Ex Lucasarts Source Says SWBF3 99% Claims ‘Bullsh*t’
A few days ago, we all had a sad when we learned, according to Free Radical cofounder Steve Ellis, that the developer had been painfully close to completing Star Wars: Battlefront III when the plug was pulled on that game. “We had a 99% finished game that just needed bug fixing for release,” he said to GamesTM. “It should have been our most successful game, but it was cancelled for financial reasons.”
Reading this, we couldn’t help but notice that the year Battlefront 3 was cancelled happened to be the same in which Free Radical went belly up, shortly thereafter being purchased by Crytek. It seemed to suggest that the cancellation of Battlefront 3 was largely the cause of all that. Au Contrair, sayeth Lucasarts, or at least, a former Lucasarts employee. Speaking anonymously to Eurogamer, the ex staffer bluntly referred to Ellis’ claims as “bullsh*t”.
“This 99 percent complete stuff is just bullsh*t,” they said. “A generous estimate would be 75 percent of a mediocre game. We were desperate for a next-gen follow-up to Battlefront (the claim that the project was sabotaged for financial reasons is ludicrous. The franchise was a huge money maker at the time). When Free Radical continually missed dates and deliveries, [LucasArts] made many ‘good will’ whole or partial milestone payments to keep the project going.”
The anonymous staffer goes on to describe Free Radical as a company run much like 38 Studios. “At this point, I felt that Free Radical was akin to a Ponzi scheme where time and budget from the next game was being used to finish the previous, late, title.”
That’s harsh, and as expected, Ellis wasn’t willing to let the accusations rest unrebutted. In fact, he seems to think it’s someone he personally worked with with whom he had a bad working relationship, something he implies the anonymous source is taking out on him now. “I want to set the record straight because a lot of people worked very hard on BF3 (and BF4 [which LucasArts had already asked Free Radical to plan]) and they don’t deserve their efforts to be distorted in this way,” he said.
“From the personal tone of the comments it is clear that the source is someone whom I personally dealt with. It’s unfortunate that they are making this kind of criticism while choosing to remain anonymous.” Ouch. But he has a point. This isn’t national security and I’m not even sure why Eurogamer respected their anonymity. It isn’t as though they’re being a courageous whistleblower, they’re just talking back against someone else’s claim, in very personal terms.
Ellis goes on to give his side of things. Firstly, he says, Free Radical wasn’t using Lucasarts funds to pay for other games. Most tellingly, he says “In 2008, LucasArts was a company with problems. 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 BF3 and its sequel, so they negotiated the termination of BF4, then later BF3. There was no ‘termination for breach.’”
“If the problem really was that we had failed to meet their desperate need for a new Battlefront game, you might ask why after all this time they still haven’t released a new Battlefront game using a different developer. I can only speculate.”