Memoirs of a LucasArts Alumnus (from 2007)

This was originally published on my 1UP blog on 9/26/2007, the week I left LucasArts. Only seems appropriate to repost here this week...

After two years, eight months and one day, Tuesday was my last day as a studio publicist at LucasArts. A lot of people seemed shocked by this -- heck...I'm pretty much shocked by this myself. I really loved it there, too. Great people...solid product...freakin' STAR WARS!!! But alas, when an amazing, spectacular opportunity like mine at Marvel crosses your path, you kinda have to take it...or regret it for a long, long time.

But like I said, I loved my time at LucasArts...and I thought it'd be fun to share some of my favorite memories. The stuff I can, anyway...

I wrote part of the opening crawl to the best-selling LucasArts game of all time, Star Wars Battlefront II. Simple as it may have been -- literally one sentence at the end with an ellipsis at the end to set the stage -- the fact that it's more or a less a part of Star Wars canon makes this my favorite single accomplishment at the company. (I'd tell you the exact sentence...but my copy of the game is packed right now.)

George sightings happened from time to time, and they somehow seemed to occur at the most ideal times...like when my uncle and aunt visited for about an hour, when a bunch of IGN editors came by and, my personal favorite, when my old pals from Ziff Davis showed up for a visit. It was during this last visit that I had my closest George encounter, as we both filled up our glasses at the same time at the soda fountain in the dining commons. I didn't think to look at what fine carbonated beverage he chose to quench his thirst.

George sightings with his famous director friends also happened a couple of times. Although, in my case, "sighting" isn't exactly the right word...more like "hearing," as I only heard him with the likes of...well, I probably shouldn't name names here.

I searched the LucasArts archives once for a G4 special on Tim Shaffer (and then a couple years later for the exhibits I'll mention a bit later here). We're talking hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of pieces of concept art here. There's some really beautiful stuff in there, and I was totally geeking out, even if I wasn't entirely familiar what I was looking at at times.

I saw Episode III twice before it came out. Once on May 7 (two Saturdays before its release) and then again a couple of days before release the day before E3 2005 began. Hate on it if you like...but I love this flick.

Seth Green visited to debut the Star Wars Robot Chicken special. It was awesome and happened a good six months before it actually aired. On a related note...

Seth McFarlane visited to debut the Star Wars Family Guy special. We only got a two-day sneak-peek on that one...but it was good stuff!

Seeing the process of game development at level you just don't get as a journalist was fascinating (though I guess I'm in for an even closer look now!). The evolution of The Force Unleashed, for example -- seeing it go from an idea on paper to the sweet final product it's destined to be -- was a real treat. And speaking of that game...

I got to write and edit character descriptions for Hasbro toy packaging for their TFU toys. I guess I won't know for sure they went with it until I see the toys next spring...but there's another cool geeky thing I can't believe I did.

The Wicket blog was perhaps my favorite work-related long-term project I ever did. For the blog -- how should I put this? -- Wicket the Ewok told me his thoughts on Ewok abuse in Star Wars Battlefront II and his desire to be playable character in LEGO Star Wars II, and then I posted them for him. Yeah, "he told me." I guess that's one way to put it.

I was featured in Star Wars Insider magazine in their "The Way We Were" section. Check it out. And thank you, Mary Franklin! You're the best!

The "History of Star Wars Games" and "25 Years of LucasArts" displays I did for Star Wars Celebration IV and Comic-Con 2007, respectively, rank right up there in "favorite long-term project." There may have been a missing game here and there, but let's just say my eBay seller feedback score is a lot higher now as a result of doing this! Each game display was accompanied by a video of gameplay for every applicable game ever created. A ton of work, but a ton of fun, which led to a strong performance in...

Shake the Bake was pretty awesome at Comic-Con 2007 and, even more so, at Star Wars Celebration IV. It really made me feel like a Star Wars game/LucasArts game know-it-all. Or at least a know-most-of-it-all.

I wrote a slogan for LEGO Star Wars II. Check out the first trailer for the game, and at the end the dude with the kid-friendly voice says, "May the Force build with you." That was me!

I even named a game once. That was cool. (But then it was canceled, and that wasn't as cool. Traxion.)

I went to Australia. It was a great time. I want to go back.

The Letterman Digital Arts Center is a sight to behold. Every day I would pass ILM props used in movies, from flattened Judge Doom (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and Han Solo in carbonite to matte paintings for Ewoks: The Battle for Endor and, everyone's favorite, the clouds from Hook.

