Home Gaming EA and Visceral’s cancelled Star Wars game was “a lot farther along than people ever got a glimpse of”

EA and Visceral’s cancelled Star Wars game was “a lot farther along than people ever got a glimpse of”

4 min read

There are plenty of video games that you’ll never get to play. Eidos had a Highlander game that would have probably had you humming Queen’s Princes of the Universe, Microsoft almost released a Fable game that was actually good for once and PT/Silent Hills exists as a stark reminder of just how fragile a relationship between developer and publisher can be.

And then there’s Project Ragtag, a Star Wars game that was by all accounts well on its way to being an armed and fully operational single-player experience that was being touted as Uncharted in a galaxy far, far away. It had the talent in the form of Visceral Studios, it had fans salivating for even a simple screenshot and it was strong in the hype Force.

Too bad then, that Visceral’s Star Wars game is deader than Emperor Palpatine’s love life after he became Darth Scrotum in Revenge of the Sith. Digging an even deeper hole for themselves in the eyes of fans, EA pulled the plug on the game and called it a day. It’s a pity, because this was the game that at least sounded like it would be a delightful antithesis to the lacklustre pair of multiplayer shooters that EA had released over the last couple of years.

“I think Visceral was sort of beset with a lot of challenges,” former creative director of the project Amy Hennig said to US Gamer.

Visceral SW (2)

Even so, we were making a game; people have said it was an Uncharted Star Wars. That’s sort of reductive, but it’s useful because people can kind of visualize something in their head. But what that meant is we obviously had to take the Frostbite Engine, because there was the internal initiative to make sure that everybody was on the same technology, but it was an engine that was made to do first-person shooters not third-person traversal cinematic games.

[We had to build] all of that third-person platforming and climbing and cover taking and all that stuff into an engine that wasn’t made to do that. We did a lot of foundational work that I think the teams are still benefiting from because it’s a shared engine, but it’s tough when you spend a lot of time doing foundational stuff but then don’t get to go ta-da! Here’s the game.

Every game faces challenges, but the Visceral project seemed capable of not only meeting the obstacles that the Frostbite engine placed in front of it, but solving those problems along the way as well. So what killed the game? Several factors, but one of the more significant hurdles placed in front of Hennig was EA’s business-orientated style of developing a game which was in stark contrast to Naughty Dog’s more free spirited approach. “I wish people could have seen more of it because it was a lot farther along than people ever got a glimpse of,” Hennig said.

And it was good, you know? But it just didn’t make sense in EA’s business plan, ultimately. Things changed over the course of that time I was there. So you know, what can you do.

EA Vancouver took a shot at making the game work after Hennig left and Visceral was shuttered, with that studio bringing in some of their own ideas. “Everything I’ve heard secondhand was the stuff they were making was really cool,” Hennig said.

Visceral SW

Very different from what we were doing, obviously being sort of an open-world experience is completely different, but everyone I’ve ever talked to informally said it was really, really cool. And it’s really disappointing. Just like it was disappointing that Ragtag got cancelled. So who knows, maybe those ideas will get resurrected. This is not like this stuff’s getting erased, all that work is there. I would love to see what they were making just as I’d love to see people see what we were making.

There’s still a new hope that we’ll actually get at least one decent game in the half-decade that EA still has left with the Star Wars license, in the form of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Although personally, I’d love to play a Star Wars game as anyone but a Jedi.

Last Updated: February 20, 2019

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