Fans of LucasArts videogames such as Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, the Monkey Island series or the multiple Star Wars installments will want Rogue Leaders a book written by videogame-aphile Rob Smith, Editor in Chief of Playstation: The Official Magazine.
Is writing a book on videogames as fun as playing them? Maybe not, but check out this interview with Rob Smith, who might rank writing it as a close second.
What is this book all about, and why would gamers be interested in a book about LucasArts?
The book charts LucasArts’ history, beginning with its founding as a small group within Lucasfilm before flourishing into one of the most storied and respected companies in the growing videogame industry. That story involves many talented designers, writers, and artists who are still working in the industry today. Such well-known games industry personalities as Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert got their start there. Most gamers—of any age—will have heard of Monkey Island, Dark Forces, Rebel Assault, and more, and the book takes readers behind-the-scenes on how those games came to be, including concept art and game design ideas that ended up on the cutting room floor. Did you know that celebrated game designer Hal Barwood was working on a Star Wars game that starred C3PO?
You’ve covered the videogames industry for more than 15 years—what was something new and surprising that you learned in your research?
Probably the sheer number of concepts, ideas, directions, design mechanics, and visual looks that end up on the cutting room floor during the process that led to the creation of some of these bona fide classic games. Really how so many ground-breaking developments came about from a single person championing an idea, and putting in whatever hours were necessary to make it a reality (Vince Lee creating the engine that powered full motion video with sprites overlaid for Rebel Assault, or Michael Land’s iMuse sound system).
What’s your favorite part of this book?
Tough question given it tells a 26-year history. Probably the stories from the very early days, from Steve Arnold, Hal Barwood, Larry Holland and others of how a unique spirit was formed among the teams, and how truly revolutionary ideas were formulated. (My favorite of those is Chip Morningstar’s Habitat, essentially a massively multiplayer online community running on a Commodore 64’s 300-baud modem, which was probably 20 years ahead of its time.)
What are your Top Five LucasArts games?
Ooh, I didn’t make them, but I lived with them all for so long during the creation of the book, that this is a bit like ranking your favorite kids! But to lay it all out:
1. Dark Forces: Jedi Knight – Pulled together incredible first-person action, a story that made first-person shooter fans actually think, and online multiplayer with lightsabers!
2. Full Throttle – So well acted, such a great story, terrific characters, and cool puzzles.
3. The Secret of Monkey Island – Really, how does Monkey Island come in at number 3? The story of Guybrush and the inventive puzzle solving mechanic in the SCUMM engine blended into one of the all-time classics.
4. X-Wing – Or should I say TIE Fighter since that refined the space battle concept, and let you play as the Empire? Both phenomenally deep, incredibly playable simulations of those great space battles.
5. Grim Fandango – Testament to the quality of the dialogue, the story-driven puzzles, and the unique artistic style was that a game based around the Mexican Day of the Dead could be so incredibly compelling.
If you could dress up as any LucasArts character for Halloween, which would it be?
Guybrush. Because everyone loves pirates. Even nerdy pirates. And I’d have to have an Elaine in tow.
Favorite moment in a LucasArts game?
Just one? The satisfaction of figuring out the monkey+wrench=monkey wrench puzzle in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge! Finally defeating the Cave Fish in Full Throttle. Simply piloting an X-Wing. Starting off Labyrinth as a text adventure, only for it to then come to life as a graphics adventure (right before I was thinking of being disappointed). Pick one.
Who’s tougher, Indy or Ben Throttle?
Sorry Indy, but Ben wins this battle hands-down. Ben has cunning of his own to match Indy’s creative extricating from tricky situations, but pound-for-pound in the toughness stakes, that has to go to Ben.
Buy Rogue Leaders!