You hear about it all the time: a fan, or team of talented and creative fans, like a property something so much, they band together to create a fan-game. A not-for-profit, totally labor of love style endeavor that should fall into the realm of “fan art”, but always seems to tick off the rights owners of those properties. It’s happened on multiple occasions with Chrono Trigger, the canned fan-remake of Metal Gear, and then there was that weird My Little Pony fighting game that got hit with a cease and desist… almost immediately after raising $200,000 in donations for breast cancer research. Classy move, Hasbro. All in all, it seems like companies don’t like to reward their fans time and effort when it comes to creating fan content in the form of games… and unfortunately, it seems the trend continues with Star Wars.
Star Wars: Galaxy in Turmoil was an attempt to recreate the cancelled version of Star Wars Battlefront III, originally in development by Free Radical Design (Timesplitters). Fans had seen the leaked footage from the game, and formed Frontwire Studios. They were dedicated to making the newest entry of the ‘classic’ Battlefront series (seeing as how EA‘s Battlefront is less like the original games, and more Battlefield with a Star Wars skin). The fans went so far as to get the project approved for a free release on Steam, the Valve owned digital gaming platform for home computers. Once it was finished, of course—perhaps this is where they pushed their luck.
In a press release on their website, Tony Romanelli (President of Frontwire Studios) spoke at length about how they had been hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Lucasfilm to halt any production on Galaxy in Turmoil. Rather than lay down and accept that the project was over, he asked to arrange a meeting with Lucasfilm about any possibility of the project continuing; to his surprise, they agreed. A week or so after the letter, they had a meeting to discuss their options (via phone):
“During our meeting, there was a fair share of both lighthearted and serious moments. LucasFilm informed me that although they would of been open to the idea of negotiating a license for Frontwire to work on the Star Wars IP, that they are not able to due to their contract with Electronic Arts (EA). I was told that Lucasfilm had already spoken with EA about Galaxy in Turmoil and that EA expressed no desire in letting our project continue. Their main concern was due to the possibility of Galaxy in Turmoil taking away attention from their Battlefront franchise. I tried to pitch the idea about putting Galaxy in Turmoil behind EA’s paywall but was told that EA had previously rejected that proposition as well. Due to their exclusive contract with EA, Lucasfilm was contractually obligated to deny our request for the use of the Star Wars IP for Galaxy in Turmoil based on EA’s decision. We tried to reach out to EA directly for more information, but we have so far gotten no response.”
All hope is not lost, however: despite being unable to use the Star Wars IP, the representatives at Lucasarts told Tony Romanelli that they could, in fact, continue working on the game, as long as they removed the cloak of it being set in “A galaxy far, far away.” So Galaxy in Turmoil will live on—albeit with no X-Wings, Tie Fighters, Stormtroopers, or the like, but instead a fresh new coat of completely original ideas. Another bright side to this is that they can now, of course, charge for their hard work. They are currently considering their options. Still, it’s another example of “what could have been” in the world of cancelled fan-games. In case you were wondering about what happened to some of the aforementioned games, the Metal Gear remake team formed their own studio and the My Little Pony game became a new game entirely, much like Galaxy in Turmoil.