Trivia Night was a blast. I talked about it beforehand and begged you for donations here. And, as it turns out, the Robot Chicken Palpatine went for a LOT more than the mere $600 I bid on it...

I learned a lot while working with some amazingly talented coworkers. You know who you are. Thank you so much.

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My Seventh-Grade Thoughts, Part 3: IronSword (with Fabio!)

When you're 13, every cent you have counts. Case in point:

The only thing I have to talk about today is that I am saving money to buy the Nintendo game "Batman, "Ironsword" or "Super Mario Bros. 3." Right now I have $53.58. I need $54.74 to buy "Batman" from an ordering place. That is all I have to say.

As it turns out, I actually went with IronSword: Wizards & Warriors II when the time came (check out the byline in that link, by the way). Yep...the one I would realize about eight years later had Fabio on the cover.

Cool game, though -- I distinctly remember borrowing $24 from Mom to buy it at the Collierville Wal-Mart, and then beating it in four days. I even was able to crack its password code system to figure out how to get more lives for later levels.  Unfortunately,  I didn't write much about the game, other than to mention that I traded it to a friend:

I can't wait to get home. I have temporarily traded "Ironsword" and "Tetris" to Matt Lofton for "Wizards and Warriors" and "The Adventures of Lolo." I want to get home soon to play them. Good-bye.

Fortunately, I did have quite a bit to say about Wizards & Warriors (again...byline). In fact, I think it qualifies as my first videogame review ever -- well, preview anyway.

So...that's next time. But for the time being, enjoy the awesome cheese that is this IronSword commercial.  

 
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I would eventually rent (and beat in a weekend) Batman, and Super Mario Bros. 3 wouldn't actually be released for a while, as I recall.

NEXT TIME: What got in my way of "solving" Wizards & Warriors? Would I succeed?...

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My Seventh-Grade Thoughts, Part 2: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'

 

"No, I haven't beaten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yet."

That's what my friend Danny signed my seventh-grade autograph book with (not the actual yearbook, mind you -- that was a whopping 15 bucks). And with good reason -- as I mentioned last time, TMNT for NES was "something much harder" than Zelda II.

Here's what the journal reveals: 



As I have said before, I have just finished the "Adventure of Link." It was tough, but now I am playing something much harder. It is "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." I have finished "The Adventure of Link" in less than a month but it has taken me 3 months to get to the last level in "TMNT" and I can't even get to the end of it. I have nothing else to say. 

And that's pretty much the case. I didn't have a whole lot more to say, except in this entry (which is actually mostly about the Super Bowl -- and the second Bud Bowl, of course).


Oh, this weekend I also solved "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (the Nintendo game). I beat it 3 times. Boy is Shredder a wimp! Good bye!

Yes... I actually said I "solved" it. Without any sense of irony. Crispin would be proud.

 I believe I've met a person or two since back then who solved TMNT as well, but back in the day, I was quite the class hero for being the guy who could do it. (It's all about equipping each Hero in a Half-Shell with 99 scroll weapons, as I recall...which also involved about 15-20 minutes of tedious exiting and re-entering between two screens at one point.)

Of course, I loved it. Looking back, though, it was probably actually quite terrible. Just ask the Angry Nintendo Nerd (this video's a bit vulgar in language, just to prepare/warn you): 

  
  
Can't say I really disagree with any of this, though I don't recall the bomb stage being quite as impossible as he makes it out to be. It was mostly those annoying spacemen in the last level (hence the need for all those scrolls). I wonder if Danny ever did get around to beating it...

That's it for relevant game-related journal entries. But I will close with some TMNT-related fine art...


NEXT TIME: Batman, IronSword or Super Mario Bros. 3: How best to spend my $54.74?

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My Seventh-Grade Thoughts, Part 1: 'Zelda II'


 The Journal
A few years ago, a visit to my parents' house yielded an old treasure I remember fondly: My seventh-grade journal. Now, it's not like I just kept this thing on my own -- it was how we started English every day as part of class. There was always a topic on the board, but I usually ignored it in favor of discussing whatever else was on my mind -- which, as many entries start with something along the lines of "I have absolutely nothing to talk about today," was often very little. But of course, whenever I actually did have something to discuss it often involved NES videogames. 

And the first one I ever wrote about? Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. As part of an ongoing series (that will last until I run out of interesting tidbits), here's what my 13-year-old self had to say about his second jaunt through Hyrule. 

 

The first entry (1/8/90) was mostly about the new journal itself and my trip to see the Harlem Globetrotters the previous Friday night ("I like the time when one guy on the other team pulled down one of the 'Trotters pants and under his pants was a tutu").
 
