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Redfall suffered unclear direction during development, new report suggests

As well as staffing issues.

Four lead characters from Redfall walking towards camera away from dusty town accompanied by a small walking robot
Image credit: Arkane Austin

The development of Redfall, Arkane's latest multiplayer shooter, was plagued with issues like unclear direction, frequent attrition, and a lack of staff.

That's according to a new report by Bloomberg, speaking to over a dozen anonymous developers who worked on the game.

Microsoft had billed Redfall as its next big exclusive game, but it ultimately proved a critical and commercial failure.

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The report states that Bethesda parent company ZeniMax was encouraging studios to develop 'games as a service' that could generate revenue post-release, all while it sought to sell itself.

As such - and following the commercially unsuccessful Prey - bosses at Arkane wanted to create a more broadly appealing game, which emerged as Redfall.

However, Redfall was pitched to staff as a "multiplayer Arkane game", with some staff confused as to how that incorporated the 'immersive sim' elements the studio was known for. The game's directors Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare have been accused by staff of not providing clear direction.

The likes of Far Cry and Borderlands were referenced, but the vision was unclear and left a fundamental tension between single-player and multiplayer design. Redfall also had a significant microtransaction plan in place for its first three years of development. This was only removed in 2021 as monetisation plans were scrapped.

Moreover, Arkane's office in Austin employed less than 100 people, meaning the team was understaffed to compete with other popular multiplayer games. As morale suffered, developers uninterested in a multiplayer game left; by the end of Redfall's development, around 70 percent of staff who worked on Prey had left the studio.

Arkane then struggled to fill vacancies owing to ZeniMax's reputation for lower than average salaries and the conservative policies of the studio's home state of Texas. This was exacerbated due to the game's unannounced status, meaning game details could not be shared with prospective employees. Many were looking to work on immersive sims, where Arkane wanted staff with multiplayer experience.

Microsoft's $7.5bn acquisition of ZeniMax did not improve the situation, as staff had hoped. Microsoft took a hands-off approach, allowing issues to persist. Xbox boss Phil Spencer admitted in a recent interview that Microsoft "didn't do a good job early on in engaging with Arkane Austin".

In the game's final months of development, leadership assured staff that "Arkane magic" would manifest, even after delays. The game's poor reception suggests otherwise.

Our Eurogamer review of Redfall did note it has "moments of real charm" while admitting "Redfall doesn't really know what it is".

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