LucasArts and former Free Radical staff trade words over Star Wars: Battlefront III
A war of words has been quietly brewing over the condition of Star Wars: Battlefront III when it was cancelled by LucasArts.
Steve Ellis co-founder of Free Radical, the team developing the game explained in a recent interview that they had the game 99 percent finished before LucasArts cancelled it for financial reasons.
He explained, "We had a 99 per cent finished game that just needed bug fixing for release. It should have been our most successful game, but it was cancelled for financial reasons. I'm happy that people did at least get to see what we were working on and share the team's enthusiasm for it."
LucasArts disagreed however and one anonymous employee of the publisher said, "There are two sides to every story. This 99 per cent complete stuff is just bulls**t. A generous estimate would be 75 per cent of a mediocre game. Everybody from producers to marketing was 100 per cent invested in making the relationship work. We were desperate for a next-gen follow up to Battlefront. When Free Radical continually missed dates and deliveries, [former LucasArts presidents Jim Ward and Darrell Rodriguez] made many 'good will' whole or partial milestone payments to keep the project going."
The source even went on to suggest that "payments to Free Radical were in fact being used to complete Haze and not Battlefront III which affirmed LucasArts' belief that the studio's engine was not compatible with Xbox 360 at the time".
Ellis has since given a detailed response to the anonymous LucasArts employee. He began, "What annoys me about the article is that I personally am accused of a whitewash, which is nonsense. The allegation that we used the LucasArts money to fund the completion of Haze is false. Aside from anything else, we didn't need to. When Haze slipped, Ubisoft supported us by increasing the dev budget to cover the extra time."
He continued, "The suggestion that we kept our difficulties to ourselves is also false. With LucasArts this was absolutely not the case; it was the best publisher relationship we had ever had, so when it became clear that the design changes that we had mutually agreed to make meant that there was a risk to the end date, the first thing we did was to bring it to the attention of LucasArts senior management, almost a full year before the scheduled release. There was a lot of discussion and it was agreed to push back the release date. There were no secrets."
"In December 2007 they signed us to develop the sequel concurrently, asking us to grow our company further to do so," Ellis stated. "I'd say that that was a pretty strong vote of confidence in us, not the actions of a company that was concerned about our abilities to deliver on such an important project."
As development went on things changed. Ellis added, "In 2008, LucasArts was a company with problems. Of course I don't know the full details of or explanation for what happened internally, but some of the facts are clear: the entire management team who were there when we started working together were replaced in the first half of 2008. They made mass redundancies on their internal teams. They cancelled a number of projects. Then our milestones started being rejected. We were told (and it seemed wholly believable given the aforementioned facts) that they could not afford to continue development of both BFIII and its sequel, so they negotiated the termination of BFIV, then later BFIII. There was no 'termination for breach'."
"As the 'anonymous source' says, there are two sides to every argument. However, it's easy to make anonymous allegations and not have to back them up. I stand by everything I've said. All I've ever tried to do is explain the series of events that led to the failure of Free Radical. We were not perfect. We made mistakes, but third-parties had a hand in our failure," concluded Ellis.