Before Frontwire Studios was an official development team, a group of about 50 volunteers set out to finish what had already been started and release their own game based on the canceled Battlefront 3. As time went on, the project turned into more than just a mod, and thus Frontwire Studios was born and Star Wars: Galaxy in Turmoil became their main focus. However, the fully-fledged game that was now in the works never stopped being a Star Wars game first and foremost. This is no longer the case.
The president of Frontwire Studios, Tony Romanelli, posted an open letter to fans who had been following Galaxy in Turmoil to inform them that due to legal issues, Galaxy in Turmoil will no longer be able to use any assets that resemble anything from the Star Wars franchise. However, this does not mean that Galaxy in Turmoil is canceled, it just means that it is going to have to become it's own IP now.
The legal troubles with Galaxy in Turmoil all started on June 22 when Frontwire Studios received a letter from Lucasfilm requesting that production of Galaxy in Turmoil using any Star Wars related IP be stopped at once. However, Romanelli declined to give in to their request without a fight, so he asked to meet with Lucasfilm to possibly negotiate, and much to his surprise, they agreed. One week later, that meeting took place over the phone. Here's his explanation of what was discussed during the meeting, and why, ultimately, Frontwire was forced to give in to their demands:
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.
Still, Romanelli believes that Frontwire has been within the legal limits this whole time. He talks about how he and his lawyers believe that Frontwire is protected under the Fair Use law. He stated that the game would technically be considered a parody. Speaking with game's lawyer Zachary Strebeck, he told us that parody is unlikely to apply in this case, although it is impossible to tell without seeing the final product. Many people forget that parody is not the same as satire and there are different rules that apply to being able to claim it's protection. The other areas that they claimed in the past, such as being an educational tool are equally questionable, and Fair Use Doctrine is not just a checklist of things. Matters like price factor in but it is an overall decision based on the usage and considering those factors and others such as if it would be removing value from the property itself as may be argued could happen with the Star Wars Battlefront games.
Still, he chose not to continue to fight Lucasfilm and EA on this for multiple reasons. First, a company like Lucasfilm has the resources to overpower Frontwire in any legal case, even if Romanelli believes that his studio is protected by the Fair Use law. Second, he understands how valuable the Star Wars brand is, and if Lucasfilm and EA want to protect the IP, then they have a right to. "As a businessman, I have enough respect for other companies and their intellectual properties to not put up a fight that should not be fought in the first place," he wrote.
Galaxy in Turmoil may not be the Battlefront 3 that many people were looking forward to, but the game still has a future ahead of it. The game will continue to be heavily inspired by the Battlefront series, but it will now feature it own environments, characters, vehicles, etc. Romanelli explains in his post that many of the game's assets were created in-house, so those won't need to be scrapped. The core of the game remains unchanged.
Going forward, Frontwire Studios will be pivoting away from Star Wars and embarking on a mission to create a new, original game in a never before seen universe. Our game will still have massive 64-player battles, ground-to-space combat, destructible capital ships, and a full single-player campaign. We will also still be releasing Galaxy in Turmoil on Steam as planned and it will remain a free game.
Romanelli went on to discuss plans for the crowdfunding of Galaxy in Turmoil, as well as an upcoming demo for the game. It turns out, crowdfunding won't actually start until they have a fully functioning demo to put out for the game. He wants fans to be able to get a better idea of what they will be funding, and whether they want to fund it at all. The demo won't be released until they can include at least one single player mission and one multiplayer game mode with at least two playable maps. Once that happens, then they can launch a crowdfunding campaign for the game. The studio also still plans to release the game on Steam completely free of charge with no micro transactions or pay-to-win content. The game does not, however, have any sort of release date or window planned at the moment.
Romanelli ended his open letter sounding optimistic for the future of Galaxy in Turmoil and thankful to all those who have supported the development of Galaxy in Turmoil up to this point:
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for your continued support of both Frontwire Studios and Galaxy in Turmoil. I look forward to continuing this ride together as we move forward with the brand new Galaxy in Turmoil universe.