age, which is awaiting the release of its second installment.



Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman have gone a similar route with their retro title Thimbleweed Park due for release next year.

Ron Gilbert has said it would be his dream project to work on his version of the 3rd Monkey Island but the rights issues with Disney now owning Lucasfilm and it licenses would now be contentious. Hopefully at some point this can be worked out. 

Special Mention to Ken & Roberta Williams from Sierra Entertainment for their many titles including the Gabriel Knight series.

Other notable adventure titles:

Legend Of Kyrandia
Cruise For A Corpse
Lure Of The Temptress
Dragonsphere
Dreamweb
Dune
The Adventures Of Willy Beamish
Curse Of Enchantia
Darkseed
Simon The Sorcerer 1 & 2
Beneath A Steel Sky
The Gobliiins Series
Broken Sword
Blade Runner

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2015, 01:31:25 PM »
I think Day of The Tentacle might be my favourite game of all time. It's just the right side of 'zany', with a really, genuinely funny script, and some of the most beautifully convoluted puzzles.

Talking to Dead Cousin Ted about his 'bitching' hat. Goading George Washington into chopping down a kumquat tree by painting the fruit red. Kicking an old lady down the stairs. The whole time-spanning series of puzzles involving a hamster, a shop vac and a few thousand quarters.

"Mr President? May I offer you an excellent smoke?"

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2015, 06:23:55 PM »
Whoops, didn't know I couldn't edit a post the next day - it's littered with mistakes because I was really tired and well I thought fuckitpost, aside from the copious language errors I meant Gary Winnick teaming up with Ron Gilbert to do Thimbleweed Park.

I think Day of The Tentacle might be my favourite game of all time. It's just the right side of 'zany', with a really, genuinely funny script, and some of the most beautifully convoluted puzzles.

The art style by Peter Chan is great too with the wonky perspective aping those old cartoons from the 50s. They took the character triumvirate idea from Maniac Mansion that was such a hindrance and turned it into a strength by introducing the time travel concept. A very smart and complex concept handled extremely well with the game narrative.

I also wanted to expand on why exactly did adventure games fall out of favour? I sort of think it had to do with the move to 3D in a similar way to traditionally animated movies going out of favour at exactly the same time - was it really out of public favour or did the industry choose to only churn out ugly and non-intuitive games with 3D graphics? Ensuring the decline of the genre by default as it were?

biggytitbo

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2015, 07:44:36 PM »
I suppose it was mostly marketing - 2d games were considered old fashioned even though at that point 2d games actually looked miles better than their clunky, crude 3d counterparts. Those early 3d adventures are notoriously terrible too, adding nothing and taking a lot away from what was good about the genre in the first place.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2015, 09:09:34 PM »
Great post, very much enjoyed it. I only played Monkey Island 2 and Zac McKraken but I've very warm and fuzzy feelings about both. Marvellous times.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2015, 12:20:21 AM »
I suppose it was mostly marketing - 2d games were considered old fashioned even though at that point 2d games actually looked miles better than their clunky, crude 3d counterparts. Those early 3d adventures are notoriously terrible too, adding nothing and taking a lot away from what was good about the genre in the first place.

I think it's still true today, 3D animation still doesn't work as well in the adventure game format, you could make an argument about animated movies too - as far as they've come still don't have the nuance of traditional animation.

Great post, very much enjoyed it. I only played Monkey Island 2 and Zac McKraken but I've very warm and fuzzy feelings about both. Marvellous times.

You should really play some of the other titles mentioned, I haven't really touched games much in 15 years but I played Loom last week for two or three 20 minute sessions and completed it, it's very short. There's gold in them thar hills, I'm speaking as someone else who played Chase HQ in Rhyl arcades! Just find ScummVM which converts them to play on modern systems or find them on Steam, Grim Fandango has been re-released in HD with a point-and-click interface at last.

Forgot to note which I suppose is heavily implied that all the talk of software piracy with the obsession David Fox and the earlier team had may have rubbed off on new member Ron Gilbert and turned his mind to the Disney ride when thinking about the theme of his next title.

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2015, 12:50:20 AM »
Lovely write-up there Steven.

On the 3D issue - novelty is a powerful thing.  For a time, everything had to be 3D because that was what games were now like, and it didn't just affect adventure games.  There's even a gag about this in the options menu of Curse of Monkey Island, which seemed like an acknowledgement that it was out-of-step with current trends.  I think platformers suffered even more, as it took a good long while to fit that square peg into that round hole.

