The earliest incarnation of the project was an open-world pirate game, unrelated to Star Wars, code-named Jamaica.
On May 6, 2013, a Star Wars game from Visceral Games was confirmed to be in production when Electronic Arts, the parent company of Visceral Games, and The Walt Disney Company signed an agreement giving Electronic Arts and its subsidiaries an exclusive license to create Star Wars games on consoles.
Fearing a similarly themed game from the rival studio Ubisoft, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, EA chose to cancel Jamaica in favor of their new Star Wars game, which received the code name Yuma. This new game would use the pirate concept of Jamaica, but in a space setting.
- "It was going to be some hybrid between a linear action shooter, where if you're on the ground it's Tomb Raider-like, but then in space it's gonna be Black Flag. You flew your Millennium Falcon-esque ship around, boarded other ships, raided pirates, got booty, and that kind of thing."
- ―A person who worked on the project
Nevertheless, the development of Yuma had been going slowly, thanks to most of Visceral Games working working on the problematic development of Battlefield Hardline. Overall morale at the studio was low, and employees began to leave the company in favor of other studios.
On April 3, 2014, it was confirmed that Amy Hennig joined the project as creative director. Later that month, it was revealed that Todd Stashwick would write the game's storyline with Hennig. The two have previously worked together on games in the Uncharted series. However, Hennig only got to work on Yuma for a short period of time before being pulled onto Hardline to help with its story. In June 2014, Scott Warner joined the project as game director.
By the end of 2014, when Hennig had finally gone back to the Star Wars team, it became clear Yuma, an open-world space game, wasn't the game she wanted to make. She wanted to create a more linear adventure game in line with her previous work on the Uncharted series, a heist story similar to the 2001 film Ocean's Eleven. This new game would get the code name Ragtag, which would stick until the end of development. The team was very enthusiastic about the idea.
Executives from EA wanted Ragtag to distinguish itself from the Uncharted series. Hennig's team came up with new gameplay features like being able to play as multiple members of the team, with the player controlling one and others being controlled by the AI. Another big theme of the game was the ability to "sabotage" enemies, such as stormtroopers, to defeat them in nonviolent ways. The ideas were described as incredibly ambitious.
- "Picture the Death Star, and they all have jobs. One Stormtrooper was on a command unit, moving boxes around. Some guys would be droids. It was supposed to be set up so it was all real, and it felt like they had jobs to do. We wanted to tap into emotions, so you could mess with Stormtroopers' emotions. Go into a room, turn the lights off. He goes back in and turns them back on. Then you turn them off again. At a certain point he starts getting spooked, acting irrationally, and bringing friends in."
- ―A person, who worked on the game
After shipping Visceral's other game, Battlefield Hardline, various executives and producers of the studio were laid off, with the general manager being replaced by Larry Probst, who announced his plans to "flatten" the studio structure. The studio would minimize management and give as much say as possible to creative leads. This was met with great approval by the studio's staff. However, it did not mean the studio would again be one. Half of the team was still required to work on downloadable content for Hardline, while the other half would get to work on Ragtag. This did not help morale, as the Hardline developers felt lesser in comparison.
That also meant the team working on Ragtag was very small, being made up of only about 30 people by mid-2015, which wasn't nearly enough. After the Hardline team would finish their work, the plan was for them to join the Ragtag development, but this wouldn't be enough either, as Visceral as a whole had less than a hundred employees. This was because Visceral was based in San Francisco, where expenses were very high compared to other EA subsidiaries. This eventually got somewhat resolved by Jade Raymond announcing her new Electronic Arts subsidiary, Motive Studios, in July 2015, who would work on the game alongside the developers at Visceral Games. Motive was based in Quebec, where costs were much lower, which would allow for around 70 more people to be added to the Ragtag team, where they would help with both the single-player mode and a "second" multiplayer mode, which EA demanded the game to have, so players would return to it, something which would generate more revenue past the initial sale of the game.
However, the game soon faced several big problems. One of these was EA's demand that they use the Frostbite 3 engine. The engine was made for a first-person shooter-type game, as it was developed by DICE for their Battlefield series of games, and not the third-person action game Ragtag would be.
- "It was missing a lot of tools, a lot of stuff that was in Uncharted 1. It was going be a year, or a year and a half's work just to get the engine to do things that are assumed and taken for granted."
- ―Former Visceral Games employee
The second problem was the Star Wars license. While many on the team described Lucasfilm's attitude as them giving Visceral much flexibility and freedom, everything still had to be processed through them, which slowed the process immensely.
