Well, this definitely isn’t going to make fans of Star Wars: Battlefront any happier. It’s been accepted for some time that development studio Free Radical Design had been hard at work on Star Wars: Battlefront 3 before having production ordered to a halt. In a recent interview, however, the developer’s co-founder has confirmed that not only was the team nearing completion on the game believed to be Battlefront 3, but had already begun working towards Star Wars: Battlefront 4.
We should say that the work done on the Battlefront series’ fourth installment was in the very early technical stages. Still, that won’t take the sting out of hearing that it wasn’t just a third game that was cancelled, but a transition into a full-blown franchise for the future. The Star Wars: Battlefront 3 gameplay footage we’ve seen is testament to both the studio’s high hopes for the series and how far production had come, but it was not to be.
That’s according to Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis, who outlined the studio’s relationship with publisher LucasArts in an interview with GamesIndustry. Apparently it was LucasArts who approached the studio based on their work with the TimeSplitters series, among others:
“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…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.”
Unfortunately for anyone who has followed video games under the LucasArts name over the past decade, how the rest of the story plays out is all too predictable. Along with layoffs and harsher milestones came new management, and any game developer’s worst nightmare:
“The really good relationship that we’d always had suddenly didn’t exist 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.
“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.
“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.”
Knowing that the next entry in the Battlefront series was essentially completed when cancelled can only make fans even more desperate for a sequel, since one has been made already – one they never got to play. Not long after Battlefront 3 was given the axe, LucasArts began a long march of closing studios and cancelling projects, even going as far as cancelling Force Unleashed 3 and laying off designers before Force Unleashed 2 had even shipped.
While we hope that LucasArts has realized the error of their ways, and apparently hired Spark Unlimited to develop…another Battlefront 3, we can’t help but be skeptical. After all, this is the same company who claimed they were committed to making games that “define our medium” while still placing Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in a hip-hop dance battle.
All fans can do until LucasArts backs up their claims is wonder what might have been. That being said, there is a chance that this could be for the best. Could a Battlefront game made by the developers of Lost Planet 3 exceed one made by the minds behind Haze? Perhaps. We’ll have to wait and see.
What are your thoughts on the cancelled Star Wars: Battlefront 3 project? Do you think that fans should move on and look to the future, or hope that the game will somehow see the light of day?
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.