Author Topic: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article  (Read 673 times)

Offline Matt

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How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« on: September 27, 2013, 04:24 PM »
This entire generation has been a waste for Star Wars games. This article goes a long way in explaining why.

How LucasArts Fell Apart

It's long, so I won't quote the whole thing, just some most of it:

Quote
It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason for the demise of LucasArts, but an outside observer might look at the revolving door of presidents—three in the four-year period between 2008 and 2012—and wonder how anything got done. Instability ruled the realm; every high-level turnover came with layoffs and cancellations and a total shift in company direction led by whoever would take over next.

Some ex-LucasArts staffers lay blame on the presidents themselves. Others finger executives at LucasFilm for refusing to take the risks needed to make games that people would consider worthy of the Star Wars name. A number of ex-LucasArts staffers pointed to Micheline Chau, who was president of LucasFilm up until September of 2012, as the main factor for the company's decline—and the explanation for the revolving door of LucasArts presidents.

Sources describe Chau as the gatekeeper for George Lucas, and two high-level ex-LucasArts employees both said she had a tight control on Lucas's schedule. She would run rehearsals with the staff before they could meet with Lucas, sources said, and she would micromanage what the team could say and when they could say it.

"[Lucas] understood the nature of play—and games—but we didn't have the time with him that we needed," said one person familiar with high-level meetings at 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.’”

Quote
Although some saw 1313 as an Uncharted clone—and even today, that's how some people look at the cancelled game—one person familiar with development of the game emphasized that the newly-implemented jetpack changed the design entirely, adding a vertical element to the action and platforming that gave things a fresher feel. Even George Lucas was high on the project, especially after the E3 acclaim.

Then, in September 2012, everything changed. LucasFilm enacted a hiring freeze, according to four people who were there at the time. All marketing plans were halted, and the company went into silent mode. Production continued on Star Wars 1313, but without the capacity to continue hiring the staff they needed, the team was crippled.

The freeze also led to endless questions revolving around Star Wars: First Assault, a multiplayer shooter that had also changed shape multiple times since it first began development in 2010. Created because George Lucas wanted to compete with the gargantuan Call of Duty series, First Assault was originally a large-scale shooter set in a time period after Return of the Jedi, according to two people familiar with the game.

Then, following direction from executives at LucasFilm, the game moved back to the Clone War era. This was a common theme at LucasArts, sources say—First Assault, which was code-named Trigger, shifted and evolved because of ever-changing direction, just like 1313. The goal posts just kept moving.

Trigger eventually morphed from attempted Call of Duty killer to multi-step project designed to reintroduce Battlefront to the world. The first game, First Assault, was set to be unveiled in September of 2012 and released in the spring of 2013. The second step was a project called Version Two, designed to show off vehicle prototypes and other Battlefront elements that didn't make it into First Assault.

But when LucasFilm enacted the hiring freeze, they also put the brakes on those marketing plans. Nobody could talk about First Assault, even when the box art was accidentally revealed on Xbox Live at the end of September.

People were baffled. “Everyone took it badly when we were told we couldn't announce or do our beta,” said one former member of the First Assault team. They kept working, but ex-First Assault staff say they had no clue whether or not the game would actually come out.

A month later, it all suddenly made sense. On October 30, 2012, Disney announced that they had purchased LucasFilm. The acquisition had been in place for quite some time, and LucasFilm had enacted the freeze in preparation for the reign of Mickey Mouse.

Yet the hiring freeze didn’t end. And over the next few months, even as LucasFilm made public declarations that everything was "business as usual," staff started to leave the company, and morale was low.

When LucasArts shut down, both Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault were cancelled. It was a heartbreaking experience for those still with the company. And it wasn’t the only one.

Canceled games mentioned:

Quote
  • Star Wars 1313
  • Star Wars: First Assault
  • Star Wars: First Assault Version Two, which according to one source grew from the remnants of a project code-named Wingman that was going to be a Wii U title modeled after the old TIE Fighter and X-Wing games.
  • open world GTA-style game set on Coruscant
  • Untitled Indiana Jones game, canceled in 2009
  • Caveland, a 2D physics-based shooter
  • Day of the Tentacle remake
  • Smuggler, a game designed for cross-platform multiplayer that would let you play as a customizable character within the Star Wars universe, smuggling and trading between Facebook, tablets, and consoles.
  • Outpost, the Star Wars take on Zynga's FarmVille that would let players build empires, one click at a time.
  • Death Star, the iOS game in which you'd get to control your very own version of the Empire's iconic space station.

