The world of triple-A gaming was dealt a shocking blow weeks ago when the news broke that Amy Hennig, longtime creative director of the Uncharted series would be leaving her post at Naughty Dog. Immediately, speculation began that Hennig had been forced out by management (a claim refuted by Naughty Dog's presidents), since no designer in their right mind would willingly step away from a success like Uncharted - right?
Today her departure makes a bit more sense, and gamers asking what opportunity could possibly outweigh those offered at Naughty Dog have their answer: Star Wars. Visceral Games has announced that Hennig will be taking the role of creative director on their still-unannounced Star Wars game being developer for next-gen systems. And for those who haven't been paying attention, EA is clearly taking all the right steps to build not just anticipation, but quality.
Hennig assumes her role as Creative Director months after Visceral also snatched up Halo 4 lead designer Scott Warner, now occupying the role of Design Director for the same in-development project. When the deal between Disney and EA for the rights to Star Wars game development was first announced, the Dead Space studio seemed an obvious candidate to produce a third-person adventure - possessing the experience, even if the finished product seemed easy to imagine given the series' sci-fi/space-bound installments.
In the official statement, Visceral Games' Vice President and General Manager Steve Papoutsis explains that EA wasn't the only company looking to land Hennig's talents, but credits his motivation to not only her work on the Uncharted series, but working together at Crystal Dynamics:
As both a colleague and friend, I’ve always admired her approach to creative development — focusing on nailing down the soul of a game first, and then making sure the writing, the gameplay, the design and the art comes together to form a unified, interactive experience for the player. This fits in perfectly with what we’re trying to do here at Visceral and Amy’s going to help us continue in our pursuit to make the most thrilling, immersive games in the world.
Over the last few weeks, Amy and I have spent a lot of time talking about what her first project would be. There are a lot of different directions we could have gone, but I could sense that what really excited her about this opportunity (because let’s face it, we weren’t the only ones knocking at her door) was Star Wars. Amy’s a huge fan. We happen to be making a Star Wars game. Just thinking about the possibilities made both of us even more excited about having her join the team.
The news of Hennig's hiring comes as particular consolation to those still lamenting the loss of Star Wars 1313: the most promising game bearing the 'Star Wars' name in years, now cancelled in light of EA's partnership. Since we observed that one of the clearest influences on 1313's game design was the Uncharted series when we saw it firsthand, Hennig's involvement is promising, to say the least. Rather than following the same influences, it seems, Visceral is going straight to the source.
It's still unclear exactly how the game in production will fit into the larger Star Wars fiction - whether tied to the previous films or the upcoming trilogy beginning with J.J. Abrams' Episode VII. But if Hennig was convinced to join the project in such an influential role, then the game garners no small amount of excitement as a result. And if Hennig's time at the studio extends beyond her first Star Wars story, it may be a long time before Visceral gets back to Dead Space.
What do you think of this news? Are you more convinced that EA is seeking out top talent to make the best games possible, not just the most easy to market? Would you be first in line to pick up a Star Wars game scribed by the mind behind Uncharted, or would you have preferred to see her remain with Nathan Drake? Sound off in the comments.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.