We’ve had a day to digest the news that EA now has the exclusive rights to make games based on the “Star Wars” universe, and that they’ve, in turn, tapped Visceral and DICE to make new titles with all-new story and gameplay (with BioWare doing… something).
And predictably, we all groaned and fretted about what this would mean for the gaming future of our beloved franchise–“how badly will EA mess this up,” we asked. Honestly, though, I’m looking forward to whatever comes out of EA, good or bad. For all their less-than-savory business practices, they’ve made a habit of assembling great studios and allowing interesting ideas to germinate in them (even if that means we bafflingly have three “Army of Two” games.
So after the jump, check out five reasons to look forward to EA’s taking over “Star Wars” along with five reasons to keep that excitement in check.
10. [Good] Hoth will look great in the Frostbite engine
A great-looking engine, to be sure (although “Need For Speed: The Run” couldn’t quite handle it at high, er, speed).
9. [Not so good] Annual empire
Think the prospect of a new “Star Wars” movie every year will lead to franchise fatigue? Imagine multiplatform, annual releases “Madden”-style of new games from the franchise as EA attempts to squeeze every cent they can from what’s now the biggest IP in their command.
This isn’t, in and of itself ad bad thing–it’s just that in the past, EA has shown itself resistant to push any kind of innovation between installments of regular series, ultimately leading to stagnation (consider how spread out the “Need For Speed” series was across studios and how same-y they all started to feel before Criterion joined the franchise).
8. [Good] At least the games will get made
Speaking of stagnation, what ultimately killed LucasArts was a pervasive inability to move forward with any projects (remember the rumored “Indiana Jones” game from a few years that never got off the ground?). Allowing their creative visions to flower ultimately left promising LucasArts projects like “Star Wars 1313″ rotting on the vine.
EA gets games out the door (for good or ill), meaning studios will have to commit to actually, you know, executing on the vision that’s promised at E3 or wherever.
7. [Bad] DLC you later
But with that comes some of EA’s worst impulses, including the need to monetize everything. I’m not anti-DLC and in-game purchases by any means (more power to you if you needed to spec out your gear by spending a little cash in “Dead Space 3″). And I love, absolutely love the “Battlefield 3″ subscription service, one of the most promising models for delivering regular content to gamers this console generation.
The problem is that there are so many… bits to the “Star Wars” universe, that EA will have a hard time resisting an infinite number of Boba Fett skins for their hypothetical Visceral third-person shooter or “Family Guy” Chicken Boba Fett skins for the same game (if they can work through the licensing tangle with FOX). What I’m saying is that in the same way that Lucas would resell us the franchise and its toys over and over again, a multi-billion dollar game publisher will be immediately attracted to the idea of cramming everything “Star Wars” into every game and nickel and diming you for the pleasure.
6. [Good] DICE knows first-person shooters
We’re all hoping that DICE will be responsible for a new, full-fledged “Battlefront” game, right? Apply the design sense of DICE and their ability to create sprawling maps that encourage the use of flying death machines (more than a year out, I still can’t fly a helicopter). Looking down the blaster sites of a Storm Trooper or Rebel Alliance grunt in one of the film’s locations would be one of those things that we didn’t know we wanted until it we were doing it on our consoles.
5. [Bad] DICE doesn’t do so well with story
…and I’m hoping that this conjectural “Battlefront” sequel (or whatever) is strictly multiplayer-based. I’ve never been a fan of the storytelling the campaigns for the “Battlefield” games, but this most recent one set the bar incredibly low in terms of what to expect from a generic, globe-trotting, jingoistic action narrative.
Of course, the story trust at Disney would likely be in close contact with DICE in developing any story for any “Star Wars”-related game, so this is really more of a “wait and see.”
4. [Good] Visceral makes excellent third-person action games
We should assume “Star Wars 1313″ is dead, but that doesn’t mean all of its ideas are done and gone. If we were to potentially get another TPS based in the “Star Wars” universe from the studio behind “Dead Space,” we could at least count on interesting weapons and abilities for that game’s main character.
What if we got another “Star Wars: Bounty Hunter” with all kinds of clever tools for Boba/Jango Fett to use for the swift capture (and killing) of his targets? For its flaws as a horror game, think about how much fun you have swapping between weapon functions in “Dead Space 3″ or customizing and outfitting your new gear and upgrading Isaac throughout the campaign.
Visceral knows its stuff when it comes to delivering on kitted-out characters with a deadly and exciting arsenal, so I’m hoping they get to do the same in this universe.
3. [Bad] Just pray no one remembers there’s a piece of extended universe zombie fiction with Storm Troopers
I can imagine a meeting where someone comes across a copy of “Death Troopers,” the 2010 novel about a space station coming into contact with a derelict Star Destroyer filled with the living dead, and thoughts of how that would make a great game.
No… Just, no.
2. [Good] What’s BioWare up to?
Obviously “The Old Republic,” the next “Dragon Age,” and whatever is coming after “Mass Effect” are occupying a lot of both BioWare Austin and Edmonton’s time right now, but you have to assume that there’s at least a small team thinking about how to “KOTOR” up the new trilogy (and the side story movies that will be released between each entry).
The studio has a lot on on its plate, and they could simply be acting as an incubator for new concepts (maybe outsourcing the next dialog-based “Star Wars” RPG out to Obsidian, for example), but whatever the case, they’ve had a solid track record with the franchise and offer something well different from shooters and action games. Here’s hoping they get to join in sooner rather than later, though.
1. [Bad] Let’s just throw some terrible concepts out there
I didn’t want to end this on exactly a bad note, so let’s just rattle through some terrible ideas that have probably already been wadded up into a ball and thrown into the trash by EA and its teams. Honestly, I’m more optimistic about this partnership than not–for all our complaints about EA, the last few years have shown they have a willingness to experiment. If Disney stays out of their way (and it’s likely the game-shy company will), EA might be able to deliver games that won’t necessarily exceed our expectations, but at least meet them in terms of what a slickly-produced “Star Wars” game will look like.
- Criterion’s Pod Racer: 34 tracks, from Naboo to Degoba, where you and your pit crew (led by Jar Jar, natch) will race against up to 31 other competitors in white-knuckle pod racing action!
- Hypothetical “Star Wars” sports game: I don’t ever recall the “Star Wars” universe ever having its equivalent of Quidditch. Deep fiction nerds, is that a thing? And if so, would it be horrible and easy to make into a game?
- “Teras Kasi 2: The Sith Are Miffed”: Someone out there still holds a torch for this very bad PSOne-era fighting game. And at some point, he or she made their way into the upper echelons of the largest game publisher in the world. And now, it’s really only a matter of time before they tap the power of the “Fight Night”/”Def Jam” engine to bring back the Masters…
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