Uncharted Director Talks About Why Her Star Wars Game Fell Apart

"Where EA is at right now, they're looking more at games as a service, the live service model."

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Now Playing: Uncharted Wouldn't Be Made Today, Says Amy Hennig - GS News Update

Uncharted director Amy Henig was hired by EA to work on a new Star Wars game at Dead Space studio Visceral. It was an exciting proposition, but it wasn't meant to be. Visceral was closed and Hennig moved on. Now, Hennig is speaking about the matter.

Asked to reflect on her time at EA and working on Star Wars, Hennig told VentureBeat that the game faced a number of challenges. Starting off, Visceral as a developer was "very expensive" to run in part because it was in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area. "It's very hard to support compared to studios that cost a third of the price in places where there are tax credits. That's a hard sell. That was a constant drumbeat, feeling like you had to justify the existence of a Visceral," she said.

Visceral's Star Wars title was to be a third-person "cinematic traversal action game," Hennig said, and this led to the next problem. Making that type of game using an engine built for FPS games--EA's Frostbite engine--was "a hurdle," she said.

"But 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," she said. "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."

The game was "very far" into development, Hennig said. Another challenge that came up was the game's shift in direction. Responding to market trends and player feedback, EA decided to "pivot" the design to make it a title that players could "come back to and enjoy for a long time to come," which suggested it was becoming more multiplayer-focused.

Hennig, who has extensive expertise with single-player games like Uncharted, acknowledged that the game was trying to include "other modes and extensibility" to make the title more than a purely linear game, but it never worked out.

"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," she explained. 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."

Hennig admitted that she understands EA's decision to go a different way.

"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," she said.

The Visceral Star Wars game was reportedly rebooted, with EA Vancouver put to work on the title. EA Vancouver supposedly used some of the assets from Visceral's game, but transitioned the title to become an open-world experience. This game was canceled in January.

Also in the VentureBeat story, Hennig talked about how a game like the first Uncharted might not be made today, when multiplayer and online connectivity are so prevalent. "I don't think a game like the first Uncharted, even though it was the foundational footprint for that series, would be a viable pitch today. The idea of a finite eight-ish-hour experience that has no second modes, no online-- the only replayability was the fact that you could unlock cheats and stuff like that. No multiplayer, nothing. That doesn't fly anymore. Now you have to have a lot of hours of gameplay. Eight would never cut it. Usually some sort of online mode. And of course you see where things are pushing, toward live services and battle royale and games as a service."

Incorporating these online elements "play less nicely with story," Hennig said. "They're less conducive to traditional storytelling. That has a shape and an arc and a destination, an end. A game that is a live service, that continues, does not."

The entire VentureBeat interview is thoroughly fascinating and absolutely worth your time to read top to bottom. Go read it here.

While Visceral/EA Vancouver's Star Wars game may no longer be happening, EA is reportedly working on a smaller-scale Star Wars title that can be released sooner. Additionally, Apex Legends developer Respawn is working on a third-person Star Wars action game called Jedi: Fallen Order; it'll be revealed in April.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for pongman75
Pongman75

Because nobody wants a Star Wars walking simulator.

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

The problem with these big publishers are their stockholders. It's not enough for a game to just be profitable. The company has to make more money every year it's in existence to the shareholders.

If they got their expectations in check, and realized that it's not sustainable to make more and more year over year, but be happy that the company is still profitable, then we may see a change.

And it's going to take their stock to plummet for them to realize this.

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

I thought Respawn's Jedi: Fallen Order WAS EA's smaller Star Wars game? This article implies there are 2 separate games being made. Did I read that right?

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

Frostbite has ruined many a game. EA made a bad choice forcing its devs to use Frostbite even when it wasn't the best choice.

And if you don't want a linear Uncharted style game, why hire the director of Uncharted to helm your game?

All of Visceral's misfortunes can be placed squarely at the feet of EA.

Avatar image for pongman75
Pongman75

@lostn: what about Titanfall, APEX, Battlefields, Madden, FIFA, Need for speed games? Cant think of any of those games have been ruined

Avatar image for papragu
papragu

@pongman75: Have you played any of those titles lately? Titanfall failed, (both games) APEX will be short lived, Battlefiled games are failing since BF4, Madden and Fifa is the same crap every year. Last NFS game that was actually good, was NFS: Most Wanted.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla
RaveNRolla

this article mostly reminds me of how awesome dead space & dead space 2 were. i'm still hoping for a linear and more survival- and stealth-focused 4th part someday, where you play as Maxine, the survivor of the severed-dlc and the rail-shooter-game.

