Back in 2017, EA shut down Visceral Games and cancelled the studio's Star Wars game, ‘Ragtag', with Amy Hennig at the helm. The studio had its share of internal issues but it was clear at the time that EA did not like the linear, single-player approach Visceral was known for. Now, in 2019, EA's Respawn Entertainment will be releasing Jedi: Fallen Order, a linear, single-player Star Wars game. Hennig has been asked for her thoughts on this and has also shared some more details on what Ragtag was going to be.
Throughout most of 2017, we were feeling good about the state of Star Wars video games. We had the creative mind behind Uncharted putting together a single-player game and Battlefront 2 was set to fix all of the mistakes made with the first game. Then, Visceral was shut down, Ragtag was canned and crucially, Battlefront 2 fell flat due to a controversial monetisation system.
Now less than two years later, EA has seemingly made changes to its direction, with Jedi: Fallen Order set to be everything fans wanted from Ragtag, but with less of a ‘Han Solo' approach. Speaking with Eurogamer this week, Amy Hennig talked about her reaction to Fallen Order's reveal and ‘no microtransaction' marketing:
“It's odd!, I have to be candid with you.I mean, it's coming from the EA Star Wars Twitter handle, so it's certainly part of the plan, but I don't know whether it's implicitly referencing previous comments they made after our project was killed?”
Touching on EA's apparent change in direction since Ragtag's cancellation, Hennig added: “there is so much change in this industry all the time. Over the course of my time at EA, we were back and forth on what the overall publishing corporation wanted. Everybody's trying to figure out what the right path is.”
Respawn did have at least one advantage over Visceral though. Respawn had begun working on its Star Wars game before being acquired by EA. Beyond that, Respawn founder, Vince Zampella has a spot on EA's executive leadership team:
“I also think Respawn's game has the benefit of being largely developed before they were acquired. It is a protected entity, and Vince [Zampella] makes very sure – because he's part of the executive team at EA, he can protect the interests of Respawn.”
Right now, we don't know if this will be a long-term change in direction for EA. The publisher still seems to be focused on the ‘live service' model, so Jedi Fallen Order could end up being the exception rather than the rule. Still, EA's executive team has seen some changes in the last year, with Patrick Soderlund and Jade Raymond have both left. Laura Miele, who previously acted as EA's franchise manager for the Star Wars license, is now the Chief Studios Officer, filling in Soderlund's old position.
As for what Ragtag would have been, Hennig confirmed that it would have been a lot like Uncharted, although with a few key changes to match the Star Wars cinematic formula: “If we were going to make a Star Wars story, a lot of it would look and feel like Uncharted, because it's in the same genre. But we needed to cut away to the villains, which was something I never allowed us to do on Uncharted. If you look at those films, you don't really cut away from what Indy knows. [In] Star Wars, not only do we cut between villains but we also cut between multiple protagonists.”
KitGuru Says: Even if Jedi: Fallen Order does well, we're not going to see EA give up on live service any time soon. Still, it would be nice if there was less of a focus on chasing FIFA levels of profit with every major release.