If you’re into single player gaming then you’ve probably heard of Amy Hennig. One of the most respected video game directors and script writers in the industry, Hennig worked at Crystal Dynamics and Eidos on the “Legacy of Kain” series before jumping to Naughty Dog where she served as head writer and creative director on the celebrated first three “Uncharted” games.
She left Naughty Dog in 2014, setting up at “Dead Space” developer Visceral Games where she helped develop an untitled “Star Wars” game codenamed ‘Ragtag’ for several years. That title was to be an open-world third-person action adventure game until Visceral’s owners EA shut down the studio in 2017 and moved the project to EA Vancouver who then scrapped it altogether a few months later.
Comments from EA at the time in regards to the company’s plans indicated they were effectively abandoning story-based single-player games because they don’t make enough money and so either games as a service titles or multiplayer games packed with microtransactions would be their bread-and-butter in the future. Then the “Star Wars: Battlefront II” loot box scandal happened and EA found itself under attack for its naked greed.
Cut to the Star Wars Celebration convention last weekend where “Titanfall” developer Respawn Entertainment unveiled “Jedi: Fallen Order,” the big budget story-based “Star Wars” game for this Fall that’s designed as a single-player only experience (no multiplayer) and won’t contain microtransactions or loot boxes. It’s also being released by EA.
In the wake of the reveal, Eurogamer spoke with Hennig to get her reaction to EA’s apparent 180 degree about face stance on single-player. She says:
“[It’s] odd!. 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?
There is so much change in this industry all the time. 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… 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 some more about what her ‘Ragtag’ game would’ve been about – forget the familiar setup of a sole white male protagonist with Force powers and a droid companion – hers followed a motley crew and would’ve been more akin to both the “Uncharted” games (as “Star Wars” is similarly pulpy) and to classic group-driven war movies like “Where Eagles Dare”.
As ensembles are in the “Star Wars” DNA, her plan was to switch the narrative to follow multiple protagonists and the antagonist at points requiring playable characters in parallel sequences and strong AI for some of the characters. She adds: “Obviously it’s disappointing not to be able to share the game we were developing, because I think it was really cool and pretty compelling.”