Cancelled Star Wars Ragtag game details surface
A former producer on Amy Hennig’s cancelled Star Wars game has shed new light on the project, and how far it got at Dead Space studio Visceral Games before EA pulled the plug.
Its main character, a rogue who producer Zach Mumbach describes as a cross between Robin Hood and Star-Lord, was “well-formed”. Its design was well under-way, with several levels and a major set-piece involving an AT-ST chase nearing completion. But, as we know, it was not meant to be.
Mumbach was a veteran of Visceral when the studio began work on Hennig’s Star Wars project, code-named Project Ragtag. But things were tough from the start, he said, after the team at Visceral was forced to quickly pivot back from its previous project, Battlefield Hardline.
“The timing was weird,” Mumbach told the MinnMaxShow. “The sequence of events was like – ‘hey, we have a studio with their own engine who make really high quality single-player games – the Dead Space series – and we’re going to take that studio, move them to Frostbite and have them make a Battlefield game’. OK, I’m fine with that. I stayed there and worked on that.
“But we had a lot of people at the studio who were experts on narrative and single-player games and those people left. And that’s fine – some of them went to Crystal Dynamics and worked on the Avengers game. That kind of stuff happens. Then we went and hired a bunch of multiplayer first-person shooter experts to help us with Hardline. Cool. So to ship Hardline and go ‘hey you guys are now going to make a single-player third-person [game]…’ That’s the thing which is hard for me to get over.
“Who’s making this plan? There is no plan, obviously. We were experts at this [genre of] game two years ago and then we re-made our studio. And it was hard. And we pulled it off. And then it was like ‘go back to what you guys did before’. And we were like ‘well those guys who were good at what we did before left’.”
Mumbach is full of praise for Amy Hennig, who he says brought clever decision-making around story and characters, and remained professional even as it became clear EA’s goal for the project were not lining up with the studio’s own.
“We had this leadership team come in from Vancouver… and not knocking them, they were in the same position I was in Army of Two. They were like ‘we need to ship this thing, let’s go, cut this, cut this, cut this’,” Mumbach recalled. “And I’m thinking, this is effing Amy Hennig, we have the chance to make the greatest Star Wars game ever made and a possible Game of the Year contender. This isn’t an Army of Two game.
“I think we would have made the best Star Wars game ever made. The story and the setup and the characters… [were] set up for success but what we had to execute was going to take a while. I think the company saw that – ‘hey you guys are eventually going to make a crazy good game’. At the time, when we got shut down, [EA exec] Patrick Soderlund was even like – what’s the game with ‘Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner’? PUBG? – they even sent out a press release that was like ‘no one cares about single-player any more’.
“I just wish they’d figured that out two years ago.”
During those two years, countless hours of development time had gone into making Ragtag, and several sequences were nearly complete. The brief clip released to the public of a figure – the game’s main character – emerging into a sandy courtyard was merely the tip of the iceberg for what now lies unfinished on some harddrive somewhere.
“We just had a lot of gameplay people never got to see,” Mumbach continued. “We had levels, they weren’t done but they were close. We had one set-piece which was basically done – we were putting the final touches on it right when the studio was shut down.
“[It was] this crazy AT-ST moment which was really cool. You were on foot running from it and it was trying to hunt you down but you were more agile, slipping through these alleyways, barelling through and crashing and using all the destruction of Frostbite… You would have been like ‘oh that’s like Star Wars Uncharted’.”
EA, of course, has now pivoted back to making single-player Star Wars games elsewhere. Last year’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order set tills ringing and its success means there will surely be a sequel. Mumbach said he was yet to play it.
“We were definitely sitting in one of the most expensive places to make a video game,” he said, wondering why Visceral got shut down. “But Jedi: Fallen Order was made in LA, one of the most expensive places to make a video game.”
Mumbach has since left EA, and is now working on indie airship game Airborne Kingdom.