This section covers the famous SCUMM game engine that was introduced with Maniac Mansion.

S.C.U.M.M. (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion is a gaming engine (sort of) that was introduced in Lucasfilm Games' Maniac Mansion, the famous graphic adventure that we all know and love. Going through various alterations, the SCUMM engine continued to be used in many other popular LucasFilm (now LucasArts) adventure games such as Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the graphic adventure version), Loom, The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Maniac Mansion's sequel Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max Hit the Road and so on.

The SCUMM engine was first scripted by Ron Gilbert and Aric Wilmunder of Lucasfilm Games. At one point Gilbert stated that he was put off by previous adventure games because of their rather user-unfriendly environments and because a character could easily die (Sierra games, though of great inspiration to future adventures, seemed to be the main culprits). Thus with Maniac Mansion Ron Gilbert and artist/animator Gary Winnick designed a more user-friendly game as well as a revolutionary new "point and click" interface as opposed to parsed commands.

Throughout its existence, the SCUMM engine has gone through many changes, but it has for the most part retained its basic form. Exceptions to this are newer games such as The Dig and The Curse of Monkey Island. The basic interface for the older SCUMM games (with the exception of Brian Moriarty's Loom) looks like this:

The above is a screenshot of the enhanced PC version of Maniac Mansion. The following descriptions of the various parts of the interface come from LucasArts manuals: The large top portion, The Animation Window, is the largest part of the screen where the animated world of the mansion is displayed. It shows the "camera's eye view" of the room that the currently active character is in. The Sentence Line is directly below the Animation Window. You use this line to construct sentences that tell the characters what to do. A sentence consists of a verb (action word) or two nouns (objects). An example of a sentence that you might construct on the Sentence Line is "Unlock door with key." Connecting words like "with" will be put in automatically by the program. Verbs must be selected from the group of words in the columns below the Sentence Line. You will always be able to see all the words used in the game. To select a verb, position the cursor over the word and click. The Inventory is the area below or to the right of the Verbs. Each character has his or her own Inventory. It is empty at the beginning of the game; the name of an object is added to a character's Inventory when the character picks the object up during game play. There is no limit to the number of objects a character can carry. You may need to scroll up or down to see all items in your inventory. Nouns (objects) can be selected in two ways. You may select a noun by placing the cursor over an object in the Animation Window and clicking. Most objects in the environment, and all objects that are usable in the game, have names. If an object has a name, it will appear on the Sentence Line when you click on it. You may also select nouns by clicking on words in the Inventory. To move a character around, select "Walk to" from the Verbs by positioning your cursor over it and clicking. Then move your cursor into the Animation Window, point it where you want the character to go, and click. If you point to an open door and click, the character will walk through it. Notice that "Walk to" appears automatically on the Sentence Line after a sentence has been executed-this is because moving around is what your characters will be doing most often. "Cut-scenes" are short, animated sequences - like scenes from a movie - which can provide clues and informations about the characters. When you are viewing a cut-scene, you do not direct the action so the text below the Animation Window disappears.

The interface used in Maniac Mansion as well as Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders represents the most primitive form of the SCUMM engine. Besides obvious advances in graphics and technology (i.e. voice acting), the interface itself drastically changed from game to game, and the engine had about eight different "versions" by the time the last SCUMM game was produced. There are many verbs that are seldom used and may never be used at all that were later removed/renamed. The inventory resides at the bottom of the screen while later games would push the inventory to the right side of the screen, or in other places entirely. Inventory items are in text in Maniac and Zak, while in many future games they would be represented by pictures.

Games using the SCUMM engine have proven to be very difficult to play today due to compatibility problems with newer machines (i.e. issues with the original 320X200 resolution). An official LucasArts solution, a SCUMM engine compatible with newer systems, was created by Aaron Giles. Unfortunately, this new engine is currently only available in the UK LucasArts Entertainment Pack which features updated versions of Sam and Max and Full Throttle, and in the U.S. for the Armed and Dangerous preview disc containing an updated version of Sam and Max. Since LucasArts has yet to take full advantage of the new engine, most people turn to a wonderful program called SCUMMVM (S.C.U.M.M. Virtual Machine) to get their old adventure games working. Painstakingly created by skilled, diehard fans of the SCUMM games, SCUMMVM is a program that emulates SCUMM games on newer operating systems such as Windows and Linux.

SCUMM is clearly an important part of gaming history, due mainly to its influence throughout the years. Not only did the engine improve on previous programs' problems, but it made games better, interactive, and movie-like experiences. Its creation signalled a turning point in computer games forever, and while SCUMM as an engine is technically no longer used today, its influence has definately affected the industry forever.