Roundup: LucasArts closed: Tributes & Inquiries

lucasarts-logo-grim-fandango_250x250With 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.

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Rumor mill: Is LucasArts facing a shutdown?

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.
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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.

Reports: Lucasfilm Animation layoffs forthcoming

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There have been multiple reports that layoffs are on the way for Lucasfilm Animation in the wake of the cancellation of The Clone Wars.

If this does pan out, it’s not particularly surprising: Our own Stooge predicted the end of Lucasfilm Animation last week. Alas, as sad as it is, it only makes sense that Disney would eliminate a department that’s redundant to their own extensive resources. Our pal Bryan at Big Shiny Robot has a level-headed examination of the yet-unconfirmed moves:

But renewed calls to panic in this case aren’t justified. This seems wholly consistent with the plan we were upset about a week ago. What’s being done to The Clone Wars is unfair, both to the fans and the artists who create the show, and it will never hurt to voice your support, but being upset at a cat for eating a mouse (or in this case a giant mouse eating a television show) is to deny the nature of the thing.

That said, the letter-writing campaign that’s being pushed is far from useless: If you enjoyed The Clone Wars then, yes, make your voice heard. It may be too late to turn back the clock for Clone Wars, but it might make a difference for the remaining episodes, or show that there’s enough interest to sustain another show.

But it’s also time to sit down, take a deep breath, and make sure you’re presenting your case in a calm and rational manner. Panic only breeds more panic, and that’s not the kind of statement that’s going to make a good impression on the higher-ups at Disney – or anyone else.

UPDATE: The good news is, Bryan got word from Lucasfilm that the ‘bonus content’ that was promised – and deeply doubted – “will absolutely be made available to fans.”

Reports: Are The Clone Wars over for good?

UPDATE: Apparently so.

The Clone Wars Season Five logoJedi News is reporting that ‘several sources’ have told them that the Star Wars animated series is at an end. Big Shiny Robot has heard much the same, and believes an official announcement is imminent.

The Clone Wars’ fate under Disney has been uncertain for some time now: Cartoon Network only had the rights to air it through season 5, and many expected – or hoped – that it would move to the Disney XD channel.

Disney has its annual upfront presentation of its networks’ programming for the 2013-2014 season on March 12, so this will be the right time for some news – either The Clone Wars will be on its list, or it won’t. If it isn’t on the Disney lineup, then hopefully we’ll have some announcement of what the future does hold for the show. While being popular, the show is fairly expensive to produce, and without George Lucas championing the show like a billionaire who does whatever he wants with his own money, it could be that the show’s budget (despite raising the bar on animation for a weekly TV series) could be working against renewal in the post-George era.

It’s not yet known what will happen to the completed episodes of what would be the sixth season: Jedi News believes a direct-to-DVD/Blu-Ray release of some sort is possible. Other sources indicate that an online distribution method such as through iTunes might be a possibility. With each production season creating a few more episodes than get aired in the broadcast season, and pushing into the next season for airing, there’s at least one story arcs that should be ready to go: The Clovis story arc originally slated for season five. We know that a lot of voice work has been recorded for season six, but knowing that it takes about a year for an episode to be produced from story to ready to air, it is not known how many season six stories made it out of the pipeline.

If this rumor proves true, a Clone Wars cancellation would be the second piece of major fallout from the acquisition. The 3D rereleases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were ‘postponed’ in January. Also in the “no news is bad news” department, Star Wars Detours hasn’t been on the radar at all, with its Facebook page last being updated in November.

Still, with 5 seasons and more than 100 episodes, you can’t argue that The Clone Wars hasn’t had a good run.

George Lucas: Hamill, Ford and Fisher are all but certain for Episode VII

disney-swIn a great story on the Lucasfilm acqusition by Disney in Bloomberg Businessweek, George Lucas more or less admits that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are returning for the new movies:

Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”

That may be the big news out of this, but the article itself is a must-read on the process, with extensive input from Lucas and Bob Iger.