LucasArts wasn’t allowed to make Star Wars games when it opened, nor to spend any of parent Lucasfilm’s money on making games, former staff revealed in a GDC session this week.
“We weren’t allowed to touch any Lucasfilm properties initially, which the company viewed as money in the bank. They could license that out and we were forced by ourselves to do our own creative stuff.”
As reported by Polygon, David Fox, the second employee of LucasArts, wanted Rescue on Fractalus to be a Star Wars game – but the team weren’t allowed to use the property.
“We were told upfront we were not allowed to do Star Wars titles. I was really upset. I joined the company because I wanted to be in Star Wars and [making games] was how I wanted to do it,” he said.
Steve Arnold backed up Fox’s comment, but said that LucasArts has greater freedom than other Lucasfilf divisions as a result.
“One of the greatest strengths we had was we were not working on Star Wars. We had the brand and the credibility and the franchise of Star Wars but we didn’t have to play in that universe. We were a group that lived inside a super creative, technologically-astute company and we got to do our own creations,” he said.
“We were probably the only group outside of George in the company that got to make up new stories, and call them Lucasfilm. That gave us a fair amount of freedom and flexibility, but also challenge. I would argue that helped us.”
Chip Morningstar agreed.
“We weren’t allowed to touch any Lucasfilm properties initially, which the company viewed as money in the bank. They could license that out and we were forced by ourselves to do our own creative stuff,” he said.
“All these other really creative, capable people at Lucasfilm were forced to march to George’s decisions.”
Although LucasArts couldn’t work on Star Wars, other companies would come sniffing around, hopeful to cash in on the lucrative license, and the development team was able to leverage this interest to fund other projects.
“One of the principles was we never did anything with the company’s own money. We had to get someone else to pay for it,” Morningstar revealed.
“People would come to us just wanting to bask in the reflective glory of Star Wars. Companies would be coming to us all the time. People in the group would come up with ideas. Steve would keep a file of this stuff, and when a company would come wandering through and Steve would pull a couple ideas out and see if they could sell them on kicking us some money to develop it.”
The game development and publishing arm of Lucasfilm, LucasArts was shuttered in April 2013, about five months after Disney acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion. The projects it was working on, including Star Wars 1313, have been cancelled. Disney has awarded EA a Star Wars license – DICE is working on the Battlefront series – and has pushed out a few social and mobile games. We’re also expecting a Disney Infinity Star Wars expansion.
While it was still forbidden to touch Star Wars, LucasArts produced some of the best-loved games of its time – Maniac Mansion, several Indiana Jones adventures, The Secret of Monkey Island and many more.