The weird & wonderful history of the haunted house

“Twenty years ago today…”

These are the words that begin one of the strangest, campiest and funniest games ever created: Maniac House. First released in 1987, this innovative point-and-click adventure revolutionized the game genre and has delighted players for years. With seven playable characters and a storyline that includes talking tentacles and projecting meteors, nothing compares. Maniac House.

25 years after its initial release, we look back at the history of this one-of-a-kind creation.

Maniacs and Kings


Maniac House tells the story of DaveAn average young man (along with a few close friends) who has to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend, Sandy pantsFrom a crazed mad scientist Dr. Fred. Dave and two other characters of the player’s choice enter the game’s titular mansion, inhabited by Dr. Fred and the very eccentric Edison family. By exploring and cleverly using the mansion’s environment, players must solve a series of story-based puzzles to save Sandy.

Calling is totally unfair Maniac HouseThe publisher, Lucasfilm Games, is a growing company – founded by legendary director George Lucas. (You may have heard of him) A spin-off of Lucasfilm’s computer division. However, in the early days of the company, it only served as a developer, which meant that most of their products would go to another publisher. By 1985, Lucasfilm Games decided to create a unique product that could be self-published, allowing it to stand independently.

Enter programmer Ron Gilbert and artist/animator Gary Winnick, friends and colleagues at Lucasfilm Games, who enthusiastically set to work creating the new game. Elaborating on their approach, they bonded over the idea of ​​creating a game inspired by classic B-movies. Getting the tone right will be critical: a mix of self-seriousness and wry, wry humor. They are not afraid to withdraw from real life. The pair liberally took ideas for the mansion from Lucas’ own Skywalker farm, stealing plot elements from movies they’d seen and basing character ideas on friends and loved ones.

However, even though they have determined the key elements of the game, they still don’t have an idea of ​​how to put it together. Then, luck struck Maniac House An entire decade’s worth of games can be played in this process.

Gilbert went to visit the family when they first met King’s Quest. The King’s Quest LINE is a series of graphics-driven adventure games developed by Sierra Online. Most adventure games at the time were text-based: players were presented with on-screen prompts and then interacted with the game world by typing commands into a text parser. King’s Quest added a visual element, allowing players to move and explore the world more freely; However, commands are still entered into the parser.

Drawn by the idea of ​​a graphic adventure game, Gilbert set to work Maniac HouseMost important contribution of: SCUMM engine.

SCUMM and villainy


What made SCUMM (Script Generation Utility for Maniac Mansion) stand out was its innovative point-and-click interface that used preset verbs and objects to drive games. Functionally, Maniac House It worked on the same premise as the text parser: players had to use specific commands to determine the correct answer to a given puzzle. However, now they had an ever-present list of actions to choose from that they could use to interact with inventory items, on-screen locations, and characters. With straightforward verbs like OPEN and PUSH, SCUMM took the guesswork out of the game. Players can easily think through the logic of a given situation, using the tools provided to reach a solution.

Because this is especially important Maniac HouseThe central concept is to play as a team of multiple characters, with each character having unique preferences. All three selectable characters use the same verb set, so the player can seamlessly switch between them. Because of the way it was programmed, SCUMM allowed characters to easily stand next to each other so that a given game moment would be the same no matter which character was active.


As a bonus, this gave the programmers the freedom to incorporate more story elements. when Maniac House Not the first game to use cutscenes, Ron Gilbert is credited with coining the term – and with good reason. Maniac House Uses cutscenes to great effect to explain and drive the plot. Certain cutscene events only occur after a certain time or after a trigger, giving the game a film-like pace.

Another advantage of SCUMM is that it is relatively simple to edit and update, allowing rapid prototyping and easy cross-platform use. This can be a huge boon to productivity Maniac House. When David Fox took on the task of programming the events of the game, the team could add new elements without reworking the entire system and work fluidly and organically.

