I fondly remember the golden years of Star Wars gaming. Everything from the ultra-detailed and incredibly satisfying X-Wing space shooter series to the moral thicket of Knights of the Old Republic to hurling stormtroopers to their doom in Jedi Outcast. It seemed that whatever kind of game experience you wanted, you could get it in a Star Wars title.
Disney’s purchase of the franchise should’ve heralded a new era of development, with hopes initially very high when EA won the sole rights to make Star Wars games. Six years later though and what have we got? Two average multiplayer shooters more known for their predatory microtransactions and loot boxes than their iffy gameplay.
It could have been so different, too. Dead Space developer Visceral Games teamed up with Uncharted creator Amy Hennig for what was promised to be a AAA adventure in the mold of Sony’s hit series. The game would’ve been set in the aftermath of the destruction of Alderaan and followed a roguish hero in the Han Solo mold as he figured out his loyalties in the Galactic Civil War. We recently reported that the project might have been further along than first assumed, but now Hennig’s explained that the development wasn’t all plain sailing:
“So I think Visceral was sort of beset with a lot of challenges. Even so, we were making a game; people have said it was an ‘Uncharted Star Wars.’ That’s sort of reductive, but it’s useful because people can kind of visualize something in their head. But what that meant is we obviously had to take the Frostbite Engine, because there was the internal initiative to make sure that everybody was on the same technology, but it was an engine that was made to do first-person shooters not third-person traversal cinematic games. So building all of that third-person platforming and climbing and cover taking and all that stuff into an engine that wasn’t made to do that.”
EA’s Frostbite Engine has a fair amount of notoriety in the industry. Originally developed by DICE for use in the Battlefield series, the current iteration of the engine can turn out some seriously impressive visuals. Unfortunately though, as Hennig explains, it’s geared towards FPS games and adapting it to run a third person action adventure would definitely be an uphill struggle. Bioware famously nearly came a cropper when developing Dragon Age: Inquisition on Frostbite, only to discover that there were no provisions for the engine to have an inventory system or AI party members, both of which are pretty important in an RPG.
While Visceral’s game never came to fruition, Hennig goes on to explain that at the very least, some of the tweaks they developed were used by other EA developers in their titles, so it wasn’t a complete wash. Still, the loss of a genuinely great single-player Star Wars adventure weighs heavy in the heart.