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The truth is out: Visceral's closure was a complicated, messy affair


Jason Clement

It was just last week that we found out EA was closing Dead Space developer Visceral and cancelling their Star Wars project in one fell swoop. But now, we finally have a better look at what happened behind-the-scenes thanks to a new report from Kotaku's Jason Schrier.

 

In his article, Schrier outlined a number of reasons that led to Visceral's downfall. Contrary to how EA's statement made it sound, their Star Wars project wasn't cancelled due to it being a single-player experience. The truth is that a number of factors contributed to a perfect storm of issues that made the project an insurmountable task.

 

One problem was Visceral's high cost, being situated in California's Bay Area -- one of the most expensive areas to live in the entire US. Another issue had to do with infighting and mismanagement between EA and Visceral, with project lead Amy Hennig having too much control and say over the project, especially in areas that she wasn't as experienced in, such as the gameplay. Apparently, this led to many arguments and debates over certain things in the game, slowing progress considerably.

 

There's much more to the story as well; for the rest, be sure to check out Schrier's piece. It's easily one of the most fascinating (albeit sad and unfortunate) stories in the industry right now.

 

Source: Kotaku

 

What are your thoughts on the troubles at Visceral?

Edited by Jason Clement

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The problem I have with this story is that EA had to have known what they were getting into with Hennig. If you want an Uncharted caliber Star Wars game, you don’t expect a small studio to deliver it cheaply or quickly. Personally, I do think Hennig is qualified to have a say in things like gameplay, I felt that one of the main problems with Uncharted 4 was that the gameplay wasn’t fun, and Project leads generally have their hands and say in every aspect of a game. There’s been tension between EA and Visceral for years, that studio was way to creative and good to be owned by EA. 

 

I do think EA sees Star Wars as a MP entity, they rebooted Battlefront without even attempting to include any type of a story. I don’t believe EA is trying to kill single player experience, but I’ll bet they won’t allow certain franchises to ship without some sort of multiplayer mode, Star Wars being one of them. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Respawn Star Wars game, I guarantee they won’t allow it to release as a single player only game. I really wish EA did not own the publishing rights to Star Wars games. I feel as long as they do, we will never have the Star Wars game we deserve. 

 

The article also also mentioned that they tested the game, and the feedback wasn’t positive. The thing they don’t tell you is that EA has their own volunteer amabassaders that help with social media, forums, and early testing of games. I’m not quite sure that I trust their test subjects were completely honest or unbiased. Right before Titanfall 2 released, Respawn found themselves without a Community Manager, so EA was in charge of it. These EA shills really caused havoc within the Titanfall Community, and were complete jerks. I don’t think the Community has ever really recovered and it set the tone for new people joining. That makes me sad because I know how hard Abbie (ex CM), and even myself to an extent worked to create a better gaming environment than most shooters have. I don’t trust anything EA does or says. 

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7 hours ago, Laddie13 said:

The problem I have with this story is that EA had to have known what they were getting into with Hennig. If you want an Uncharted caliber Star Wars game, you don’t expect a small studio to deliver it cheaply or quickly. Personally, I do think Hennig is qualified to have a say in things like gameplay, I felt that one of the main problems with Uncharted 4 was that the gameplay wasn’t fun, and Project leads generally have their hands and say in every aspect of a game.

 

 

I wouldn't disagree with Hennig being qualified to have a say in gameplay, but the article does state that Bruce Straley took the lead on gameplay in the Uncharted games while Hennig was focused on story. From the people who spoke out for this story, it sounds as if she was taking the lead on both this time, and might not have been the best person to lead gameplay, either due to splitting her time and resources too thin, or because she simply wasn't the best person to lead gameplay (because there were others with more experience in that area).

 

I see it this way: usually you wouldn't have the director of a movie also do the soundtrack. There are rare cases where they have a background in both film and music, but generally someone who focuses solely on composing will get much better results, thus allowing the director to focus on what they do best. At the same time, a producer usually doesn't also direct big films (or if they do, there are multiple producers to help). This seems to be the case with Hennig, where she was taking on too much at once, and the project stalling b/c of it. Also sounds like Hennig was incredibly picky, which isn't bad, but either she was overly picky about things in a way that impeded progress, or Visceral just wasn't up to the task in general (for many reasons).

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Visceral was probably not a big enough studio to take on an Uncharted sized Star Wars game. Remove Hennig from the project if they thought she was taking the game in the wrong direction, bring in another studio to help, but why shut the studio down completely? It’s been long rumored that there has been strife between EA and Visceral, maybe this was EA’s way of killing two birds with one stone. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Laddie13 said:

Visceral was probably not a big enough studio to take on an Uncharted sized Star Wars game. Remove Hennig from the project if they thought she was taking the game in the wrong direction, bring in another studio to help, but why shut the studio down completely? It’s been long rumored that there has been strife between EA and Visceral, maybe this was EA’s way of killing two birds with one stone.

 

 

Yeah, honestly, I think the overall issue is just that EA didn't know how to properly manage Visceral, or at least communicate with them. So Visceral was trying to do one thing when EA was set on something else. I dunno, EA has a lot of issues. :wacko:

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