Game designer Amy Hennig spoke about her experience working at Visceral Games on the cancelled Star Wars action-adventure game.
Codenamed Ragtag, Hennig’s project was canned and Visceral Games stuttered in October, 2017.
Much of that work ended up at EA Vancouver, who were initially instructed to expand on the concept to create a bigger, more replayable game, before EA realised doing that would take too long, and subsequently downscaled the project to be more in line with the original vision.
At DICE Summit in Las Vegas, the veteran designer and game director discussed a handful of topics, one of which was about her tenure at Visceral, and the work the team did on Ragtag. The subject of Frostbite, the engine the game was based on, came up in an interview with USgamer.
“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,” said Hennig.
“That’s sort of reductive, but it’s useful because people can kind of visualise 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. We did a lot of foundational work that I think the teams are still benefiting from because it’s a shared engine, but it’s tough when you spend a lot of time doing foundational stuff but then don’t get to go ta-da! [laughs] You know, here’s the game.”
Frostbite is a point of contention because of EA’s desire to make it the go-to tech for its internally-developed games, as a way of cutting engine licensing costs and maturing its in-house tech to be malleable enough for all of its development needs. Unfortunately, Frostbite was created for a first-person shooter first and foremost, and studios across EA have reportedly had trouble working with it in games that aren’t FPSes.
BioWare famously dedicated a lot of time to getting Frostbite to do basic features like inventory and the third-person systems needed for Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Years later, some of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s troubles were blamed on DICE’s engine, to the point BioWare’s general manager at the time, Aaryn Flynn, had to dismiss the idea EA forced the team to use it.
Now, with Anthem’s reception being as poor as it is, some are once again suggesting a few the game’s technical issues are the result of its engine. It’s hard to say for sure without input from developers who worked on the game, but you can see a pattern here with – at the very least – BioWare’s two most recent projects.