Earlier last week, EA once again spoke about the canceled Visceral Star Wars game, Blake Jorgensen reiterated that part of the reason why it was scrapped was because players are moving away from single-player experiences.
“As we kept reviewing the game, it continued to look like a much more linear game [which] people don’t like as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago,” he said during a talk at the Credit Suisse Technology, Media & Telecom conference.
Ever since EA released the statement and ever since EA broke the news that they were going to be shooting the game and the studio in the head, I’ve been thinking about how wrong they are and how publisher perceptions of audience desire can limit developers and what route they want to go on when developing a game. That’s why Battlefield 1 is consistently getting hated on because the game was developed to appeal to the casual gamers when in reality, audience desire in the realm of Battlefield is hardcore and skillful and not casual but back to the topic, I’ve been thinking about this especially when it comes to a franchise as big as Star Wars or Battlefield. In the case of Star Wars, it doesn’t just pertain to the SP-only issue.
Jorgensen expanded on his thoughts in the statement, noting that even aesthetic changes might be too jarring for players to handle. Franchises like Star Wars are so recognizable and ingrained in our culture that any changes are risky.
“The one thing we’re very focused on and they’re extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars,” Jorgensen said. “It’s an amazing brand that’s been built over many, many years. So if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon. Darth Vader in white probably doesn’t make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don’t want Darth Vader in pink. No offense to pink, but I don’t think that’s right in the canon.”
I guess he has a point there, but when I was reading the article I just thought “Lie. Lie. Bullshit. Bullshit.” but he’s speaking from a business perspective, he comes from that place where many creators are living in when it comes to franchises that are established. Making changes to franchises has led to great things (like the Create-a-Class and Perk system in Call of Duty or going to the First World War in Battlefield.) but I also see the point in what he said, and when you make a change to an established franchise it’s considered to be a dangerous and stupid move. When you take an audience out of their comfort zone, it’s easy to see where something could and might go wrong or at least blame them for something.
I can’t speak for EA, but I can understand why executives behind these great and giant franchises are afraid to take risks but we need franchises to take big risks like in Battlefield, the First World War was a giant risk and it paid off immensely for videogames and the community. Before Battlefield went to the First World War, I had the same thought that everyone else had which was a game based around the events of World War I would be boring, slow, and wouldn’t be fun to play but as soon as the game was revealed and I got hands on time with it, my mind instantly changed and the setting was a huge risk.
The debate in games about original franchises and SP games are similar, since both basically come from the same place of fear. EA’s biggest hits like Battlefield, FIFA, etc have been multiplayer centric and some of the biggest highest-rated SP games like Dishonored 2 and Prey underperformed.
But when you take a look at something like Star Wars, you can see how it’s affected generations of fans even myself. Think of Star Wars: KOTOR and Star Wars: Republic Commando, those games were risks that paid off and fans want original stories like KOTOR and Republic Commando.
When I played Republic Commando way back when, it was a satisfying experience because I never thought that Star Wars can work as an FPS linear / tactical shooter, it gave me a new experience in this large universe before the expanded universe got shot down as a result of Disney acquiring Star Wars. Republic Commando made the world of Star Wars even richer, Republic Commando was a risk because it took the best from games like Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, that tactical squad based mechanics and applied to a linear-story driven game and on top of that, it had original characters woven in with iconic characters like Yoda.
From what I’ve played, Battlefront II isn’t a risky game like KOTOR and Republic Commando but it has elements of risk but it doesn’t capitalize much on that risk, which is a shame. EA isn’t the only company who plays it safe. Playing it safe is a trend across all industries, including the videogame industry. Frankly, we need more franchises and companies to go risky like in the case of Battlefield 1, we need more franchises to go out of bounds and take big risks.