"[LucasArts] effectively canned a game that was finished"02 May, 2012, 23:27 | Posted by: Jason | Source: GamesIndustry International
What game is being referred to here? I'm going to assume that middle finger means "just tell me" - it's Star Wars: Battlefront III.
Yes, the oft-cancelled sequel to the lucrative shooter franchise is back in the headlines yet again thanks to a juicy interview between GamesIndustry International and Steve Ellis, co-founder of Free Radical, that sheds a little more light on how the relationship ended, and apparently it wasn't pretty.
It turns out the game was nearly finished and the publisher-developer relationship didn't sour until the arrival of that destructive force that dooms even Star Wars projects, a management shift.
In fact, it was going so well that by the end of 2007 LucasArts asked Free Radical to work on another Battlefront game, according to Ellis. "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."
But at the beginning of 2008 there was a shift in focus at LucasArts, with president Jim Ward stepping down in February and the axe falling later in the year on more internal staff including Peter Hirschman.
"The really good relationship that we'd always had suddenly didn't exists anymore. 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."
Ellis doesn't feel the pressure from LucasArts was justified and the company became reluctant to get involved in the high stakes marketing that a triple-A title demands.
"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."