For fuck sake!
I was really looking forward to Visceral and EAs upcoming Star Wars game. OK, looking forward to is a bit light and may not convey my excitement. I can’t think of anything better than the idea of this game! That’s more like it. A narrative driven, single player experience set in the Star Wars universe is like crack to me. From Knights of the Old Republic to the Force Unleashed I’ve always had a soft spot and wallet space for these type of games. Now that’s all gone.
Reported almost everywhere EA have announced the closure of Visceral Games and the cancellation of the Amy Hennig and Todd Stashwick penned Star Wars game the studio was developing. The news came in the form of an official website post by executive Vice President Patrick Söderlund. The game was to be a exactly what I want, an action adventure single player experience but due to “feedback”, as Söderlund puts it, it has had to change. The key part of the explanation “It has become clear that to deliver an experience players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design.” just doesn’t sit right with me. It suggests that an uncharted style single run, narrative driven game isn’t what EA, sorry their focus groups want. ‘How could we possibly replay an experience like that.’ ‘Bored, boring, done it already mate.’ among the feedback I imagine EA received, so of course what choice did EA have. I can only speculate on what EA are actually thinking but we know that taking over development of the remains of this game is EA Worldwide Studios with EA Vancouver presiding. Jason Schreier at Kotaku has reported, stated in an EA email to employees “the assets of Ragtag (the games codename) that have already been built will be the foundation of this new game.” At least 3 odd years of work won’t just be scraped and something can come of this.
The closure of Visceral games may be an even bigger blow than a Star Wars rethink. Best known for the Dead Space series and Battlefield Hardline Visceral really shone on the first Dead Space game, then called EA Redwood Shores. A brutal sci-fi horror full of atmosphere and terror. It’s by far one of my favourite games because of the sense of place, the slow building terror and false scares. It didn’t follow classic horror troupes to closely but gave an intense, scary and sometimes horrific experience. Whilst the second game built on this but became a little more action adventure the third was crammed full of EA extras and goodies like multiplayer (which was the last thing Dead Space needed). So, after the shit Visceral probably had to take over the third game, and the quality of Dead Space I’m saddened that they’ve been closed. EA have said “we’re in the midst of shifting as many of the team as possible to other projects and teams at EA.” so hopefully Visceral Games talent can be put to the best use possible.
— Visceral Games (@VisceralGames) October 17, 2017
What about Amy Hennig? Polygon asked EA and were told by an EA representative “we’re in discussions with Amy about her next move.” Having joined Visceral after leaving her creative role at Naughty Dog she should have the pick of the industry but we do not know why this game was cancelled. Jason Schreier also reported that he’d heard the game was in trouble with help from other studios needed on vision and direction. That sounds a little similar to the original development of Uncharted 4 under Amy Hennig’s leadership, not good. Hopefully she finds something soon and is given the freedom to create a great game at the pace she wants.
Fuck EA though, they’ve done this before. Remember Bullfrog? Remember Maxis? Remember Mythic, Westwood, Black Box. These are all studios which EA have purchased and later shut down. Some didn’t last long like Pandemic whilst others made games for 10 plus years under EA. But all of those and more are now joined by Visceral on the discarded studio pile. Never to be writen on a game box again. Never to have its studio sting show up on anything new. A little dramatic perhaps but EAs track record should be a warning to smaller developers who want to stay together as a team and create the games they want without interference. If it doesn’t fit the EA model it’s gone.
Hopefully we’ll hear something soon on EAs plans for this new vision of a Star Wars game. We still have Respawn Entertainment working on a Star Wars title and the Motive produced single player campaign for Battlefront 2 to look forward to, but for now let’s remember what was.