Free Radical cofounder responds to Battlefront III claims

Steve Ellis issues statement on development of Star Wars game detailing his side of the story, saying "We were not perfect. We made mistakes, but third-parties had a hand in our failure."

Free Radical Design cofounder Steve Ellis wants to set the record straight. The developer has responded to claims made by an anonymous former LucasArts employee, who told GameSpot that the failure of Star Wars: Battlefront III was due in large part to mismanagement at Free Radical.

Ellis took issue with many of the source's claims. He said it is "nonsense" that he tried to whitewash the part that he played in Battlefront III's failure. He also denied the source's assertion that Free Radical was, at a time, akin to a Ponzi scheme.

Ellis said when Haze was delayed, publisher Ubisoft increased its budget for the extra development time, so it was not necessary to use LucasArts funds to develop Haze or any subsequent title.

Lastly, Ellis admitted Free Radical was "not perfect" and made mistakes, but made clear that "third-parties had a hand in our failure." Ellis' entire statement in posted below.

"I want to set the record straight because a lot of people worked very hard on BFIII (and BFIV) 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."

"What annoys me about the article is that I personally am accused of a whitewash, which is nonsense. While I don't know everything that my ex-colleagues and staff might have said on the subject, personally I have tried to explain what happened as completely and accurately as possible. I have nothing to gain from a whitewash. I've gone on record saying that we had had difficult times at Free Radical Design. I've admitted that the transition to the latest generation of consoles was more difficult than we anticipated, that we may have made some poor tech choices, and that growing the company to the necessary size for 'next-gen' development wasn't easy. I've said that these things had an impact on the development of Haze and that for this reason - and a number of other reasons - Haze didn't reach the level of quality that we always aimed for at FRD. None of this is new information, so it's a little strange to see it presented as 'here's what these guys aren't telling you, and since I'm telling you this you'll also believe me when I tell you all of this other stuff.'"

"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. The ironic thing about this allegation though, is that just about every publisher we worked with would simultaneously worry that we might spend their money elsewhere, but they would invariably ask us to move resources from another project onto theirs. Our answer was always the same: 'If we do that for you now, how do you know we won't do it for someone else later?.' They never liked it, but it seemed like the only way to treat everyone fairly."

"The suggestion that we kept our difficulties to ourselves is also false. We may have been guilty of this in our earlier publisher relationships, believing that we could quietly deal with our problems by ourselves and not have to risk instigating a situation where the publishers response added further risk to the project or our company. However, with LucasArts this was absolutely not the case; it was the best publisher relationship we had ever had, so when it became clear that the design changes that we had mutually agreed to make meant that there was a risk to the end date, the first thing we did was to bring it to the attention of LucasArts senior management, almost a full year before the scheduled release. There was a lot of discussion and it was agreed to push back the release date. There were no secrets."

"I don't know who he might be referring to when he says that 'key staff' left in September 2008. During that month we lost a couple of mid-level programmers, a couple of artists, and a member of our admin staff."

"I don't know what problems he's referring to in August or December 2007. In December 2007 they signed us to develop the sequel concurrently, asking us to grow our company further to do so. I'd say that that was a pretty strong vote of confidence in us, not the actions of a company that was concerned about our abilities to deliver on such an important project."

"It was 75% of a mediocre game.' Again, false. Until very recently there was a gameplay video on YouTube that showed exactly where the game was. It was leaked by people who were very proud of the game that they had spent over 2 years developing and wanted the world to at least have an opportunity to see it before it was consigned to history. Unfortunately, four years on, LucasArts have chosen to have the video removed. Objectively though, the game was 'content complete' and we were fixing bugs. At that stage in development, the way that completion is measured is by looking at the number of open bugs in the database. These are tracked and people spend a lot of time analyzing the fix rate and the rate of discovering new bugs and projecting a completion date when the game will be ready for release. At the time that the development on BFIII 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."

"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.'"

"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."

"As the 'anonymous source' says, there are two sides to every argument. However, it's easy to make anonymous allegations and not have to back them up. I stand by everything I've said. All I've ever tried to do is explain the series of events that led to the failure of Free Radical. We were not perfect. We made mistakes, but third-parties had a hand in our failure. Personally I am very proud of the efforts made by the former staff of Free Radical through 2008. They are an incredibly talented group of people who through no fault of their own found themselves in a no-win situation. I'm happy that most of them have had the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities subsequently on games such as Crysis 2."

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

Discussion

0 comments
Epictacosam
Epictacosam

Props to the dude its much easier to make anonymous claims than to put your name and company legacy with those words you speak. I hope one day Lucas arts will release a new battlefront game whether by Cyrtek UK or another developer.

