Rock, Paper, Shotgun - (Alec Meer)

Sofia, with a funny haircut

Option 1) Disney give it the thumbs up and it carries on to completion, rapturous acclaim and a whole host of olden LucasArts titles getting a similar do-over.Option 2) You know. The other thing.

For now, let’s just admire the effort and care this five-person team are putting into a 3D remake of classic LucasArts pointer-clicker Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which as we all now know is really about kissing. (And, frankly, that raises other concerns about just how carefully this project needs to be treated in order to not upset its delicate balance of characterisation and comedy). Take a look at work in progress below, anyway. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - (Cara Ellison)

Indiana Jones and the Fate of HIS FACE

A long time ago, when I was just a fledgeling writer who had just attended her first Game Developer’s Conference and only accidentally brushed shoulders with Tim Schafer at a bar, I was surprised to get a message on Facebook from Noah Falstein. He had noticed that my cover image was of the 1992 LucasArts point and click adventure Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. He saw it on my page thanks to a connection of a friend of a friend. He ‘liked’ it. And I realised: Noah wrote that game.

I guess that was the moment I knew I was privileged to be able to talk to the people who make the things I care about, and that I should spend my time critiquing their work. This week’s S.EXE is about the ‘team’ narrative strand of Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis. It’s got clinches worthy of Hollywood. I’ve not seen a kiss in a game that’s ever topped Sophia and Indy’s frequent tonsil-scraping embraces.

… [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
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So, a Giant Asteroid is Heading for Earth...Again...Later this week, the asteroid YU55 will pass close to the Earth. How close? Like, between the moon and the Earth close. PC gamers may remember the last time this happened, in 1995.

Back then, it was the asteroid Attila, and unlike TU55 - which should pass by harmlessly - it was headed straight for us. And our only hope of salvation lay in the hands of Steven Spielberg, Orson Scott Card and the T-1000.

The game I'm talking about is of course The Dig, one of the strangest and most interesting games to ever come out of 1990's PC powerhouse Lucasarts. Arriving at the vanguard of the late-90s fascination with giant asteroids, seen in movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact, The Dig was a game that flaunted starpower and marketing like no other adventure game before or since.

The basic premise of The Dig, involving a team of astronauts exploring an alien planet, was conceived by Steven Spielberg, who had intended to first use it as the basis of an episode for his Amazing Stories TV series, and then later as a motion picture. He ended up doing neither, as the budget and technology required to do it justice simple weren't available at the time.

So instead, the story was handed off to his pal George Lucas, who in 1989 set Lucasarts to work turning Spielberg's story into an adventure game. Unlike most other adventure games to come out of the studio at the time, work on The Dig was a mess; it would take six years to get the game finished, during which time it went through four project leads and a number of complete re-writes.

By the time the game was released in 1995, its story went like this: a giant asteroid, Attila, is on a collission course with Earth. So a team of scientists and astronauts are sent to land on the thing and detonate explosives, which it's hoped will cause it to shift into orbit, thus saving the planet. Instead, they discover the asteroid is actually a starship, which whisks them off to a ruined, near-deserted alien planet.

You spend most of the game trying to get back home again, using decaying alien technology and exploring the unknown world. There's even time to meet some aliens.

So, a Giant Asteroid is Heading for Earth...Again...While the final product bore little resemblance to Spielberg's original story, he is still credited as one of the game's writers, alongside sci-fi legend Orson Scott Card, who was brought in to write most of the game's dialogue. Adding to the starpower was the casting of Robert Patrick (best known as the T-1000 in Terminator 2) as the game's star, Commander Boston Low, a rare move for games in general at the time, let alone 2D adventure titles.

Owing to the big names and protracted development cycle, not to mention a promotional campaign that made the game look like a movie, The Dig attracted an unhealthy amount of pre-release hype, which the finished product - being an adventure game - was never going to meet. Nonetheless, by the time fans finally got their hands on The Dig, most people's reactions were positive, and while it failed to really win people's hearts like other Lucasarts titles, it's still seen as a solid adventure game. The game's sweeping soundtrack is particularly well-remembered.

If you'd like to check it out, the game is currently $5 on Steam. It's very much worth it; like many of its peers, time has been kind to The Dig, its sprites looking just as good today as they did at release.

FUN FACT: In 2007 Lucasarts sued aggregation website Digg over its name, a move which ended in an out-of-court settlement.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.

You can contact Luke Plunkett, the author of this post, at You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
PC Gamer
Monkey Island
It's easy to misremember the locations and characters of the old Lucasarts adventure games. I recall wandering through the vast caverns of Atlantis, stepping over streams of molten gold to activate titanic robots. It's only when you go back and see the original art that you realise how much the artists did with so few pixels. Redditor Hovercastle has compiled 604 pieces of background art from some of the very best Lucasarts games, including Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Dig, Loom, the first two Monkey Island games and Sam and Max Hit the Road.

