It’s hard to believe that Arkane Austin’s Redfall was released less than a month ago. At launch, it was panned for its design, gameplay, presentation and various bugs. Such was the reception that Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer publicly apologized for disappointing the Xbox community.
Unfortunately, as a new report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, the response was unsurprising per the developers. Speaking to over a dozen anonymous people who worked on the game, various issues like “unclear direction, frequent attrition and a perennial lack of staff” affected the title.
As rumored, development started in 2018, and since ZeniMax wanted to be acquired, it was looking at creating “games as a service” titles to “generate revenue beyond the initial sales.” Developers were encouraged to add microtransactions in titles, which led to their implementation in games like Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Doom Eternal etc.
When Arkane Austin started on Redfall, it wanted to create something with broader appeal following Prey’s underwhelming performance. Co-directors Harvey Smith and Ricardo settled on “the idea to make a multiplayer game in which users would team up to battle vampires and perhaps pay for occasional cosmetic upgrades.” Of course, given the developer’s focus on immersive sims, being pitched a “multiplayer Arkane game” left the team confused.
While Smith and Bare were “outwardly excited” but didn’t provide clear direction. Schreier notes, “Staff members said that, over time, they grew frustrated with management’s frequently shifting references to other games, such as Far Cry and Borderlands, that left each department with varying ideas of what exactly they were making. Throughout the development, the fundamental tension between single-player and multiplayer design remained unresolved.”
It also didn’t help that Arkane Austin was understaffed, with less than 100 people, which isn’t the biggest for a live-service multiplayer title. Roundhouse Studios, who provided support, and other outsourced developers didn’t help either. Many veterans who didn’t want to work on a multiplayer title left. By the time Redfall’s development was finished, 70 percent of the team that worked on Prey were gone (which Bloomberg verified by checking LinkedIn and the latter’s credits).
It also didn’t help that ZeniMax was known for paying “lower than average salaries,” so hiring new developers was tough. Also, since the game wasn’t yet announced, “the studio couldn’t describe its details to prospective employees -a predicament that exacerbated the staffing issues, sources familiar with the process said.” While it sought recruits with multiplayer experience, most who applied were “by and large looking to work on single-player immersive sims.”
Stay tuned for more details on Redfall’s development troubles. It’s currently available for Xbox Series X/S and PC – check out our official review. There’s only been one hotfix since launch, but Arkane committed to making it their “most-supported game post-launch.”