Execution vs Ideas: Another Cancelled LucasArts Game Surfaces

Cancelled Darth Maul Game

There seems to have been a lot of discarded skeletons in LucasArts’ cancelled game closet and recent news marks a Darth Maul-centric one as another casualty.

Maul Battlefront 2Darth Maul always had a ready for gaming look and he got a few chances to shine, from being a playable villain in the Battlefront series, as a hologram in The Force Unleashed, or as an occasional LEGO menace. When Red Fly was tasked to make a Darth Maul game, they didn’t really have any concrete concepts, ideas, or  anything for that matter, to go on. Given a largely free pass from then LucasArts head Paul Meegan, they started developing a Darth Maul origin story. A developer who wished to remain anonymous said, “We wanted people to see him as a kid kidnapped by Emperor Palpatine and tortured…You got angry, you got frustrated, and you made the same mistakes he did.” Essentially, after getting to see grueling Sith training up close and why they love to kill one another, the story would’ve ended with Maul’s death in The Phantom Menance, not before he had a chance to face off with Palpatine and many other Sith Lords. Check out a video of some gameplay and several sweet pieces of concept art.

The above idea sounds like the best iteration, but it didn’t get that long of a chance to shine. Codenamed Damage, the game slowly leaned towards being a stealth game in the vein of the recent Batman: Arkham series. If you’ve not played those, the award-winning Arkham games give Batman supreme predatory prowess, but if you step out of the shadows too long it’ll likely end in death. While that seems a more fitting venture for Batman since Darth Maul always felt like more of an action first, ask questions later type, his arcs on the The Clone Wars showed him to be a more shrewd and calculating character than originally perceived. The change to a stealthier approach only came after LucasArts was telling RedFly about the upcoming return of Darth Maul in The Clone Wars and how he’d have a brother, Savage Opress.

Darth TalonBut the biggest change came from George Lucas, per his usual wealth of ideas, urging the team at Red Fly to continually change the game. Changes he suggested had Darth Talon and Darth Krayt being in the game, characters from the Legacy era comics who lived some 170 years later than Darth Maul’s time (which meant clones or descendants of Maul) or making it into a adventure game, instead of stealth. Constant changes have been a staple of Lucas’ legacy at LucasArts(as this well researched and written article at GameInformer attests), which isn’t particularly conducive to video game development. Creating assets, concept art, AI routines, entire levels of a game, to name a few parts, and then being forced to completely rework them or go back to the drawing board is not only a large waste of productive time, but also lots of money. While the jury seems to be out, either Red Fly’s Maul game cancellation was due to the Disney deal or the money sunk, getting mad at anyone in this situation is foolish. It’d be unfair to get mad at Mr. Lucas, for one thing, as he’s always been a great idea man though hasn’t always done so hot on the execution side regarding video games. It’d also be unfair to get mad at LucasArts for this cancellation, as Red Fly had suffered losses due to the changing ideas process and it was just easier to cut said losses than drain more into the project. And if the Disney deal precluded the Maul game, well, we’re sure going to have enough Star Wars to make us forget about the game.

But that was just part of the remnants of now a dead LucasArts era, replaced by the licensing-to-EA model. And thanks to the acquisition of Amy Hennig recently for at least one of the projects, the future could be bright and not riddled with as many cancelled games. Or we might be sifting through skeletons in another closet many years from now. (Story via GameInformer May 2014 Issue)

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth.

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