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Row escalates over Star Wars Battlefront 3 cancellation

Dev accused of breach of contract; publisher accused of unjust project axe

A developer who worked on Star Wars Battlefront 3 has entered into a bitter public dispute with an anonymous source who worked at publisher LucasArts when the project was terminated.

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Battlefront 3 was cancelled at the tail end of 2008 after about two years of development at UK studio Free Radical. The game's cancellation preceded the Nottingham studio entering administration due to a number of financial difficulties.

In a recent interview, Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis claimed that LucasArts had cancelled Battlefront 3 while it was "99 per cent complete". The general meaning of his claim was that LucasArts was acting senselessly when it axed the project, and that the effects of this were devastating to the company.

In retaliation, an anonymous executive at LucasArts has branded Ellis's claims as "bullshit", and alleged that Free Radical was in breach of contract by using LucasArts' own money to fund work on the studio's other project, Haze.

"This 99 percent complete stuff is just bullshit," the person told GameSpot.

"A generous estimate would be 75 percent of a mediocre game. I was at LucasArts during this time, working on Battlefront III, and remember it well. Everybody from producers to marketing was 100 percent invested in making the relationship work," the person said.

"We were desperate for a next-gen follow up to Battlefront. The claim that the project was sabotaged for financial reasons is ludicrous. The [Battlefront] franchise was a huge money maker at the time.

"When Free Radical continually missed dates and deliveries, [former LucasArts presidents Jim Ward and Darrell Rodriguez] made many 'good will' whole or partial milestone payments to keep the project going."

The source's general claim is that Free Radical continually missed project delivery milestones, and had not created a compelling product, meaning it increasingly made less sense to continue development.

In further retaliation, Ellis has denied many claims made by the anonymous source.

"I want to set the record straight because a lot of people worked very hard on Battlefront 3 (and BFIV) and they don't deserve their efforts to be distorted in this way," he said.

"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.

"The allegation that we used the LucasArts money to fund the completion of Haze is false. Aside from anything else, we didn't need to. When Haze slipped, Ubisoft supported us by increasing the dev budget to cover the extra time."

Ellis goes on to allege: "In 2008, LucasArts was a company with problems. Of course I don't know the full details of or explanation for what happened internally, but some of the facts are clear: 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 BFIII and its sequel, so they negotiated the termination of BFIV, then later BFIII. There was no 'termination for breach'."

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