The whole collection can be viewed online, or downloaded. Because they're displayed at their original resolution, they seem tiny on modern monitors. Have a flick through and be prepared for a bit of a nostalgia shock. We've picked out a few favourites from Monkey Island 1 and 2, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and The Dig below.

Monkey Island

Monkey Island 2

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

The Dig

PC Gamer

Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Youth is a fan made Indiana Jones adventure game inspired by the Lucasarts classic, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. The game features new artwork, it's own soundtrack and a new adventure in which Indie must get his hands on the elusive fountain before the Nazis. If you fancy some classic retro adventure gaming an updated version of the demo has just been released. Read on for more details.

The trial can be downloaded now from the Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Youth site. The demo sends Indie to the tropical island of Bimini as he picks up the trail of the fountain. The game was made entirely using the free Adventure Game Studio software, and was created by a team of nine Fate of Atlantis fans, who started the project in 2003 and are still working hard on getting the whole game finished. Hopefully they'll be finished sooner rather than later, a brand new Indiana Jones adventure game can only be a good thing.

These retrospectives are rapidly becoming confessionals for me. Here's this week's: I don't much care for Indiana Jones.

If I ever saw the films as a kid, they washed right over me. As an adult, I find them mostly quite boring. I went out and bought the DVD box set many years back, convinced I'd want such things in my life. But they're not adventurous enough to be adventure movies and not fantastical enough to be fantasy movies. The middleground in which they exist is clearly ideal for the vast majority, but somehow not for me. Once again, I miss out.

However, like wrapping a pill up in tuna so your cat will eat it, putting Dr Jones inside a LucasArts adventure game is the surest way to make me forget my hesitation and happily open wide. (My mouth, you weirdo.)

What's more helpful is making it one of the finest adventure games the studio ever made. Fate of Atlantis really is outstanding, and even more so for being one of very few nineties adventures that hasn't become too infuriating for modern play.

Nazi business

It's a good job the Nazis didn't have access to all the mystical, powerful idols and machinery that gaming would have us believe. Although it's equally odd that our fiction wants to take one of the most horrific and murderous forces ever to have existed, and suggest that had they only got their hands on the Holy Grail or secrets of ancient worlds then they could have caused some real trouble. But such is the way of both gaming and the Indiana Jones franchise, and so once more the good doctor is trekking about the planet trying to beat the Nazis to finding the lost city of Atlantis.

He teams up with Sophia Hapgood, a surrogate Marion Ravenwood, with whom he also had a brief affair in the past, and again with whom he must work in order to succeed. Hapgood was formerly a successful archaeologist, but quit in order to become a psychic, aided by her spirit guide, Atlantean god Nur-Ab-Sal – something that disgusts the rationalist Indy. Together they chase down three stone discs that are said to allow access to the sunken city, visiting Iceland, Tikal, the Azores, New York, Crete...

Construction for the Modern Idiot

But before any of that, there's one of the most splendid introduction sequences of any game. You begin controlling Indy with only the mouse cursor, the rest of the SCUMM verb system blanked out at this point. Your attempts to locate a statue see him having a series of clumsy accidents, as he crashes through floor after floor, before the game's intro proper.

There's a strong whiff of precognitive satire as you play, using an interaction system that's pretty much how modern adventures play now – one cursor, no choice about how its used – and how clumsy this makes Indy. But it's the way this sequence is then later reversed - as you must make your way back to the top of the building – that demonstrates quite what splendid structural thinking is going on here.

In fact, the whole game is remarkably well constructed. It never makes you feel restricted to one path, one direction, while also managing to never generate that constant failure of adventures, agoraphobia from too many places to go at once.

Skipping between countries, finding items in one to use in another, constructing solutions – it's all splendid fun. And then it whisks you on to the next set, the next collection of choices. And for once they're really choices.

Fate of Atlantis is well known for having three different routes to completion. After the first act you can choose to play the Wits, Team or Combat path. The first is packed with tough puzzles, the second means Sophia accompanies you throughout and you often rely on each other to progress, and the third lets Indy use the game's primitive fisticuffs to punch his way out of trouble. Then all three paths lead to the same point for the game's final act, which offers at least a couple of alternative endings.

But there's choice between as well. In two forms. Some puzzles have multiple solutions, and others change each time you play the game. In fact, a lot does.

So during that sequence where you return to the university buildings and attempt to climb your way back up the floors Indy previously crashed through, I was feeling smug. I never remember what happens in games years on, and yet for once I knew the solution to the puzzle. Get the arrowhead, use the cloth, and unscrew the back of the bookcase. Then you can knock the book down, and you've got the Lost Dialogue Of Plato.

