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MI2 ending and the departure of Ron Gilbert from LucasArts

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Hey everyone, I just wanted to ask some questions, hear what you guys think and hopefully get a discussion going as well.

 

My main questions would be: why exactly did Ron leave LucasArts, and why did he do so at that time and not before or after?

I've only ever heard vague things, but that might be because I'm not that well informed. Bloodnose Mike over at the LucasArts fan discord provided the explanation that Ron just wanted to own the IP for the games he was making, which is something I'd heard, but I wanted to know if you guys had different or more detailed answers.

 

Then, some follow-up questions that are a bit more open: do we think the ending to MI2 was setting up a sequel, or was it just a cryptic open ending "for the sake of it"? And coming back to my first question, if Ron and crew did have an MI3 in mind, again, why would Ron leave at that time? Despite MI2 sales not being the best, it's not like management would have stopped them from making a part 3, specially if it was to be a conclusion of sorts. So, has he always had the idea for a trilogy (the famous "MI3a") or is it something he came up with more recently?

 

I do realise that discussing the MI2 ending is well trodden, rather stomped on ground, but nonetheless feel free to theorise away, although I'm personally more interested in exploring other angles of the issue in question.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Daf said:

My main questions would be: why exactly did Ron leave LucasArts, and why did he do so at that time and not before or after?

I've only ever heard vague things, but that might be because I'm not that well informed. Bloodnose Mike over at the LucasArts fan discord provided the explanation that Ron just wanted to own the IP for the games he was making, which is something I'd heard, but I wanted to know if you guys had different or more detailed answers.

Tim Schafer mentioned how they fought with the management at LucasArts to even get the name of the project lead on the cover of the games they made.  MI2 finally had Ron Gilbert's name on the cover, but since the fight to get it there was a pain in the neck, I imagine he wasn't too thrilled to go through that process again with the LucasArts brass.

 

Plus, Ron wanted to make adventure games for children, to get them interested in adventure games young so they'd carry that interest into adulthood, something LucasArts wasn't keen on doing (Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion being the sole game in that genre by LucasArts, quite a bit after Ron left).

 

As he owned Humongous Entertainment, he could make the games he wanted to make and be credited for it.  Plus, he had a deal with LucasArts that allowed him to fork the SPUTM engine and SCUMM language for the HE games, allowing him to continue using the tools he created at LucasArts.  It was definitely a win-win situation for him.

Edited by Jenni
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48 minutes ago, Jenni said:

Plus, Ron wanted to make adventure games for children, to get them interested in adventure games young so they'd carry that interest into adulthood, something LucasArts wasn't keen on doing (Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion being the sole game in that genre by LucasArts, quite a bit after Ron left).

That's rather odd considering that Brian Moriarty allegedly chose to work on educational games at Lucas Learning instead of making the LOOM sequels.

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2 hours ago, Daf said:

Hey everyone, I just wanted to ask some questions, hear what you guys think and hopefully get a discussion going as well.

 

My main questions would be: why exactly did Ron leave LucasArts, and why did he do so at that time and not before or after?

I've only ever heard vague things, but that might be because I'm not that well informed. Bloodnose Mike over at the LucasArts fan discord provided the explanation that Ron just wanted to own the IP for the games he was making, which is something I'd heard, but I wanted to know if you guys had different or more detailed answers.

 

That sounds about right, and I assume that was the biggest part of it -- wanting to own his IP, do what he wanted to do without having to answer to management, etc. Related, he has also said he felt the company was growing too big as it was transitioning from LucasFilm Games to LucasArts.

 

2 hours ago, Daf said:

 

Then, some follow-up questions that are a bit more open: do we think the ending to MI2 was setting up a sequel, or was it just a cryptic open ending "for the sake of it"? And coming back to my first question, if Ron and crew did have an MI3 in mind, again, why would Ron leave at that time? Despite MI2 sales not being the best, it's not like management would have stopped them from making a part 3, specially if it was to be a conclusion of sorts. So, has he always had the idea for a trilogy (the famous "MI3a") or is it something he came up with more recently?

 

I mean, I've left jobs even though I had projects planned there. That's just what people do, I don't think there's much more to it than that. Life happens. As for MI3, I know Schafer and Grossman were pondering making it, but decided to do DOTT instead.

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By all accounts the culture of the studio changed quite a bit as a product of the restructuring of the early 90s. Ron and Shelley Day were not the only people to leave the company around that time. Presumably they were just ready to strike out on their own and have stake in their own creations. As far as the motive behind making adventure games aimed at children, Ron told Mojo that "it gave me a way to do more games in a short amount of time and experiment with design issues."

