Following Star Wars Game's Reboot, EA Denies Single-Player Is To Blame
Quality, not single-player, may have been a big factor.
EA recently announced the closure of Dead Space developer Visceral Games and the revamping of its single-player Star Wars game. Based on the wording of the announcement, it sounded as if its lack of multiplayer (or games-as-a-service hooks) was to blame, as EA said, "In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game ... 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." This led to speculation about what the future of single-player games looks like. There had, however, been some indications that it was actually the quality of the game itself to blame, and a new Kotaku report sheds light on what's unfolded with the project over the past several years.
"Making games is hard," EA Worldwide Studios boss Patrick Soderlund told Kotaku. "That's not new, but it bears saying again because if anything, it's getting more complex. But that's what gets us up in the morning, we love it. We have amazingly talented people making games, and very powerful tools… but expectations are going up at an even faster rate. We see it when we talk to players. We see it in our own games, in the feedback people give us, and how they play. We see it from what other games people love…and which ones they don’t. There are a ton of factors."
Soderlund also explicitly denied that the game, codenamed Ragtag, was canceled because it was intended to be a single-player action-adventure game, similar to Uncharted. "This truly isn't about the death of single-player games--I love single-player, by the way--or story and character-driven games," he said. "Storytelling has always been part of who we are, and single-player games will of course continue. This also isn't about needing a game that monetizes in a certain way. Those are both important topics, but that's not what this is. At the end of the day, this was a creative decision. Our job is to give people a deep enough experience and story, and it's also to push the boundaries forward. We just didn't think we were getting it quite right.”
Kotaku's report seemingly backs up this claim, as it paints a picture of a project that faced troubles for years. This was allegedly in part due to EA, which may have had unrealistic expectations for Visceral's first attempt at such a game, the Motive studio being moved to work on Star Wars Battlefront II's campaign, and a lack of resources. You can read more about what unfolded at Visceral here.
With the fate of single-player games a hot topic, we recently spoke with Guerrilla Games designer Tim Stobo, who pointed to his studio's most recent game, Horizon: Zero Dawn, as evidence that they are not dead. "I think Horizon proves that there is a future for a really high-quality single-player experience. [The upcoming story expansion Frozen Wilds] proves that again," he explained. "We're really committed to delivering that high-level, quality experience for players. It does seem like maybe there is a business shift in other parts of the industry. But at Guerrilla, we're just focused on telling amazing stories." It's worth noting that Guerrilla is owned by Sony. As a result, it's in a much different position in terms of its ability to justify making single-player-only experiences that Sony can use to sell hardware.
As for Ragtag, the game is now in development at EA Vancouver, which was brought on partway through development to assist Visceral. It has been delayed and will no longer launch by March 2019. Meanwhile, the future of Amy Hennig, the former Uncharted lead who headed up Ragtag at Visceral, is unclear, with EA telling us, "[W]e're in discussions with Amy about her next move."
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