The news that Electronic Arts has just signed a multi-year license agreement with Disney to pump out some Star Wars games is proving a difficult deal to assess. To many, EA is like the looming shadow of an Imperial Star Destroyer; its arrival spells nothing but doom, despair and wanton destruction of beloved series’ and developers. Fans of Bullfrog, Pandemic and SimCity can attest all too easily to this.
But is it likely that EA will do any worse than the moribund fare that’s passed for the last few Star Wars titles? Aside from the charming Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (which is as much to do with the magic touch of TT Games as anything else,) it’s either been double-license cash-ins (Angry Birds Star Wars) or failed experiments in Han Solo dancing simulators like Kinect Star Wars. We’re not exactly leaving a golden age behind.
EA intends to muster the studio powers of DICE, Visceral and BioWare, who, at the very least, have the experience between them to improve on what we’ve been offered in the last couple of years. After all, the last time EA, BioWare and Star Wars combined their forces it gave us the much admired and not-at-all-troubled MMO Star Wars: The Old Republ … oh.
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It’s tough, then, to predict where this union is going to end up. Of course that’s never stopped us before at IncGamers, so here’s our imagined Light and Dark side scenarios for the marriage of convenience between EA, Disney and those pesky Midi-chlorians.
Let’s start with something obvious. That may seem trite, but it’s obvious precisely because it’s a game a lot of people will have been wanting. Yep, I’m talking about Knights of the Old Republic 3.
Of course, this would first require BioWare to re-discover the writing mojo that seems in recent years to not just have gone off the rails but done a double axel flip and ended up in a ditch on fire. Assuming the team could scratch together enough of the writers who kept games like Knights of the Old Republic and the first Mass Effect relatively on track (and coax Drew Karpyshyn out of retirement,) KotOR3 might be something to look forward to.
Alternatively, BioWare could be given the freedom to create an all-new RPG series, set and based anywhere in the Star Wars canon. With the studio already locked into another Dragon Age and Mass Effect game, the staff might appreciate the (relative) creative license.
With DICE being mentioned as one of the studios EA will be employing to make these games, the connection between Battlefield and Battlefront also rumbles into view. That’s largely to do with the similarity of naming conventions, but a first/third person shooter that blended the best portions of both series would be a tempting prospect. EA would even have been able to call on the original Battlefront developers for their expertise, had the company not unceremoniously shut down Pandemic Studios in 2009.
Such ideas, however, are a bit too mainstream. If EA really wants to rebuild its reputation, it needs to take some major risks. After the customer-alienating series of events around SimCity, Maxis could do with a public relations boost as well. The answer? SimDeathStar, naturally. Creating and managing both structure and staff of a planet-sized mega-weapon would bring together the most appealing aspects of SimCity and The Sims. Sorting out your defenses against the rebel hordes is important, but so is keeping your Storm Troopers happy with a well-stocked canteen. Might be an idea to make it playable offline, too.
Since we’re already in the realms of the unlikely, a new X-Wing or TIE Fighter title wouldn’t go amiss either. Granted, EA probably wouldn’t see a space sim as commercially viable and none of their in-house studios have experience making them; but maybe Criterion would like to apply their knowledge of high speed racing to high speed spacecraft? Hey, cars are just X-wings that obey different physical laws.
Our Dark Side scenarios are not seductive or intriguing. They’re just a deep void of customer hardship, corporate dominance and directionless greed. Perfect, in other words, for EA’s baser capitalist desires.
Imagine, if you dare, a world where DICE are forced at lightsaber point to an FPS based around the life and times of Jar Jar Binks. Disappointing enough, especially if you aren’t shooting at the annoying little turd. Now consider an MMO-like persistant economy, fueled by endless microtransactions and demanding of an always-online connection. Want Jar Jar to stop making irritating quips every time you do anything? That’ll be $3.99. Need more ammunition? Another $1.00 please. Trying to quit the game, become a technology hermit and give up on this terrible hobby forever? Not until you fork out $15.00, son.
Perhaps that’s a touch extreme. It’s more likely to ponder the possibility that EA will just exploit its newfound license in the laziest way known to man; by combining it with the most played-out trend in gaming. Sure, Disney retained rights for social and mobile games, but that won’t stop the dread hand of EA reaching out to PopCap and demanding that they make Star Wars vs. Zombies. It’s a popular license mixed with zombies! What could anybody find to complain about there? Except total and utter creative bankruptcy, that is.
The chance of another Knights of the Old Republic has already been brought up, but the evidence of BioWare’s last few games has betrayed what the studio really wants to be writing: romance sims. And in the Star Wars universe there’s only one romance awful enough to be considered truly ‘Dark Side.’ Yes, it’s the passion-draining, cardboard-faced horror of Anakin and Padme (actual line of dialogue from their scintillating courtship: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.”)
Get ready for an action-packed title where YOUR moral choices will determine whether Padme responds by looking bored, a bit gassy or bored and a bit gassy.
EA won’t forget about its sports fans either. FIFA and Madden will be taking a hiatus while every single EA Sports studio combines its talents on an experimental, browser-based EwokBall game. Players will trade virtual Ewok cards using a similar system to FIFA’s ‘Ultimate Team’; except no-one will take part in any actual matches. All results will be generated by server-side algorithms based on how much you’ve spent on new cards in the past 24 hours.
Those very same servers will be switched off by EA after about six months; but while this action would normally indicate a disgraceful lack of respect towards its customers, in this instance it will greeted as a blessed relief.