Quote
There was the online service that would be LucasArts’ very own version of Origin, EA's network for distributing games and servicing online multiplayer. Like Origin for EA, this LucasArts-branded network would help the company distribute Star Wars games and in-app purchases. According to one person familiar with plans for this network, it would have launched alongside Star Wars: First Assault, which would have had some sort of microtransaction store.

All of these games were connected, and they were all part of one big ecosystem, according to people familiar with goings-on at the company. Eventually, as seemed to be a pattern at LucasArts, they were all axed. Of course, cancellations are not abnormal in the iterative world of game development, where projects shift and disappear all the time. What made LucasArts different was the studio's tendency to cancel finished projects—games like Death Star and Outpost had already gone through QA testing and were very close to being shipped, according to two sources.

"Projects get canceled all the time," a person familiar with LucasArts said. "You'd hope that your process can identify problem projects before they're finished."

So LucasArts spent most of their final years concentrating on two big games—1313 and First Assault—and the smaller project, Version Two.

“Every couple of years, George Lucas would get re-engaged for a period of time,” said another person connected to LucasArts. “The whole company would pivot around George’s interests. And then it would fizzle out.”

The Deal That Fell Through

Could LucasArts ever have been saved? Rumors came hot and heavy following the shutdown, and in April, I reported that EA had considered buying the storied studio up until a combination of factors—like the SimCity disaster and CEO John Riccitiello’s departure—led to the deal falling apart.

More people have come forth to corroborate those EA negotiations, and according to two high-level sources, EA's deal would have financed both 1313 and First Assault—LucasArts would've stayed where it was, working under EA supervision.

According to one person familiar with goings-on at LucasArts, other big publishers considered buying the company as well.

"There were various things on the table," said that person. "Buying 1313, buying the studio, just doing a deal for that game. Multiple people made offers to help finish and publish 1313."

One publisher made an offer that was "above the budget of 1313," according to a person familiar with negotiations, but LucasFilm wouldn't take the deal—licensing out a game like Star Wars 1313 just didn't mesh with their strategies for the upcoming movies, and some top executives were much more interested in putting together a next-gen Battlefront, which EA would go on to commit to.


In hindsight, it’s become rather clear that Disney never wanted to keep LucasArts as it was in 2012—on the day of the LucasFilm deal, Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call that his company would be “likely to focus more on social and mobile than [they would] on console,” referring to console video games like the ones made at LucasArts. Still, most staff remained with the company, swimming onward against the current.

Three different ex-LucasArts employees have told me that in March of 2013, staffers were told they'd "be taken care of"—that is to say, they didn't have to look for other jobs. This was because higher-ups at LucasArts were convinced that the EA deal was coming together, even when it became clear that Disney had no interest in financing their games.

Still, some saw that the end was near—especially when employees were told not to mention Star Wars: First Assault by name even after I'd published details about the game on Kotaku—but up until the last day, there was hope.



I'm hopeful that, say, five or ten years from now, we can look back and say that the Disney/EA acquisition was the best thing that ever happened to Star Wars games.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2013, 04:26 PM by Matt »

Offline Jesse James

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2013, 11:57 PM »
It could only go up from here...  Someone you and I know told me some of these details...  Pathetic.

LA as a letterhead is all ill miss though.  Their ability to do anything well on their own had been dead for many years already.  1313 tho, will be missed to me. :( It really looked promisin.
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Offline JediMoses

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #2 on: February 1, 2014, 02:06 AM »
Fascinating article in Game Informer this month on same topic

Offline Matt

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2014, 03:55 PM »
Fascinating article in Game Informer this month on same topic

Indeed.

Fall Of The Empire: How Inner Turmoil Brought Down LucasArts

My favorite part: Lucas suggesting that The Force Unleashed's protagonist should be named Darth Icky or Darth Insanius.

Quote
A similar situation arose with Star Wars: The Force Unleashed’s protagonist, Starkiller. “[That name] was only supposed to be a nickname or call sign, not a proper name from the beginning,” a former LucasArts employee says. The development team hoped that Lucas would give Vader’s apprentice a Darth moniker, which at the time, was something that didn’t happen often.

“The team threw a Hail Mary to George, saying the game would have more credibility if the apprentice had a ‘Darth’ title,” a Force Unleashed team member says. Lucas agreed that this situation made sense for Sith royalty, and offered up two Darth titles for the team to choose from. “He threw out ‘Darth Icky’ and ‘Darth Insanius.’ There was a pregnant pause in the room after that. People waiting for George to say ‘just kidding,’ but it never comes, and he just moved on to another point.”

Lots of blame on Jim ******* Ward in that article, too.