The game-related text:

Besides that all I did was play "The Adventure of Link" on my Nintendo.

Short, sweet and objective. The next day, I went into a little more detail:


Right now on "The Adventure of Link" I have been to two towns where the wiseman says, "Come back when you are ready." This always happens! But through talking with others about the game, I have resolved that I need some more magic containers. I hope it works and I also hope I get to play it today, because yesterday my mom hid the Nintendo because I didn't put it up.

Ah, yes... Mom and her evil desires of "tidiness"... But the tension's killing me... Would getting more magic containers do the trick?...

Well, apparently I wasn't the greatest at following up on such cliffhangers, as I wouldn't mention the game again until the 18th. But what a landmark entry it was!


After some stuff about it being my great-grandmother's birthday:

Oh yeah! I forgot to tell you yesterday that last Tuesday I finished "The Adventure of Link." To do this I had to call a Nintendo Game Counselour [sic]. He told me where all of the majic [sic] and life containers were and how to get through the sixth palace.

Yep... I got to know that number -- (206) 885-PLAY, if I remember correctly -- incredibly well. This wasn't just before the internet -- this was before everyone used 900 numbers for cheats! I wonder if one of these guys helped me...

 Where are they now?...
And just when you think the Zelda II chat is over, there's this from just another day later... 


I am also thinking of beating the second quest of "The Adventure of Link." On there I have made it to my shadow which I must beat to wake up the Princess Zelda from her sleep spell.

...And that's about it for Zelda II. Actually, there's one other entry that mentions the game, but it leads into the next one -- "something much harder"...

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REPOST: Houston Astros: The Gamers' Choice for the 2005 Series

NOTE: I originally posted this on my 1UP blog after Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, featuring the Astros vs. the White Sox. I had a lot of fun with it and figured I'd repost it here for posterity. At one point I even had screenshots to go with each player, but they've all been lost in time or something. So anyway... 
 
Posted: 2005-10-24 01:53:45.01
Game 2 was a great one...except that it sucked. 

The Astros may be down 0-2, but there's still hope. The reason I think so -- and also the reason I think the Astros should be the team that gamers root for -- is simple: Tengen's R.B.I. Baseball

In case you're too young to remember (the game is the same age as the career of Craig Biggio, after all) or somehow missed out on its greatness, R.B.I. did several things to set the stage not only baseball games, but also sports titles for several years to come. (It should be noted that another game released around the same time, Major League Baseball, did similar things, but not as well.)

Very notable was its style of play. You controlled pitches as you threw them, pointing down for fastballs, up for change-ups, left and right for curves, etc. Meanwhile, you could move your batter anywhere in the batter's box so as to best position him to get his bat on the coming pitch. From respectable games like Tecmo's Bad News Baseball and Culture Brain's fantastic Baseball Simulator 1.000 to pure crap like Dusty Diamond's All-Star Softball (the review I've linked to has some amusing info -- but the game ain't a B), this would be the norm in baseball titles until 1994, when Sega released World Series Baseball for the Genesis (which in many ways -- sometimes unfortunately, I think -- is still in use today).

Perhaps more importantly, however, R.B.I. was the first sports game, period (at least that I know of), to use real player names througout each team's lineup. You had no real team names, but Tengen's success with its use of the MLB Player's Association license showed the industry just how much better a game can be when gamers can relate to the people they're controlling. 

Which brings me to my overall point. Of all the players in the game, seven have some sort of tie to the Astros or White Sox. Here's how it breaks down:

FOR THE WHITE SOX
Tim Raines
In R.B.I.: Leadoff hitter/outfielder for National League All-Star team
In 2005 World Series: White Sox first base coach

Harold Baines
In R.B.I.: American League All-Star team
In 2005 World Series: White Sox bench coach

FOR THE ASTROS

Roger Clemens
In R.B.I.: Boston pitcher
In 2005 World Series: Astros pitcher -- still playing!

Phil Garner
In R.B.I.: Handy off the bench for Houston
In 2005 World Series: Handy on the bench managing for Houston 

Jose Cruz
In R.B.I.: Houston slugger in left field
In 2005 World Series: Astros first base coach

Gary Gaetti
In R.B.I.: Minnesota slugger
In 2005 World Series: Astros hitting coach

Alan Ashby
In R.B.I.: Light-hitting Houston catcher -- but still a helluva guy
In 2005 World Series: In the Astros' announcing booth doing color commentary with Hall of Famer Milo Hamilton

So, the conclusion? Obviously, since there are seven folks involved, each represents a game in the World Series. So the Astros win, five games to two. Well, if they needed to play all seven anyway.     
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