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Role Playing (Games)

On The Genesis Of LucasArts' Habitat 21

Thanks to Oblomovka for pointing to a Habitat Chronicles post chronicling the early days of LucasArts/LucasFilm Games, including the 1984-era "pair of proposals, one for something we called Lucasnet, which would correspond to what nowadays we'd call a games portal, and one for something we called the Lucasfilm Games Alliance, which would correspond to what nowadays we'd call a MMORPG (and indeed, which looked in concept a lot like what Star Wars Galaxies turned out to be in practice, albeit 20 years later)." The eventual product, as documented by the creators, was Lucasfilm's 1986-launched Habitat, "arguably one of the first attempts to create a very large scale commercial multi-user virtual environment", but the detailed post also strays into defining the Lucasfilm ethos in the '80s, pointing out provocatively: "We were absolutely forbidden from doing any [games] that made use of the company's film properties, especially Star Wars. That was viewed as just like spending money, since these properties were, in effect, money in the bank."
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On The Genesis Of LucasArts' Habitat

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  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @08:11AM (#9868056) Homepage Journal
    ...if you use them.

    lucas knows this all too well(now).. pump pump pump the franchise pump pump pump the moneeeeyyy, suck suck suck the hooneyyy.

  • Remembering the hype (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sinistar2k ( 225578 ) on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @08:53AM (#9868172)
    I remember quite well the hype surrounding Habitat. As a QuantumLink subscriber, I looked forward to its release because I thought a graphical interface for user communication was the coolest thing ever.

    Habitat was lauded in all the major C=64 magazines of the time, but then sort of disappeared, only to materialize in the form of QuantumLink's Club Caribe. Club Caribe itself didn't last very long (2 years, according to the paper), possibly because it was a premium content feature (that is, you were charged above and beyond your monthly QuantumLink service charge in order to use it). It was also quite feature limited in comparison to the original promised Habitat feature set.
    • by wizzy403 ( 303479 ) * on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @10:20AM (#9868615)

      It stayed running until Quantum Link closed its doors. Q-Link got bought by AOL (or was it a merger... My memory is a bit hazy, not enough coffee yet this morning...) Both services ran together for a year or two, but as the Commodore exodus continued, AOL killed off Q-Link in (IIRC) 1992.

      Club Caribe still lives on (somewhat) as Caribe Isle in the Dreamsacpe world on Vzones []. VZones uses a somewhat-updated engine of the old Habitat. There was a company in the Far East (Korea??) that had an even better version of Habitat, but it wasn't skinned for English, so I couldn't tell you too much about it.

      I was on a panel at a convention some years back that dealt with this topic... If I can find my notes I'll post more history and any links that still work... This was 4 or 5 years ago.

      • Apparently Fujitsu licensed Habitat and released it on their FM Towns machine. There was also a Habitat 2, which AFAIK only appeared on the Sega Saturn. Both came out only in Japan.
        • Yeah, that's who it was, Fujitsu.

          H2 got licensed to VZones as "Second Kingdom" though it just happened recently. I haven't been active in VZones in a few years, so I haven't tried it out. Supposed to be pretty good though. (Even if it is years behind the Doom-3 graphics curve)
    • by nutsy ( 33125 )

      The Lessons of LucasFilm's Habitat [] (from the same site) is also a really good read, both in terms of origins and in terms of users/administration; reselling dolls and crystal balls is enlightening, as is the bit about DEATH and THE SHADOW. It's a pity the "screenshots" are faked (as far as I know, the only real screenshots surviving from Habitat's development are photos of monitor screens).

      The next step, of course, is to endlessly nag them to release the source code. ;)

  • Man, oh man, my first "MMOG" addiction. I had found Club Caribe on Q-Link in 1990, back before I knew what MUD's were...(Club Caribe was Habitat in a resort setting, more like a MUSH than a MUD.) I must have been addicted to it, because in the month of January I racked up $400 in Plus Charges in Q-Link.

    Needless to say, my parents were not happy with their middle schooler racking up such a large credit card bill, and they made me stop using it without being able to say goodbye to my friends.

    I was buildin
  • Yes and No... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BTWR ( 540147 ) <americangibor3&yahoo,com> on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @10:12AM (#9868577) Homepage Journal
    True, not using Lucasarts properties forced them to make some of the best games of the 80s/90s, which were 100% original (Day of the Tenticle, Sam & Max). It also prevented "staining" any Lucasarts properties...

    But, when they WISELY used their licenses, they scored BIG time. X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Indiana Jones & Fate of Atlantis, Dark Forces, etc - those were all AWESOME games. Though others hated them, I even loved Rebel Assault.

    Only when they started whoring the titles to produce "Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine," "X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter," and "Star Wars: Racer" did they start to falter and cause what they originally tried to prevent: staining their cash cows...

    • Fate of Atlantis is still one of my favorite games of all time. Everything came together perfectly on that one.
    • Racer was mildly fun in the arcade, and not too bad at home. I was still using a Mac, so it was quite a while until I played the various x-wing titles.
    • Anyone else remember "Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders?" It was the first LucasArts game I played, and I absolutely loved it. So many conspiracy-theory references and tounge-in-cheek humour. I don't think I ever actually finished it, though. A friend and I were playing it together, and we just got totally stuck very near the end of the game and couldn't get any further. This was before any of us had a modem or access to walk-throughs.

      • Haha, I only got about 40% through without a hintbook. I got lost around the part where you had to open the door on Mars using the code from Africa. It was way too easy to burn useful objects and prevent yourself from winning. I was only like 10 years old though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2004 @12:35PM (#9869491)
    Habitat for whatever reason took forever to launch, and when it did, it was in the form of "Club Caribe", a tropical island type of setting.

    For its time it was very cool. Basically, check out "" and that's what Club Caribe was exactly, but in 2D with "Maniac Mansion" style graphics and interface.

    It launched just a little too late, as the Commodore 64 was in decline already. Too bad though...Here we were in 1988 with a multi-user environment already. Custom avatars... chat, "emoticons" (in the form of actions your player could do through macro keys). There was exploration, social events, currency, ... gosh, it was cool!

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"