Avatar image for lostn
lostn

@RaveNRolla: The studio who made DS is dead.

And as we now know, unless the game is either open world, live service, or battle royale, EA is not interested.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla
RaveNRolla

@lostn: that's fine, i neither need EA or Visceral involved. i just want a good game, don't care who makes it.

Avatar image for rekonym
Rekonym

I can't fathom how EA operates and still think story-driven, more single-player focused games can't be enough for them.

I'm trying to picture some EA Exec looking at specific games, their success and reacting to them:

* EA Exec guy looks at ... *

Uncharted series = "Eeeeeh... not open world enough."

Skyrim = "Huuuh, no online? And too much snow, need to put some of that in loot boxes."

Grand Theft Auto V = "Meh, not enough focus for online mode, too much story in single player mode, **** that."

Red Dead Redemption 2 = "Oooooooooh look, another story driven game, devs these days I swear..."

God of War series = "The number of loot boxes we'd have made for that shit..."

Nier Automata = "That should have been our first Battle Royale game!"

Tomb Raider (Rebooted) series = "Oh c'mon! The reboot already had way too much story, why bother with 2 more after that?!"

Dark Souls series = "Can we sell easier difficulty settings in loot boxes? Hmmm... I'll have to check about that one."

BioShock series = "Dude the last time I played a single player FPS was... OH LOOK, never... damn kids these days."

Fallout series = "WE will make it work! Hahahahahaha! I am soooooooo funny! Hahahahahahahah!"

Assassin's Creed series = "Ehhh ok, I'll give Ubisoft credit; they get what we have in mind... actually we should prob try to use some of their stuff as examp- actually nvm about that, we'll do it better!"

Life is Strange = "What?"

The Legend of Zelda franchise = "Hey! Listen! Nintendo, can you PLEASE explain us why this shit STILL works?! Ooops did I say that out loud? My bad... hope no one was around..."

The Witcher series = "Pffffffff... as if we couldn't do something better than that! Well maybe not now but one day we'll have something better!"

The Last of Us = "Wtf are they doing over there, we'd have made a 3rd one at this point!!!"

Horizon Zero Dawn = "Hmmmm... hair styles in loot boxes? OH I know, different colors for the bow!!! That would have worked!"

...

I mean regardless, I can't understand why EA thinks that single player games (or story-driven) even if more hand-crafted, more linear and directed, cannot work or aren't meant to stay. They want people to come back playing their games for years. Well here's a simple solution: MAKE A GOOD GAME FOR ONCE! You'll see, it helps a lot.

Avatar image for soliaired50
Soliaired50

@rekonym: I don't think they give an eff given that the top two games this month are their stuff. They just look at the money flowing in and disregard what made many series beloved by plenty of people.

Avatar image for kgsg-19-2
kgsg-19-2

It is nice to have replayability, but I don't want to sacrifice a great story campaign for an always online gaas games. These gaas aren't even all that great at replayability, let alone a great campaign for me to purchase and support the whole gaas. Before you know it people are gonna get bored of gaas and want a great sp campaign again.

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

EA and anyone shifting into this online as service model will have a very hard time (if not impossible) if they want to sell me these experiences. So far the year started great for single player, I purchased Metro Exodus, RE2 and Devil May Cry 5 and all I gave anthem was time trying to check out if it had something to me, just as they tried to sell it too. The only good thing about this is I start to save money because there's few new SP games to try out, until I get my hands on a PS4.

Avatar image for skyhighgam3r
SkyHighGam3r

Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING will ever come even remotely close to being as good as a crafted 1-2 player experience.

Not this live service crap.

Not incessant deathmatch.

Nothing.

Avatar image for swiller
swiller

I am kind of with @investor9872on this. A little bit pushing blame from Henning. Had to know how EA operates when she accepted the project. Many competent playing third person frostbite games from EA. Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Battlefront, Army of Two (Viseral). Overhead of studio is a EA corp decesion. If the game met expectations they would have stuck with it. Hell they invested more money to get a new studio to take it over. Also plenty of great single player experiences with successful multiplayer components. Uncharted 2-4, Last of Us, GTA V, Call of Duties.

No doubt EA is and was making poor decesions. Henning took the payday...we must share in success and in failures too.