And Jesse, you really should probably not read this:

Quote
LucasArts’ push for more internally developed Star Wars titles left behind a tantalizing trail of unreleased projects. Star Wars: Imperial Commando, a sequel to Republic Commando, would have put the player in control of an Imperial assault team, but never made it out of the conceptual phase of development. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic III was almost greenlit, but none of the people I talked to involved in the project knew why it was canceled. “Most of the conceptual and story groundwork for the title was there,” a LucasArts employee says. Star Wars: Jedi Knight III – Brink of Darkness and Jedi Master were two different directions LucasArts hoped to take its Jedi Knight series, but neither made it to proper development. Other scrapped Star Wars titles included Smuggler, a linear action game that focused on a Han Solo-like character; Rebel Warrior, a violent action game with a Wookiee protagonist fighting the Empire; a title that put players into the role of Darth Maul called Star Wars: Darth Maul; an internally developed Star Wars MMORPG codenamed Proteus; a Call of Duty-like shooter named Star Wars: First Assault; and most surprisingly, Star Wars: Episode VII – Shadows of the Sith, which was believed to be a spin-off to the upcoming motion picture now helmed by J. J. Abrams.

Offline Jesse James

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2014, 04:22 PM »
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 04:23 PM by Jesse James »
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2014, 04:24 PM »
JK and RC news hurt the most.  I thought you had mention of a sequal to X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and X-Wing: Alliance listed...  I'm almost glad there wasn't.  I'd have been on a flight to Jim Ward's house.
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Offline Matt

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2014, 04:53 PM »
I heard off-the-record that there were sequels to all those games in the works, but Jim Ward caught word of that old thread here and canceled them just out of spite.

Offline Jesse James

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2014, 07:50 PM »
WWWWWWWWAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!  >:(
2011 Rebel Fleet Trooper Gets My Seal Of Approval!  But Where's The Friggin' Holster On Him!?
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Offline Matt

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2014, 08:00 PM »
More on "Darth Icky":

Quote
i heard a story from some people who worked on a pretty high profile...ancillary star wars entertainment product ....

anyway they heard word that lucas was very excited about the project and was, in fact, so excited about it that he had come up with a brand new character expressly for this project that would become part of the official star wars canon, etc.

obviously everyone was really excited.

the day came for lucas to meet with them. lucas coming to their offices was basically like the ******' pope or president coming, huge deal, big preparation, everyone's buzzing around etc etc

so they finally sit down with lucas in the conference room, and he starts by saying how impressed he was, how he wanted this product to be a real core part of star wars lore, blah blah blah...

then he says, "So the character I've created for the [project] is..."

*everyone leans forward, anticipating with bated breath*

"....Darth...Icky"

so they're like, "Darth...Icky"

and he's like, "yes, Darth Icky - I-C-K-Y" and begins to explain the character

so then after they were all freaking out like how the **** are we gonna write around this retarded character etc, eventually they just drug their feet on it for long enough that lucas had moved on to his next brilliant idea and forgot about it and the public never knew of Darth Icky.

I'm currently working on my first photonovel, centered around my new character, Darth Gag-Me-With-A-Dead-Smurf
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 08:12 PM by Matt »

Offline Jesse James

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2014, 08:36 PM »
I'll promote the **** out of that photonovel.

This is mind blowing stuff...  I know a lot of people were like, "What are we gonna do now that Disney owns STar Wars!?  They're gonna ruin it!!!!!"

I read this though, and yeah, Lucas was doing a bang-up job ******** all over his own creation before Disney came along.  I'm glad he's out.  It can't get worse IMO.  It'll maybe be just as bad, but it can't get worse than stuff like Darth Icky.

The stickiest of the Darths.
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Offline Matt_Fury

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2014, 10:45 PM »
What a shame that those games were not developed properly.  Hell, I'm still disappointed that KOTOR II was released unfinished (still a fun game though).
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Offline Nicklab

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2014, 12:34 AM »
This whole "Darth Icky" nonsense reads as beyond ridiculous at face value.  And it really left me wondering about a couple of things. 

First, is the story legit?  Without knowing any of the sources involved it's tough to make that judgement.  If it's all true it has to leave you with some serious questions about just what GL was thinking.

And second?  Is it possible this happened but GL had ulterior motives in judging things?  Because the names alone sound preposterous.  To a degree that it comes across like some sort of put-on.  Is it possible that GL went into this meeting with a totally ridiculous proposal in an effort to judge his own people?  Had he grown in stature to the point that nobody within his companies was prepared to challenge him on his creative ideas?  To someone with a background like his own that would probably seem like he had finally become what he had railed against in his younger days:  a studio apparatus that was out of touch with the work of the people on the artistic front lines.  Lucas's work with Francis Coppolla and American Zoetrope tried to buck that Hollywood system in an effort to do something new and different in film.  And effectively the Star Wars films, with the exception of the first, wound up being independent films.  But Star Wars had grown into something SO BIG that it seems like George Lucas had become the very thing that he had fought against for so much of his career.  It must be an eye-opening thing to be in a position where nobody will speak truth to power, and YOU are the power.

