Free Radical’s co-founders have slammed LucasArts, labeling their executives as “psychopaths.” Speaking to Eurogamer, co-founder David Doak, co-founder Steve Ellis, and ex-audio director Graeme Norgate looked back on the events that led up to the cancellation of Battlefront III and the eventual closure of the studio.
According to the trio, the turning point in development was when LucasArts president Jim Ward left the company and was replaced by Darrell Rodriguez.
“It was worrying,” Doak said, “but it didn’t seem like it would be a bad thing. And then we went from talking to people who were passionate about making games to talking to psychopaths who insisted on having an unpleasant lawyer in the room.”
Ellis elaborated: “For a long time, we talked of LucasArts as the best relationship we’d ever had with a publisher. Then, in 2008, that disappeared; they were all either fired or left. [Rodriguez] had been brought in to do a job, and it was more to do with cost control than making any games.”
LucasArts then started instigating stalling tactics to ensure that Free Radical failed to meet milestones—and, therefore, didn’t get paid. “If a publisher wants to find something that is wrong with a milestone,” Norgate said, “it’s very easy for them to do so, as there are so many gray areas within a deliverable. If the contract says, ‘graphics for level X to be release quality,’ who can say what’s release quality? And there you have it… We hadn’t been paid for six months.”
Doak added: “In many ways, it was a depressing farce talking to them. They had an agenda motivated by purely financial concerns. Their goal was to stop doing it. And it didn’t matter that we had a contract that protected us.”
Ellis elaborated: “What we found out in 2008 is that your contract is only worth as much as how far you can pursue it in court.”
Doak finished by adding that the “unpleasant high-level discussions with psychopaths” caused him to have a nervous breakdown.
Stories like this one are always unpleasant to read, particularly since Free Radical was a fantastic developer who created some amazing games; to see them pretty much destroyed over one game seems completely unfair. Luckily, Crytek managed to swoop in and save some of the staff, but many lost their jobs over this. We get that it’s a business, but fans were incredibly excited about Battlefront III, and it was obviously going to sell well, so why would LucasArts cancel it? It seems to a problem on LucasArts’ end, as rumors have previously stated that several studios have been in charge of the game—and all were cancelled. Will we ever see the game release? Not likely.