Developers at Visceral were concerned they would not have enough time or budget to fully pull off all of the ambitious ideas, like multiple protagonists or sabotage. Throughout 2015 it started feeling unlikely that Visceral could even pull off one fully fleshed-out companion, let alone the five or six that they wanted to implement.
Another problem the studio faced was EA themselves, which executives from did not like how the game did not feature themes they deemed core to Star Wars through market research like lightsabers or the Force. They also demanded the game to hit very high scores from critics, so the game would hit at least 90 percent on the review aggregator Metacritic, and for it to compete with the likes of Uncharted 4, the fourth installment of the Uncharted series from the developers Naughty Dog, which Amy Hennig and Todd Stashwick, who now worked on Ragtag, worked on previously. To many of the team, this seemed absurd and unattainable, as they were developing only the first game like this, something which they thought would only be a foundation to build on with more project, like it was with other games series, and they were already supposed to be as good as the fourth installments of older acclaimed series.
Designers described Hennig as brilliant, but overstretched. She wanted to work on every aspect of the game and would work long hours and on weekends to do it. Nevertheless, some had to wait up to months for her to review their work, only for it to be turned down. Hennig needed the studio to work like her previous employers, Naughty Dog, but did not have enough confidence in them. Visceral employees were also not used to having such autonomy, which was a result of the still-new flattened structure of the studio. Hennig wasn't used to working with a big corporation like EA. Despite Naughty Dog being owned by Sony, the studio would still have a lot of creative freedom. EA would, however, often ask questions like how much money the game would make, comparing it to its most profitable titles.
- "Amy's phenomenally smart, fiercely smart, talented, incredibly good at cutscenes. But she was balanced by other talented individuals at Naughty Dog… This was a team she hadn't worked with before. I felt like she didn't really trust us."
- ―A person who worked with Amy Hennig
Around the end of 2015, Motive Studios began hiring for the project and even helping in small ways.
Much would change after the launch of EA's first new Star Wars game, Star Wars Battlefront, on November 17, 2015, and its highly critical response, citing the lack of content and a single-player campaign. That said, the game still sold very well, which guaranteed it a sequel. Motive Studios was soon pulled from Ragtag to work on the single-player campaign of said sequel, Star Wars Battlefront II, at the start of 2016, making the Ragtag development team again much smaller.
Only around 30 people were working on the game at that point, with another 40 coming along once the downloadable content for Hardline was finished. The studio was, however, still not allowed to hire more resources, because of the high costs of living in San Francisco, where Visceral was located. The "second" multiplayer mode had to have been scraped.
In May 2016, EA laid off roughly a dozen Visceral staffers, with more quitting throughout the year for other jobs. At this point, the game still lacked an art director. Doug Chiang from Lucasfilm would be brought on board, but like Hennig, he too was overstretched among the team. Later, the studio would bring in a new art director.
At E3 2016, EA showcased a small clip of a larger demo Visceral had build for Ragtag, showcasing the few features they had built so far. People who were able to see the demo said it looked very impressive, especially praising its graphics, but those who looked at it objectively described it as lackluster.
- "If you looked at it objectively, you'd be like, 'There's nothing here.' Dodger can do like three things. But it was cut in a specific way that looked interesting, and visually it was really nice looking."
- ―A person who worked on the demo
Regaining some confidence in the project thanks to the demo, EA freed up a team at EA Vancouver to work on Ragtag, delaying the project to December 2018. EA Vancouver, however, did not have the flattened studio model Visceral had and was happy with, which led to clashes between the studios. Soon it became clear EA did not want Vancouver to simply help, but eventually take over the whole project.
- "Visceral is pissed, obviously, because all of a sudden this other studio comes on and gets to call the shots. There were so many meetings where people at Visceral were so mad about this."
- ―A former Visceral Games staffer
Throughout 2017, developers at both Visceral Games and EA Vancouver worked hard on that "sampler platter" that they hoped would both serve as a target for their own team and show EA's executives what they were capable of doing. Three missions would be a part of it: An AT-ST chase, a Tatooine shootout and a descent into Jabba's Palace located on the planet. The people who saw these thought the experience was all too similar to Uncharted, however, and Visceral Games would be shut down and Ragtag cancelled with it on October 17, 2017.
EA Vancouver took over the whole project, using as many of the already built assets as they could, but the focus of the game shifted entirely to a multiplayer game, which players would come back to. The game was also pushed without a new release date given.
