Star Wars: Battlefront III – Where Is It Now?
The game was never officially announced or revealed, but let’s face it – it was at one point known to be in development. Where is it now? Let’s dive in to see the timeline of events and what we want to see in Star Wars: Battlefront III.
A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, let’s call it the “PS2 era,” console and PC gamers were given what at the time was considered the best multiplayer experience in the Star Wars galaxy – the Battlefront franchise. Despite the highly popular license and dozens of games before it, many gamers (myself included) felt as if we were never given a true Star Wars multiplayer title. Here we have a world that is filled with battles, dozens of variations of life, great battlefields, yet despite all of this the only seemingly worthy multiplayer experience in the Star Wars world was the PC MMO Galaxies.
In the Fall of 2004, that all changed when LucasArts and Pandemic Studios launched the original Star Wars: Battlefront, a flawed but highly popular multiplayer-focused game set in the original trilogy era. Unfortunately for PlayStation 2 gamers, the original Battlefront only supported a total of eight human players (unless you ran special dedicated software via your PC, which most didn’t), the Xbox version supported 16, and the PC version supported 32. This was before the time of the PlayStation Network, which mean Sony was not currently operating an organized online component, while Microsoft had Xbox Live.
The game received above average reviews, but even more so sold very well. We can say it was all contributed to the Star Wars label, but this was a game that opened the doors of better things to come. The only downside to the original Battlefront was the lack of a quality single player experience. Gamers could play in offline battles with bots, but the game was solely focused on delivering a multiplayer experience, of which I can say it succeeded on doing.
Approximately a year later, LucasArts and Pandemic re-teamed and launched Star Wars: Battlefront II. Complaints from the first game were in all respect erased in this sequel which was not just an improvement, but felt like a brand new experience. Major chances to Battlefront II included full online support on all three platforms. No longer did PS2 gamers suffer from lack of player support, though the Xbox version now supported up to 32, while the PS2 version was upped to 24 (PC version had 64-player support).
Players could now battle in the original trilogy and new trilogy eras including playing as Jedis and Sith Lords themselves. Air battles were intensified with full maps dedicated to space dogfights, and there were up to 24 total maps to play on. What made Battlefront II a more complete experience was the addition of single player campaign modes. The game launched months prior to that of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but featured movie clips and missions based on the events of Episode III, along with the other five episodes. The game was still multiplayer focused but player now had a reason not to login to play with others, but could find hours of entertainment playing in the offline campaign modes.
Battlefront II remained to be one of the most populated online games on consoles. When Xbox Live support on the original Xbox shut down on April 15, 2010, gamers were still online with Battlefront II. Players are still online today on the PS2 and PC versions.
One thing was for sure, Star Wars: Battlefront as a franchise was a hit. All signs pointed to a third game – but unfortunately it is going on six years now and we are still waiting for it. Where is it, and will it happen?
LucasArts has never officially announced Battlefront III, but we know it was at least being developed at one point. In 2007 Electronic Arts purchased Pandemic Studios. Pandemic were the developers of both Battlefront games – they went on to develop a sequel to their 2005 sleeper hit Mercenaries and later launch a new IP in The Saboteur. Unfortunately, Pandemic closed down shop in late 2009 after both Mercs 2 and The Saboteur were met with mediocre reviews and poor sales. Fortunately most of the ‘core’ team were transferred to other EA locations and some others moved on to Microsoft.
After the EA acquisition, development of Battlefront was handed over to Free Radical Design, the developers known highly for their work on TimeSplitters. A good majority of the team also worked for Rare Ltd. at one point during development of such N64 hits like GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. Free Radical’s only next generation project was the PS3-exclusive Haze, which to most critics and fans alike would consider a bust. The game was touted to be a ‘system killer’ but like any other title with massive amounts of hype – it didn’t live to what it was promised to be.
Free Radical Design went into shutdown mode late in 2008 after the fallout from Haze as well as the uncertainty of TimeSplitters 4. Speculation pointed to the studio closing down, but those speculations turned out to be false. After layoffs, Free Radical was later purchased by Crytek (developers of Crysis and Far Cry) and became Crytek UK. Development of Battlefront III was suspended, and most signals point to it being completely scrapped. On another note, don’t be surprised to see Crytek’s next project post-Crysis 2 to be TimeSplitters 4, considering Free Radical and EA worked on the third game together years ago.