The real thing that killed adventure games at that point was, I think, them being a computer genre rather than a console one, at a time when the industry really shifted its focus.  There was nothing to stop these games being released for consoles - and some were, of course - but that market was very much dominated by action, the 'arcade in your living room' idea being particularly strong at the time.  High octane, short bursts.

A.A

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2015, 07:42:31 AM »
Day of the Tentacle has the best puzzles, and Full Throttle is the most well-plotted.

But Grim is my favourite. It didn't really go down so well with the recent remaster with folks complaining the puzzles are from a bygone era and too illogical. But I love them. I love the puzzles. I love the setting. I love the art. I love the story. I love the music. I love everything about it. The controls people always complained about I never had a problem with. Only adventure game I've played 8 times, beginning to end.

Curse and Escape from Monkey Island; Loom and The Dig are the adventures I didn't click with. Although I also think the last two seasons of Telltales Sam and Max were more enjoyable than Hit the Road, and I'm pretty sure that's blasphemy.

Oh well.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2015, 08:25:44 AM »
The real thing that killed adventure games at that point was, I think, them being a computer genre rather than a console one, at a time when the industry really shifted its focus.  There was nothing to stop these games being released for consoles - and some were, of course - but that market was very much dominated by action, the 'arcade in your living room' idea being particularly strong at the time.  High octane, short bursts.

That's a good point, though they had been converting them to the NES etc since the days of Maniac Mansion, Nintendo would make them remove a lot from the game for fear of offence. But you have to assume it was very difficult to play using a control pad to move a cursor around, would have slowed the game down to a crawl, and considering the average age of most console players the puzzles were probably a bit too difficult anyway. Once you get to the 1st person shooter and 3D obsessed time of the mid to late 90s I think you're right that the console market would have no truck with adventure titles.

But Grim is my favourite. It didn't really go down so well with the recent remaster with folks complaining the puzzles are from a bygone era and too illogical. But I love them. I love the puzzles. I love the setting. I love the art. I love the story. I love the music. I love everything about it. The controls people always complained about I never had a problem with. Only adventure game I've played 8 times, beginning to end.

This is just probably due to most of the players not having any adventure game experience, I haven't played Grim Fandango yet but will definitely get the new edition at some point. I've watched some videos of supposedly 'new'  players going through the Sam & Max episodes and the puzzles look super easy and I was getting infuriated by knowing what they had to do ages before they seemed to figure them out, the older games weren't nearly as easy or having such obvious guidance.

Quote
Curse and Escape from Monkey Island; Loom and The Dig are the adventures I didn't click with. Although I also think the last two seasons of Telltales Sam and Max were more enjoyable than Hit the Road, and I'm pretty sure that's blasphemy.

Might have something to do with whichever titles were your first exposure to the genre. It seems the new titles don't really let you get stuck, even if you can't work out the easy puzzles there's a clue system, where in the old games you could be stuck on something for days/weeks and just forced to try anything and everything to see what would happen. The new games may be more fun in this instance, but there was a certain joy or epiphany moment from being stuck on something for ages then finally solving it, I doubt that happens in these episodic titles.

Ron Gilbert and Tim Shafer have said there were a few problems still existent like that in even the classic games - pixel-hunting for objects as an example, or seemingly obscure puzzles that you can't really intimate very well. There are pitfalls, but having an inbuilt clue system is a bit silly as it's too tempting to use it at every instance, though in these internet days you could probably find the solution anyway, when back in the day you'd have to send money off for a hint book written in red ink and use filtered plastic to read it!

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2015, 08:45:57 AM »
Just like to agree with the console/multi-platform reason for the demise of the adventure game. In Amiga Power 2 somewhere Stuart Campbell said that publishers for the Amiga around this time were only interested in it as a test platform for the consoles. Multi-platform was where the money was.

Possibly also explains Grim Fandango's odd controls and why it's commercial failure almost wiped out the genre - publishers might have been looking at it as the title to bring adventure games to consoles in a big way.

I also wonder if the expense of artwork as palettes and resolutions increased might have also contributed. I believe this is part of the reason why 3D took off in such a big way - it was cheaper than drawing individual frames - and of course infinitely cheaper than hiring bad actors for FMV sequences.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2015, 09:53:51 PM »
Possibly also explains Grim Fandango's odd controls and why it's commercial failure almost wiped out the genre - publishers might have been looking at it as the title to bring adventure games to consoles in a big way.

