Monday, January 15, 2018

Amy Hennig Talks About What Happened With The Visceral 'Star Wars' Game

By: Dominic Jones

Back in October it was announced that Electronic Arts would be shutting down their Visceral studio and that the Star Wars game Visceral had been working on since 2013 would be shifting to their Vancouver studio and going through a massive overhaul. The reports that followed made it clear that the game was as it was being developed was all but dead. The game's director Amy Hennig spoke recently about the game's shut down and how it impacted her during a discussion with Sean Vanaman for Polygon.  She doesn't go into the specifics of the shut down but she does discuss how the evolving video game industry led to the downfall.

Hennig said,
"I think we’re in an inflection point right now. Obviously what happened with our Star Wars project didn’t come out of the blue. A lot of too-dramatic articles were written about it — the death of linear story games and all that kind of stuff — but look, there is a real problem: this line we’ve been running up to for a lot of years, which is the rising cost of development, and the desires, or the demands even, of players in terms of hours of gameplay, fidelity, production values, additional modes, all these things. Those pressures end up very real internally. If it costs you, say, $100 million or more to make a game, how are you making that money back, and making a profit?

And the $60 price point can’t change, right? There’s a lot of negative press around monetization, loot boxes, games as a service, etc., but these things are trending now in the industry, especially for larger publishers, as an answer to the problem of rising development costs. Budgets keep going up, the bar keeps getting raised, and it starts making less and less sense to make these games.

There is also this trend now that, as much as people protest and say, 'Why are you canceling a linear, story-based game? This is the kind of game we want,' people aren’t necessarily buying them. They’re watching somebody else play them online." 

Obviously, many factors led to the downfall of "Project Ragtag," as it was known during production. Though, most of them had seem to have to do with the game not having the complete support of EA, who apparently constantly impeded its development by under-staffing Visceral Studios and requiring that the game fit into their narrow-minded view for what Star Wars should be.  (Lucasfilm, on the other hand, was, by all reports, very supportive of Hennig and Visceral's creative vision for the game and was on board with their perspective on the Star Wars galaxy).

Hennig's suggestion that the gaming industry is at a crossroads when it comes to issues of monetization and story, is something we've seen in the past few months just in the world of Star Wars video games. In addition to the cancellation of "Project Ragtag", there was also the recent backlash that Star Wars Battlefront II faced after the extent of the micro-transactions in the game was revealed. The response from fans was so negative and so intense that EA temporarily removed micro-transactions from the game entirely.

It will be interesting to see what will become of the game now that EA's Vancouver Studio has taken it over and if it bears any resemblance to what "Project Ragtag" would have been.

Follow The Star Wars Underworld on Twitter @TheSWU for more updates about this story and other breaking Star Wars news.


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