In early 2009, footage was leaked onto the Internet of what was later assumed to be Battlefront III. LucasArts issued seize and desist orders as the footage was labeled as confidential. With this being the age of YouTube, you can easily find the “confidential” footage over the net. Look below to see what Free Radical displayed at a 2008 LucasArts holders meeting.
Depressing isn’t it? Free Radical was no more, so rumors began to spread that Pandemic (who were at the time still open for business) were given the reigns back and a deal was to be made for EA and LucasArts to co-publish the game. Those plans never officiated and the rumors stuck to being just that.
By March 2009, new reports surfaced that Rebellion, makers of the PSP versions of Star Wars: Battlefront, were to be given the project. Chances are they would have to start the project from scratch as Free Radical labeled the technology they were using for their project as “old.”
It has been almost two years since Rebellion was “signed on” to do Battlefront III, and since then we haven’t heard much. Rebellion themselves have put out new games; they developed last year’s Alien vs. Predators title, but have also put out such flops as Rogue Warrior and the ShellShock 2: Blood Trails. Despite their average work on the 360 and PS3, their PSP versions of Battlefront have been nothing short of outstanding. It personally gives me hope they will do Battlefront III justice given their past work on the franchise.
As for a look into LucasArts, the publisher has been reducing staff and reducing a number of projects over the years. Last November, LucasArts made EA the sole publisher of BioWare’s upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, a move which raised questions of the where the game was at quality wise. Over the summer rumors surfaced that LucasArts, under new Presidency, prematurely canceled Star Wars: The Force Unleashed III two months before the second game was even to be released.
When it comes to Battlefront III, LucasArts has neither confirmed or denied development, but normally gave the routinely “we don’t comment on rumors” spew that most publishers dish out. It goes without saying they know Battlefront III is one of the most sought out games by fans, however in this economy where more and more big blockbuster titles don’t live up to expectations, both critically and financially, the game’s development must be decided with a business state of mind.
I have reached out to both LucasArts and Rebellion to see if we can get any kind of update. As expected, I have since not been given any kind of response, but I should note this segment from Rebellion’s website in regards to unannounced projects:
Due to the confidential nature of our industry unfortunately we are unable to answer any questions relating to unannounced titles we are currently working on. However as soon as we are able to discuss them we will be sure to keep you updated via our website, facebook page, and our twitter feed or feeds via the respective Publishers website.
As of February 16, 2011 only one known title is currently being published by LucasArts – the upcoming LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, which is based on the current running animated program on Cartoon Network. Their other known project which was based on the Indiana Jones franchise, was canceled in 2009. With The Clone Wars being the only ongoing project, we have to wonder what LucasArts is working on. Speculation points towards Battlefront III. Facts are facts though, it is going on six years since Battlefront II and we haven’t heard a peep from LucasArts of what they want to do with the franchise. We have since seen portable releases, all of which have brought in hours of enjoyment but we want a new console Battlefront III.
Here are some viable reasons why Battlefront III could work and what LucasArts can do to make it a reality:
- PlayStation Network – when Battlefront and its sequel hit the PS2, it launched on a platform with a mis-managed and unorganized online community. PSN is now held in the same regard as Xbox Live in terms of community, organization, and reliability. Battlefront III would boast well on all three popular online platforms – PSN, Xbox Live, and Steam.
- Online Multiplayer Sells – Battlefront launched when both Sony and Microsoft were just beginning to get a grasp of how to run console games over broadband connections. Online multiplayer was seen as a bonus then – now it is almost a necessity for a game to have an online component to even sell. Battlefront is a multiplayer-focused franchise.
- Star Wars Games Have Been Subpar – I have enjoyed both Force Unleashed games, but I seem to be in the minority. Force Unleashed II by many was considered to be a major disappointment of 2010. The future has been pretty neutral on BioWare’s The Old Republic. Battlefront III would put a positive spin on the franchise.
