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What is SCUMM?

Maniac Mansion screenshot
The very first version of SCUMM running Maniac Mansion (1987)
SCUMM was developed in 1987 by Ron Gilbert and Aric Wilmunder for LucasFilm Games (now LucasArts) - a division of LucasFilm Ltd. SCUMM is an acronym for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion and was originally created to speed up the development of their current game project Maniac Mansion. As you might have guessed already it's an utility for creating adventure games. It includes a set of in-house tools for creating the resources and bundling them and an interpreter which runs the game, called SPUTM (SCUMM Presentation Utility™). SCUMM was based on a program Ron Gilbert had written for the C-64 called Graphics Basic (Human Engineering Software), an extension to the BASIC language which added graphic capabilities. SCUMM introduced a new way of presenting adventure games, replacing the old parser-driven interface (common in many of Sierra's old adventure games) with the brand new point-and-click interface.

Day of the Tentacle screenshot
Day of The Tentacle (1992)
After the success with Maniac Mansion SCUMM would later be used in several other adventure game classics from LucasArts such as Zak McKracken, the Monkey Island series, Day of The Tentacle etc. (for a complete list including interpreter versions go here). Of course the engine has evolved through the years and no games uses the exact same interpreter, though in some rare cases the interpreter is backwards compatible. The engine has constantly been upgraded and added to and one of the major improvements was the introduction of the patented iMUSE system in 1992. iMUSE is short for Interactive Music Streaming Engine (If interested you can read US Patent No. 5,315,057 for information about the iMUSE apparatus) and is used for making the music sync with the visual actions on the screen through extended SysEx commands inside the music file. It was first used in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and after that it has been used in all of LucasArts' adventure games and also some of their non-adventures such as TIE Fighter, X-Wing Alliance etc.

Curse of Monkey Island screenshot
The Curse of Monkey Island (1997)
Various versions of SCUMM has been made for the following platforms: Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, CDTV, Commodore 64, DEC Alpha, Fujitsu Towns & Marty, Mac, NES, PC-DOS, PC-Windows, Sega Mega CD, Tandy VIS and TurboGraphics 16.

The final step in the evolution of SCUMM was The Curse of Monkey Island which was released in 1997. The engine was cleaned up, ported to 32-bit 640x480 resolution. The game was a major success and ended the noble line of 2D adventure classics from LucasArts. After the success of CMI LucasArts introduced in 1998 the successor to SCUMM - a 3D adventure game engine called GrimE (for more information about GrimE, follow this link). The first game to use this engine was Grim Fandango.

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