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What went wrong with LucasArts...

posted by Chyron8472 on - last edited - Viewed by 972 users

You know... this MI epic-ness has me wondering. What exactly went wrong with LucasArts back when adventure games died anyway? I know someone is going to tell me that some executive(s) higher up made decisions to cut back funding to adventure games, but bad sales on one or two games is not enough explanation why the whole adventure gaming industry died for several years.


I don't know if any of the Telltale Team can even respond to this, but several things don't make sense to me:

1) Why, when SMI and MI2 were apparently so popular, did LA dump any idea of Ron's MI3 and wait 6 years to create CMI?

2) Why, when CMI's animation looks wonderful, did they use a blocky and ugly looking "3D" style for EMI that was also entirely devoid of mouse controls and market it to console gamers? Why couldn't they make another MI game that looked similar to CMI? I love that game's graphics style.

3) Why did they drop Sam and Max: Freelance Police or stop making Monkey Island games altogether after EMI?

... as far as the rest of the industry goes, I've read that the reason why King's Quest 8 sucks as much as it does is because some exec told Roberta Williams of Sierra On-line to make it that way. That doesn't make sense since KQ6 was extremely popular, why change the formula?


It just doesn't make sense to me. If a developer creates a game and it's successful, and then for the next game they are pressured to make it look/feel a certain way which turns out to fail, why quit the whole industry? Why not just go back to what worked in the first place?

Suffice it to say, I don't understand why LA stopped making adventure games, or stopped making future installments of Monkey Island (SMISE doesn't count) just because sales for EMI were apparently lackluster. It doesn't mean there's no market, just that they made the game different than people wanted.

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  • Probably it wasn't worth the financial risk? If adventure games are a smaller market to begin with, and the games themselves have a higher chance to be hit-or-miss, it might make them decide to focus on what they know will sell, what's safe.

    So yeah, maybe they thought "okay, let's give it a last chance with Escape and base our decision on that. If it doesn't sell then it means people don't like adventure games anymore". And when it wasn't received as well as the previous ones, they concluded there wasn't market for it anymore?
    I don't know, it's just speculation. We can see it as a bad move from our point of view, but from theirs? Not necessarily, they could focus on games that might make them more money.

    Adventure games probably cost a lot to make. They're dialogue heavy so if everything is voiced that's a lot of actors to hire, for instance. And in the end it might not sell that well, especially compared to some of their other games such as Star Wars games, that are pretty much sure to sell.
    So, from a business point of view, it might have been a smart move.

  • This is a long, complicated topic, best summed up as "business reasons". I'll skim the surface of it, though this is based on *my* understanding of what happened. These aren't facts. I'd appreciate anyone correcting me.

    @Chyron8472 said:
    1) Why, when SMI and MI2 were apparently so popular, did LA dump any idea of Ron's MI3 and wait 6 years to create CMI?

    Ron Gilbert willingly left LucasArts on his own after MI2 wrapped-up. CMI took two years to make, so it was green-lighted four years after MI2. I assume everyone else just wanted to make other things in the time being (Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max Hit the Road).

    2) Why, when CMI's animation looks wonderful, did they use a blocky and ugly looking "3D" style for EMI that was also entirely devoid of mouse controls and market it to console gamers? Why couldn't they make another MI game that looked similar to CMI? I love that game's graphics style.

    They'd already made a new engine for Grim Fandango; updating SCUMM may have been too costly. 2D is just a lot more costly in general. Besides, the thinking of the time was, "If a game wants to sell a lot, it has to be 3D and state of the art." Remember the obsession (it's still there) over graphics and poly tech?

    This is due to Half-Life and Quake. They were excellent games that sold well. Short-sighted business people assumed that the reason they sold well was things had to be 3D, fast-paced and cool - if you were still 2D, you didn't stand much of a chance. To these people, it would have been too risky to make a 2D game that was also an adventure game.

    Personally, I appreciate the benefits of 3D. I never understood all the unnecessary hate for it. I do still think that a blend of 2D and 3D is a step in the right direction (there's various ways to do that), and I do love the timeless look of good 2D art, but 3D provides a few artistic outlets that aren't feasible in 2D.