Avatar image for asneakypoptart
ASneakyPoptart

This whole live service thing that EA is doing is going to blow up in their face and I can't wait. The only franchise I really care about is Battlefield and even I hit my limit with BFV. With lootboxes becoming more regulated/illegal in countries, they might have to start making good games for a change.

Avatar image for mistertech
MisterTech

Idk... I think games like.

Uncharted, 2,3,4, last of us,red dead(at launch), spiderman, horizon, (you get it) tell us that singleplayer games are alive and well. Not to mention EA focusing on games as service is hurting them. Thier last earnings report was garbage, Anthem bombed( trying to basically release a game like Destiny , minimum content... theres a reason Destiny got to 2 and then Bungie and Activision agreed to cancel the contract)... ea got lucky with Apex..... but something tells me they cant keep flopping major releases... now if we could just get people to stop buying thier sports games every year... then they would really learn...

Avatar image for investor9872
Investor9872

I'm a fan of Amy, but there are things about this debacle that she has no one else to blame but herself. First, if you don't want to have to "always" justifying your company's existence due to the exorbitant over-head cost of being in the Bay area of San Francisco, then you shouldn't have opened up shop there in the first place. Second, you chose to join up with the Devil in EA who forces loot boxes into every game they were releasing at the time to the point of Congressional hearing and over-sight. What did you think was going to happen to your projects at EA? You reap what you sow. You were sleeping with the enemy!

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Decoy77

@investor9872: The company started in 1998. So LONG before she was involved and long before San Fran was the giant expense that it is now. That was the tech center of the world at that time, so of course a new game studio would want to start up there. Also EA's move over to games as a service thing started after the game's development started. So that's why they were pushing a "what can you do/add/change to the game to help us keep milking our buyers of their money?" But that's not what the game was designed to do so with EA's change in attitude in type of games + the high costs that San Fran became it spelled death for the game/company. But she herself had little impact on that and if she wasn't there it still would have happened anyways.

Avatar image for dr_derogatory
dr_derogatory

@investor9872: I was disappointed when Hennig decided to leave Naughty Dog, and thought it was a mistake at that time. That said, Visceral Games was around long before Hennig joined. It's not like she could just say "Hey, we're going to shut down this studio and move it to a more budget friendly location. Oh, and by the way, you'll all be taking a 2/3 cut to your salary." That's not a decision she can make. That said, I concur that at this point anyone should know better than to get in bed with EA. They reek of poor decisions and anti-consumer sentiment.

Avatar image for esqueejy
esqueejy

@investor9872: While there's certainly an element of "should've known better" to all this, I'm pretty sure the real bad guy is EA and blaming the victim isn't exactly accurate or helpful.

Avatar image for jako998
Jako998

honestly this isn't a surprise, EA is more about multiplayer than single player games, I feel like mass effect from 2016 died because of anthem and sad part is, is that mass effect had better ratings then anthem.

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BDRTFM

It's funny how many game failures turn out to be due to stupid decisions or unachievable wants of the publisher rather than issues with the developer.

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jagdedge124

Well, that's good to know. It only adds to my resolve to never buy another EA game again. They all flop and stink anyways.

Avatar image for esqueejy
esqueejy

"I think that where EA is at right now, they're looking more at games as a DISservice,"

FIFY. Bending all efforts to try find "clever" ways to rape consumers' wallets is not a service. It disserves the consumers, the games, the developers and the entire gaming industry and community.

Avatar image for starjay009
starjay009

Screw you EA !!! Worst company ever. Long live story based RPGs and action games !!!!!! Long live single player experiences. We are the majority and we will teach a lesson to EA.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

EA.

I hope you die.

Avatar image for swantn5
swantn5

single player games do sell maybe EA didnt always do online games they would see this but nope god of war sold how much? red dead redemption 2 sold huge ....EA just doesnt want to do it

Avatar image for starjay009
starjay009

@swantn5: Because they are a bunch of idiots in suits.

Avatar image for videogameninja
videogameninja

- "Where EA is at right now, they're looking more at games as a service, the live service model."-

And here gamers is the reason why we need to show our support for quality single player games. More and more companies are jumping on this business model and caring less and less about single player experiences despite those endeavors providing some of the most rich and rewarding experiences in gaming’s history.

Eventually the free to play model will collapse (like all things do.) and developers will be onto the next big fad but great single player experiences will always be the life blood of our medium.

-SINGLE PLAYER 4 LIFE NINJA APPROVED-

Avatar image for R4gn4r0k
R4gn4r0k

@videogameninja: I don't buy a lot of games day one anymore.

