For a fan of a certain kind of video game, Visceral's shutdown couldn't be more bleak. From Game Informer's news post:

Work on the game will slowly wind down at Visceral as EA shutters the studio and will transfer to EA Vancouver, who had already been helping to work on the game. There is no word on how EA plans to proceed with Amy Hennig yet. As part of this shift, the Star Wars game is also being delayed from 2019 to an undefined date in the future. It is unknown if any of the original teaser or game design will remain.

This feels terrible to hear, and not just because of the canceled Star Wars game. Visceral made the excellent Dead Space games. DS 1 and 2 are stellar examples of sci-fi terror and well worth playing.

EA may have canceled Visceral's Star Wars game, code-named Ragtag, for a reason that Jason Schreier, a well-sourced Kotaku editor, posted:

I'd been hearing rumors for quite some time now that Visceral's Star Wars game was in trouble, and that studios across EA were brought in to help give it vision and direction.

If EA killed Ragtag, because of production issues or it turning into a bad game, fair enough. Bad projects get canceled all the time. However, we don't know if that is actually the reason Ragtag was canceled. We can only go off EA's publicly stated reasons.

Just from the public rationale, I hate this decision. I've excerpted the parts of EA's announcement that stood out most:

In its current form, [Ragtag] 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...
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.

Reading between the lines, I came to these conclusions:

  • EA does not want to make a single-player, Uncharted-esque Star Wars game.
  • EA wants this game to be an evolving service, not a discrete experience.
  • EA thinks players would rather have an open world than a focused adventure.

This is terrible thinking. I completely disagree with all of this. Maybe it makes business sense when you have EA's data, but it is not what I want as a player.

Not every game needs to be a service

I get that EA is reluctant to put money into single-player content. Big publishers universally view video games as a service. They don't see themselves as putting discs in boxes on GameStop's shelf, never to be interacted with by the developer again. They see video games as long-term commitments, services that need patches and updates to keep players involved.

That is okay! I enjoy games like Overwatch and Hearthstone where the devs keep players entertained with a constant stream of updates in exchange for continuing revenue, usually in the form of microtransactions or DLC.

What I don't like, however, is this notion that this is the only kind of game that can or should be made. If EA had wanted to put out a single-player Star Wars adventure, that would be a day one purchase for me. I love good campaigns and I love Star Wars.

Not every game should be an ongoing service. It's okay to make a discrete experience. The "Uncharted model" offers a lot of advantages:

  • Can be highly scripted for maximum enjoyment
  • Can offer unique experiences
  • Can focus on plot, something multiplayer games handle poorly

As someone who doesn't enjoy a lot of multiplayer games, titles in the Uncharted model are my bread and butter. I love discrete experiences. They often do cool stuff you don't see in other games.

Open worlds are cliche and annoying

I am sick of open worlds. Sick of them. It is so annoying to boot up a game and be dumped onto a map full of icons and #content designed to just to use up time. Ironically, by stuffing open worlds full of things to do so the player will never get bored, developers make their games dull.

The market is oversaturated with mediocre open worlds. We don't need more "player exploration" and "choice." We already have Far Cry 5, Assassin's Creed, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Horizon: Zero Dawn and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Those are just the games that have released this year or are scheduled to release in the near future.

Please, stop it. Make something unique!

Everything is bad

Is pretty much the only thing left to say. It sucks that EA is making these decisions, and my heart is with everyone at Visceral who's looking for a new job.

Again, take this with a grain of salt. I'm not an industry executive. Maybe this particular Star Wars game will do better as a service. As a player, though, I'm not convinced. As a player, it looks like a heavy-handed dictate from corporate chasing trends at the expense of creativity. I hope I am wrong.