    3) Why did they drop Sam and Max: Freelance Police or stop making Monkey Island games altogether after EMI?

    "Marketplace realities".


    ... as far as the rest of the industry goes, I've read that the reason why King's Quest 8 sucks as much as it does is because some exec told Roberta Williams of Sierra On-line to make it that way. That doesn't make sense since KQ6 was extremely popular, why change the formula?

    Roberta Williams was head of Sierra On-line, so that doesn't explain much. Roberta Williams has always blamed everyone else for her games' failings. She never took into account that her games were lazy and frustrating games that would punish you for not trying to pick up every other object you see. Dead ends are the reason she failed. I think people just got sick of it.

    That so many terrible adventure games were coming meant that good ones were often overlooked - if a game is critically acclaimed but reaps little profit, then there's something inherently wrong with either marketing, or the mold it was built in. Business-people decided it was the mold; the mold was cracked because of the clumsy handling of the likes of Roberta.


    It just doesn't make sense to me. If a developer creates a game and it's successful, and then for the next game they are pressured to make it look/feel a certain way which turns out to fail, why quit the whole industry? Why not just go back to what worked in the first place?

    Suffice it to say, I don't understand why LA stopped making adventure games, or stopped making future installments of Monkey Island (SMISE doesn't count) just because sales for EMI were apparently lackluster. It doesn't mean there's no market, just that they made the game different than people wanted.

    "Successful" is relative. Even ignoring that fickle beast expectation, what would you pick: a $1000 000 investment in a game that might give you $5 000 000 in profit, or a a $1000 000 in a game that might give you $1 500 000 in profit? People decided that the market wanted hardcore FPS. They invested accordingly. Digital distribution means you can take larger risks - your entire market is one click away, after all. Retail doesn't allow most of us to buy the games we want.

    I've noticed that people never know what they "want". I think people just want to have fun, actually. What they *think* they want is a game that's "just similar to, but different from, the last one". I've indulged in that myself. There's always going to be the vocal minority that hates any and all change: "ARGGHHH! Why does this start at day? SMI/MI2 started at night!!!!!" "AHHH! They improved the controls! THIS ISN'T LIKE 1990!" "MI2 ENDED IN DARKNESS. WHY IS TALES ENDING IN LIGHT?"

    Don't get me wrong, it's important the *spirit* of a prequel carries over. I'm just saying that 90% of complaints have been inconsequential and, more importantly, baseless. Them not buying these games because of mis-informed opinion harmed adventures more than anything.

  • Kroms seems to be dead on anyway, but here some more speculation...
    @Chyron8472 said: but bad sales on one or two games is not enough explanation why the whole adventure gaming industry died for several years.
    Sorry to dissapoint you, but it is. There is one good selling MMORPG (Wow), and that makes many people try it on, failing miserable. That's not even "two games"...
    That's pretty much the way the business goes. RPG's died, but when people richly bought Baldur's Gate, it revived it. Hopefully the same now happens with adventure games.
    It's because most executives don't want to take risks and just go off on "what sells"... which pretty much limits the market to certain types of games on produce. With the success of indy developers and online sales this might change atlast though...
    Why, when SMI and MI2 were apparently so popular, did LA dump any idea of Ron's MI3 and wait 6 years to create CMI?
    Isn't there a 6 year gap between Diablo 1, 2 and 3 too? Or Half-Life 1 and 2? Last year one of my favorite games, Majesty, finally got a sequel after 10 years! Sequels aren't insta always. And, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
    Although that may not have necessarily been the case here, more that Star Wars titles sold like hotcakes, and they prefered making them as priority instead.
    2) Why, when CMI's animation looks wonderful, did they use a blocky and ugly looking "3D" style for EMI that was also entirely devoid of mouse controls and market it to console gamers? Why couldn't they make another MI game that looked similar to CMI? I love that game's graphics style.
    Because 3D is "hewt". Every gametype that stepped over to 3D, be it RPG (compare NWN and BG... UGLY!) or RTS (There still isn't a 3D RTS I like, while I still love RA1, AOE's 1 and 2 etc.) has suffered for it in the beginning. And only 10 years later now does it finally catch up, adventure and RPG's at least.
    Also, with the PS1's success they might have though along with everyone the PC is dead (yeah, sure... keep doomsaying...) so they had to sell it to consolegamers too to make a profit, who couldn't use mouse point-and-click.
    3) Why did they drop Sam and Max: Freelance Police or stop making Monkey Island games altogether after EMI?
    S&M:FP was dropped because it didn't meet LA's "Quality requirements", same with Full Throttle 2. At least, that's what they told the press.
    I think they realised, with all the adventure-staff left or fired, there was no hope to create a legendary adventure of old, and just dropped it.
    It just doesn't make sense to me. If a developer creates a game and it's successful, and then for the next game they are pressured to make it look/feel a certain way which turns out to fail, why quit the whole industry? Why not just go back to what worked in the first place?
    That's the industry for you. It can't possibly not sale because they f***** it up with de-evaluation (quick-time events in action games, "interactive" movies, 3D, regenerating health for FPS (WTF?), draconic DRM, DLC-milking etc.), it's because of pirates (EVIL!) or because the genre is dead, and they just stop making it.
    Sucks, doesn't it?
    It doesn't mean there's no market, just that they made the game different than people wanted.
    For most companies, what-ever people think about the game doesn't matter, it's just about the sales. If they are low, there is no investigation or even a tiny look WHY it sold badly... it's assumed because gamer's don't want something like it (even if they want, but just disagreed with some design choices).
    Fortunately TTG isn't such a company.

