Lucasarts adventure games

Point'n'click

LeChucks revenge

The first adventure game I remember playing and really liking, was Monkey Island 2: LeChucks revengeTM. Previously I had played a few odd adventure games (Hugos House of Horror?), but Monkey Island 2 really clicked (no pun intended) with me. It had the right level of pacing, puzzles not too hard, the artwork was great, hilarious and the ending was suitably bizarre.

Monkey Island 2 (MI2) is one of several games released by LucasartsTM. Some of the others that I have played include:

  • The Secret of Monkey IslandTM, being mainly a story of a wannabe pirate (Guybrush Threepwood) and also the first in the Monkey IslandTM series.
    monkey island monkey island
  • The Curse of Monkey IslandTM, being also part of the aforementioned series, and was the most recent until Escape From Monkey IslandTM arrived.
    the legend of monkey island the legend of monkey island
  • Sam and Max hit the roadTM, being a tale of two freelance police officers, one a dog, one a rabbit and there search for a yeti.
    unofficial sam and max unofficial sam and max
  • Day of the TentacleTM, being a tale of an evil purple tentacle and three friends who must cooperate whilst in different periods of time.
    DOTTcom DOTTcom

Each of these games have several things in common: they were all humorous, they were all 2D and you could never "lose".

Obviously comedy is a very subjective thing, so the humour of these games might put a lot of people off them. However I have found that these have some of the only games that have made me laugh. It is definitely a change to play a game that is not all post-apocalyptic seriousness.

Because these games were all essentially 2D they lend themselves well to using a mouse, and so the interface is usually quite intuitive. This makes the game fairly easy to get into (just think of how many times you have pressed the wrong key resulting in your immediate demise).

However in many respects the most important point is that you never lose.

You are invincible!

By not losing I mean you never die and you never get stuck (well the game never puts you in a situation that you cannot get out of). This has the affect of making you feel much more relaxed whilst playing, you don't have to worry that some decision you make will later come back to haunt you. As a case in point, I have heard of one game in which if you did not pick up a certain item at the beginning of the game, then you could not finish the game. I know I would find this very frustrating.

In order to do this the developers have to sacrifice non-linearity. i.e. the game has to have a start middle and end, and your path through the game is fairly predetermined. Generally speaking this is achieved by breaking the games up into "acts", each act can be fairly non-linear (i.e. you can do things in whatever order), but each act must be done one after the other.

I know a lot of games developers are trying to make their games as non-linear as possible, but this can be a very tricky thing to get right. If they don't do it right then the player will be overwhelmed with choice, they won't know what to do. Also the developer will have a nightmare trying to foresee what the player might do, otherwise the player might find all sorts of problems.

SCUMMTM

SCUMM is an acronym for SCripting Utility for Maniac Mansion. That's nice, but what does it mean? Well Maniac Mansion was LucasArts first graphical adventure game. It was written in a cunning way. It had a scripting engine, so that the actual game logic could be written in a simple language, that non-programmers would probably be able to use. This meant a lot less time would be spent coding the game (once the scripting engine had been written) as you didn't have to worry about little things like memory pointers etc.

The thing is that SCUMM worked so well they decided to keep it and make more adventure games with it. Basically every one of the games is actually SCUMM (plus bits to do graphics music etc) plus a whole bunch of scripts and images. LucasArts have recently stopped using SCUMM and now use GRIME, which they have used for Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island. grim fandango network GRIME works in the same fashion as SCUMM, but uses a different scripting language, and uses 3D graphics instead of 2D. This caused a bit of outcry, as amongst other things you no longer used the mouse to control your character, you had to use the keyboard, but I guess lucasarts felt that they would have difficulty marketing a non-3D game. See SCUMM revisited for more details on SCUMM.

GRIME

GRIME is used in Grim Fandango and Escape from Monkey Island. I played the demo of Grim Fandango (which I enjoyed). I also played Escape from Monkey Island, which had it's moments, but some of the magic of the originals was missing (plus the controls meant you kept on running into things all of the time). mac port of emi
Anway ...
GRIME uses lua which is a free scripting language from PUC-Rio in Brazil. It is designed as a highly customizable language, which, I guess, is why they used it.

Links

  • Lucasarts, the people who made these games
  • The international house of mojo, the main lucasarts fan website
  • SCRAMM, what could be a promising free version of SCUMM, but recently it appears that either it is a hoax, or it may never be finished
  • LucasHacks, a site dedicated to extracting information from the resource files of lucasarts games
  • LucasMacs, supporting your local mac user.
  • Adventure Gamer, a general adventure game site
  • Just adventure, adventure game reviews and stuff
  • Interactive fiction, a site concerned with IF (which is sort of a posh way of describing certain types of adventure games)

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Disclaimer
I was not paid by lucasarts to talk about their games, I just happen to really like them.