Ah, that makes sense, Shafer was thinking about the wider market so adapted the controls for console systems. Though I don't understand why he couldn't have kept the PC version point-and-click and merely changed the other versions, maybe he took a risk? I don't think you can put all the blame on Grim Fandango as it seems LucasArts were in production with sequels for Sam & Max and Full Throttle until at least the early 2000s, and what about all the other publishers?

Though the PC had become all 3D graphics accelerator obsessed by the late 90s and so the 1st person shooter was dominant, and this spread to the consoles probably killing off interest in the format. Though now since the multi-million dollar game production budget has long been inflating and hit some sort of critical mass and we've seen the re-emergence of a more home-brew format which may have resurrected the genre because they're fairly easy and cheap to make with a small team, unless you're Tim Schafer.

Here's some other information about how a proposed Monkey Island movie may have become the kernel for The Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2015, 11:36:01 PM »
Schafer's talked quite a bit about his reasons for the original tank control system in Grim Fandango - in fact, I believe it's discussed in the optional commentary available in the recently released remastered version.

His theory was that, as a control system, point and click created a degree of disconnect between the player and the character. You're telling the character where to go, rather than being the character. Schafer felt that tank controls made you think about the game world from the character's POV, rather than an outside observer/influence, requiring you to more fully inhabit the role.

He's since said this may have been a mistake, and that it's an example of how succesfully arguing the case for an idea is not the same as being right.

That said, I got used to the tank controls pretty quickly and can sort of get where he's coming from with his original theory.

biggytitbo

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2015, 07:01:51 AM »
What was wrong with direct controls? Eg you push left the character goes left, up the character goes up?

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2015, 10:21:53 AM »
Grim has fixed camera angles so when you change angle the controls would change too. You could then get caught in a loop between two scenes. They added direct controls to the remaster and I hated them, but I'm so used to the tank controls having played Grim roughly seven thousand times.

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2015, 10:57:21 AM »
Schafer's talked quite a bit about his reasons for the original tank control system in Grim Fandango - in fact, I believe it's discussed in the optional commentary available in the recently released remastered version.

His theory was that, as a control system, point and click created a degree of disconnect between the player and the character. You're telling the character where to go, rather than being the character. Schafer felt that tank controls made you think about the game world from the character's POV, rather than an outside observer/influence, requiring you to more fully inhabit the role.

Ahh right - I thought if a possible console release was the reason for the disliked controls, I would have heard about it before. It just tied in nicely with the multiplatform aspect.

I'm not really immersion into the character really makes sense in an adventure game.

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2015, 11:46:40 AM »
Grim has fixed camera angles so when you change angle the controls would change too. You could then get caught in a loop between two scenes. They added direct controls to the remaster and I hated them, but I'm so used to the tank controls having played Grim roughly seven thousand times.

I'm sure they were in the original, because I recall trying them and thinking, "man these are Shite". With fixed and constantly changing camera angles, they only thing you can do is tank controls. If you can keep the fixed camera at one point for a long time, then relative controls can work, but it's not how Grim Fandango played out.

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2015, 12:48:03 PM »
I'm sure they were in the original, because I recall trying them and thinking, "man these are Shite". With fixed and constantly changing camera angles, they only thing you can do is tank controls. If you can keep the fixed camera at one point for a long time, then relative controls can work, but it's not how Grim Fandango played out.
Ah yes, you're right of course, they were in the original. They changed them to the default in the remaster for some reason.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2015, 01:23:42 PM »
I also wanted to expand on why exactly did adventure games fall out of favour? I sort of think it had to do with the move to 3D in a similar way to traditionally animated movies going out of favour at exactly the same time - was it really out of public favour or did the industry choose to only churn out ugly and non-intuitive games with 3D graphics? Ensuring the decline of the genre by default as it were?


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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2015, 01:27:13 PM »
Any Simon the Sorcerer not voiced by Chris Barrie is no Simon the Sorcerer in my mind.

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2015, 01:36:08 PM »
I did a bit of googling and one of the interesting things that came up was that LucasArts was churning out a lot of Star Wars games at the time because of the prequels. These were making a lot of money and their adventure games became a bit of a niche actvity compared to their core business of churning out Jar Jar Binks wrestling games. Makes it easier to understand how they dropped a genre they were so well known for.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2015, 07:47:38 PM »
His theory was that, as a control system, point and click created a degree of disconnect between the player and the character. You're telling the character where to go, rather than being the character. Schafer felt that tank controls made you think about the game world from the character's POV, rather than an outside observer/influence, requiring you to more fully inhabit the role.

