A look at the mistakes LucasArts made on its way to extinction.
When the news came a few months ago that Disney had purchased the rights to Star Wars, many questions were asked; would this mean a new film would be coming out? Would The Clone Wars animated series be moving channels? And would we finally be getting Star Wars: Battlefront 3?
In time, those questions were answered with; New Trilogy incoming, Clone Wars cancelled (but a brand new series commissioned), and a reboot of Battlefront to be made by EA in time for the next generation of consoles.
Despite not being an actual game developer (as of yet), I do feel I have enough experience as a gamer, and as a commentator of the industry, to explore what LucasArts could’ve perhaps done before the balance of power was given over to EA.
Firstly, market. Star Wars (in the sense of the franchise) is a piece of mainstream media. Everyone knows about Star Wars and what it actually is due to significant factors i.e. pivotal scenes and characters like Darth Vader. When it comes to the merchandise, or the domain for the “expanded universe” through mediums such as television series, books and video games, its status is arguably greatly diminished.
Star Wars games are sold to a (relatively) niche market, massive fans of the films will buy and play to become part of the universe, to interact with favourite characters, or create new ones, but casual fans who have a passing interest, in most cases won’t bother.
The fact is, fans of Star Wars games are vocal about what they want and don’t want. For many years, fans were crying out for Battlefront 3 and Knights Of The Old Republic 3, but LucasArts themselves never delivered. What is heartbreaking is the fact companies had begun pre-production (and in the case of Battlefront 3, reached Alpha stage) on these specific sub-franchises, but were for some reasons, cancelled.
Considering EA’s Battlefront hasn’t got a “3” after it, as well as the fact DICE and EA have stated it will be a relaunch, it is doubtful these original visions will ever be properly realised. The main point I’m trying to make is, these titles and subsequent spin-offs, have sold incredibly well; why were further sequels not commissioned for a market which obviously wanted them?
The second point refers to basic narrative construction, or lack of. Recent release The Force Unleashed 2 ended on something of a huge cliffhanger in which Darth Vader was captured by the Rebel Alliance and protagonist Starkiller was left uncertain of whether or not he was a clone. As it stands, we currently have no clue how Vader escapes the Rebels in time to board the Tantive IV at the start of A New Hope.
As it happened, The Force Unleashed 2 was nowhere near as good as the prior entry, critically panned across many forums and sites, with many follow-up rumors that the 3rd entry had been cancelled or put on hiatus. Near enough exactly the same thing happened with the LucasArts/Obsidian sequel to the original KOTOR, KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords. A massive amount of content was cut out of the game so Obsidian could reach LucasArts’ holiday 2004 deadline.
Upon release, many plot points were left unresolved, an entire planet was cut out, and the ending was more of a mess than the original Mass Effect 3. Having worked and been involved with modding KOTOR 2 on projects such as TSLRCM and M4-78, I know for a fact the climax of the game can never be fully realised as the game shipped before any coding or scripts or even context could be implemented.
Obsidian wished to release a following expansion pack adding in the cut content but were refused by LucasArts.
KOTOR 2 received mixed reviews, with many critiquing the messy story, and like The Force Unleashed 2, the series ended on a cliffhanger with the player not knowing what actually happened to their allies, or to be honest, what the hell had just happened!
The inability to create a coherent and well thought out story for sequels, specifically RPG sequels, will always lead to negative reactions and reviews. LucasArts at the very least, should have allowed Obsidian to produce an expansion pack.
It’s extremely fair to say though, that LucasArts have produced some amazing games over the years. If not for them the aforementioned KOTOR and Battlefront, the Jedi Knight series, Rogue Squadron etc. would never have been born.
Their downfall however, came at the hands of an inability to listen to the very people they were selling the games too. Whether their fate would’ve been any different is another matter, but perhaps if they had at least completed Battlefront 3, the attitude of fandom would probably be more sympathetic.
David Goman is a media studies graduate of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, specializing in gamer theory. When not at work, he can usually be found online on Twitter @DaveTrayus