Except it didn't work. Wrong book. But then I remembered! Melt the wax cat. Except, it contained nothing. Instead I had to get the gross mayonnaise from across the road to grease the statue to slide it across the floor to get to the attic to find the key to unlock the chest.


There are some puzzles here that don't make a lot of sense once you've figured out/looked up the solution. But they're few. Compared with The Curse of Monkey Island, which I looked at last week, they are a masterclass in how to design adventure puzzles.

It's extraordinary to learn how small a team made this game. Most of the LucasArts regulars were on The Secret of Monkey Island or The Dig at the time. The lead on this one was Hal Barwood, a film writer and producer who brought a considerable range of skills to the project. He worked on almost every aspect, including writing the splendid script.

Fate of Atlantis is not an overtly comedy game, as many of LucasArts other projects obviously were. But it is still constantly entertaining, with some lovely banter between Jones and Hapgood. The script was so strong, in fact, that many tipped it many times as the plot for the mythical fourth movie. Oh, if only it had been.

Forgive me a ghastly name-dropping anecdote, but I'm old and you can't stop me. A few years back I was lucky enough to be visiting George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch, the workplace of many LucasFilm/LucasArts scriptwriters. And we peeked into the extraordinary redwood circular library, with its vast stained glass domed ceiling, spiral redwood staircase, and walls lined with tens of thousands of books. It truly is an extraordinary sight, and it's the place where Barwood researched the plot for this game. It's the place where Lucas's scriptwriters research the plot for all his projects. And when I went inside, the tables were spread with books about 1950s, and mysterious items. They were planning the new Indy film, and while it had yet to be announced, looking at those tables I knew.

If I'd known what they were planning, I'd have accidentally crashed into the table while lighting a match, and while a beautiful room of wonderful books would have been tragically lost, I think it would have been for the greater good.

Orichalcum in a minute

Barwood's efforts were much better applied. Atlantis myths offer huge stretches of possibility, and the game makes a special effort to include a lot of real-world information on the subject. Taking inspiration from Plato and Ignatius L. Donnelly (thanks Wikipedia), embracing the myths but then making them slightly more fantastical, makes for excellent gaming.

The game's final act, set in the three concentric circles of Atlantis, are especially splendid. Puzzles wrapped in puzzles, mixed in with Sophia's gradual decline into possession, on a grand scale. While it would have been a good idea if the game could have at least hinted to you that you need to pick up every single object you've used on the way, or you'll be painfully backtracking all over the place (stones, ladder, wheel, pole...), it feels like such an epic sequence, leading to a decent climax.

It's lovely, I think, that the ending is all based on talking your way out of trouble. Or indeed into it. Perhaps that conversation is a little scrappy – the route to success certainly doesn't make as much sense as it could – but it remains a fitting finish.

In the end, against the odds, it was the better game of the three LucasArts were making at the time. And it's one that certainly merits a return visit. It comes with the Wii release of Staff of Kings, and is also on Steam for the PC.

PC Gamer

Richard Cobbett looks back at one of Lucasarts' worst ever games, and one of Indy's most unfortunate misadventures this side of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Shudder.

Where to begin? Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a godawful mess of a game by anyone's standards. It's ugly. It's boring. It's barely playable. What little plot there is gets buried instantly under the bad controls and embarrassingly poor puzzles. The interesting idea of being able to control two characters at once is utterly squandered by the fact that you won't want to spend a single second more than you have to in their company. And yet despite all this, when you mention Fate of Atlantis, you'll struggle to find anyone who doesn't have warm memories of it. They'll tell you it's one of Lucasarts' best adventures, with a great story and characters that deserved to be immortalised in an actual movie.

So what's going on? Simple. We're not thinking of that Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which is indeed fantastic. No, we're playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis: The Action Game.

Fate of Atlantis: The Action Game is an odd one - a cheap movie cash-in, only without the movie. It does owe its existence to one though: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which was also split into two games - a SCUMM based adventure by Noah Falstein, David Fox and Ron Gilbert that wasn't great but did some interesting things, and a fairly generic cash-in platformer that didn't.

The Fate of Atlantis version took the form of an isometric action-adventure hybrid, but otherwise stuck to the stripped down (read: lazy) nature of movie ports at the time. The original adventure version was huge. The Action Game offered just six levels. The adventure featured a fun plot, with three paths designed around wits, fists, and Indy's new partner, feisty psychic Sophia Hapgood. The action game relies on the manual to tell you what you're doing and why. Most notably of all, at least on first glance, the adventure game actually has Harrison Ford's face on the cover, while the action game had to make do with a random guy in a fedora, plus a huge INDY logo to draw your eye away from the hideous artwork. It's quite clear which of the two games Lucasarts gave a damn about. And in case you're wondering, yes, the Action Game does admit that it's based on the adventure, rather than pretending the two were equals.

