Rare Footage of Free Radical’s Battlefront III Hits the Web
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…LucasArts royally fucked up by cancelling one of the most impressively ambitious Star Wars titles to date.
It’s not uncommon for games to get the axe during development. Whether they’re low profile concept pieces that simply can’t gain the right traction or big budget affairs no amount of money...
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The House of Mouse Has Closed LucasArts
Since Disney’s buyout of all things Lucas last Fall – including such assests as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the likeness of young Richard Dreyfuss circa American Graffiti (I’m guessing) – the merger has been nothing but high-fives and ass slaps…
Except for poor LucasArts. LucasFilm’s game publishing division has overseen not just the Star Wars license since 1982, but has made several hefty contributions to the gaming ‘verse in the form of The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion games, greatly shaping the point n’ click adventure genre. Today, Disney announced it has let go LucasArts’ staff and effectively closed the once mighty studio. Disney intends on keeping the studio’s name only, using the brand on future, licensed out games (likely Star Wars titles) to external developers.
The official byline regarding LucasArts’ death follows: “We’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games.”
Star Wars 1313 (above) and Star Wars: First Assault, the former a high-profile next-gen action game that Disney requested to be put on hold and the ladder being an unrevealed (yet still leaked) precursor to Battlefront III, are, according to Disney, to be possibly licensed out for completion, but sources close to LucasArts reported to Kotaku those two are as good as cancelled.
LucasArts, despite some moderate success this generation (i.e. the first Force Unleashed), have been circling the drain for quite a while, even before the merger. Mismanagement, constantly shifting company leads, financial disappointments (cue The Old Republic), and the use of external developers as a crutch instead of their in-house team all spelled “TROUBLE” in bright, yellow Star Wars-font. Pair that with Disney’s outspoken disinterest in funding big, expensive games over cheaper, safer bets, the outlook for LucasArts was Grim Fandango.
Still, I can’t help but mourn the loss of the time weathered giant. Shadows of the Empire, Rogue Squadron, that terrible Jedi Power Battles game that my friends hated playing with me – their Star Wars titles alone brought hundreds of hours of happy distraction throughout my life, from childhood to adulthood.
You’re going to hear “May the Force be with you” until you vomit. I won’t commit such fuckery. Instead, I just want to say thank you, LucasArts, and good luck.
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LucasArts’ Star Wars FPS Could Pave the Path for Battlefront III — So Long As Disney Force Pulls Its Head Out of Its Ass
Disney’s acquisition of George Lucas’ empire and everything Star Wars is heralding a bright new era for fans of the films. A new sequel trilogy featuring the return of old heroes Luke, Leia, and Han is being developed under the auspicious lens of genre film’s golden boy, J.J. Abrams. Self-contained feature lengths that could potentially flesh out fan favorite characters are even being optioned. Disney and Star Wars seems like a match made in Cloud City…
Unless we’re talking about the franchise’s video game front. LucasArts, the in-house studio which has overseen every single Star Wars game since 1982, has received the unwanted privilege of experiencing Disney’s dark side. After announcing their intention to move Star Wars away from big budget console games and into the more lucrative mobile phone market, LucasArts’ existing projects were thrown into question.
Star Wars 1313, for instance, was loudly rumored to have frozen production despite an impressive showing of the next-gen title at last year’s E3. Today, Kotaku caught wind of another title under LucasArts’ wing called Star Wars: First Assault has also had its future cast into doubt. In First Assault’s case, its potential cancellation could have dire consequences for gamers. Namely, Star Wars: Battlefront III will never see the light of day (for real this time).
First Assault may not seem to have much in common with Battlefront at a glance. The downloadable FPS doesn’t feature massive land and space battles nor does it include controllable vehicles — a Battlefront hallmark. It does, however, revolve around eight-on-eight competitive multiplayer bouts pitting rebels and stormtroopers against each other in famous locales from series lore; warring factions being the bread and butter of the Battlefront saga.
The source willing to speak with Kotaku on the studio’s troubled times assures us First Assault serves as a prelude to Battlefront III and is proof positive that the Unreal Engine can handle such a huge endeavor (Side note: Despite having been worked on by several developers, Free Radical included, LucasArts’ latest attempt to get Battlefront III on its feet utilizes completely new assets, according to the source).
The Wampa-kicker here is that First Assault is nearly finished (the company wanted to launch a closed beta last September), yet LucasArts isn’t even sure Disney will want to release it. New hires and gaming related announcements have been put on hold thanks to the buy-out, leaving LucasArts to chug away at development on its titles without assurance their efforts aren’t for nothing. The source says the studio is “bleeding talent” awaiting their overlord’s final word — good or bad.
Unfortunately for LucasArts, they’re unable to freely share their work with the public and rally support for fear of pissing off Disney. This leak, however, is an opportunity for the light side of the force to prevail. “Fans should tell Disney/Lucas loud and clear,” said Kotaku’s source, “They don’t want shitty titles from random developers…I believe that if Disney/Lucas lets LucasArts die, it means the death of Star Wars as a storied game franchise is right behind it.”
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Obsidian is Itching to Make Another Star Wars RPG
Though Bioware takes credit for ushering the mountain-sized mythology of Star Wars into the choice-driven, action-RPG domain with the original Knights of the Old Republic, you’ll be hard pressed to find a gamer in this galaxy willing to downplay the Force-radiating brilliance of Obsidian’s 2004 sequel, The Sith Lords (even despite that pesky lack of an ending).
Shy of a decade later, Obsidian is dead set on returning to Star Wars with an idea for an RPG that CEO Feargus Urquhart is confident enough to place within the company’s “top three pitches” for a game. But unlike Bioware’s The Old Republic and their own Sith Lords, Obsidian wants the game’s backdrop to fit snugly somewhere within, but separate from, the film saga’s chronology.
“We pitched a between-Episode III and Episode IV game [to LucasArts],“ Urquhart said to online PC scribes Rock Paper Shotgun. "We think that time frame is super interesting. It’s the fall of the Republic, the extermination of the Jedi, it’s Obi-Wan going off and making sure Luke is okay. You have the Sith, but you have the extermination of all Force users except for very, very few. So it was an interesting time to set a game, and you know, Chris Avellone [Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas] came up with a really cool story.”
There’s just the one highly publicized snag: the new boss in town, family-friendly overlord Disney, made firm its position to move the franchise away from consoles and focus on the handheld and mobile markets (take a moment to cringe). “It changes things a lot, but you know, we’re gonna push on it,” said Urquhart, noting that after pitching the project to LucasArts, Obsidian received very immediate, very encouraging response.
All that’s stopping Obsidian from delivering us another dose of Star Wars RPG excellence, according to Urquhart, is one conversation with Disney. Here’s to hoping it’s a goddamn good one.
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Star Wars 1313 (Next-Gen)
Jedi’s get to have all the fun when it comes to Star Wars video games. There have been spectacular examples of Force-less games that have brought the thunder – Shadows of the Empire (mostly Force-free), Rogue Squadron (which the world needs another of) – yet there hasn’t been anything similar in recent memory that has gotten the blood boiling.
Now comes 1313, a serious tale about a serious bounty hunter searching the crime-thick bowels of the planet Coruscant. Without a lightsaber handy, your character falls back on blasters, tools, and cover – and you’ll do well in 1313 to always shoot first. Closer to Uncharted than Force Unleashed, Lucasart’s internally developed IP is striving for the highest fidelity by partnering with film industry wizards Industrial Light & Magic as well as Lucasfilm Animation and Skywalker Sound.
Star Wars 1313 is young yet but you have to admit it at least looks mighty impressive whether you love the property or not.
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