Ratatoskr321
Ratatoskr321

Oh my lord, Gamespot please stop giving these morons a soapbox to stand on. There were failures all around, we get it. The only thing we want is a new Battlefront game, not excuses or petty news fights.

roux1931DUR
roux1931DUR

kotor3 and bf3-2013 Disney make it happen!

JustArtificial
JustArtificial

Look on Youtube for Battlefront 3 leaked/hacked footage. There is so much there. It's all solid. I believe that Ellis was right in saying, they were "99%" done. It's more accurately around 90%, however the 10% is just bug fixing, adding made textures, and obviously smoothing everything out.

 

It's unbelievable, that some random guy has said otherwise when we can clearly see Alpha footage that looks brilliant. Why didn't someone else take over? Simple. LucasArts just ****** us over again. Just like they did with the Prequels. Just like they did with The Force Unleashed. And Just like they did with TOR and the related BS, canon-ruining novels.

 

I hope Disney kick them in the balls, and kickstart BF3 again. It would have been LucasArts' saving grace, along with KOTOR 3, and since they haven't realised that, maybe Disney will.

Leeric420
Leeric420

Maybe good ol disney will through some money behind it then. Lucas arts keeps making crappy games, well overall crappy even though i enjoyed some of them ha

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

Well if you watch the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Agl81F-Q4Y  you can see the game really wasn't far from being finished... At most I would say 3-4 months of work would have done it.  

 

I think LucasArts just wanted out of their contract and the best way to do that when you are working with a small company that can't afford to sue is to start behaving unreasonable. 

legolas506
legolas506

whoa whoa... "BFIII (and BFIV)" ?????? and a 4th one?

VampireLord123
VampireLord123

Mmm it is not strange that all this allegation just started recently when the game has been cancelled for a long time? I think they are looking for publicity, and see what are the reactions of the fan base

Kiaininja
Kiaininja

So basically he's claiming the same thing that anonymous claimed that caused BF3 to bust but just sugar coating it. He practically confirming what anonymous said but just changed the claims enough to excuse his ego of any responsibility.

endorbr
endorbr

They did this, we did that.  They didn't do this, we didn't do that.  Blah blah blah.  Nobody CARES.  I'm sure both sides had a part to do in the game not being finished and released.  Who was the bigger screw up here doesn't really matter.

jon2435
jon2435

I don't have time of this schoolyard crap.  I wanted another Battlefront, not an excuse.

Solace427
Solace427

This is turning into a blame game. That's all I am seeing at this point

sideshowboots
sideshowboots

if anything, it's turning into an entertaining little fight between these two, I'm not 100% on which of the two is telling the truth, but leaning towards the guy that is willing to put his name next to his statement.

TheAgingGamer
TheAgingGamer

It's a bit dangerous to report such allegations when they only come from a single source, especially if that source requests to remain anonymous and provides only anecdotal evidence. I'll admit, I found the anonymous source's claims to be convincing, which just goes to show how important it is to verify those claims before publishing them. People may say "Oh it's just video games, it doesn't really matter if responsible journalism is used." But the reality is publishing that sort of information when it isn't necessarily accurate can be damaging to the reputations of the parties involved and could result in difficulty finding employment in the future.

gp3tron
gp3tron

The saddest thing about this, is after all this time, and now after this war of words, there is still no sign of a new Battlefront game, or why not throw this fact out there as well, a new Republic Commando game...

Hillsy_
Hillsy_

I did read somewhere about Lucasarts closing alot of projects, but I can't remember where.  Nobody is perfect, but I do believe in some of his words.  Always a shame to see a game(s) canned.  I remember when Titan Quest 2 was cancelled.

gufberg
gufberg

With every new comment made in this case i swing back and forth. But this guy has alot more credibility over some anonymous person who, from his comments, are obviously very emotionally invested. And if BF sequels really were that important then LucasArts would likely have found another dev to make it .. So yea. This makes sense. 

TrueGB
TrueGB

Well, if it was new management, new people often make gutsy decisions like that just to prove they can.

hampton2003
hampton2003

lol, i love the part when he back peddles from 99%, all the way down to 97-98%. I'll say it again, it doesnt make bussiness sense to throw away invested money on an almost finished product, unless there are game quality/developer issues or the company financially backing said product is nuts. So i dont beleive this guy, I beleive he is just trying to save face and do some damage control after he exagerated his previous statements.

LonerCat
LonerCat

Flame wars, game company style.

Nexozable
Nexozable

Oh christ, they're bringing a BFIV into it now?