- "Decisions like this are never easy. In fact, they are really, really hard. They are also not fast – that's a mistake some people often make. You know how much work people have put into it, how much creativity has been poured out. We will always look at every way we can keep working on the ideas, and we did a lot of that here. We supported the team and their creative process, and we tried a lot of things. We cut scope. We added things, too. We rethought, redesigned, reimagined. But at some point, you have to be honest with yourselves, and realize that we're not going to be able to get to where we want to be. And that becomes a very tough call to make."
- ―Patrick Söderlund
While many now-former employees of Visceral Games were offered new positions at other subsidiaries of EA, the status of Amy Hennigs's involvement with the project is unknown.
Characters of Project RagtagEdit
A human male scoundrel in his late sixties, early seventies. He would have collected and trained orphans. Late in his life, he would have joined the Rebellion, which would have made him a target of the Galactic Empire. He would have lived in Mos Elrey, a small village on Tatooine, which would have been comprised of homes built into the side of a canyon.
A human male from Alderaan who would have chosen to run instead of serving the Empire at age 17. He would have become a pupil of Buck's, and after the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star, he would have had survivor's guilt. He would have been willing to work for Jabba the Hutt so he would have been able to earn the credits necessary to buy his name off the survivors list the Empire possessed. He was planned to be played by Todd Stashwick.
A human female gunslinger with a laconic attitude. She would have been raised by the Wandering Star crime family on Level 1313 of Coruscant, and she would have been scared of droids. She was planned to be played by Natalie Morales. If Ragtag would have received a sequel, she would have been its main character.
An opulent human female in her twenties. She would have been used to being pampered and wealthy, and she would have been trained in rich girl sports. She would have been the daughter of Korzan Sable, an underboss for the Rang Clan. She was planned to have been played by Gillian Jacobs.
Anzat male in his late thirties. He would have been a "sneaky crook" and charlatan whose help Dodger would reluctantly seek out. He eventually would have found a "higher calling." He would have been somewhat Force-sensitive, but he would have used his power to scam people.
A Gudon male mechanic in his late fifties. He would have had a thick body and the attitude of a retired boxer. He would have worn a voice translator. In an earlier incarnation of the game, he would have been a Whiphid. Lunak was also the name of a character set to appear in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story who was replaced by Chirrut Îmwe.
A human male in his late thirties, and a long-time friend of Dodger. He would have been dashing and charming. In an earlier incarnation of the game, he would have been a Darklighter. He was to betray the protagonists at the end, only to be defeated by Dodger.
A field medical droid with female programming who would have served the Rebellion but would have been stolen by Dodger. Her model would have been able to detach its head from its body, which would have been barrel-shaped with a ball at the bottom. Her design was based on early concept artwork of R2-D2 and BB-8.
A human female, an underboss for the Rang Clan and Oona Sable's mother. She would have been in league with the Empire and working on a weapon for them, which would have used gases only found in the Alderaan system after Alderaan's destruction. She would have been the game's main antagonist. Through her, the player would have examined the workings of the Crymorah syndicate.
Plot of Project RagtagEdit
After new regulations would have been put in place by the Empire and their occupation of the black markets, some crime families would have profiteered and others would have been less than thrilled about it. One crime family, the Rang Clan, would have had good relationships with the Empire, which would have allowed them to move to Tatooine, even though the planet is ran by the Hutt Clan.
Korzan Sable, an underboss for the Rang Clan, would have been using the asteroid field left after the destruction of Alderaan to create a new weapon for the Tarkin Initiative and the Empire. The Rang Clan would not have approved of this coalition, but they would have looked the other way.
Jabba the Hutt would have pressured Dodger Boon and his sidekick Robie Mattox, to kidnap Oona Sable, the daughter of Korzan Sable, for leverage to push the Rang Clan back off Tatooine. After succeeding, Dodger and Robie would have learned of Buck Freeborn's, Dodger's mentor, allegiance to the Rebel Alliance and received a warning call from him, after which they would have gone to Mos Elrey, where Buck would have lived.
They would have found that Korzan Sable's weapon would have had been tested on Mos Elrey and everyone living there would have had been turned into calcified statues in horrifying positions, but the village itself would have remained intact, although raided of all precious materials by Korzan. Dodger and Robie would have found evidence pointing them to Xibariz, where they would have gone with Oona, who they'd first have to break out of Jabba's prison. The three would have been joined by the Anzat charlatan Zanni, the Gudon mechanic Lunak, the smuggler Wil Nightstar and the medic droid Doc.