 

I think Ron saw which way the wind was blowing with adventure games in terms of growing budgets dooming them to become unsustainable, and the early Humongous years can be seen as sort of an antecedent to the digital revolution that would come. The internet was not an option yet, so games aimed at children, who didn't demand bleeding-edge graphics and 60 hours of gameplay, was sort of an alternative manifestation of the same idea Telltale popularized: make adventure games quickly and cheaply and thus profitably.

 

The evolution is even more striking when you look at what the short-lived Hulabee, the successor of Humongous, was attempting. Ron was openly talking about downloadable adventures games by then, but the business fell apart before he could really prove what he set out to. But you look at the six-chapter Moop and Dreadly, and it's like Ron was predicting the future. Interestingly enough, Freelance Police (which would have entered development around this time) was itself conceived as a six-chapter adventure game, and the team had lobbied for digital distribution, which was too radical for the management at the time. (Ironically, the same management ultimately cancelled the game because of the cost of bringing an adventure game to retail.)

 

Finally, Sam & Max: Season 1 demonstrated that this could work, but it's funny how different people were independently working toward the same conclusion in the years leading up to that.

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13 hours ago, Daf said:

Then, some follow-up questions that are a bit more open: do we think the ending to MI2 was setting up a sequel, or was it just a cryptic open ending "for the sake of it"? And coming back to my first question, if Ron and crew did have an MI3 in mind, again, why would Ron leave at that time? Despite MI2 sales not being the best, it's not like management would have stopped them from making a part 3, specially if it was to be a conclusion of sorts. So, has he always had the idea for a trilogy (the famous "MI3a") or is it something he came up with more recently?

 

I do realise that discussing the MI2 ending is well trodden, rather stomped on ground, but nonetheless feel free to theorise away, although I'm personally more interested in exploring other angles of the issue in question.
 


I think Ron did say when musing about a possible MI3a that it would be different from what he planned back then. So there was a plan for a sequel.

Edited by Alexrd

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19 hours ago, ATMachine said:

That's rather odd considering that Brian Moriarty allegedly chose to work on educational games at Lucas Learning instead of making the LOOM sequels.

Lucas Learning did make educational Star Wars games.  But, AFAIK the only adventure game for children LucasArts ever produced was Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion.

 

Humongous Entertainment did eventually break out into other genres (especially with the Backyard Sports games) but their modus operandi was adventure games for children, something LucasArts never embraced.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the first game that Lucas Learning actually published Star Wars Droidworks in 1998? (Aside perhaps from the mysterious Paul Parkranger and the Mystery of the Disappearing Ducks, of which only one copy has ever turned up on eBay, from the personal collection of LucasArts package designer Terri Soo Hoo.)

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On 9/2/2020 at 9:09 PM, Daf said:

Then, some follow-up questions that are a bit more open: do we think the ending to MI2 was setting up a sequel, or was it just a cryptic open ending "for the sake of it"? And coming back to my first question, if Ron and crew did have an MI3 in mind, again, why would Ron leave at that time? Despite MI2 sales not being the best, it's not like management would have stopped them from making a part 3, specially if it was to be a conclusion of sorts. So, has he always had the idea for a trilogy (the famous "MI3a") or is it something he came up with more recently?

 

I seem to remember reading that MI2 sold more copies in its first month than MI1 sold altogether, so I don't think management there was disappointed with the sales. I also don't think anyone was "stopping" anyone from making MI3, either, I just don't think anyone had a strong idea for what they wanted to pitch. Plus I don't think Ron would have considered staying at LEC just to work on MI3 when he obviously was yearning to have more control with his own company. Setting up his own company with Shelley Day was likely far more important to him than coming up with a fully fleshed out idea for MI3.

 

When I got to meet Ron in London a few years ago, he told me that he started work on MI2 before it had even been greenlit by management. ("It's better to ask for forgiveness than permission" is how he put it.) So going straight onto a THIRD Monkey Island game after that was probably the last thing he felt like doing, too.

 

Finally, I think people make too much of MI2's ending. Bill Tiller (who admittedly isn't always the most reliable) says that it was always Ron's idea to end MI1 with his "child's dream" thing, but Tim and Dave managed to talk him out of it. When they got to MI2's ending they didn't know what to do, so they relented and let Ron have his mischievous ending... but then tacked on a few things so that someone could make a sequel. I really doubt that Ron had anything deeply or seriously planned for MI3. Maybe a couple of notions, but I think it's mostly a bit of mischievous myth-making, which is why he's never revealed it.

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1 hour ago, ThunderPeel2001 said:

Finally, I think people make too much of MI2's ending. Bill Tiller (who admittedly isn't always the most reliable) says that it was always Ron's idea to end MI1 with his "child's dream" thing, but Tim and Dave managed to talk him out of it. When they got to MI2's ending they didn't know what to do, so they relented and let Ron have his mischievous ending... but then tacked on a few things so that someone could make a sequel. I really doubt that Ron had anything deeply or seriously planned for MI3. Maybe a couple of notions, but I think it's mostly a bit of mischievous myth-making, which is why he's never revealed it.

