One of the biggest stories in video games last year was the cancellation of Visceral's Star Wars game. Publisher EA explained that the game had shifted from being a linear, action-adventure title with a focus on story to a "broader" experience that players could spend a lot more time in.
In a new interview, former director of the Uncharted series and one of the biggest names attached to the Star Wars game, Amy Hennig, sheds a little more light on what happened. Speaking to Sean Vanaman (co-founder of Firewatch developer Campo Santo), Hennig reveals that "what happened with our Star Wars project didn’t come out of the blue."
Although Hennig calls articles about the death of linear story games "dramatic," the developer does say that there is a "real problem" that developers have been facing "for years." The problem includes rising development costs, player demands of "hours of gameplay, fidelity, production values, additional modes, all these things." The big question, says Hennig, is "If it costs you, say, $100 million or more to make a game, how are you making that money back, and making a profit?"
Hennig also notes that although people protest in favor of linear, story-based games "people aren’t necessarily buying them." Instead, "they’re watching somebody else play them online," says the developer. While Visceral's Star Wars game was canceled for being too linear, there's clearly more to it than that. Fans will surely appreciate the clarification from Hennig.
The developer even discusses a possible solution to the issue of rising costs and the loot box controversy. Hennig says that although there is a lot of negative press surrounding loot boxes, monetization, and games as a service models, larger publishers see this as an "answer" to those rising development costs.
"Budgets keep going up, the bar keeps getting raised, and it starts making less and less sense to make [linear, story-based] games," explains Hennig. That's why so many games, even single-player titles, now seem to feature loot boxes and similar mechanics.
Most players will surely rally against calls for game prices to get higher and Hennig herself recognizes that there's a perception that "the $60 price point can’t change." But based on the problems the industry is currently facing (as Hennig describes them), increasing prices could be an effective way of getting rid of loot boxes and making sure that other games like Visceral's Star Wars don't get canceled in future.
Star Wars is currently in development for unspecified platforms by EA Vancouver.