New details have emerged about the events leading up to the closure of Visceral Games and the cancellation of its Star Wars project.
In an in-depth report, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has spoken to various parties involved with the project over the years. The resulting picture is of an overly ambitious game that struggled to gain traction from its inception onwards – a game perpetually stuck in the shadow of Uncharted, dogged by falling morale at Visceral, and one whose slow progress and lack of easily marketable features were of increasing concern for EA.
Ragtag, as Visceral’s Star Wars project was codenamed, was a third-person adventure yarn focussed on Dodger, a spacefaring rogue envisaged to be a “cracked mirror version” of Han Solo. It was to tell a swashbuckling tale of mobsters, scoundrels, and heists, and would unfold through the eyes of different members of Dodger’s crew – primarily in order to differentiate it from Uncharted, something EA was keen to do.
Unfortunately, as enthusiastic as Visceral was, Ragtag seemingly ran into issues almost immediately. Morale was already low at the studio following the tough development of Battlefield Hardline, the project was understaffed, and EA’s insistence that the team use the Frostbite engine – which wasn’t designed to make third-person action-adventures – made progress even harder.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the Star Wars license meant that every major decision needed LucasFilm’s approval. And while the company was said to be hugely supportive of the project, approval could still take months. Then there are reports of clashes between creative director Amy Hennig and the design team, with Kotaku’s sources suggesting that staffing issues left Hennig stretched too thin.
All this apparently meant that progress was far slower than was hoped, further troubling an EA that was already nervous about Ragtag’s unusual narrative. There were seemingly concerns that the game’s lack of classic, marketable Star Wars elements – such as the Force, Jedis, and Wookiees – would potentially make it a much harder sell.
Although progress on the game apparently improved throughout 2017, it evidently wasn’t enough. According to Kotaku, Visceral’s last build for internal review wasn’t able to negate EA’s long-term concerns around the project. Within days, a decision was made to cease development on the game in its current form and shut Visceral down.
There’s a lot of fascinating insight into Ragtag’s troubled history in Schreier’s report, and it’s well worth a thorough read. Perhaps the most telling line though comes from one former Visceral employee, who says, “Honestly, it was a mercy killing […] That game never could’ve been good and come out.” For all the talent and enthusiasm around Ragtag, the impression is that there was just too much working against it from the start to ever truly succeed.