Wilmunder Memoirs Page One

Part 1: The Beginning...
Written by Aric Wilmunder
Pictures collected from the internet

You may not know his name, but you certainly know his work. Aric Wilmunder has had an influence in everything we love about LucasArts. From co-creating our favorite graphic adventure engine called SCUMM to managing the International Development Team, Aric helped to make every LucasArts title legendary while working along side some of the true gaming revolutionaries. In the beginning of his career, he started out in Atari Corporate Research as a college summer job and eventually moved into Atari Coin-Op. He soon found himself unemployed after hard financial times hit the company, but fortunately some folks at a new place called LucasFilm Games had seen a demo of his work. Aric was quickly brought in as an employee, and remained at LucasArts until 1999. Surely he has some great stories to tell from the early days at the company, so let's get started..."

- Andrew "telarium" Langley

Thumb Koronis Rift, released by LucasFilm Games in 1985.

My initial project for LucasFilm Games was as an engineer on Koronis Rift. This was a project under Noah Falstein who had come over from Williams where he had worked on Sinistar. Noah had a design titled Alien Tanknology that was built on the fractal terrain system created for Behind Jaggi Lines, later retitled Rescue on Fractalus. Now here's a bit of history about the original fractal terrain engine. David Fox, one of the first members of LucasFilm Games, shared an office with Loren Carpenter. Loren was developing the fractal based "Genesis Effect", an ILM special effect shot showing a lifeless planetoid turned into a lush green planet. This same shot was first used in Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn, and later in two other Star Trek movies. As gamers, we were always in awe of the computer effects used in the movies, and one day David commented to Loren that as gamers, it would be many years before we could generate the quality of imagery that ILM was creating. Loren's reaction was that he was in awe of gamers. While he could take days to generate each frame of a movie, us gamers had a small fraction of a second in order to generate a game image. He then worked with David to see if it were possible to generate fractal terrains real-time on an Atari 800, and they succeeded with three of the first 4 LucasFilm Games being based on this technology.

Thumb Koronis Rift programmers from left to right: Ron Gilbert, Aric Wilmunder, and Noah Falstein.

About a month after my arrival, Ron Gilbert was also hired to join the Koronis team as the Commodore 64 engineer. The goal was to build one game and ship it on 2 platforms simultaneously. Ron would later become the genius behind SCUMM and during this time we first developed our styles for working with one another. One technique that I remember Ron using was during an afternoon when we had a disagreement on how to solve a particular problem. We were both very zealous about our proposed solution, and this eventually evolved into a shouting match. Ron got up shouting and left the office slamming the door loudly behind him. That shook me up a bit, since we had always worked well together. Two minutes later, Ron came back, a smile on his face saying, "OK, I got that out. Now let's solve this problem." Ron recognized that we were both approaching the problem from different directions, but we were having problems 'hearing' what the other person was saying. We sat back down and came up with a hybrid solution that incorporated the best parts of each of our approaches, and one that was better than our original proposals.

Thumb Ron Gilbert's car model of choice: The Datsun 280Z! Well, at least it was about 20 years ago. (This isn't the actual car, mind you. I'm not THAT resourceful.)

Ron and I were both contractors throughout the entire project. I found an apartment about a block from the office, and Ron found a place about an hour away. We would work furiously until 2 every morning, and I would be able to walk bleary-eyed back to my place, but Ron would head out for a long commute. I think that he saved time by eating his meals while he was driving. I remember one time while I was sitting in his old Datsun 280Z I found a small foil-wrapped packet. When I started to open it to see what was inside, Ron cried out, "Oh my God, don't open that!" When I asked why, he explained that he had left a meal in his car weeks before, but he had forgotten that it was there.

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