EA Gives Visceral the Lightning Hands

Kotaku announced on Tuesday that Electronic Arts has pulled the plug on Visceral Games and their new Star Wars game under development. Visceral, the studio best known for Dead Space was developing a single-player action adventure Star Wars game when EA decided a change was in order. After testing the prototype, it was determined that the current build of the game was not something that would keep players coming back for more; therefore, EA decided to take the game in a new direction.

“Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”
– Patrick Söderlund

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this move is that it puts Amy Henning out of work. EA has said they are currently in discussions about how they will utilize her moving forward, but this is terrible news for the director of Uncharted. As Amy left Naughty Dog in 2014 in order to work on the Star Wars title at Visceral, it calls EA’s decision making into question. Visceral Studios is best known for the Dead Space series, and while they were still known as Redwood Shores, they created The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, which were some of my favorite games. With a studio that creates single player adventures and a director best known for creating the greatest single-player action/adventure game of our generation, what did EA expect? Patrick Söderlund stated that he wants the game to be something that keeps players coming back to it for a long time, which has gotten many people worried that they are attempting to make a Destiny-like game set in the Star Wars Universe.

While it is easy to make the connection between Söderlund’s statement and the desire to make a massive multiplayer service style game, I would like to think EA has more sense than that. With Anthem filling service game void in EA’s lineup when it releases in 2018, it stands to reason that EA would not take another 4 years to turn this Star Wars title into the same game with lightsabers. When Söderlund mentions shifts in the market place, he could be referring to the incredibly well selling open-world games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn. With DLC content being released later this year for both of these titles, it will bring gamers back into their respective universes and keep them from trading them in at their local GameStop. Perhaps the new Star Wars title simply needs to be changed from a linear, story-driven game to a vast open world where the overlying story is no longer the main focus. Middle Earth: Shadow of War is an example of a game that allows players to create their own stories through the nemesis system, and every time I have  talked to friends about Zelda, the conversation is always about the amazing interactions they find outside of the story quests. Optimistically, we will still get our long awaited single-player, lightsaber wielding, epic Star Wars experience, but maybe we will receive a game that allows us to forge our own path through the galaxy. I personally would love a Star Wars game that allows me to choose between joining the Jedi or the Sith and make decisions like I could in Mass Effect.

(Early in-game footage from Visceral’s Star Wars game. site: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/10/ea-shuts-down-visceral-will-reboot-its-star-wars-game-due-to-marketplace/)

The game is currently in the hands of EA Worldwide, which houses studios such as BioWare and Criterion. Criterion developed the Battlefront games, and BioWare of course made Mass Effect and Dragon Age. It seems as though this may have been where the game belonged in the first place.

Again, it is hard to believe that EA did not want a single-player game based on their original decision to place the game in the care of Amy Henning and Visceral Studios. When EA should have expected a linear adventure, this game went into development back in 2013. A lot has changed since production began, and sadly, narrative based games are not as appreciated as they once were. I personally passed on Madden 18 simply because I was able to watch the entire ‘Longshot’ mode on Chris Smoove’s Youtube channel. In a linear game where everyone’s experience will be extremely similar, it is much more cost effective to simply watch the game through your favorite streamer. In a game such as Shadow of War, my experience is vastly different from anyone else as I recruit and fight with randomly generated orcs and create my own story.

The argument that single-player games are being phased out is simply not true. 2017 has seen some of the greatest single-player games ever made, and 2018 promises to deliver more. However, the age of playing a game one level at a time and following a strict story line appears to be coming to an end. If Visceral showed EA a game that did not give gamers enough freedom or enough options to allow for replay ability, they are completely justified with cutting the cord. If EA canceled the long awaited Star Wars title in order to make a Destiny-like, microtransaction filled, massive multiplayer game with no story, I will grab my own pitchfork and join the angry mobs. Once there is a report of which studio is actually working on the game, we will provide some more insight as to where we think the game will be going. Until then, we will keep our fingers crossed and pray that we aren’t delivered a game that forces us to open an online market place in order to change the color of our lightsaber.

Jacob Wolf


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