With the official word that Lucasfilm’s video game division, LucasArts, was being effectively shut down this week, there’s been a lot of reminiscing of the great titles that LucasArts had developed and some investigation for why the closing happened, and the search for a silver lining.
With the company’s re-alignment to solely focus on licensing Lucasfilm’s intellectual property to outside game developers, in-house game development has been shut down, finally cancelling Star Wars: 1313 and First Assault games. (See our guest column from Paul Ens suggesting that Dark Horse could turn these game projects into graphic novels.) I’ve rounded up some of the views on the closure, with a look at LucasArts’ recent history, and some tributes to the game company that started in 1982 and the people who worked there, as well as my own nostalgic look at some of the games that were part of my life.
Wednesday, it was announced that Disney is closing down LucasArts, the video game division of Lucasfilm. This news did not come as a surprise to me, nor likely to many who follow the storied company closely. In the process, an estimated 150 employees have been laid off, including friends and former colleagues of mine. To they who worked very hard everyday to bring interactive Star Wars entertainment to the fans, we wish the best of luck.
Like every aspect of Star Wars fandom, the pros and cons of this move will be hotly discussed and contested among fans, and perhaps I will join you when the wound has healed somewhat.
Meanwhile, for those who lament that they will never see cancelled LucasArts projects Star Wars: 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault, might I suggest that you may one day have a rescuer in Dark Horse Comics?
Kotaku reported and GameInformer confirmed with Lucasfilm that the company is in the process of shutting down LucasArts. Kotaku says that 150 have been laid off and both Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313 have been canceled. Variety is reporting that the layoffs are spilling over to Industrial Light & Magic as well.
Here’s part of the official statement:
“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.”
This has expected for a while, and there was plenty of speculation that LucasArts was headed for the bin even before Disney was in the picture.
Ron Gilbert, creator and co-creater of several of the company’s most iconic games, says goodbye to Lucasfilm Games.
Unlike the ending of Clone Wars, reports of a possible LucasArts shutdown in the works are anything but surprising. While Kotaku’s report on the future of 1313 was mostly based on sources, the absence of the game – perhaps LucasArt’s hottest upcoming property – from any recent industry events is rather telling.
This week, another report from GamesIndustry International has been making the rounds. LucasArts told them that the speculation of a shutdown is “one hundred percent not true” and that “everything is moving ahead.”
Ex-employees are less optimistic, echoing much of what you’ll hear from gamers themselves these days:
The studio’s performance in recent years has not impressed former LucasArts employees. One ex-LucasArts employee had this to say: “The ‘business’ has been on life-support since the Star Wars license and subsequent development for their best title went to Bioware/EA. I’m frankly amazed that they’ve stayed in business this long. No stomach for truly original product, and slender means to produce their previous cash cows – Indy and Star Wars.”
Given Disney’s history with their gaming divisions, along with some other hints, you can’t blame anyone for worrying about the future of LucasArts these days.
More info has been leaking out about Star Wars: First Assault, a multiplayer shooter that was likely a predecessor to Battlefront III, but is now in possible limbo, much like 1313.
First spotted last October, though never officially announced, the game was meant to prove there was a market for a new Star Wars shooter, and be the engine for a potential Battlefront III according to Kotaku earlier this week, though the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm seems to have put its release into question.
Now Kotaku has some additional screenshots of Cloud City and Tatooine, and also some video, including some gameplay footage and a promo teaser, made back in last part of 2012.
Are these leaks intentional to gauge potential interest in such a product? Or is this another glimpse at stuff that could have been…
Upcoming nonfiction. Guess what’s appeared on the Random House online catalog? It’s J. W. Rinzler’s Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, with a release date of October 8. In other Rinzler news, he’s announced that the next art book will be devoted to concept art. As someone who already owns all six concept art books devoted to the films, I hope we’ll get to see something new from the actual movies… If it comes out next year, would it be too early to hope for an Episode VII peek?
The blogside. Tor’s Ryan Britt looks at how Heir to the Empire turned Star Wars into science fiction. Lucasfilm’s Jennifer Heddle discusses balancing between work and being a fan. And Tosche Station’s Bria visits two extremes of the EU with The Crystal Star and Starfighters of Adumar.
Conventions. Dark Horse had a panel at Emerald City Comicon yesterday, and Amy Ratcliffe was kind enough to live-tweet it for those of us playing at home. While there was no breaking Star Wars news, there were a few insights into Star Wars and Legacy comics.
Short stories. Del Rey’s Frank Parisi reveals that John Ostrander has an Insider story coming up, ‘Eruption,’ with cover art by Jan Duursema. (It’ll also appear in the hardcover of Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void.) A Jason Fry story featuring a Clone Wars character was also recently greenlit. He also hints at something we’ll be seeing in Miller’s Kenobi.
The Last Jedi. Author Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff talks to NJOE (with Del Rey’s Shelly Shapiro) and TFN.
Gaming. We don’t even try to cover gaming anymore – trust me, it’s for the best – but if you’re curious about the (rumored) fate of 1313, well, here’s the word on the street.
Somewhere on the scale between ‘Ugh, no’ (Boba Fett/Yoda) and ‘Well… okay?’ (Han Solo) there exists AICN reporting a possible Knights of the Old Republic spin-off movie. Somewhere a gamer is screeching like a little girl, but I just roll my eyes. Don’t get too excited, though – “literally a ton of activity going on regarding a whole bunch of ideas,” the report also says.
Apparently there are also rumors going around Bioware about Drew Karpyshyn being involved. I thought he was working on some fantasy novels (and a screenplay that will need to be shopped around, which doesn’t exactly scream ‘part of a major franchise’ to me.) Whatever, rumor mill.
UPDATE: Let the record show…
Looking for some new Mara Jade artwork? Fantasy Flight Games slid a few image of Mara Jade into the base set of Star Wars: The Card Game, which came out in December. The game features artwork on all of the cards, ranging from concept art from Ralph McQuarrie to new artwork done for Fantasy Flight. While not directly named on any cards, Mara Jade makes her appearance as the Emperor’s Hand on two cards in the Sith deck sets for the Dark Side player.
After more than a year of tweaking, Fantasy Flight Games has finally released Star Wars: The Card Game. First announced and demoed at Gencon 2011 as a cooperative game, it has apparently been revamped to be a competitive two-player game, where players use strategy to battle for galactic supremacy in the original trilogy era.
Unlike the previous constructed deck Star Wars card games (such as from Decipher, Wizards of the Coast, and WizKids) that were sold in packs, this game comes as a single box set, and from the box contents, it seems that there’s a lot of tokens for this Living Card Game.
But is it any good? Designer Nate French does have a good track record – three of his other Living Card Games are in the top 20 in the Customizable category on BoardGameGeek, while Fantasy Flight has a few other titles in the top twenty (including their Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game).
While the main set (retails for $40) may be coming out a little late for the holiday season, Fantasy Flight does have its eye on future expansion, with two Hoth-themed supplemental sets due in early 2013. Meanwhile, check out the rules of the game online or listen to a fan-produced podcast.
Does this seem awfully quick to you? In any case, upgrade your installation of Angry Birds Star Wars today to get the 20 free Hoth levels, which finally introduce the Princess Leia bird.