Ex-LucasArts source: claim that Star Wars: Battlefront 3 was 99 per cent complete is "just bulls***"

Free Radical Design co-founder fires back.

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A former LucasArts employee has hit back at claims that Star Wars: Battlefront 3 was scuppered by the publisher after "99 per cent" of the game was complete.

Steve Ellis, co-founder of British developer Free Radical Design, made the statement last month, and alleged the game was binned purely for "financial reasons".

"This 99 percent complete stuff is just bullsh*t," the anonymous ex-LucasArts staff member told Gamespot. "A generous estimate would be 75 percent of a mediocre game."

"We were desperate for a next-gen follow-up to Battlefront (the claim that the project was sabotaged for financial reasons is ludicrous. The franchise was a huge money maker at the time). When Free Radical continually missed dates and deliveries, [LucasArts] made many 'good will' whole or partial milestone payments to keep the project going."

"At this point, 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."

Ex-LucasArts employee

"There are two sides to every story," the source added, explaining his view that Free Radical held significant blame for the game's failure. The developer "underestimated" and "misrepresented" development progress, while the game itself "generally tested poorly with no focus for action" .

LucasArts allegedly grew more impatient as bosses saw Free Radical "struggling" with poorly-received PlayStation 3 shooter Haze.

"At this point, 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," the source said.

The final straw came when it became apparent that an already-delayed April 2009 street date would not be met. "Key staff" left and the following milestone looked untenable. It was at this point the game was cancelled, and, shortly after, Free Radical Design collapsed.

Steve Ellis, the developer's co-founder, promptly fired back a retort.

"I want to set the record straight because a lot of people worked very hard on BF3 (and BF4 [which LucasArts had already asked Free Radical to plan]) and they don't deserve their efforts to be distorted in this way.

"From the personal tone of the comments it is clear that the source is someone whom I personally dealt with. It's unfortunate that they are making this kind of criticism while choosing to remain anonymous."

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Free Radical did not funnel LucasArts money into the completion of Haze, Ellis explained ("when Haze slipped, Ubisoft supported us by increasing the dev budget to cover the extra time") and key staff did not abandon the studio ("we lost a couple of mid-level programmers, a couple of artists and a member of our admin staff").

The decision to begin planning Battlefront 4 showed LucasArts was happy with Free Radical's work, Ellis continued, ("not the actions of a company that was concerned about our abilities to deliver on such an important project") and the studio did not attempt to hide development issues ("the first thing we did was to bring [the need for a delay] to the attention of LucasArts senior management, almost a full year before the scheduled release. There were no secrets").

"In 2008, LucasArts was a company with problems. The entire management team who were there when we started working together were replaced."

Steve Ellis, Free Radical Design co-founder

Ellis also stuck close to his earlier "99 per cent complete" estimation: "At the time that the development on BF3 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."

Ellis is convinced that the blame for Battlefront 3's failure remains firmly at LucasArts' door.

"In 2008, LucasArts was a company with problems. 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. Then our milestones started being rejected. We were told (and it seemed wholly believable given the aforementioned facts) that they could not afford to continue development of both BF3 and its sequel, so they negotiated the termination of BF4, then later BF3. There was no 'termination for breach.'

"If the problem really was that we had failed to meet their desperate need for a new Battlefront game, you might ask why after all this time they still haven't released a new Battlefront game using a different developer. I can only speculate."

Star Wars: Battlefront 3 has since shifted hands several times, with its most recent sighting at US outfit Spark Unlimited, although details are scarce. The game has never officially been announced, although extensive gameplay footage of Free Radical Design's efforts has leaked online.

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