Star Wars and open-world games have been a hot topic of discussion amongst developers and gamers since Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto 3 (GTA) debuted in 2001. Electronic Arts (EA) currently holds the exclusive rights to PC and console games based on Star Wars, but their recent ‘Battlefront‘ games are action-oriented shooters more akin to Call of Duty than the depth and freedom offered in open-world titles like Far Cry, Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption, or GTA.
Given the wild popularity of open world games, it’s astounding that no one’s built a Star Wars version yet. It’s not for lack of trying, I assure you.
I worked at Lucasfilm’s gaming division (LucasArts) in 2007, on the ill-fated Battlefront 3 and 4 titles, and was party to more than a few serious discussions about an open-world version. LucasArts did get rather deep into development on at least one open-world Star Wars game (Kotaku indicates that LucasArts’ 1313, allegedly a bounty-hunter, open-world game, was killed in 2013) — the complexity of merging role-playing elements with space battles, force powers, and infantry combat across multiple planets within a giant, contiguous playground was more than even George Lucas’ personal game studio could pull off.
EA’s Battlefront games are huge, fast-paced, and offer role-playing elements, but are not open-world experiences.
Ten years later, EA is apparently in the early stages of developing just such an open-world Star Wars game, according to Gamespot. EA currently has a lead online engineer job listing on their website for its Vancouver-based studio that reads:
“Lead a team to deliver Online features for a Star Wars Open World project.”
So, it’s not exactly a secret. It’s not much of a surprise either. EA had been working on a new Star Wars project at their California-based Visceral Studios, which has since been shuttered and the project was transferred to Vancouver. When Visceral closed down, EA’s executive VP of worldwide studios, Patrick Soderlund stated:
“Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design.”
Translation: nobody liked the game we were making, it was too expensive, so we killed it.
LucasArt’s ‘1313’ project was a dark, bounty hunter-based title (and allegedly an open-world title).
Here’s the problem… actually there are several. First, the Star Wars license is expensive, and companies like EA must share revenue with Lucasfilm (after paying a hefty up-front fee), so any Star Wars game needs to be big to justify the investment and ensure a healthy return. Second, Star Wars is a truly unique property, but developers regularly shoehorn it into existing game genres: shooters, MMOs, turn-based strategy, RPGs, etc. — but Star Wars fans have such high expectations that unless a game does it all, it doesn’t do nearly enough.
Open-world games combine multiple genres or hybrids (what is Red Dead Redemption if not a shooter-RPG-simulation-exploration-adventure game? It’s all of that and more). Given the expansive and ever-evolving nature of Star Wars, an open-world setting makes the most sense, but achieving it is another story — just imagine adding force powers and aerial combat to GTA… actually, there are ‘mods’ that do this already. However, Star Wars fans do not want a re-skinned GTA or Red Dead Redemption, they want something new, fresh, and different, which is probably why no one has cracked this particular atom… at least, so far.
Would you be interested in an open world Star Wars game by EA? Let us know in the comments down below!