In an interview published today over at GamesIndustry international, Free Radical Design’s co-founder Steve Ellis details the slow collapse of Free Radical, as pressure from their publishers handed them impossible deadlines and then left them by the wayside.
“The best days of Free Radical were always when we were a small team of 25 people where everyone knew what everyone else was doing, and if you wanted to do something you could. You didn’t have to justify it to a publisher, you didn’t have to write it all down on paper, you didn’t have a committee of people looking at it, change it and decide if it’s a rubbish idea. You could come up with an idea in the morning and have it running by the afternoon and decide if it’s any good by actually trying it out.”
In 2006 Free Radical made an agreement on a game that has never been officially named although rumours went into overdrive about the title being the next Battlefront game, at the time that Free Radical made this agreement, the founders Steve Ellis and David Doak had a strong relationship with LucasArts president Jim Ward and Peter Hirshman, LucasArts VP of product development.
“They were big fans of our work, they liked our take on making games, they liked the way we work and they wanted to do this project. It was a big thing, we were very excited and for a long time it was going very well.”
“Over the years we often ended up fighting with our publisher for one reason or the other because making a game where the developer keeps the IP is always a contentious thing. For a long time we would describe that as the best relationship with a publisher we have ever had. We got on well with the production staff that we worked with, we had good access to the LucasArts management and we didn’t fight very much at all, we were just getting on with making the game.” Jump to 2007 and at the time, both Free Radical and LucasArts still have a strong relationship with LucasArts even asking Free Radical to produce the next Battlefront game.
“We were still at that time probably a year out from completing and releasing the first game and they asked us to sign up for the sequel.
“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.” Way back in 2008, a year after Free Radical had been tasked with making the next battlefront game, some large changes hit their partner LucasArts, namely – Jim ward stepped down as President and Peter Hirshman left shortly after. Losing Free Radicals main contacts within LucasArts.
With the sudden shift in demands and deadlines, Free Radical became too risky for LucasArts, and they could not justify the marketing expenses related to huge triple-A title’s.
“It was a change of direction for LucasArts as a company rather than for the games that we were working on. I think what had happened was the new management had been bought in to replace the old and given an impossible mandate. 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.”
Ultimately, LucasArts canned both projects in development, one of which was mostly finished. Whilst Ellis couldn’t specify any details for the game, enough footage can now be found of Battlefront 3 in alpha over YouTube and other parts of the web.
“It was pretty much done, it was in final QA. It had been in final QA for half of 2008 it was just being fixed for 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.”
It’s a shame that the game never managed to pass LucasArts needs, and warrant full-scale marketing. I am among many gamers that would have thoroughly enjoyed seeing Battlefront 3 receive an official release date, I’d still be happy to hear that, however with the Intellectual Properties being thrown around nowadays it’d be hard to see LucasArts manage to finally pick up where it left off.
Source: GamesIndustry International