Hal Barwood (Lucasfilm) – Interview

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He’s brushed shoulders with the stars and lived a life we’d love to live several times over. Rightfully regarded as one of the best video games designers of all time, here is our interview with Lucasfilm supremo Hal Barwood.

 

You’ve had a hugely successful career in both the movie and gaming industry. How exactly did you get the opportunity to first break into these industries?

In movies, a “pup” Hollywood agent was looking to expand his client list, when Matthew Robbins and I came along. We wrote seven screenplays together before Sugarland Express got made. In games, I had built an Apple II RPG on my own, and I was hanging around what was called “Lucasfilm Games” when the opportunity to step up and do a Jones game for them arose. I abandoned my film career and seized the moment.

 

You have worked closely with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. How did it feel to work with these two legends of the film industry and did you get along with them?

It felt great. We meshed.

 

 

Is it true that Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was originally meant to be made into a film and not a video game?

Nope. It’s a story I cooked up when the company wanted me to do a game based upon a failed Jones movie script.

 

The game was one of my all-time favourites growing up. How does it feel that you were the director of one of the world’s most respected adventure titles?

I’m proud of “Fate.” It made a pretty good debut into the world of videogames for me (not half! – Ed).

 

The three pathway system adds a lot of replay to the game. How did this original concept come about?

Noah Falstein, who helped me design the game, was acutely aware of adventure game taste in those days. He knew there were willing players of diverse interests, and he insisted. It took me eighteen extra months beyond the original target release date to realise this concept.

 

 

Did you try to recruit Harrison Ford to do the voice over work for Indiana Jones in the game?

Harrison would have demanded – rightly – an exorbitant fee to appear. Remember: waybackwhen, games were not the high-flying titles they are now. Sadly, we could not afford to dilute our financial expectations.

 

The long awaited sequel to Atlantis; Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix was cancelled due to pressure from Germany. Can you explain to our readers exactly why the game never saw the light of day and do you have any regrets about this particular game?

I was only peripherally involved in this game. The German market was big for our games back then, and we could not look forward to a profitable effort without their players. And Germany had (still has?) a prohibition about Hitler. Iron Phoenix contemplated his revival, so we were nixed.

 

You also worked on the 3D title Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine – what games helped inspire this title?

Yup, that’s my game. I was the writer and project leader. It was inspired by the Jones phenomenon, and also as a means of avenging LucasArts against the Tomb Raider thefts of his franchise.

 

A number of LucasArts games have been remastered. Do you have any idea whether Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis will receive the special edition treatment and is this something you would like to see happen?

Wouldn’t that be nice (we’ll take that as a yes then – Ed).

 

Do you think you will ever work on any future Indiana Jones titles?

My Jones days are over (noooooo!!! – Ed). I’m proud of the games I made making use of the Jones franchise, but I have no desire to continue.

 

 

Do you get more pleasure working within the game or film industry?

I had a great and memorable time in both industries. Now I just write books.

 

You have been heralded by PC Gamer as one of the top 25 game designers in the US. How does it feel to be regarded as such a legend in the gaming industry?

What do you think? It feels good!

 

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on my fifth novel. I don’t quite have all the details yet, but it’s going to be called, “Happenstance.”

 

If you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?

Do you think Link ever takes a drink?

 

I hear he likes a potion or twelve… Thanks so much for your time Hal, was truly our pleasure! We wish you all the best with the novel!

Adrian

5 Comments on “Hal Barwood (Lucasfilm) – Interview”

      1. In theory, it’d be great – but when it comes down to it, wasn’t a lot of what went into “Fate Of Atlantis” essentially a variant of the plot/setting of “Raiders” (Feisty female co-star – check. U-boat ride to the finale – check. Nazis failing to understand the power of their discovery and paying a terrible, fatal price… etc.)?

        1. TurricanEd, they rebooted Star Wars with The Force Awakens, and they are always rebooting Spider-Man and the Batman story, so why not Indy? For me, they should make the franchise like James Bond or Dr Who, with different actors taking on the role as each new movie is penned. Sure Indy will always be Harrison Ford, but whatever happened to the kid from Young Indiana Jones, that was a really good show. I’d love to see FOA as the next movie, as I’ve been to the Knosos ruins in Crete purely after playing this game!

          1. Hi Dan,

            I get what you’re saying and I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but, to use your example, while “The Force Awakens” is very obviously a structural and thematic homage to “A New Hope” there are enough differences in the detail to make it viable as a new work.

            You may feel differently, but to my mind there are just too many *specific* similarities between the characters, plot and set-pieces of “Raiders” and “Fate Of Atlantis” to make the latter workable as a movie whilst keeping the same story and structure. You can literally substitute characters and items between both (e.g. Marion has the staff headpiece, Sophia has the necklace; both items appear early on and are instrumental in finding the MacGuffins). I mentioned the similarity of the U-Boat set piece above, but another clear set piece example is the similarity between using the staff (Raiders) and a surveying tool (Atlantis) to locate the next clue – even down to the desert setting!

            The LucasArts folks are some of the most talented in the business, so I refuse to believe for a second that the level of similarity wasn’t deliberate. I do know that the reason LucasArts were unable to use the “Star Wars” license until the mid-’90s was because the license was sold to Atari way back at the dawn of the video game era. I just checked and “Raiders” (but presumably not the “Indy” IP as a whole) was also licensed to Atari around the same time. Extricating the licenses would have been made extra-tricky due to the fact that Atari was split into two companies (Atari Corp. and Atari Games) following the video game crash of the early ’80s.

            I think it’s fair to say that “Raiders” is regarded by many as being the most effective of the Indy movies, and aspects of the storytelling, characterisation, action and plot are considered amongst the best in movie history period. I certainly wouldn’t hold it against the “Fate Of Atlantis” team for “borrowing” what they did – heck, in their position I’d have done exactly the same!

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