How LucasArts fell apart

Jason Schreier, writing for Kotaku about the final years at famed gaming studio LucasArts:

“It never felt like people at the top cared about making great games,” said another person connected to LucasArts. “A lot of awesome projects never went anywhere because, ‘it’s not gonna make enough money.’”

Take the case of “Star Wars GTA,” for example. During the early days of the 1313 project, some top staff at LucasArts wanted it to be an open-world, Grand Theft Auto-style Star Wars game set on Coruscant, according to two people familiar with that project. It was a fantasy for many on the team, and the thought is enticing—who wouldn’t want to explore and cause mayhem in a world full of seedy bounty hunters and Star Wars crime families?

Looking at their contemporaries at Rockstar and Ubisoft, LucasArts staffers plotted out how many people it would take to build a game like that—hundreds—and how much money it’d cost—millions. That was too much of a risk for the executives at LucasFilm, sources say.

“Of course there was no appetite to make that kind of investment,” said one person familiar with goings-on at LucasArts. “That idea kinda came and went literally within the span of two months.”

Pretty tragic. At least we have the legacy of some amazing games like the Monkey Island series, Grim Fandango, and Tie Fighter. In a way, the best of the indie revolution we’re seeing today reminds me a lot about stellar studios like LucasArts. They take often dormant, forgotten genres and reinvent them in a way that makes them critical and fan favorites (e.g. Spelunky, FTL).