In 1982, less than ten designers and programmers organized as Lucasfilm Games, then a sub-group within the company’s larger Computer Division. Although their numbers were small, their ambitions to create entertaining games was far-reaching. 40 years and hundreds of titles later, that legacy remains top of mind for the current members of Lucasfilm Games.
Just last year, the group officially returned to its original imprint, something vice president Douglas Reilly finds appropriate. “What we are today is a little similar to the original Lucasfilm Games team,” he explains. “We have 20-odd people working to create these new experiences. We’re not a full development studio with hundreds of people. It’s much more like that scrappy group of rebels back in the 1980s.”
For Reilly, every project can be informed by the group’s legacy in large or small ways. 2020’s Star Wars: Squadrons – a collaboration with Motive Studios and Electronic Arts – was inspired in part by the fan-favorite X-wing and TIE Fighter computer games of the 1990s. “If you look at what we’re doing with the remake of Knights of the Old Republic,” Reilly adds, “in my mind, that’s the greatest Star Wars game that’s ever been made. This is now an opportunity to bring that classic title to folks who weren’t even alive when that game first came out, and do it with new techniques that we have today.”
For Reilly, the work at Lucasfilm Games is “a constant exercise of looking forward to new and original creative expressions, but always through the lens of players’ expectations and the history of things we’ve done in the past.”
As executive producer Craig Derrick puts it, inspiration comes from the trailblazing and pioneering work of that early team. “They had an idea that games could live side by side with everything else that Lucasfilm had been creating to date,” he explains. “There was Star Wars, Industrial Light & Magic, and so much else going on. George Lucas understood that in games was another medium for storytelling. It’s extraordinary to imagine the opportunity and pressure for that first group at Lucasfilm Games.”
As Derrick notes, in their earliest years, the group could not make games in the Star Wars galaxy, and instead had to devise their own original ideas for stories. “They had to build something from the ground up,” he says. “They had to be their own storytellers and make something that would surprise and delight players.” That challenge led to iconic titles like 1987’s Maniac Mansion and 1990’s The Secret of Monkey Island. By their second decade, Lucasfilm Games (renamed LucasArts for the next 20-odd years) had begun contributing to Star Wars, but as Derrick points out, that need to innovate and “further the medium of interactive storytelling” would remain key to their success.