TimeSplitters dev was working on Star Wars Battlefront 3 and 4
Free Radical Design was working on Star Wars Battlefront 3 and 4 before it collapsed.
Co-founder Steve Ellis, now making iOS games at new studio Crash Lab, told Eurogamer sister site GamesIndustry International in a sweeping interview published today that the Nottingham studio had a strong relationship with Star Wars IP holder LucasArts following a deal signed in 2006.
"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," he said. "It was a big thing, we were very excited and for a long time it was going very well."
So good was the relationship that at the end of 2007 LucasArts asked Free Radical to work on another Battlefront game. "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," Ellis revealed.
"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."
There are a number of videos of Free Radical's never-released Battlefront 3 game on the internet, each showing a glimpse at what might have been.
Now, US developer Spark Unlimited is heavily rumoured to be making a Battlefront game, although details are scarce. But why did Free Radical's effort collapse so close to completion?
According to Ellis, a shift of focus at LucasArts at the beginning of 2008 and layoffs meant its strong relationship disintegrated. "The really good relationship that we'd always had suddenly didn't exist anymore," he said.
"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."
He added: "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."
The result: Battlefront 3 and 4 were canned, and in the case of 3, an almost complete game, one that was in final QA. As for 4, work on that was only at the early tech stage, but Free Radical had taken on more staff to create it.
Be above it
can't wait for this