That makes some sense, but if he wanted it from the character's POV, then why not just DO that? The first early point-and-click games WERE from POV, albeit a static monochrome one. The tank controls are non intuitive for me, if I'm interested in an object I want to click on it, not steer someone like a car around filing cabinets and desks or whatever to get to it, in short it's really annoying. Seeing as Schafer went on to do Psychonauts and Brutal Legend which were heavily console based I think the motive about it being developed for the console platform makes more sense which he may not admit to.

They were working on Full Throttle 2 which was an adventure with some very console related action sections, but that was canned and the team moved over to the already well underway Sam & Max sequel project which was going well into the 2000s using point-and-click AND 3D graphics, it was around 3/4 finished and everyone was happy with it including Steve Purcell when higher-ups at LucasArts canned it too. Some information on that here, though the site isn't working atm. They even had the idea of doing the sequel in a way that worked with episodic downloads for future Sam & Max cases, way before Telltale games or that format was a 'thing'. A lot of the people on the cancelled Sam & Max project joined Telltale Games when they got the Sam & Max license, so LucasArts sort of shot itself in the foot there. It's not like Grim Fandango shit the bed for the entire genre but something definitely happened to remove confidence in the format


Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2015, 06:42:58 PM »
Some re-releases.... http://www.gog.com/news/more_classics_from_lucasfilm_now_on_gogcom

Yeah just noticed this too!

I might give The Dig another stab, curious and po-faced as it is!

Also, does anyone know if the remastered version of Monkey Island 2 allows you to play with the voice acting but without the souped up graphics? Apparently you can't have one and not the other with the remaster of Secret, which is what stopped me from buying it.

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2015, 07:57:45 PM »
Yep, you can play Monkey Island II with the ruinous voice acting and the old graphics.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2015, 08:40:01 PM »
I don't think you can play Monkey 2 with the old graphics AND voice acting, there was actually a fan-made project to achieve just that I saw somewhere. I personally think the Special Editions graphics are very poor, yes they're higher resolution but the original sprites and backgrounds have just been drawn over by obviously worse artists than Steve Purcell or Peter Chan, the Monkey series was meant to have more realistic pulp Pirate fiction book covers ala Kidnapped etc, it shouldn't be anywhere near as cartoony as Curse Of. LucasArts put out an early trailer for Monkey 2 Special Edition that didn't look that bad for 3D, but it was a bait and switch and what we got wasn't up to snuff.

They were working on a Day Of The Tentacle Special Edition which may be a better subject, the project was scrapped but Double Fine have taken it on board and are currently working on it under Tim Shafer which bodes well, I'm interested to see what it will be like.


It's been such a long time since I've played these games I forgot that Loom was in fact the first Lucasfilm game where you couldn't die. Maniac Mansion had several scenarios where you could blow up the house and kill everyone, there were many other ways individual characters could die but you could still complete the game with one or more of the others, but it was a very messily orchestrated game with the selection of characters and their own special abilities, for all its innovations by no means perfect.

I might give The Dig another stab, curious and po-faced as it is!

The Dig is quite good actually, it's not that difficult as I remember completing it without any help when I was around 14. I've mistakenly attributed it to Brian Moriarty but in fact he lead the project for a couple of years after Noah Falstein gave it up, but left after creating his own engine for the game which became a can of worms and Sean Clarke took it over and changed a lot of things including moving the whole thing over to SCUMM. Moriarty's version was more RPG, you had to collect plants and things to keep your health going. There was also an Asian business man character who came along because he was a tycoon who financed the project, this was removed in the final stages of the game. The whole story of it emerging from an idea for Spielberg's Amazing Stories series, to a movie, to a game, to being scrapped and restarted three or four times, it was amazing it was as coherent and decent as it was. Read here for more.

There's also this on Amazon:


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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #25 on: March 19, 2015, 08:55:35 PM »
I don't think you can play Monkey 2 with the old graphics AND voice acting

You definitely can, because I have.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2015, 08:57:38 PM »
Yes my mistake, it's Monkey 1.

Anybody played the following, or can recommend something else?

The `A Vampyre Story' series.
Ghost Pirates Of Vooju Island
Kentucky Route Zero
Elegy
Gods Will Be Watching
Dyscourse
Catequesis

Didn't know there was a Duckman adventure game, worth a punt?

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Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2015, 10:28:16 PM »
I fancied a bit of Curse of Monkey Island nostalgia, as I enjoyed it a lot back in the day. Has anyone ever got it working via scummvm on a mac? It crashes almost the instant it starts for me every time.  I actually preferred it to 2, which always seemed s bit interminable to me. Although having played it on an amiga you spend 90% of the game swapping disks.

