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LucasArts.com 20th Anniversary Developer Profiles Larry Holland

We are pleased to present the fifth in our series of LucasArts profiles -- an interview series with some of the people who have made LucasArts the company that it is today. This piece profiles Larry Holland, CEO and creative director of Totally Games, who has offered his vision and leadership to the development of simulation games at LucasArts since 1986. He currently is leading the development effort for a new, highly anticipated WWII flight simulation game to be published by LucasArts in 2003.


Larry Holland








LucasArts Projects:

2003

Untitled Project (PC, Next generation consoles)
Project Leader, Designer

1999

Star Wars®: X-Wing® Alliance™ (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1997

Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter® (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter : Balance of Power Campaigns™ (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1995

Star Wars: TIE Fighter (PC CD)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1994

Star Wars: TIE Fighter (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Star Wars: TIE Fighter: Defender of the Empire® (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Star Wars: X-Wing (PC CD)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1993

Star Wars: X-Wing (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Star Wars: X-Wing: Imperial Pursuit® (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Star Wars: X-Wing: B-Wing® (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1992

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe® P-38 Tour of Duty (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe P-80 Tour of Duty (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe Do 335 Tour of Duty (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe He 162 Tour of Duty (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1991

Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1989

Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain® (PC)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1988

Battlehawks 1942® (PC, Amiga, Atari ST)
Project Leader, Designer, Programmer

1987

Strike Fleet™ (C-64, Apple II)
Programmer

1986

PHM Pegasus™ (C-64, Apple II)
Programmer

LucasArts.com: How did you first get into game development?

Larry Holland: Way back, in 1982 to be precise, I bought my first home computer, a Commodore 64. It was love at first sight. After that, I spent every waking moment trying to figure out how that novel machine worked and how it could be coaxed into making games. By early 1983 I was hired by Human Engineered Software to program games for the VIC-20 and C-64. My first game was called SLIME; as you might expect from the poetic name it was about green ooze. It was an elegant way to start my gaming career.

LucasArts.com: How did your relationship with LucasArts begin?

Larry Holland: In mid-1986 Lucasfilm Games was looking for a programmer to convert the modern naval simulation game that they were creating for the C-64 to run on the Apple II. I had experience on both machines and at the time I was just finishing a space simulation game called Project: Space Station. I was eager to continue working in the simulation genre and to do freelance work. The Lucasfilm Games opportunity offered both.

LucasArts.com: What was the company like when you first partnered with LucasArts?

Larry Holland: In 1986, tucked away in a far corner of Skywalker Ranch was a small and eclectic group (10 oddballs like myself) that was trying to find its way to the promised land of electronic entertainment. The dreams were big. No, I should say immense. The debates were lively and intelligent. We saw ourselves as a highly committed, passionate bunch of trailblazers. In short, we were naïve and foolish, but that's how new things were and are created. None of this has changed much. Only now there are a lot more of those passionate voices.

LucasArts.com:What was your first project with LucasArts?

Larry Holland: My first project was working with Noah Falstein on PHM Pegasus, Lucasfilm Games' first simulation game. It got me interested in military history in a deeper way than ever before. It definitely opened up new possibilities for me of worlds to be simulated in games. It was developed for Electronic Arts, because in 1986 the games division of Lucasfilm was not yet a publisher. They partnered with companies like EA to get their products to market.

LucasArts.com: What different roles have you held on LucasArts projects?

Larry Holland:Early in my career I focused on programming, but in those days with such small teams of people, there was plenty of design and other miscellaneous work to contribute. From 1988 on, I expanded my role to include full game design responsibility and project management tasks. Today I do very little programming and confine myself to design and project management functions under the umbrella title of project leader. Since the size of modern day teams is many times larger than before, this focus is essential. Additionally, I have responsibility for overseeing the business of Totally Games as the CEO and its creative direction as creative director.

LucasArts.com: Describe your role in the game development process.

Larry Holland: As game designer I usually originate the game concept, create the game's vision, and then develop a more fully realized design document with the great aid of a design team. Additionally, as the project manager I staff, organize, schedule, budget, define, prioritize and oversee the tasks of the team as the game is built. It's a handful, but I wouldn't do anything else. There's nothing like watching a game take shape, as new features and gameplay are realized. It's exciting to get to that moment where we can stand back and say, “It's alive!”

LucasArts.com: What a job you have! You probably just sit around all day and play games, right?

Larry Holland: Shhhh, that's our little secret - the games just make themselves. Well … maybe not. In fact, making games is not for the faint-hearted. They are an incredible process, requiring the energy of a large team working long hours for over a year or two.

LucasArts.com: What are you working on now?

Larry Holland: I am working on a project with LucasArts for next generation consoles and PC that takes me back to one of my loves, WWII flight combat. This new game draws its inspiration from the same dramatic time period of WWII as Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. It portrays the secret, untold story of a special squadron of Allied fighter pilots that battled the Luftwaffe and their secret weapons throughout WWII. Flying a great variety of advanced aircraft and using experimental weaponry, the player battles to save the Allies from the diabolical schemes of the Nazis.

LucasArts.com: Which is your favorite LucasArts game and why?

Larry Holland: Star Wars Jedi Knight®. Who doesn't want to play the role of a Jedi Knight, the ultimate kick-butt hero?

LucasArts.com: If you could be any character from a LucasArts game which would you be and why?

Larry Holland: I'm partial to the main character from Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance named Ace Azameen, as I'm a fighter pilot at heart. I can play both the Rebel Alliance hero flying an X-wing and a rogue mercenary flying the Millennium Falcon, two of the coolest spacecraft ever imagined.

LucasArts.com: What is the most exciting accomplishment in the games industry in the past twenty years?

Larry Holland: Perhaps the biggest accomplishment and change has been with respect to the way games get covered in the press. For the longest time, games were covered in the business/tech section of the newspaper. Finally a few years ago, games began to be covered in the entertainment section where they belong, along-side the latest movies, books, music, etc. When that happened, I knew our industry had finally grown up.

LucasArts.com: What is your favorite LucasArts moment?

Larry Holland: Many years ago, while working at Skywalker ranch on Battlehawks 1942, I overheard two people talking over my shoulder about the game I was working on. Imagine my surprise when I turned around and saw Steven Spielberg and George Lucas discussing it and learning further that Steven Spielberg was playing and enjoying it. He was an early video game convert.

My favorite moment in each project is at the sign-off meeting where the team leads gather to give their final okay for releasing the product to manufacturing. All of the hard work is behind us; there is this strange mixture of relief, nervous anticipation and pride of completion.

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