 

Shut up, just shut up.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Ok, so say we believe you weren't using Lucasarts money to fund Haze.  Fine.  What's your excuse for why Haze was complete crap despite all the extra time and money, and why are we to believe Battlefront 3 would have been better?

SirNormanislost
SirNormanislost

"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." This is exactly what I said yesterday to lucasarts response I sense a disturbance in the force and its coming from lucasarts Oh and I bet my left arm that the reason the BF3 footage was removed from YouTube is because Disney is getting a new battlefront made

mkdoomfan2
mkdoomfan2

We all want Battlefront 3, but when did bringing it back up become relevant again? These few days its all I've been hearing. Did something major happen? Did I miss out on something, or are they just bringing it up out of the blue?

tightwad34
tightwad34

Looks like there was a mix of problems going on. Everything from greed to miscommunication to just bad business practices. Bad things happen and companies go under, but why, oh why did it have to be Battlefront 3? And 4 for that matter.

nate1222
nate1222

"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..."

 

Damn good point.

rpvarela
rpvarela

 @Ratatoskr321 Well, I came here to say something along these lines... Guess I won't have to do that.

 

*signs off*

LoganDaDestroya
LoganDaDestroya

 @ArabrockermanX Actually I would say that video in particular showcases some of the issues bought up beforehand, that the game's AI was absolutely horrible and had severe gameplay issues (note the framerate in certain areas)

 

The fact it was in Pre Alpha shows it was far from finished. This is not saying I am against BF3, just that it is a very poor example. A better one would be the hand camera footage of a trailer, which seemed to show better graphics and slightly better Ai.

IllegallyAwesum
IllegallyAwesum

 @legolas506 Read the whole article. I said the same thing, but he clears it up. This made my day, because I was furious yesterday when that article was published and I really hoped for some kind of response.

Apastron
Apastron

This has been going for a number of years now, but every now and then someone stirs up the hornets' nest.

thorn3000
thorn3000

 @VampireLord123 usually employment contracts with major publishing companies include paragraphs about silence you have to keep, even after being terminated / fired for a set number of years...otherwise you risk court and going to jail...to me it seems normal that is is surfacing only after years...

Poodger
Poodger

 @Kiaininja I am more likely to believe Steve Ellis and Free Radical. They have Timesplitters under their belt and can make a damn good game, while Lucasarts is completely trash.

thorn3000
thorn3000

I would say they don't have time to care what you want, nobody cares...just might be my view though...

endorbr
endorbr

 @TheAgingGamer Doesn't mean the information isn't accurate just because the source remains anonymous just as it doesn't mean that Ellis is being honest because he is speaking without anonymity.  Just makes it difficult to coroborate or verify which you can't really do here anyway since this is completely a case of he said she said.

SirNormanislost
SirNormanislost

@gp3tron Actually that's not strictly true don't you find it off this being dragged up after all this time? And suddenly the footage from BF3 that was released onto YouTube was removed after 4 years of being there and all of this starts when Disney takes over the Star Wars licence. Credit where it's due Disney likes money and a starwars shooter to take some of that COD money seems like the perfect move for them

Wyckid
Wyckid

 @hampton2003 Did you seriously just say "ALL THE WAY DOWN TO 97-98%?"  I find that hilarious.

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

 @hampton2003 they are only developing it, ultimately the shots are called by the publisher so if the publisher said to cancel a 97-99% complete project the devs have no say in the matter.

Wyckid
Wyckid

 @Thanatos2k With the exception of Haze, Free Radical made some killer games pre-Free Radical such as Goldeneye & Perfect Dark.  Free Radical also made the Timesplitters series.  All of which are kickass shooters.

SirNormanislost
SirNormanislost

@mkdoomfan2 After 4 years the battlefront3 footage has been removed from YouTube after a month or 2 under disneys control, this leads me to believe that Disney has started up work on BF3 again and doesn't want that footage associated with the game Also this little slap fight article is free publicity for a game people thought was dead

xdrmonkeyfishx
xdrmonkeyfishx

 @Poodger  @Kiaininja Yes, while LucasArts doesn't have a wide range of amazing games under their belt, oh wait. They do too, like the Monkey Island series and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis

Wombatish
Wombatish

 @SirNormanislost  @gp3tron Disney has said that after open projects are finished they plan to move Star Wars into the mobile and casual market. A new Battlefront game is extremely unlikely.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

 @Wyckid You can't say "With the exception of Haze" because Haze is the game they had created right then.  It reflected the current abilities of the company.

Apastron
Apastron

All under a completely different management, whereas Free Radical's was virtually the same from it's founding.