The project raises intriguing legal questions.
The fan-made Battlefront tribute, Galaxy in Turmoil, developed by Frontwire Studios, is a spiritual successor to 2005’s Star Wars: Battlefront II. On June 4, Frontwire announced that Valve Software would distribute Galaxy in Turmoil through Steam.
Frontwire, an indie studio with developers in 11 countries spread across North America, Europe, and the Middle East, created all of the assets that appear in the game; everything players will see was built from scratch using Unreal Engine 4.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Frontwire is clearly treading on thin Star Wars copyright ice with Galaxy in Turmoil, as an April 4 teaser trailer makes clear.
The much-hyped Star Wars Battlefront reboot, developed by DICE and released by Electronic Arts in November 2015, only used vehicles and characters from the original Star Wars trilogy. The original two Battlefront games used content from both the original and prequel trilogies, and based on the teaser trailer, Galaxy in Turmoil is also following that path.
This approach is part of why fans of the original Battlefront series are so excited about Galaxy in Turmoil. And news articles about the game and the Valve deal make it extremely likely that Galaxy in Turmoil is now on the Walt Disney Company’s radar—assuming it wasn’t already.
“It’s not that we’re not worried about legal action from Disney,” Frontwire Studios president Tony Romanelli said in an email. “It’s extremely worrying, like I’ve previously said – we can wake up tomorrow and find out everything we have done is being pulled out from under us. It’s the fact that [Lucasfilm] has a reputation for not only allowing, but also encouraging fan made projects based around the Star Wars IP.”
There are several fan-made Star Wars video games currently in development. The Star Wars Galaxies Emulator project is trying to recreate Star Wars Galaxies, the massively multiplayer online game that went offline in 2011. Disney renewed its Galaxies copyright in December 2013.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: Alperion is an HD remake of BioWare’s critically acclaimed RPG Knights of the Old Republic, which was released in 2003. Star Wars Battlecry is a third-person shooter like Battlefront. None of these projects have received cease-and-desist letters from Disney.
Even if Disney doesn’t sue Frontwire, Electronic Arts, which has the license to produce Star Wars games for Disney, might.
“We have had numerous Electronic Arts [and] DICE employees reach out to use stating that we’re being talked about around the water coolers (so to speak),” Romanelli wrote, “and that many of the employees are excited to see where we go with this project. Obviously they were not speaking on behalf of Electronic Arts and everything they said was their personal opinion.”
Frontwire’s Battlefront game is filling a void left by the 2008 cancellation of Star Wars: Battlefront III, which Free Radical Design was working on until the project fell victim to management changes at Lucasfilm.
As Free Radical co-founder Steve Ellis told GameSpot in December 2012, Battlefront 3 was 97 or 98 percent finished when leadership changes at LucasArts, the now-defunct video-game wing of Lucasfilm, prompted its cancelation.
Romanelli told the Daily Dot that Frontwire would like to beta test its game in the next nine months, but he said that there was no anticipated release date for Galaxy in Turmoil.
Disney, Electronic Arts, and Valve Software did not respond to requests for comment on the project.
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