- EA Partners – Years ago EA was the face of evil in the gaming community, Activision has since replaced them in that spot. LucasArts wants to cut costs. EA has already taken over full publishing rights to The Old Republic. LucasArts should consider a publishing agreement with EA Partners – an arm of EA that have been brought in such hits like Left 4 Dead, Crysis, Rock Band, and upcoming projects from Respawn Entertainment (formerly 90% of Infinity Ward), and Insomniac Games. This would phase out some of the costs. The downside would be EA would have control over development, would be the primary beneficiary of the game’s revenues, and controls all PR. With LucasArts already handing over The Old Republic, it doesn’t seem like it would phase them.
There are more reasons I could list but I am no economist. Bottomline, I am simply a fan trying to find excuses for Battlefront III to get the greenlight. With that being said, despite the improvement Battlefront II was over the original, here are some things I hope to see improved in Battlefront III:
- More love for Hero Assault – In this mode you can play as iconic characters, both from the light and dark side of the force. These characters included Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, the Emperor, and many more. Heroes were the ultimate fighter in the game – having supremacy on the battlefield in other modes. Hero Assault was a death match between light and dark, however only one map supported the mode. Later via DLC, another map was added for the Xbox version of the game. Nonetheless, two maps were not enough (considering there were 24 maps in all). If Battlefront III does make it, show more love for this incredibly fun and frenzied mode.
- Customizable Classes – In both iterations of Battlefront, you could choose between a handful of different variants of soldier and had your slight choices of weaponry, but the game never had that customizable appeal. In Battlefront III, allow the player to fully customize their soldier. Allow them to customize the trooper’s abilities and weapons – obviously with some restrictions. Have each class have their pros and cons. Ewoks are slow, but should have the ability of stealth. Wookies are slow but should have a better accuracy capability.
- Story-Inspired Operations - Pit two teams against each other to re-enact famous movie/book/show events. This mode could be called something like “Re-Live the War” or something else less cheesy. In this mode teams would re-live actual events from Star Wars – the Battle of Hoth, the final attack on the Death Star, the Battle of Endor. Let’s relive famous events from Star Wars and see if we can change history as we know it. What would have happened if the Battle of Endor concluded with the Galactic Empire stopping the rebel scum?
Here are a few do nots for the developers to add/change/keep in Battlefront III:
- No Perk System or Call of Duty – Call of Duty is popular and everything, but don’t just clone what Call of Duty does. The Perk system is fine and everything but don’t add it to this game. Players don’t need a perk to have the ability to dual wield or to be able have better accuracy. Essentially don’t add any elements of Call of Duty in this game. Let Call of Duty be Call of Duty.
- Aim Assist / Auto Aim – this just makes the game less challenging and more along the lines of who can hit the trigger button first. I can understand with the amount of players on screen it is sometimes hard to spot friend from enemy, but that’s all part of the battle. Make players hunt down their prey. Though I suppose I would bitch less if I had autoaim for a sniper weapon in a FPS.
- Hold out for DLC – believe it or not, Battlefront III has a lot to live up to from Battlefront II. BFII featured 24 multiplayer maps, a feat you don’t hear too often in the modern day multiplayer game. Chances are, Battlefront III would probably come packed in with 10-12 maps, a significant decrease from its predecessor. Keep in mind in those 24 maps, it consisted of both space and land battlefields. This is the DLC age though, the developers may create twenty or so maps for the game, launched 12 with the product and the rest in DLC packs. Unfortunately as much as we complain about it, fans will pay the ultimate price because they want to play those maps. Don’t hold content back for DLC, including maps, weapons, modes, so on and so forth. Expectations are high, so deliver on them with content.
To sum up this large story, Star Wars: Battlefront III at one point was indeed in development. Footage has surfaced, confirmation from the old developers was proven, but since then we haven’t heard or seen anything. Rebellion has been mum, but LucasArts has been even more mum. It is highly doubtful we will gain anything from the upcoming PAX East, let us hope that we hear something at this year’s E3. This would be a great time to release Battlefront III – considering all six films are being heavily promoted and will launch for the first (and certainly not last) time on Bluray later this year. It would be the perfect launch window for Battlefront III.
What would you rather be playing come this November – Star Wars: Battlefront III or Call of Duty: The Same Ol’ Crap from Two Games Ago 2011? The choice is obvious.