Despite a good deal of buzz and fan expectations, Star Wars: Battlefront 3 never materialized. We've seen bits of the game through leaked media and alpha footage, but the game never found release. Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis has finally shared more detail on just what happened to the project.
"We were still at that time probably a year out from releasing the first game and they asked us to sign up for the sequel," Ellis told Games Industry International. "That was a big deal for us because it meant putting all our eggs in one basket. It was a critical decision - do we want to bet on LucasArts? And we chose to because things were going as well as they ever had. It was a project that looked like it would probably be the most successful thing we had ever done and they were asking us to make the sequel to it too. It seemed like a no-brainer."
But the deal between the companies was bolstered by a strong relationship between Free Radical and key LucasArts figures: president Jim Ward and product development VP Peter Hirschman. After internal changes resulted in both of them leaving the company in 2008, everything had changed.
"The really good relationship that we'd always had suddenly didn't exists anymore," Ellis said. "They brought in new people to replace them and all of a sudden we were failing milestones. That's not to say there were no problems with the work we were doing because on a project that size inevitably there will be, there's always going to be grey areas were things can either pass or fail. And all of a sudden we were failing milestones, payments were being delayed and that kind of thing."
He says the new management at LucasArts was a "change of direction" for the company. "It was a financial decision basically and the only way they could achieve what they had been told to do was to can some games and get rid of a bunch of staff. So that's what they did but it was quite a long, drawn out process."
Ellis says the first contracted game was "pretty much done" and in final QA, and just needed some more tweaking before release. "LucasArts' opinion is that when you launch a game you have to spend big on the marketing and they're right. But at that time they were, for whatever reason, unable to commit to spending big. They effectively canned a game that was finished." Plus, Free Radical had already staffed up for its second project, and had to lay off those staff members too.
The project has been dead for years without signs of a revival, despite early rumors of a new developer. But at least now Battlefront fans can know more about how the project sunk.