Haze developer Free Radical Design has apparently closed its doors this morning, according to unnamed "inside" sources for Gamesindustry.biz.
There's no way to make this post a purely positive one. Despite the lemon that was Haze, Free Radical is responsible for the hugely popular TimeSplitters series...including TimeSplitters 4, which was due in 2009 for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. That these developers and their families are out of a job this close to Christmas is an absolute crime, and is the latest in a rash of studio closings this quarter.
According to the source article, employees arrived at work for a normal shift and were greeted by locked doors with flyers instructing them to convene at a nearby hotel, where they were formally advised that they were jobless.
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Last month, when contacted by GamesIndustry.biz, director Steve Ellis denied there were any changes at the company.
"Nothing unusual is happening here. Projects end. New projects start. That's how things have worked for nearly 10 years," he said then.
I am truly heartbroken for the employees of Free Radical, and I'm becoming more and more glad that I never entered into game development the way that I had originally intended to. This year has been good to gamers, but not developers so much. To date, we've seen countless takeovers, buyouts, and closings. So much talent in the industry...and almost no solid place to plant their feet.
Now on to a more personal note in this news item: in August 2006, LucasArts announced that it had partnered with Free Radical for a "next-gen" project, which was soon thereafter rumored to be Star Wars Battlefront III (a rumor that I was all too happy to entertain, as I adore the first two Battlefronts).
So to add to the initial shock of this breaking story, I also found myself wondering what news would come of the still-secret project. According to the article's source:
It is also believed that the unnamed project for LucasArts - announced back in 2006 and thought to be Star Wars Battlefront III - has been shipped off to Rebellion, the developer behind PSP hit Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron.
*Insert sigh of relief*... If this is true, then I have complete faith in Rebellion Games (who developed the hit Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron for PSP, as well as several other decent ports) and a renewed interest in the rumor of a new Star Wars Battlefront game.
There is nothing in the article about the fate of the in-development TimeSplitters 4, unfortunately.