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #28 on: March 19, 2015, 11:22:06 PM »
I actually preferred it to 2, which always seemed s bit interminable to me. Although having played it on an amiga you spend 90% of the game swapping disks.

Do what I did and get Neil Cross or James Ellis to swap the disks while you play merrily away. In fact when Indy and the Fate of Atlantis came out I bought a hard drive for the Amiga, because this disk swapping shit was the pits. Couldn't get it to work and sent it back about 3 times, saw DOTT wasn't coming out on the Amiga due to this disk problem and promptly sold mine and got a mighty 386 SX 25 mhz and had to deal with the bullshit of DOS. 40 MB hard drive and Windows 3.1 took up 20 of that so I had to install Sam & Max and delete DOTT apart from the saves to play that, and vice versa!

Re: The Adventure Game (Or The Rise And Fall Of LucasArts)
« Reply #29 on: March 19, 2015, 11:48:00 PM »
Gods Will Be Watching

The original version is wonderful (though hardly an adventure game, more of a stat balancing / resource management thing) but the extended version gets tiresome pretty fast and the narrative is all but incoherent. There were some powerful individual moments, but it was deeply disappointing if one imagined what could have been. I was similarly let down by Always Sometimes Monsters, which was weirdly juvenile and yet another example of a game being billed as highly branching, while actually offering little more than an elastic narrative, with some superficial moral choices that presented little more than a binary between good and evil. Ever the way, I 'spose.

Of course, there are some wonderful lesser-known adventure games on GOG that I *would* heartily recommend playing if you haven't. I bloody love Sanitarium and must have played it through at least 4 times since I originally got my mitts on it as abandonware (but just buy it because it's worth having the rendered videos and voice acting). It's relatively effective as a horror game in a goofy, Goosebumpsy way, with psychological pretentions. But it's also just fascinatingly odd and... well, at first I thought it was inadvertently hilarious, but by the time you get to the credits with its song composed from the most ludicrous cuts of dialogue from the game, I had the sense that the developers knew how silly it all was. I don't want to give too much away, but you're basically travelling through the dreamscapes of a one-man mental. Cracking stuff! The only downside is that you have to get used to the fact that it's isometric (is it the only isometric adventure game?) but the graphics are decent enough, especially on a wonderful "haunted house" level, which I found surprisingly disquieting the first time through.





Torin's Passage is another good one and - arguably - the best adventure game Sierra ever developed. I think it's cartoony graphics (which I still find pretty appealing) meant that it has often been dismissed as a kid's game, but it's actually a lot darker than the likes of the King's Quest series... I guess it's the Return to Oz to King's Quest's Wizard. Like Sanitarium, it's composed of very different worlds, each with its own puzzle mechanics to some extent (although they don't stray far from the adventure game style). The worlds are inventive and convincing. The maze puzzle in the game is actually alright and doesn't detract from the rest of it. You can die, but you basically just get restored to life in the same position, moments before your death - which works pretty well. There's a sense of mild peril, but it's not so annoying that you have to save all the time. To be fair, I haven't played it for years, but I remember it very fondly and suspect it's held up better than most.



The Cat Lady is worth a punt... mostly for its consistency of vision. It's a vaguely off-putting game (although I suspect this was intentional) in a queasy sort of way, but offers an interesting world to enter into. Some of the horror is pretty heavy-handed, but there's something about it that made it transfixing to play. Partly perhaps, the novelty of playing a not wholly sympathetic but very convincingly written female protagonist... or it could have been the voice acting, which is generally excellent. I won't be rushing to re-play it in a hurry, but it's probably one of the best examples of a psychological horror game. Plot-wise, think Jacob's Ladder crossed with Se7en [Spoiler] (without the war trauma or head in a box (though it is precisely the kind of game that would include a head in a box)[/Spoiler].



(this shot contains more colour than most of the game)

Oh and The Last Door is utterly lovely. It's an on-going thing (though what you can buy from GOG feels relatively complete in-and-of itself) that reminds me of Anchorhead and the adventure games that the Zero Punctuation guy used to make... which is to say that's it's Lovecraftian. It doesn't feel particularly derivative though and has some of the flat-out best sound design I've ever encountered in a horror game. Because the graphics are so pixellated, the richness of the sound and music does a great job at stimulating the imagination to make you think that you've seen more than you have (which is precisely how a Lovecraft game should work since it's a foolish endeavor to visually represent horrors that are supposed to be beyond human visual comprehension).