  • What went wrong with LucasArts?

    George Lucas happened.

  • @Hassat Hunter said: S&M:FP was dropped because it didn't meet LA's "Quality requirements", same with Full Throttle 2. At least, that's what they told the press.

    Quality never came into it with the decision for Freelance Police, the developers were in full swing when it was cancelled, marketing was just about to begin, industry previews were positive and Purcell thought it was shaping up fine. The decision didn't come from quality like with Full Throttle 2, but rather economics:

    After careful evaluation of current market place realities and underlying economic considerations, we've decided that this was not the appropriate time to launch a graphic adventure on the PC

  • Personally, I think that what happened is, RPG (and eventually MMORPG) slowly replaced quests as adventure game genre. This is due to both Roberta Williams and what the late 1990s have done to the genre. Companies thought (and maybe this was true) that gamers didn't want to just quest anymore, i.e. get objects and think about where to use them, but to simply talk a little, fight a little, quest a little, and move a lot through some kind of fantasy-shmantasy world. And while KQ series (where MOE was that turning point) did not suffer a lot from such new genre innuendos, games like MI (where satire and parody was always the ripest of lulz) simply died on that.

    Today, things changed. First of all because computers finally started to regain interest of games after several years of console mangling. Second because people got sick on RPGs (that's my understanding), so some subtle companies emerged, like TTG, and slowly starting moving their products forward, in hopes on renewing the quest genre. Then finally came the question of everything-compatibility, from consoles to Macs, though not all of them were existent back in the 1990s.

    My opinion is all of this is that LA would probably, and very probably not make another quest game. MISE doesn't count, since it's really just a remade update. I mean, real quests, new, fresh stuff. TTG, on the other hand, has now all the chances to release quests, and I think the more they do it, the more we'd see productiveness and the more there would be chances for the genre to return once again.

  • The Phantom Menace happened. Really, that's all there is to it.

  • yeah, by that time Star Wars had taken over.

  • LucasArts fans really, really don't like Roberta Williams, do they? Geez. I mean, I can admit her games can and do have unfair elements, but "ROBERTA WILLIAMS SINGLE-HANDEDLY STRANGLED THE GENRE IN ITS SLEEP" seems a bit harsh.

    Besides, adventure games were made. Indie releases, sure, but those tend to be better in terms of creativity than big releases anyway.

    Like a lot of people, I have that desire to boil it down to one person to blame. The difference is that I need it to actually make some degree of sense, so Roberta Williams, George Lucas, and Hitler won't cut it.

    For my one-person blame, I turn to Jim Ward. He drops in around 2004, and Sam and Max gets cancelled due to Marketplace Realities. Seemed devastating at the time, but in the end I feel like I gained something far better overall.

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