“Maybe this is just a demonstration of a change of strategy for EA,” says the former Uncharted director.
Though Respawn Entertainment’s upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has been the centre of attention recently, EA’s spotty track record with the Star Wars license is still a sore subject for many. Of the many Star Wars games they have cancelled, the one most highly publicized was the game tentatively called Project Ragtag, being developed by Visceral Games under Uncharted creator Amy Hennig, only for the project to be cancelled, and the studio to be shuttered.
Recently, while speaking with Eurogamer, Hennig spoke about the recent reveal of Fallen Order, a game that has many elements uncharacteristic for a project being made under EA’s care- not only is it a title focused on story, it’s also a game that is completely single player, devoid of any multiplayer elements and microtransactions.
“[It’s] odd!” said Hennig when speaking of the aforementioned announcements. “I have to be candid with you. I mean, it’s coming from the EA Star Wars Twitter handle, so it’s certainly part of the plan, but I don’t know whether it’s implicitly referencing previous comments they made after our project was killed?”
Hennig went on to speak about how such ideas had been strictly against EA’s philosophies when she had been at Visceral, with her saying that there have probably been some internal changes over the last couple of years that have led to a change in outlook for the company, with Fallen Order being representative of the change. Of course, given the fact that Respawn CEO Vince Zampella has a seat in the EA executives board might also have helped the studio do what it wants to do.
“There is so much change in this industry all the time,” she said. “Over the course of my time at EA, we were back and forth on what the overall publishing corporation wanted. Everybody’s trying to figure out what the right path is. I also think Respawn’s game has the benefit of being largely developed before they were acquired. It is a protected entity, and Vince [Zampella] makes very sure – because he’s part of the executive team at EA, he can protect the interests of Respawn.
“This is all speculation on my part, I don’t know why the change of heart happened, because that was very clearly not an acceptable plan when we were working on Ragtag! But you know, things change. [The decision to cancel Ragtag] was made in summer 2017. We found out in October 2017. So that’s almost two years ago, and a lot has changed in that time, and there’s been a pretty public and vocal backlash against the idea gamers don’t want single-player finite games without all these extra modes. Of course they do, of course we do. So maybe this is just a demonstration of a change of strategy for EA.
“And you’ve got to understand there’s been huge changes in management there since all of this happened as well. Both Patrick Soderlund and Jade Raymond have left in the meantime, and Laura Miele, who was the franchise general manager for Star Wars when I joined, is now in Patrick’s role. So I don’t have any insider knowledge, but there’s a lot of reasons they could have adopted a new attitude for this. And I’m glad for Respawn’s sake, because I’m excited about their game, and I’ve heard great things about it.”
Hennig also spoke of her own cancelled Star Wars project, and how it differed from what Respawn are doing with Fallen Order. The veteran developer had decided to approach Star Wars with a tone similar to Uncharted, but expand it greatly, with a focus on multiple major characters – playable or otherwise – rather than sticking with a single point of view for the entirety of the story- the way Uncharted does, and the way Fallen Order seems to be doing.
“I had to take what I’d figured out [for Uncharted] in terms of deconstructing pulp adventure, and say alright, Star Wars is also in that category, but it has certain things that are distinct, or at least distinct from our core inspiration, which was of course Indiana Jones,” said Hennig. “And one of those things, and I’ve talked about this before, is you stay with Indiana Jones the whole time, the other characters are side characters – they’re companions, they’re important to the story, but they’re not co-protagonists, it’s not really an ensemble in the classic sense. When we think about ensembles, we think about heist films, caper films, Where Eagle’s Dare, Dirty Dozen, Von Ryan’s Express. All of these films are about this ragtag – hence the codename! – group of individuals who have to come together.”
“So I realised a couple of things: if we were going to make a Star Wars story, a lot of it would look and feel like Uncharted, because it’s in the same genre,” Hennig continued. “But we needed to cut away to the villains, for one thing, which was something I never allowed us to do on Uncharted. If you look at those films, you don’t really cut away from what Indy knows. There’s a few exceptions but you’re more or less with him the whole time. Star Wars, not only do we cut between villains but we also cut between multiple protagonists. So you still go OK, Luke is the hero of the story, but when you look at Han and Leia they’re co-protagonists. And then you look at Rogue One, the animated show Rebels, those are ensemble stories. That’s the Star Wars DNA, right?
“So I thought OK, not only does that mean that we need really compelling AI for these characters, so that you can work like a well-oiled team, particularly if it’s a caper crew. But we were going to need playable characters in parallel sequences, because that’s how Star Wars works. You only accomplish your goals by working together or working in parallel or both. We would always point to the Death Star escape as the prime example of that.”
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order releases on November 15 for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.