 

I couldn't agree more with all of this.

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Yeah, I always read it as not much more than a parody of the Darth Vader "No, I am your father"-scene, with the weirdness turned up to 11. If, in an alternate timeline, Ron would have stayed at Lucas and started designing Monkey 3 right after finishing 2, I'm sure the vast majority of the game would still take place in pirate land, with that being the real reality of that world. After all, we have Elaine almost winking at the camera and talking about it being a spell from LeChuck during the credits.

 

I know not everyone is a fan of the way they did it, but I always liked how Curse handled it, with the characters themselves mostly being confused about what actually happened, and the writers shrugging their shoulders about the whole thing through LeChucks optional explanations at the end. All the modern references like the Coke machines in these games feel more like 90s Simpsons-esque jokes rather than hints about some Lost-like mystery, and Ron hinting that there might have been more to it in later years never felt completely genuine to me - I just don't think they were thinking that far ahead and just needed a funny ending.

 

I should probably note that I really do like both Ron and the Monkey 2 ending though! 

Edited by AlfredJ
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On 9/3/2020 at 5:45 PM, ATMachine said:

...the mysterious Paul Parkranger and the Mystery of the Disappearing Ducks...

 

The what?!? This is a Lucas game?!

 

Edit: There's this video: http://www.convivial.com/project/early-interactive-works/

 

As for the MI2 ending, don't forget that the Lucas Teams were quite into Twin Peaks tv zaniness

Edited by Scummbuddy
Found a video

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On 9/3/2020 at 5:45 PM, ATMachine said:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the first game that Lucas Learning actually published Star Wars Droidworks in 1998? (Aside perhaps from the mysterious Paul Parkranger and the Mystery of the Disappearing Ducks, of which only one copy has ever turned up on eBay, from the personal collection of LucasArts package designer Terri Soo Hoo.)

Mortimer and the Riddles of the Medallion, released in 1996, was published by LucasArts (EDIT: apparently during the time period after the learning division(s) merged into LucasArts, but before Lucas Learning was spun back out into its own division). 

 

According to the Los Angeles TimesThe Mystery of the Disappearing Ducks: A Paul Parkranger Mystery (released in 1991 or 1992, and was the winner of a Cindy Award for special achievement in instructional design) was only one of at least two of these types of instructional discs released by Lucas in the early 1990s. The other was GTV: A Geographic Perspective on American History (released in 1990 or 1991, and was selected by Technology & Learning magazine as one of the top five educational software programs for 1990-91).

 

EDIT: I did a little more digging. SFGate revealed a third early 1990s educational disc by Lucas: Life Story: The Race for the Double Helix.

 

EDIT 2: More digging. According to the New York Times, the learning division of the Lucas companies was founded in 1987 as LucasArts Learning. GTV was made in association with the National Geographic Society, the California State Department of Education, and Apple Computers. Life Story was made in association with Apple's Multimedia Lab, the Smithsonian Institution, and Adrian Malone Productions. Paul Parkranger was developed in association with the National Audubon Society (which we already knew).

 

LucasArts Learning also developed an experimental program titled Mac Magic, which was developed in association with the Marin Community Foundation, the San Rafael, Calif., School District and Apple Computers. It was a cooperative learning program for classrooms that taught language and history skills to ethnically and academically diverse students. It started in 1989 and ran for at least four years. It was awarded the "Point of Light" award from President H.W. Bush in January 1993, less than two weeks before he left the White House.

 

EDIT 3: According to a New York Times article, LucasArts Learning was merged into the LucasArts Entertainment Company in 1993.  And according to the Los Angeles Times article above, the learning division was then spun out from LucasArts as Lucas Learning in 1996.

 

EDIT 4: After even more digging, T.H.E. (Technological Horizons In Education) Journal revealed one more videodisc for classrooms by LucasArts Learning: Choices & Decisions: Taking Charge of Your Life. It was developed in association with Visa. It was used in at least six classrooms beginning in 1992 and taught students financial management and consumer life skills.

 

EDIT 5: Apparently, according to a New York Times article, George Lucas created another learning division in 1989 after filming Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade titled Lucasfilm Learning Systems. GTV was published in 1990 by that division.

 

EDIT 6 (8 hours later): I decided to do another search, and the 1992 book Transforming American Education mentions another Laserdisc title by Lucasfilm Learning Systems in the GTV series: GTV: Planetary Manager. It's an exploration of the connections between science, the environment, and society.

Edited by Jenni
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