Several years ago, the Star Wars: Battlefront series had a third game in the works at TimeSplitters studio Free Radical Design, but the project–and soon thereafter the developer itself–was killed by LucasArts. That’s just one of the unpleasant allegations made by former Free Radical developers in a Eurogamer feature recapping the studio’s entire history.
Battlefront III concept art.
From mid-2006 through early 2008, Free Radical was working for LucasArts on a new installment in the third-person shooter take on the Star Wars universe. Studio co-founder David Doak told the site things went well with the project until a management change at LucasArts led the publisher to make deep cuts and cancel projects.
“[W]e 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,” Doak said.
Free Radical audio director Graeme Norgate said LucasArts’s new management essentially sabotaged the Battlefront III project and the studio, withholding milestone payments for months as they contested every detail of what Free Radical was obligated to deliver in order.
“LucasArts hadn’t paid us for six months,” Norgate said, “and were refusing to pass a milestone so we would limp along until the money finally ran out. They knew what they were doing, and six months of free work to pass on to Rebellion wasn’t to be sniffed at.” (Rebellion did not end up finishing the project, although some of Free Radical’s work was passed on to the studio.)
Doak said Free Radical’s contract had provisions that should have protected the studio, but they didn’t matter because they would not be able to afford the court costs to win the protracted legal battle with LucasArts necessary to collect on those clauses.
“My role at Free Radical meant that I was simultaneously involved in these unpleasant ‘high level’ discussions with psychopaths who wanted to destroy us, and then the next day sitting with our dev staff at their desks trying to boost people’s morale,” Doak said. “Helping them to pass milestones that I knew would subsequently be manipulated to cause them to fail. 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.”
Free Radical entered administration in late 2008, with part of the studio acquired by Crytek and renamed Crytek UK in February of 2009. Doak has since left game development entirely.
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