LucasArts Bullied Free Radical’s Star Wars: Battlefront III Into Cancellation
“It was the most depressing and pointless thing that I have ever been involved in. The dream job which I once loved had become a nightmarish torture.”
David Doak, Free Radical founder, recalling his experience working on the troubled Battlefront III.
In an astounding interview with Eurogamer, Doak and fellow Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis say their business relationship with long-time Star Wars video game purveyors, LucasArts, was nothing short of enjoyable when production on the sequel began in 2006. After a succession of commercial failures (starting with the third TimeSplitters and ending flatly on Haze), being apart of LucasArts’ project was a “marriage made in heaven,” according to Doak. Because at his studio, “You don’t have to go very far in development to find someone with Star Wars shit on their desk.”
By 2008, however, when the developer decided to voice concerns about the title’s progress, Doak and Ellis picked the unfortunate time of broadcasting doubts to a new set of faces at LucasArts that, quite frankly, didn’t believe in Free Radical’s very costly (but ambitious) project. With familiar allies gone, Doak felt they “went from talking to people who were passionate about making games to talking to psychopaths who insisted on having an unpleasant lawyer in the room.”
While a contract protected Free Radical’s Battlefront from axing for a time, LucasArts still quickly cut funding, making obligatory milestones impossible to meet, and making it doubly impossible to continue functioning on a timely and regular basis. After numerous conversations degraded, and the tempting idea to have another studio, Rebellion, hastily patch together a simpler, less ambitious Battlefront III using Free Radical’s assets was considered, the game finally just buckled and died.
And to an extent, so did Free Radical. The studio was forced to let a significant portion of their staff go, leaving behind a skeleton crew meant to keep the developer breathing until the company was eventually bought by Crytek who transformed the once unique studio into the unimaginatively named Crytek UK.