Maintaining a secure, profitable or even sustainable business is, as Jerry Maguire once emphatically monologues “an up at dawn, pride swallowing siege”. Requiring the utmost diligence and dedicated, self-sacrificing work ethics to stand even a remote chance of success. Likely absent from home for weeks at a time, alienating yourself from families and friends as your health as well as your faculties begin to deteriorate, the debilitating emphasis on achieving even moderate success can be punishing, striving to achieve the best results possible, while cultivating that toil into something truly exciting. It’s harder still as a game developer when such resolute efforts are compromised by the fawning, misguided aspirations of your superiors. In this instance it’s EA’s closure of Visceral studios back in October and the significant redundancies incurred.
It’s become rather fashionable to vilify EA, though they do make it exceptionally easy. What with their pernicious acquisition of smaller developers who may be in possession of a property they can exploit, harvest and extract precious dividends from. Before shutting them down when a series is no longer a viable source of revenue or, as was the case with Visceral Games, when they try to implement a creatively independent idea, separate from the monetized agenda of its investors. I suppose given EA’s sordid penchant for subverting their properties with micro transactions it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the axe was swung at the stuck out neck of a single player oriented Star Wars game. But it does yet again illustrate the companies partiality for commerce over craft. Because saturating content with game influencing loot box’s was working so well with Battlefront II! But it’s sad, not just because of the impressive potential generated by the modest amount of images and videos released, by also for the passionate operatives who were developing this standalone Star Wars game, not least of which is long time industry stalwart Amy Hennig.
Amy’s considerable talents have been blighted by some rather wretched luck in recent years. Having abruptly “left” NaughtyDog half way through Uncharted 4’s development for reasons never fully clarified, though personally it seems unlikely that the decision to leave was entirely one of her own volition considering her immense passion for the series that she primarily created, Amy joined Visceral Games to work on the now “postponed” Star Wars game that EA have suggested requires “significant changes”. Presumably more loot box’s. This now means that Amy has been, and let’s not be quant here, “forced off” two high-profile games before she has had the chance to finish them, with her last completed title being 2011’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, almost 7 years ago!
It’s easy to be critical of the industry when someone of Amy Hennig’s distinction is so poorly treated, seemingly because of her emphasis of “creative expression” and story telling. And it frustrates me that her progressive ideologies on improving narratives in games is being regarded with such disrespect. Even though she hasn’t officially left her position as a prisoner of EA’s ignorant penitentiary, I wouldn’t blame her if she quit the industry entirely to pursue less creatively stifling opportunities. She is after all in her early 50’s with no projects in her immediate future to focus on. Why, considering the river of “crap” she has already had to wade through would Amy want to continue working for 4-5 years, in an environment of such creative obstruction, that could potentially be subject to intense scrutiny by individuals who understand nothing but the growth of numbers and figures?
Whatever Amy Hennig decides to do next, I’ll support. She has demonstrated a tremendous capability as a writer/director in an industry that seems averse to providing good quality games for individual consumption. I certainly won’t forget the considerable efforts she applied to the Uncharted series. Amy’s contributions to this specific franchise can never be overstated. She projected an effusive credibility to the charismatic exploits of perennially calamitous, serial philanderer, Nathan Drake. Crafting an adventure that was bolstered by scintillating, cinematic experiences, but not reliant on them. Instead they were primarily focused on character motivations and development, engaging them in stories and environments that elevated the immersion the player experienced, rather than just feeling like a vicarious interaction with a control pad. The people, world’s, stories and ambience were discernible, relatable and genuine, espousing the concept that games could be traditionally linear and fun without compromising the integrity of the story with intrusive monetary provisions.
If you’re reading this Amy Hennig, do whatever is best for you, financially and spiritually. Forget EA’s creative flatulence and do what makes you happy. Whatever that maybe you have my profound gratitude for your contributions to not only Uncharted, but the industry as a whole. You are an enterprising visionary that the gaming industry needs, though quite clearly doesn’t deserve. Thank you.