For several years, many Star Wars and gaming fans in general had been eagerly anticipating the long-in-development Star Wars project in the works from EA at the helm of Visceral Games and Uncharted‘s Amy Hennig. Ultimately, whatever that project was meant to be came to an end a few weeks ago with EA having announced that the project would (effectively) be cancelled and reworked, while new details have been shared that explore what happened behind-the-scenes that led to its end.
In the weeks since the announcement, Kotaku released a new report digging deeper into the troubled development of EA and Visceral Games’ Star Wars title, which went by the codename of “Ragtag.” The project, which originally was intended as a single-player, narrative-focused action-adventure game in the realm of Amy Hennig’s own work on the Uncharted series, would feature a band of rogues set between Episode IV and V in the original Star Wars trilogy.
The report went in-depth as far as the factors that contributed to the end of “Ragtag,” and while EA in its initial announcement cited factors such as wanting to deliver an experience that might be more in line with current trends and ways of monetization in the gaming marketplace (such as “shared world shooters” like Destiny and more online-driven experiences), ultimately it appears the end of “Ragtag” came from a variety of different complications during its development.
Artwork from EA and Visceral Games’ Star Wars project, under the codename “Ragtag.” (via Kotaku)
Some of these complications that Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier explored in the report ultimately reveal that “the project was more troubled than EA has admitted publicly.” Some of these factors that were in the mix included a lack of resources (and a team) needed for a project with the scope of “Ragtag,” a game engine that proved difficult to work with in the form of Frostbite (which was originally intended for first-person shooters), conflicting ideas for the title between Visceral Games and EA, and a vision for the title that overwhelmed its budget.
EA’s executive vice president Patrick Soderlund provided some commentary in the report and admitted that “making games is hard,” mentioning that the process is “getting more complex” as time goes on. While Soderlund expressed that the roster of developers under EA and its suite of studios are “amazingly talented,” he also expressed that “expectations are going up at an even faster rate” when it comes to what players want from games and what they feel when playing them.”
Soderlund also commented on the notion of ending development on “Ragtag” specifically for it being a single-player focused title, saying that “this truly isn’t about the death of single-player games—I love single-player, by the way—or story and character-driven games.” Instead, he explained that the cancellation wasn’t so much about “needing a game that monetizes in a certain way,” but ultimately that the project’s end was more on the part of it being a creative decision and that “Ragtag” wasn’t getting to where it needed to be.
While Amy Hennig and the team at Visceral had numerous ideas that were ambitious for what they wanted “Ragtag” to be, ultimately the complications surrounding the game’s scope, vision, budget, and the creative conflicts that emerged between Visceral and EA led to the uneasy decision to cancel “Ragtag,” as Soderlund claimed that “decisions like this are never easy.”
While the project is ultimately now in the hands of EA Vancouver and being reworked into something new, Soderlund expressed further in a statement to Kotaku that the decision to end the development of “Ragtag” was difficult, but perhaps the best route:
“You know how much work people have put into it, how much creativity has been poured out. We will always look at every way we can keep working on the ideas, and we did a lot of that here. We supported the team and their creative process, and we tried a lot of things. We cut scope. We added things, too. We rethought, redesigned, reimagined. But at some point, you have to be honest with yourselves, and realize that we’re not going to be able to get to where we want to be. And that becomes a very tough call to make.”
Ultimately, Soderlund explained that while “Ragtag” is no more as far as development is concerned, “we’re going to go back to work, use a lot of the great work that we have, and go make something that we think Star Wars fans are going to love” whenever the project EA Vancouver takes form.
Given the history of the previous single-player focused Star Wars project, Star Wars 1313, that met a similar fate to that of “Ragtag,” it’s always sad news to hear the end of a major, highly-anticipated title like what EA and Visceral Games had originally intended with the game. But, ultimately game development is a business as much as it is a creative endeavor among millions, and hopefully the third time will be the charm for the Star Wars experience we have all been waiting for.