Microsoft has a bucketload of major upcoming first part games in development under its Xbox Game Studios lineup right now, and while some of them – like Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 or Starfield, for instance – seem to be well on track to launch in a reasonable time period, others aren’t doing nearly as well. Perfect Dark is a game that reports have mentioned has run into development troubles, but the one we’re focused on here today, and the one that perhaps seems to be in the most trouble (at least based on what’s publicly known) is Rare’s Everwild.
First announced in 2019, Everwild is a game that we’ve barely heard about since we first saw it. Rare has released a couple of trailers here and there since then, but not only has it been well over a year since the last one, bafflingly enough, we still don’t even know what kind of game it is. And if the reports are to be believed, if you were to ask Rare that question, they might not have too clear of an answer for that either. What once looked like a promising new project for a talented studio three years ago now seems like a project in deep trouble. So what the hell is going on with Everwild, exactly?
The biggest theme of the game’s development seems to be one of confusion- and not just where fans are concerned. Surprisingly, Rare, too, seems confused about what it wants Everwild to be. In October 2020, the project lost its creative director, Simon Woodroffe, who had been at Rare since 2012. That, of course, isn’t necessarily too significant in and of itself – people change jobs all the time, and projects losing creative leads isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence, even for games whose production is going well – but subsequent reports would go on to reveal that Woodroffe’s departure was symptomatic of much bigger issues.
And what are those bigger issues? Well, simply put, it seems Rare isn’t sure what it wants Everwild to be. Some details on the game have become known since it was announced three years ago, so we have a vague idea (if that) of the direction the game will take. We know what it will look like (which is probably one of the game’s highlights, because regardless of everything else, it looks absolutely gorgeous), we know that it’s set in a magical fantasy world populated by fantastical flora and fauna, we know we play as beings called Eternals, who’re responsible for protecting with the world’s wildlife from a deadly swarm of bugs that’s tearing through the world. Lastly, we also know that one way or another, Everwild is going to have strong multiplayer and live service elements, which, coming from the studio behind Sea of Thieves, doesn’t come as too much of a shock. But beyond that? There’s question marks over everything.
Back in June 2021, journalist Jeff Grubb reported that Everwild’s development had been rebooted, and not long afterward, another report by VGC revealed damning details on the game’s troubled production. Apparently, ever since the game started production, Rare had struggled to put together a clear identity of what the game was going to be, with its audio and visual identity being the only thing the studio was entirely sure of. Allegedly, under Woodroffe, Everwild was going to have god game elements and was supposed to have no combat whatsoever, but after his departure, with Rare veteran Greg Mayles replacing him in the hotseat, the project changed directions, with its design essentially being restarted from scratch.
That was two years on from Everwild’s initial announcement- but interestingly, Rare had spent far longer than two years on the game. Before its announcement, the project spent quite a while in the pre-production and prototyping stage. In fact, in May last year, it turned out that Everwild had actually been in development in some form or the other for over five years at the time. While that sort of timeline itself isn’t necessarily concerning when looked at in isolation – games often spend quite a long time in incubation and pre-production before their development kicks into gear – it is concerning for those looking forward to its release (whenever that happens) that even after having spent so much time in its prototyping stage, it still remains little more than a vague idea of a project at Rare even now.
Microsoft, of course, has moved to provide assurances that things aren’t as bad as they seem. As recently as October last year, while speaking with Kinda Funny, Xbox Game Studios boss Matt Booty said that reports of Everwild’s development issues and reboots were exaggerated. “When you look at it from the outside, when you hear a word like ‘reset’ and maybe ‘restructure’, I’ll just say that those are probably a little more definite, a little more extreme than what really happens as a game comes to life,” Booty said. “[NBA Jam creator] Mark Turmell used to say that a game gets made a thousand small decisions at a time. That every day, you’re making hundreds of small decisions and at the end of however long you work on the game, they all add up. And I think that’s where the Everwild team is right now.”
““[The team] is trying to make sure that they’ve got something special,” he added. “We’ve shown a glimpse of a world, you’ve seen the art style that the team has got, but we want to get it right… it’s just natural that a team’s going to kind of go through some of that process.”
It’s not hard to see where it’s coming from. Even someone who doesn’t have experience with game development but follows the industry is well aware of the fact that making games is not as straightforward as some might have you believe. There’s a lot of iteration involved, a lot of prototyping and experimentation, a lot of scrapped ideas, a lot of conceptualization and implementation of new mechanics. And all of that is doubly true for a new IP. These things aren’t that uncommon by any means- but it’s rare for a project to go through all of that again and again and again for a period of over five years (over six years at this point), especially when the game’s official announcement came three years ago, to be followed by next to no updates. That doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.
Sure enough, earlier this year, the aforementioned Jeff Grubb doubled down on his previous reporting of Everwild’s production troubles, saying that contrary to Booty’s public communication, the game was “a real mess”, and that reports of its issues were far from overstated. “This is not me just using colourful descriptions,” Grubb said at the time. “The people working on that game don’t really know what’s going on with that game. That’s how much of a mess it is right now.” And that, too, makes sense. Obviously, the head of Xbox Game Studios isn’t going to publicly come out and slam a big first party production’s development and tell everyone that the people making it don’t even know what they’re trying to make.
When Everwild was first announced in 2019, it was clear that it was still a ways off from launch- and not just because its promising but vague debut trailer made that abundantly clear. Reports at the time said that even then, the game was in pre-production with a team of around 50 people working on it, which meant that it was at least a couple of years away from launch, if not more. But here we are, three years later, and it seems like we’re exactly where we were back then- if not even further behind. Reports suggest that Rare is currently targeting a 2024 launch for the game, but that even that is being viewed as an optimistic window. It wouldn’t be surprising if Everwild didn’t launch until the second half of this decade- which would be present a massive gap between its announcement and its release.
Of course, one can never really be too sure about what the project’s state is at this exact moment in time (unless you’re working on it, obviously, in which case please tell us). For all we know, Rare has started getting things together, has formulated a clear vision for the project, has made real progress in its development, and is finally gathering momentum. Microsoft recently announced that the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase will be returning on June 12, which means there’s at least a fraction of a chance that we get on the game sooner rather than later.
Either way, one thing is for sure- Everwild was announced too prematurely. Hopefully, the next time we see the game, we’ll have a much better idea of what it is. More importantly, hopefully Rare will have a much better idea of what it is.
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