But for Metro I made an exception, you don't see a lot of games like that anymore.

Online
Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

@R4gn4r0k: single player dedicated adventure FPS? No, not at all. Last one was Wolfenstein 2 in 2017

Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

Much more of this thinking from publishers and I won't have to worry about buying new games anymore.

Avatar image for phoenix1289
phoenix1289

Anyone else starting to get the feel that EA pushes their devs to use Frostbite too much rather than letting them design or use a different engine. Frostbite is a good engine sure but this is twice now (the other being from Bioware) where I've seen devs after the fact comment on trying to jury rig their game into Frostbite despite it not being a great match. It just feels like EA likes the Frostbite engine and wants to show it off but aren't taking into account that not all games are suited for it.

Avatar image for WarGreymon77
WarGreymon77

@phoenix1289: I heard the reason Dragon Age Inquisition had a terrible variety of hairstyles is that Frostbite is really bad with long hair. Not the best engine choice for a medieval fantasy game.

Avatar image for pedal2metal214
pedal2metal214

@phoenix1289: I think it's just a cost-sharing/savings mentality mostly. Re-use same engine across multiple games throughout EA is $$/saved that could be used more on enhancing the specific IPs/games under development. It's a laudable goal, but making it work in practice via retrofitting rarely works as intended.

Avatar image for Dualmask
Dualmask

I just hope that not too many developers follow EA's 'games as a service' lead. We know Sony is the hardware market leader but who is the publishing software leader? That's who trends tend to follow, and the sad fact is EA has a lot of power and can influence many others.

Some people like their multiplayer games and that's fine. But if most games, or if most of the good games are all built to focus solely on multiplayer, microtransactions, gacha tactics and the like, I'm going to find less and less games to play as time goes on... I for one love those compact, linear, story-driven experiences.

Avatar image for pedal2metal214
pedal2metal214

@Dualmask: I suspect games as a service is going to increase for the near future until some new market equilibrium is reached. Most major publishers are already doing this (Destiny, Division, etc...) with EA somewhat late to the party. This is why I save the SP games (w/old hardware to play them) I love like NWN, Jade Empire, KOTOR, etc.... As you get older, you can replay a game every 5-10 years & it's all fresh again! One of the benefits of age-induced amnesia. :)

Avatar image for sladakrobot
sladakrobot

Its time another company to buy the rights to make Star War games!

If EA messes the next Star Wars game up,Disney should look for another company asap.

Avatar image for Kyrylo
Kyrylo

I really hope, Amy Hennig will find new studio to work with. I'm still pissed they threw her out of ND.

Online
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MisterTech

@Kyrylo: they didnt throw her out. https://kotaku.com/why-the-last-of-uss-game-director-left-naughty-dog-1822193763

Avatar image for Kyrylo
Kyrylo

@mistertech:

1. Kotaku can't be trusted at all. Just about EA they said that they are not fixated on games as service, with this article proving them wrong

2. Druckmann completely replaced her vision, promting her leave from studio. So yeah, he essentially mobbed her out.

Online
Avatar image for WarGreymon77
WarGreymon77

"A single player story game?! Not in the house that Madden built!" -EA

Avatar image for howlingfantod
HowlingFantod

This makes perfect sense. It's why Bioware has been working on Anthem instead of an RPG. I've never been one to jump on the EA hate wagon but it's getting harder and harder not to blame them. They really are killing off some of the best development studios in the industry, chasing after 'market trends' with no regard for video games as a creative endeavor.

Avatar image for darkelf83
darkelf83

@howlingfantod: This is why Dragon Age: Origins will never get a proper sequel.

Avatar image for WarGreymon77
WarGreymon77

@howlingfantod: It's like that story about how Star Wars: The Old Republic was supposed to be more of a "KOTOR Online" before becoming more of the "generic Star Wars MMO" that it ended up being.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Nice of them to confirm what everyone suspected - it was because EA is garbage.

Avatar image for zero0010
Zero0010

"Responding to market trends and player feedback, EA decided to "pivot" the design to make it a title that players could "come back to and enjoy for a long time to come," which suggested it was becoming more multiplayer-focused" Jason S from Kotaku" Said that Ea tends to say out of developments cycle of game studio and don't have dev push MP or live service in there game. This kind prove him wrong

Not going say it all EA fault ,but a lot of it does

Why do this studio keep wanting to work with frostbite ? They should know it only work for FPS.. This is also a trend with studio.

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