Xibariz would have been a space station run by the Baldmiro Crime Family, and Oona would have been their "ticket" in. Inside, Xibariz would have had a ceiling projection made to look like the sky, live shows, high-stakes gambling with Rancor fights and gondolas, which would fly from canals into the sky to other canals to take riders to their destinations. The crew would have met with Anada Sirena, an old lover of Buck, who would have taken them to listen to a meeting between Korzan and the Empire. There, the player would have learned her involvement with the weapon that destroyed Mos Elrey, but also it and Dodger's Alderaanian origin. They would have been forced to fight their way out, but would have been separated.
Wil and Oona would have escaped together, with Oona disowning her mother. Dodger and the rest would have crash landed on Oto-Phagii, where they'd have discovered a run down spice mining colony. The locals there would have worshipped a giant albino Hutt named Mammo the Hutt. Dodger would have gotten captured, but Lunak would have rescued him just as he would have been about to get sacrificed to Mammo.
The crew would have then run into an old Clone Wars-era outpost and there, Major General Pilaf, a Republic officer, who, up to this point, would have not known the war had been done fighting. Pilaf would have been there with a reprogrammed B2 super battle droid named I-ZK "Isaac." After the crew would have informed Pilaf of the history, he would have agreed to help them with his weapons and ships to take down Korzan.
They would have now rendezvoused with Wil at Basher's Yard, a small moon with a junkyard. Wil would have been revealed to have been an agent of Korzan, who would have turned Oona in and destroyed the intel they would have been planning to bring to the Rebellion, who now wouldn't have believed them. He would have even been the one who would have had pulled the trigger on Mos Elrey. He and Dodger would have had a duel, which Dodger would have won.
Dodger's crew then would have raced to the Alderaan system and used Pilaf's ships to take Korzan down. They would have rescued Oona and destroyed Korzan's large installation, which would have then ignited all the purple gas used to make her superweapon.
- Prescott, Shaun (May 10, 2016). Star Wars Battlefront 2 will release in 2017. PC Gamer. Retrieved on May 10, 2016.
- Dyer, Mitch (2014-04-11). Todd Stashwick Co-Writing Visceral's Star Wars Game. IGN. Retrieved on May 25, 2015.
- EA Games/Jade Raymond. The Future of EA Star Wars Games. Webpage. Retrieved on June 13, 2016.
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Papoutsis, Steve (2014-04-03). Amy Hennig Joins Visceral Games. Electronic Arts. Retrieved on May 25, 2015.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 An Update on the Visceral Star Wars Project. Electronic Arts (2017-10-17). Retrieved on October 17, 2017.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Motive Studios. Electronic Arts (2015-07-13). Retrieved on July 13, 2015.
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 Schreier, Jason (October 27, 2017). The Collapse Of Visceral's Ambitious Star Wars Game. Kotaku. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Gibeau, Frank (2013-05-06). EA and Disney Team Up on New Star Wars Games. Electronic Arts. Retrieved on May 25, 2015.
- ↑ Dyer, Mitch (2014-04-11). Todd Stashwick Co-Writing Visceral's Star Wars Game. IGN. Retrieved on May 25, 2015.
- ↑ . "Very happy to be working with @amy_hennig on #StarWars. We are going to make a really great experience for all of you."
- ↑ . "Design Director, Star Wars Project and Battlefield Hardline at Visceral."
- ↑ Gaudiosi, John (2014-03-18). Electronic Arts' Andrew Wilson reflects on his first months as CEO. Fortune.com. Retrieved on May 25, 2015.
- ↑ EA Star Wars (2016-06-12). EA Star Wars: A Look Ahead. YouTube. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.
- ↑ Schreier, Jason (October 17, 2017). EA Shuts Down Visceral Games. Kotaku. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.
- ↑ 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 12.13 12.14 12.15 12.16 12.17 12.18 Ward, Jason (October 27, 2017). The in game story of Visceral's Star Wars: Project Ragtag had it been completed.. Making Star Wars. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.
- ↑ The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- EA Star Wars (2016-06-12). EA Star Wars: A Look Ahead. YouTube. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.
- Schreier, Jason (October 27, 2017). The Collapse Of Visceral's Ambitious Star Wars Game. Kotaku. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.
- Ward, Jason (October 27, 2017). The in game story of Visceral's Star Wars: Project Ragtag had it been completed.. Making Star Wars. Retrieved on October 28, 2017.