So, witness the sale of Star Wars/Lucasfilm to Disney.  And the fact that GL is going to be putting the bulk of that money towards philanthropic pursuits.  That, combined with the fact that he's stated that he wants to work on small, independent films say to me that GL probably recognized that this thing had grown far beyond even his own imagination, and perhaps it was time to move on since he couldn't find people that would be partners with him in a creative collaboration.
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Offline Matt_Fury

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2014, 06:46 PM »
This whole "Darth Icky" nonsense reads as beyond ridiculous at face value.  And it really left me wondering about a couple of things. 

First, is the story legit?  Without knowing any of the sources involved it's tough to make that judgement.  If it's all true it has to leave you with some serious questions about just what GL was thinking.

And second?  Is it possible this happened but GL had ulterior motives in judging things?  Because the names alone sound preposterous.  To a degree that it comes across like some sort of put-on.  Is it possible that GL went into this meeting with a totally ridiculous proposal in an effort to judge his own people?  Had he grown in stature to the point that nobody within his companies was prepared to challenge him on his creative ideas?  To someone with a background like his own that would probably seem like he had finally become what he had railed against in his younger days:  a studio apparatus that was out of touch with the work of the people on the artistic front lines.  Lucas's work with Francis Coppolla and American Zoetrope tried to buck that Hollywood system in an effort to do something new and different in film.  And effectively the Star Wars films, with the exception of the first, wound up being independent films.  But Star Wars had grown into something SO BIG that it seems like George Lucas had become the very thing that he had fought against for so much of his career.  It must be an eye-opening thing to be in a position where nobody will speak truth to power, and YOU are the power.

So, witness the sale of Star Wars/Lucasfilm to Disney.  And the fact that GL is going to be putting the bulk of that money towards philanthropic pursuits.  That, combined with the fact that he's stated that he wants to work on small, independent films say to me that GL probably recognized that this thing had grown far beyond even his own imagination, and perhaps it was time to move on since he couldn't find people that would be partners with him in a creative collaboration.

If only he had sold the franchise in 1997.
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2014, 07:21 PM »
I'm doing a little digging into this story because it intrigues me so.  :-X

That expansion of Jedi Knight, Republic Commando, and KOTOR III really just sinks my heart.

Not to mention how GOOD 1313 was and then Lucas came in taking a massive **** upon it.  We might've gotten that, if not for Lucas himself.

But yeah, Jim Ward?  What a ******* ******* by that story, and I say that with complete sincerity.  I hate people who think they can do anything because they accomplished one thing in life.  Everyone in the world seems to think they can do other people's jobs...  This transcends this topic, but not the online world of Star Wars for certain.

The, "I know better than you" crowd, who've never worked in an industry, make me laugh my ass off.  Lots of these folks around.  ::)
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Offline Matt

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Re: How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« Reply #14 on: April 8, 2014, 06:27 PM »
Polygon: Report: LucasArts canceled Darth Maul game in 2011

Quote
Citing anonymous sources as well as Red Fly CEO Dan Borth, Game Informer reports that LucasArts gave the Austin, Texas-based indie developer a chance to make a Darth Maul game after the studio proved itself with the Wii version of 2010's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. However, the publisher initially provided very little guidance except to say that Maul survived being cleaved in half — Red Fly wasn't directly informed of Lucasfilm's plans for Maul in The Clone Wars.

According to developers who had worked on the Darth Maul project, it was originally intended to be exclusive to Nintendo platforms before LucasArts shifted it to PlayStation 3, Wii U, Windows PC and Xbox 360. Red Fly began creating prototypes in October 2010 based on the information it had, but during a meeting with Star Wars creator George Lucas, he presented a new vision for the Darth Maul title. According to Game Informer, Lucas wanted a "buddy cop-like experience" with Darth Maul and Darth Talon — a Sith Lady separated by more than 170 years of Star Wars fiction from Maul — teaming up as friends.

Red Fly tried to make that new direction work, figuring out gameplay mechanics to satisfy LucasArts' suggestions. LucasArts reportedly considered buying Red Fly outright. But according to an ex-developer, the publisher eventually cut off communication with the studio for two weeks before canceling the project in late June 2011.