DICE and EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront ‘Well into Development’
"Troubled" is the kind word thrown around when describing the tumultuous experience LucasArts and multiple third-party devs had getting a sequel to 2005’s Battlefront II off of the ground.
With LucasArts recently disbanded in every capacity save for its name and the Star Wars franchise tucked deep within the confines of Disney’s money lined pocket, this long dormant brand returns to the galaxy as, simply, Star Wars: Battlefront, a DICE production; first in a line of several planned Star Wars games to be published by the EA empire.
How far, far away are we from seeing this licensed shooter on next-gen consoles? Hard to say, but EA Games Label prez, Frank Gibeau, says the title is headlong into development under the same team at DICE that stitched together the Battlefield series. Likewise, expect the new Battlefront to have Frostbite 3 burning at its core.
"We showed 22 seconds of where we’re going with it and the fan response was very positive. The DICE team is well into development on that product already, so we feel very bullish about our shooter rotation over the next several years," said Gibeau during an earnings call sometime after all 22 seconds of the game’s E3 debut.
There’s no doubt EA’s funding and DICE’s collective of talent can finally bring Battlefront to the homestretch. DICE wouldn’t be my first pick for Star Wars, but that doesn’t make them any less of an inspired choice.
My only concern is whether or not old Battlefront III assets are being used or, barring that, even being kept in mind. Before Free Radical’s attempt on BFIII went tits up, they managed to incorporate some pretty imaginative ideas — and that was on current gen tech. The one-two combo of next-gen hardware and Frostbite 3 means expectations put on Battlefront's shoulders rest right at “amazing” (as if the Battlefront name hadn’t already forced that precedent).
Rare Footage of Free Radical’s Battlefront III Hits the Web
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…LucasArts royally fucked up by cancelling one of the most impressively ambitious Star Wars titles to date.
It’s not uncommon for games to get the axe during development. Whether they’re low profile concept pieces that simply can’t gain the right traction or big budget affairs no amount of money can fix, sometimes a publisher needs to stiffen their chin, eat their losses, and squash a title.
But Star Wars: Battlefront III, a true successor to the Battlefront name developed by the studio formerly known as Free Radical (a team pooling years of experience from properties such as the original GoldenEye and the TimeSplitters series), was uniquely cut down by LucasArts — having had a fresh regime change up the ladder — when the game was reportedly an inch near completion.
Now, with LucasArts’ full dissemination brought on by new owners Disney, we’re likely to never play BFIII…But at least you can see it in action. The video above is a few minutes of alpha stage footage of the game, and while the gameplay is very reminiscent of its predecessors, there’s a few truly standout innovations on display including flashes of a more cinematic story and the mindblowing ability to go from ground level to stratosphere to docking in a star destroyer all in real time.
The six minute vid here not quite enough (of course it isn’t)? Weep over a full hour of footage hereabouts.
LucasArts Bullied Free Radical’s Star Wars: Battlefront III Into Cancellation
"It was the most depressing and pointless thing that I have ever been involved in. The dream job which I once loved had become a nightmarish torture."
David Doak, Free Radical founder, recalling his experience working on the troubled Battlefront III.
In an astounding interview with Eurogamer, Doak and fellow Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis say their business relationship with long-time Star Wars video game purveyors, LucasArts, was nothing short of enjoyable when production on the sequel began in 2006. After a succession of commercial failures (starting with the third TimeSplitters and ending flatly on Haze), being apart of LucasArts’ project was a “marriage made in heaven,” according to Doak. Because at his studio, “You don’t have to go very far in development to find someone with Star Wars shit on their desk.”
By 2008, however, when the developer decided to voice concerns about the title’s progress, Doak and Ellis picked the unfortunate time of broadcasting doubts to a new set of faces at LucasArts that, quite frankly, didn’t believe in Free Radical’s very costly (but ambitious) project. With familiar allies gone, Doak felt they “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.”
While a contract protected Free Radical’s Battlefront from axing for a time, LucasArts still quickly cut funding, making obligatory milestones impossible to meet, and making it doubly impossible to continue functioning on a timely and regular basis. After numerous conversations degraded, and the tempting idea to have another studio, Rebellion, hastily patch together a simpler, less ambitious Battlefront III using Free Radical’s assets was considered, the game finally just buckled and died.
And to an extent, so did Free Radical. The studio was forced to let a significant portion of their staff go, leaving behind a skeleton crew meant to keep the developer breathing until the company was eventually bought by Crytek who transformed the once unique studio into the unimaginatively named Crytek UK.