Aw snap, this Battlefront III business is getting nasty. Yesterday we quoted Free Radical founder Steve Ellis as saying that Star Wars: Battlefront III was “99 percent done” before being squashed by LucasArts. Seemed fairly plausible, but now an anonymous, former high ranking LucasArts employee is striking back (and not sparing a drop of venom in his response).
Hit the jump for the LucasArts side of the story…
“This 99 percent complete stuff is just bulls–t. A generous estimate would be 75 percent of a mediocre game.”
Ouch. But hey, given LucasArts’ recent output they clearly don’t really have anything against mediocre.
On the subject of Free Radical, the former LucasArts employee paints a picture of a studio constantly behind schedule and with a habit of giving misleading progress reports. Battlefront III was originally set for a 2008 release, and yet…
“For much of 2007, Xbox 360 builds simply did not work. Initially, Free Radical claimed it was a US/UK kit difference, but when we asked to FedEx one of their working machines to the US for a build review, they declined.”
Is LucasArts the Empire in this scenario? Hmmm, feels right I think.
Worse, there was suspicion that payments LucasArts was sending Free Radical for Battlefront III, were actually being used to fund the completion of Free Radical’s own original title Haze (which was released in early 2008 and promptly torn to scraps by reviewers). To top it off, while developing both Battlefront III and Haze, Free Radical was also shopping a new version of TimeSplitters to publishers. In other words, there was a lot, probably way too much, on Free Radical’s plate at the time.
“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.”
According to our LucasArts tipster it was this perpetual lateness, as well as the unfinished game’s poor focus testing, that led to their decision to cancel Free Radical’s version of Battlefront III in October of 2008.
But wait! Steve Ellis isn’t letting LucasArts get the last word. Hit the second page for the Free Radical founder’s counter-attack…
“The allegation that we used the LucasArts money to fund the completion of Haze is false. Aside from anything else, we didn’t need to. When Haze slipped, Ubisoft supported us by increasing the dev budget to cover the extra time.
The suggestion that we kept our difficulties to ourselves is also false. […] When it became clear that the design changes that we had mutually agreed to make meant that there was a risk to the end date, the first thing we did was to bring it to the attention of LucasArts senior management, almost a full year before the scheduled release. There was a lot of discussion and it was agreed to push back the release date. There were no secrets.”
Okay Steve Ellis, I’ve gone and associated you with the Rebels. You better not be telling dirty Sith lies.
What about that sweet “75 percent of a mediocre game” zinger?
“Again, false. […] The game was ‘content complete’ and we were fixing bugs. […] At the time that the development on BFIII was stopped, the figures showed that we would close our ‘must-fix’ bugs with 3-4 weeks. So yes, maybe on reflection 99 percent was a little of an exaggeration. I probably should have said 97 percent or 98 percent.”
Finally, Ellis gets a couple jabs in on LucasArts management…
“In 2008, LucasArts was a company with problems. Of course I don’t know the full details of or explanation for what happened internally, but some of the facts are clear: 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. It was then that our milestones started being rejected.”
Phew, who to believe? My instinct is to side with Ellis, if only because he actually had the balls to use his real name, but some of his comments definitely smell of exaggeration and ass-covering. Anyways, I have a feeling this little spat may not be over, so stay tuned…