The Secrets Behind Redfall
There may not be many surprises here, but it perhaps confirms what we all suspected. A new article from Jason Schreier has spilled the beans behind Redfall’s miserable development, and its critically poor reception.
This isn’t an article revisiting what is already at Bloomberg. In short: Redfall was planned as a GaaS title, but direction was extremely muddled. Morale was low. Microsoft did nothing to fix the project. The most damning part, in my eyes, is that staff at Arcane Austin hoped Microsoft’s acquisition would see the game given a single-player reboot – or cancelled entirely.
Go and read the Bloomberg article. It’s very interesting. It shows where we are as an industry. This idea, once again, of how you can possibly monetize a game that might take five or six years to create. How do you offset those risks? People who are suffering with brain injury may suggest you “make better games”. Everybody else knows this has been an ongoing problem for over a decade and is only getting worse.
And that’s why publishers are chasing the ever-fruitful Fortnite fortune. Except it doesn’t exist for any game not called Fortnite, or Call of Duty, or…
And that’s the nature of the game. You can’t hit a button and make Redfall into a massive financial success, with thousands of whales spending millions of pounds each quarter. You can try to do that. And you’re probably going to fail.
There are two elements to this story I want to explore. The first is the attitude of developers – the guys who actually made the bits and pieces of the game, not management. And the attitude of Microsoft.
How Redfall Failed
Realistically, these two positions are entirely linked. Developers were unhappy with the direction of the game, and unhappy with the work being done. The article says 70 percent of staff who worked on Prey are no longer at Arcane Austin, although we need more information for context there. It, at the very least, suggests that things were off.
But why wasn’t this listened to? And how could the project have pushed forward when morale was so low? The answer, unfortunately, is that nobody listened to these people – many experts in their field, I’m sure. There were monetary and gameplay models to chase, and the quality of the game came second.
Microsoft is getting some stick off the back of this too. And, in part, this is rightly so. They saw this game and instantly leapt into action: they cancelled the PlayStation version.
They allowed Bethesda and Arcane to continue working as they were, despite the fact that it had led them to being acquired. Which is the exact opposite criticism as we were all giving Xbox in 2013.
But it is a valid criticism nonetheless. The level of oversight led directly to a poorer game, whatever the intention there was.
Connecting these two thoughts shows where the issue really lies. When you’re not making the game any of your developers want to make, and when the only people with creative freedom are the people demanding multiplayer and microtransactions, the end result is going to suffer. Obvious, no?
And the change needs to come from above. Not just trotting out passion projects like HiFi Rush, where individual boy wonders are lionised. But valuing staff, and not putting the horse before the cart.
I look forward to writing this article again when Suicide Squad is released.