What Went Wrong With the Cancelled Star Wars Game, According to Director
Electronic Arts’ track record with releasing Star Wars games hasn’t exactly been the best in recent years, the publisher facing controversy from both entries of its Battlefront series and overseeing the cancellation of two promising unmade projects. The most high-profile of these ended endeavors was underway by Dead Space developer Visceral Games, headed by the storytelling talents of former Uncharted writer Amy Hennig.
Though there were few updates regarding the game beforehand, the single-player Star Wars experience known as “Ragtag” was unceremoniously shelved back in 2018 following the shutdown of Visceral Games and all of its in-development projects. Circumstances surrounding the large-scale closure have been clouded by varying speculation, but former project head Amy Hennig recently set things straight in an interview with VentureBeat.
When asked about what went wrong with the game, Hennig cited a number of “hurdles to overcome,” one of which being the studio’s location in the notoriously expensive San Francisco bay area. “That’s a hard sell,” She explained. “That was a constant drumbeat, feeling like you had to justify the existence of a Visceral.”
Corroborating reports of a troubled development, Hennig professed difficulties developing within EA’s proprietary Frostbite engine, as the space was originally designed for first-person shooters such as Star Wars: Battlefront. This was very much at odds with the “third-person cinematic traversal action game” that Visceral had in mind, the team ultimately having to improvise and implement changes to the Frostbite engine as development progressed.
We knew going in that that was the goal. We were going to put this functionality into Frostbite. A lot of the team was hired to do Battlefield, and so that was a bit of a cultural shift, to make this different kind of game. Normally you cache for the project you’re making rather than trying to — it’s hard to convert the people you have if that’s not their type of game.”
Hennig confirmed that development on the Star Wars game was pretty far along by the time cancellation eventually came calling. As per her expertise, the former Uncharted creative had built the project as a linear solo adventure, but EA’s growing aspirations for “games as a service” had eventually proved to be “a big gap to cross.” That, combined with all these other mounting pressures made for “an uphill battle” that would almost surely end in defeat.
We were very far into development. We had a lot of material. I just think that there was a shift that started feeling inevitable. EA is just not — they hired me for a reason. They know what I do. But I think that where EA is at right now, they’re looking more at games as a service, the live service model. More open world stuff, trying to crack that nut, versus this more finite crafted experience.”
“We were trying to make sure that we built in other modes and extensibility and all that stuff. But the fundamental spine of the thing was more like Uncharted than one of these open world, live service games. That’s a big gap to cross. I don’t know how you get from here to there. And then to try to push something that may not quite fit into the portfolio as it is today, and try to do it at this really expensive studio — it was a bit of an uphill battle. All of that stuff is publicly known.”
Though Hennig has her regrets regarding the incomplete project, she ultimately understands why EA eventually gave it the axe. A big project like Ragtag bleeding money whilst overcoming a bevy of development hurdles wouldn’t seem very worthwhile, especially to a company as infamously cancel-happy as Electronic Arts. That being said, Hennig expressed appreciation toward the Star Wars game, hoping one day fans may be able to see what she and Visceral were able to accomplish.
It was something we were struggling with the whole time. Does this make sense? Is this something EA really wants to do? I certainly regret the fact that there’s a lot of good game there that I would love to see the light of day. A lot of people would. One never knows what might happen.”
What do you think? Was cancelling this Star Wars game the right decision, or was EA’s plans to integrate a “games as a service” model the project’s final straw? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter and Facebook to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day! For more headlines recently featured on DFTG, check out these next few news stories:
Eric Hall2293 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.