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Factor 5 reflects on the dev decisions that doomed Lair

How did a title backed by Sony, and developed over three years to the tune of $25 million, wind up so disjointed? The Factor 5 team have told their side of the story.

Remember Lair? The dragon-riding, action-adventure effort from the team over at Factor 5. Yep, the same Factor 5 that created the celebrated Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series. 

The game garnered a lot of attention pre-launch, mainly due to Factor 5's impressive track record and some eye-catching graphical touches. Unfortunately, that optimism soon dissipated once it actually hit shelves. 

The finished product was a mixed-bag filled with highs and lows, and the title's dependence on the PlayStation 3's shaky motion controls eventually proved to be a major misstep.

But how did a title backed by Sony, and developed over three years to the tune of $25 million, wind up so disjointed? In an candid interview with Polygon, some of those who worked on the project have shared their side of the story. 

"You could write a book about [Lair]. ... It’s a story of really smart people who, because of circumstances, put something together that didn’t quite turn out as successful as you think it would," offered level designer Marc Wilhelm.

Factor 5 co-founder Julian Eggebrecht was less conservative in his assessment. "Lair was a genuine fuck-up by everybody involved, probably me the worst," he explained, and it certainly seems like the development process could be better described as a series of unfortunate events. 

One such incident occurred during E3 2006, when the team realized they'd have to incorporate the PS3's motion controls into their title. It wasn't exactly a grandiose watershed moment, but rather an "oh shit" realization.

"All of the designers were unanimous that we didn't like [the motion controls] and it wasn't how the game was meant to be played. We ended up shipping it that way and none of us were happy," explained designer, Joe Spataro. Co-founder Eggebrecht was more optimistic, but that faith proved to be misguided. 

“I thought that motion controls could work for Lair," he added," in the sense that if we could loosen up the game to be not as pinpoint accuracy-wise as the Rogue Squadron games were that you would forgive certain stuff in the motion controls. In hindsight it was stupid to think that."

The full article is packed with interesting anecdotes and words of development wisdom, so head over to Polygon and check it out.

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