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August 26, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Full Throttle

If you're anything like me (and really, you know you are), then the classic LucasArts adventure game "Full Throttle" holds a special place in your gaming heart. It was a great combination of artwork, gameplay, writing, and design that few games have been able to match since its initial release for DOS in 1995. Some didn't like the fact that it was a very short game (able to be completed in a few hours), but personally I think that probably led to the game being more polished, well-designed, and memorable.

Over on Adventure Classic Gaming, Marshall Ratliff and Philip Jong have posted a nice summary of the history of Full Throttle, particularly of the time following the game's success and during the planning and development of its sequels. I didn't really know anything about that history, but as the authors state, "behind the success of Full Throttle was a detracted story of developer heartbreak." The story is quite interesting to read, filled with fascinating bits of information about the original game and its proposed sequels.

In a whole mess of awesome, they were able to score an interview with Bill Tiller, who worked at LucasArts from 1993 to 2001 and was Art Director for the sequel Full Throttle: Payback. Tiller is now the founder and creative director of Autumn Moon Entertainment, the developer of A Vampyre Story -- a sweet-looking adventure game that is also one of the most anticipated releases of the year (with a release date of Halloween 2008).

In addition to the interview, Tiller even gave them access to some of the concept art from the sequel, which is up on the web site alongside the story. Some really nice pieces are available, and it's a shame they were never able to see the light of day.

Tiller provides some interesting insider scoops, including what seems like typical feedback from management-types:

"One bummer thing that happened was that one of the big mucky mucks in management was reviewing the game design and said they didn’t like it. When pressed for more specific criticism, this person pointed out the Cave Fish gang, saying that the "Cone fish" - which is what this person called them - didn’t belong in the Full Throttle franchise. This person was criticizing the game design without clearly having played the first game! That was a bummer."


Not surprisingly, it sounds like a similar type of situation led to the demise of the project:

"My opinion is that there existed some major difference of opinion between the team and a particularly influential person, who didn’t like the direction we were going. And in the end those differences could not be resolved."


There is also some information about the better-known sequel, Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels, which Tiller did not work on. It was to be a 3D action adventure game, and even got as far as having a trailer and demo available at E3 in 2003. However, only a few months afterward, the project was abruptly cancelled without much explanation.

As Ratliff and Jong state, now that LucasArts has turned away from the adventure genre and most of the original development team are no longer at the company, it's unlikely that we'll ever see a sequel to Full Throttle ever released. But in the current world of entertainment, where sequels dominate but almost inevitably disappoint, perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

Props to the AGC crew for a nice article.

3 comments:

Annette said...

I played this game once (and in fact, I own it--a friend of mine gave me his CD), but I got stuck by the second fight scene, where I lost every single time I tried it.

Do you think it would still be impressive it today, and worth installing again? (One could probably run it under DosBox.)

Victor Gijsbers said...

That was me accidentally posting under my girlfriend's account.

Rubes said...

I do think it would be a great game to play again. I think I still have my copy, although I'm not sure if I could get it to run properly since Apple abandoned the old Classic environment. I've found a way to emulate OS 7 to 9 on an Intel Mac, but I'm not sure I have it working correctly yet.

In any case, I think it would be well worth another shot. On the one hand, it would be fun to experience the game and story again; on the other, it would be interesting to see if it's just nostalgia or truly a good combination of gameplay, writing, and design.

I do remember a couple of instances of pixel hunting, which I didn't appreciate, but aside from that I think it would hold up fairly well to some of today's games.