Visceral devs share the story of the studio's closure

Kotaku spoke with former employees to track demise Visceral and of its untitled Star Wars game, creating a must-read cautionary tale for other game developers in the process.
"A lot of things started turning around [in 2017] but I think there was a little bit of a too-little, too-late aspect to it. I don’t think it mattered.”

- One of many anonymous devs speaking to Kotaku details the studio's closure

Kotaku has published an extremely detailed story chronicling the years and years of distress that led up to the recent closing of Visceral and the demise of its untitled Star Wars game, creating a must-read cautionary tale for other game developers in the process. 

Speaking anonymously, many developers that had worked at the studio both before and at the moment of its closure offer an inside look at the cascading complications Visceral faced in the years leading up to its end.

As with many complicated closures, no single issue can be blamed for the studio’s demise, but the developers speaking to Kotaku shed some light on the problems that likely contributed. One developer said that the sheer cost of maintaining a development team in San Francisco might deserve some of the blame, saying that Visceral was the most expensive studio under EA’s ownership.

Another said the slow back-and-forth between both internal and external groups critically wounded the development of Visceral’s ill-fated Uncharted-like Star Wars title. Part of those complications, the developer said, was because the constant need for concept approval from the Star Wars people could drag even small decisions on for months. 

“Oh, would Dodger really look like this? What would his weapon look like? Potentially years of that. Would he carry this? Would that really work in the Star Wars universe?” the anonymous dev told Kotaku. “With Uncharted, they can build any world they come up with, because it’s their world. With Star Wars you have to have that back and forth.”

There were complications within the studio as well, as many developers said that former Uncharted director and then-Star Wars director Amy Hennig had stretched herself too thin by trying to take control of everything from gameplay to level design all at once. 

Per a former Visceral employee, the bits of the game shown off to EA at a mid-year check in earlier this month were all too similar to Uncharted for EA’s tastes, with the unnamed employee saying that each of the three scenes could be paired to an almost identical moment in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. 

After that, it seems the studio’s fate was sealed. Kotaku’s full write up provides additional context and information beyond the points assembled here that is well worth a read, both as a record of Visceral’s struggles and as an inside look at the complicated process of bringing an ambitious project to fruition.  

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