Rogue Leaders is a beautiful coffee table book that chronicles the history of George Lucas’ video game division, Lucasarts.
Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts is a large beautiful coffee table book adorned with a lenticular cover showcasing several videogame characters. This tome was written by Rob Smith with a foreword by George Lucas.
In these strange times, I decided to pull this book off the shelf and finally give it a read as I have owned it for many years. The book was published by Chronicle Books back in 2008.
Rogue Leaders covers the first twenty-five years of the company that originally started as Lucasfilm games. They co-operated with Atari who held the current licence for Star Wars video games.
Therefore, Lucasfilm Games had to produce their own original titles. It would be several years before they could start releasing Star Wars and Indiana Jones related titles on their own.
Lucasfilm Game’s first titles were Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus! in 1984. Unfortunately, when the first unprotected prototype cartridges were delivered to Atari for a marketing review, they were leaked to pirate bulletin boards.
This leads to a brilliant anecdote from Tim Schafer who went for a job interview with Lucasfilm Games in 1989. In that interview, he described how he loved playing Ballblaster. Unfortunately, this was the title of the beta copy that had leaked and was renamed to Ballblazer upon release!
Despite this unfortunate admittance to piracy, Tim was hired and would go on to create one of Lucasfilm Games biggest and most revered titles, The Secret of Monkey Island.
Rogue Leaders has quite a few interesting little stories like this but they are far and few between. Whilst the large-format book contains a lot of beautiful concept art, especially from titles that were unfortunately cancelled, there isn’t a lot in the way of history.
The book starts out well with the creation of the company, the first people who joined and the creation of several of Lucasarts unique software applications that allowed them to create their brilliant adventure games such as the SCUMM and iMUSE systems.
From this point on though, most of the games only get a few paragraphs each, maybe a synopsis and a soundbite or two from the developer along with a few pieces of concept art or pencil sketches.
This is such a shame because as with any project, there are ideas and elements that are tried, tested and discarded on the way to making the final product. For example, The Dig, an adventure game released in 1995 that was in development for six years.
Originally an idea by Steven Spielberg for his Amazing Stories series, the project went through three project leaders before its final release. It was one of Lucasarts big media projects with an accompanying novel and soundtrack CD release.
The biggest tease of all comes with the final two pages of the book that feature logos for many Star Wars projects that were cancelled. There is a little reprieve as some of the games, as you discover by reading the book, transformed into other projects that did make a final release.
Rogue Leaders is ultimately a little disappointing. Every game up until 2008 gets a mention, some associated concept art and maybe a tidbit of information. I can’t help but think that many of these games have a much bigger story to tell.