You know you're in trouble from the start of the first level, which drops you into a Monte Carlo casino and promptly washes its hands of you. A few enemies wander around, occasionally shuffling over to punch you in the face for a bit, but just as quickly losing interest and getting back to more important daydreaming. If you punch them, sometimes they drop sweets. You can switch between Indy and Sophia at will, with the other in either 'stop' or 'go' mode, which lets them amble around on their own random walking and face-punching adventures. Indy starts off with his whip and his fists, while Sophia gets to gently kick people in the shins until they feign death in the hope that she goes away. If either character runs out of health, they get transported into a cell without even a door to stop them simply walking out, but of course they don't do that because that would be naughty and the Nazis might tell on them.

The best part of the game comes when a character talks to you. Instead of a line of dialogue, it just shows you a symbol - which you then have to look up on the grounds that Indiana Jones doesn't speak the local language and has no idea what they're saying to him. Hit a hotel guest for instance, and they scream "/" You promptly reach for your travel guide, flip to the relevant page, run your finger down the translations provided and discover to your amazement that "/" means "Do not hit the hotel guests." Genius.

Want to learn more Lazy Programmer Language? Here are some other handy phrases:

Circle Three-Bars - You can't leave without both a map and the Lost Dialogue
Triangle Hourglass - Tread not upon the Great Machine!
Circle Hourglass - Enough haggling! I have lost patience with you; go away for now

If you both survive and stay awake throughout the casino level, the next levels take you to a naval base, a submarine bay and an actual submarine. As with many arcade games of the era, the manual completely gives away everything that happens in the game. My favourite bit is this section, taken verbatim from the submarine level's description. Fun fact: the developers were called "Attention To Detail"...

"Find the periscope so you can steer the submarine to the islands... one of them has to be Atlantis!"

The greatest irony of Fate of Atlantis: The Action Game is that it's a million times duller than its supposedly non-exciting adventure version. What the real Fate of Atlantis lacked in tedious isometric face punching, it more than made up for with snarling enemies, its own arcade style fighting, funny situations, death defying escapes and more. Its casino level involved tracking down your contact and having Indy dress up as a ghost to scare his pants off during a fake seance. Doesn't that sound like much more fun than punching easily distracted goons until they poo chocolate? The answer is yes.

Many of the problems with the game can no doubt be attributed to the number of platforms it was aimed at. The adventure game was fairly advanced for its time, and restricted to PC and Amiga. The Action Game on the other hand was ported over to Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum as well, with the lack of text strings (not to mention capital letters) and input buttons smacking of developing for the lowest common denominator. That's still no excuse though. It's one thing to make a bad game to sucker people into spending money on something crap, but so much worse to distract them from the genuinely good game of the same name sitting only a couple of spaces away on the next shelf.

Needless to say, Lucasarts learned its lesson. Fate of Atlantis put an end to the "The Action Game" idea before it could infect the likes of Monkey Island or Grim Fandango, with future adventure games simply containing their own arcade sequences where necessary - from Full Throttle's fighting to Sam and Max's gimmicky asides. The real Fate of Atlantis went on to become a genuine classic of the genre, as well as the last dedicated Indiana Jones adventure. Future games took the Tomb Raider route instead, which seems only fair, even if they weren't necessarily what the original fans wanted.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is available on Steam.

The Action Game, oddly enough, is not.

Bringing A Modern Touch To Some Retro Sprite ArtHTML5 is, in simple terms, a new language for the web that among other things will allow for videos and animations to play without the need for Flash. It can also breathe new life into old video game art styles.

Joe Huckaby over on the Effect Games blog has a great piece up showing a few examples. Taking the work of artist Mark Ferrari and applying an old 2D technique known as "colour cycling", we're left with some beautiful backgrounds that show what's possible from games running on platforms like the internet or mobile phones when HTML5 becomes more widely-adopted.

Mark Ferrari was a background artist on a lot of classic Lucasarts adventure games for the PC, like Monkey Island and Loom, so there are few better people to use to showcase the technique. The examples here are mere still images; to see them running in all their windy, rainy glory, hit the link below.

Old School Color Cycling with HTML5 [Effect Games, thanks Rich!]

Bringing A Modern Touch To Some Retro Sprite Art

Shacknews - Chris Faylor
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Loom, and The Dig will be among the titles available through Steam for Mac when the digital distribution platform launches on Mac later today, LucasArts has revealed.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and The Dig

Each of the four games will sell individually at $4.99 and collectively in a $9.99 bundle, though LucasArts cautions that "the great price of $9.99" is a "limited time" thing.

There's no need to re-purchase if you already own the games via Steam PC, as LucasArts is among the companies using "Steam Play" so that "folks who have already purchased an...

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