The Saints Row reboot was initially planned to follow directly from Saints Row 4’s ending, but the idea was dropped early in development. This is according to an anonymous worker, who says that Saints Row’s development was a crunchy, hectic mess.
In a new episode of Matt McMuscles’s YouTube series, What Happened?, the anonymous dev shares their experience on the project, which they say struggled to find its identity throughout development. After it was decided that Saints Row 4 would be left behind entirely, the dev says the team struggled to come up with a solid replacement for the old characters, leading to delays only exacerbated by mass resignations and issues with their publisher, Deep Silver.
“The original pitch way back in late 2017 was it was going to be a Saints Row sequel/reboot but based on the ending of SR4,” says the source, speaking in the latest episode of What Happened?. “It was going to have the same characters from SR4 and it was going to involve the player rebuilding their gang empire back up from scratch since they were in some weird dimension/the past based on the ending of SR4.”
This is a very significant change in direction since the decision to reboot the franchise rather than continue with the same cast upset many fans. Still, the reasoning makes sense – the devs didn’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over again. After Saints Row 4, they had to take it back to basics, and the original cast had already done basics in the first two games.
However, according to the source, the team struggled to settle on a new theme. This apparently led to a lot of abrupt story changes late into development.
“There was a lot of adjustment on the fly to simply make the story work and still make sense,” says the source. “Hell, whole previously unplanned missions were added into the production cycle of the game just to make the characters make more sense and hope the player would care about them more.”
As Saints Row inched closer to its planned 2020 release date, the source says the team was mandated to ensure the game could be completed without any crashes. They say this was impossible, but trying to make it work led to excessive crunch, with some devs working shifts of more than 12 hours at a time.
“The crunch and lack of idea cohesion caused a lot of people to lose faith in the project and the studio started bleeding people at a constant rate,” the dev says. “Two to three people would leave a week at its worst point.”
The source is quick to praise the work of the team, and says it was a “small miracle” that Saints Row ever launched at all. Unfortunately, we all know how the story ends, with Volition shut down after 30 years in the business. It’s been a terrible year for layoffs in the gaming industry, especially for companies owned by Embracer Group, and it is almost exclusively felt by the employees on the ground, crunching to get these games out. It remains to be seen if these closures and layoffs slow down before the end of the year, but Embracer shows little signs of stabilising anytime soon.
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