The SCUMM engine was so effective that it would become a key part of Lucasfilm Games (and later LucasArts) going forward. The company followed Maniac House with Zach McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders In 1988 as well Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: A Graphic Adventure In 1989, it would receive great acclaim The Secret of Monkey Island In 1990. Many more hits in the 90s, perhaps the most notable Maniac HouseContinuation of The Day of Tabernacles In 1992, interest in adventure games waned as consoles began to dominate the market, and LucasArts moved away from adventure games entirely after 2000. Escape from Monkey Island.

Console crossover


Of course, Lucasfilm Games took advantage of the console craze when it partnered with Zalego. Maniac House 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. (Technically there were two NES versions; one was only released in Japan with significant changes and wasn’t representative of the original.) This would be a big problem, as the game’s cheeky humor didn’t mesh well with Nintendo’s family-friendly vibe.

Unfortunately, Nintendo’s content guidelines aren’t entirely clear or consistent. Douglas Crockford, a Lucasfilm Games employee, went back and forth with the censors trying to find the line between subtle wit and inappropriate content. Some of the changes were more obvious and easy, like changing “crazy” to “crazy.” One improved the game; It’s hard to argue that Dave is saying that Bernard “Don’t be a seat head” is funnier than the Nintendo version’s “don’t be a doona head”.

Others required more subtlety to keep the game’s original tone while meeting the censor’s concerns. The role of Nurse Edna (Edison matriarch) found major revisions to move away from the sexually suggestive dialogue and situations that defined her character. Gone are the suggestive comments about gasping when a character calls her on the phone when she finds a young man at home. Graffiti (“Edna 3444 for a good time”) was rewritten to indicate that she was engaged in prostitution. Similarly, dialogue that accidentally implies that Dr. Fred is a cannibal rather than a Frankenstein-like character should be replaced with some background imagery, such as an arcade machine. Kill Thrill (It was eventually given a very different name Tuna Diver)

What’s more troubling, however, is that Nintendo’s concern may not always be controversial. In the game’s credits, the “NES SCUMM System” is mentioned; Obviously, this refers to the engine on which the game runs. However, Nintendo felt bitter about how “SCUMM” could be interpreted, and thus, one of the game’s most defining features was removed from the credits.

On the plus side, only the Nintendo release included background music. Each character’s inventory now has a CD player that automatically plays the signature tune and can be turned off to mute the song. Playable characters—with many references to music throughout the game Sit And Razor Both are avid musicians, and Green tent The mansion’s residents could be bribed with a record deal (obviously) – adding unique music helped bring about a different world. Maniac House For Nintendo’s wider audience.

But wait, there’s more!


Whether or not is not entirely clear Maniac House Can always appeal to a wider audience. The game’s offbeat style may not be for everyone, but it has attracted its fair share of avid fans. Perhaps it was released as a strange attempt to take it to the masses Maniac House The television show created an interesting affair SCTVEugene Levy and simulcast on Canada’s YTV and America’s Family Channel.

While Levy helmed the show, its looks came from animators Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser. The original premise was to lean into the game’s B-movie roots to create an unusual episodic sci-fi comedy. However, in Levy’s hands, it veered into a more traditional family sitcom style that relied heavily on Second City players. Although it was only loosely connected to sports, the show ran for three seasons (1990–1993) and received generally positive reviews.

And won Maniac HouseContinuation of, The Day of Tabernacles. Often cited as one of the best adventure games ever created, The Day of Tabernacles Contains many characters from the original, but leans heavily on time travel to create its puzzles. In a fitting easter egg, the entire first game can be played consecutively on PC. Maniac House Sakha to a satisfactory conclusion.

Maniac HouseIts true legacy lies not only in the story of its development. The development of the SCUMM engine completely changed the course of adventure games, pushing it in a new and bold direction. That genre continues today with the enduring careers (and excitement of recent releases) of Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. Return to Monkey Island) as evidence of its popularity. Dr. Like a meteor in Fred’s basement, Maniac House It continues its influence long after its initial impact.

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