Good news for fans of dystopian parkour simulators: EA CEO John Riccitiello thinks that despite mediocre sales, Mirror's Edge deserves to come back - but the game's design is at a bit of a crossroads right now.
Hang on to your hats, folks - it's recap time: Back in June, we learned that a sequel to 2008's Mirror's Edge was in the works, causing people who'd liked the first game to breathe a sigh of relief. After all, while Mirror's Edge was an innovative title in a sea of clones, its sales were below what publisher EA had been hoping for, and many feared that performing below expectations would harm prospects for a sequel based on the bottom line.
The good news turned to bad last month, when EA announced that it would be laying off 1,500 workers and canceling more than a dozen unannounced projects - specifically, titles that didn't "measure up to looking like [they] can pencil out to be a very high profit contributor and high unit seller." The news rekindled fears that any prospective sequel had been canned, until Mirror's Edge 2 showed up on a designer's profile earlier this week.
Now, speaking with Kotaku at an interview in New York, EA big boss John Riccitiello says that he wants to see Mirror's Edge make a return: "We're still working through things like how to best deal with Mirror's Edge 2," he said. "There are some things we learned about that [first] game. It was, I think, a massively innovative product. To be honest with you, I think it's a game that deserves to come back."
That doesn't mean that Riccitiello thinks the first game was flawless, though - and development on a sequel means learning how to build on the original while correcting its mistakes. "Innovation doesn't mean it all works the first time ... If it did everyone would do it." In the case of Mirror's Edge 2, said the EA chieftain, this meant capitalizing on the game's strengths - its unique and recognizable aesthetic and original gameplay - while improving the flow and finding an identity:
I think Mirror's Edge was a fascinatingly original world. Fascinatingly original art direction. Music and sound design was great. I think the gameplay mechanic was a blast, but was intermittent and the levels didn't work. You found yourself scratching at walls at times, looking for what to do. Sometimes you had a roll going, downhill, slide, jump, slide, jump and then you just got stopped. It sort of got in the way of the fun.
It was like we couldn't quite decide if we were building Portal or a runner ... I've had several very lively debates with the dev team. And they are working on it. But there's a couple of different directions you could go.
You could say: This thing needs to be more traditional. It's first-person game. There's a lot of successful FPS products out there that do really well. We could move in that direction.
Or [you could say]: This was never about guns. It was about its stark originality. Maybe we can back away from some of those [older] things... and emphasize the smooth play and puzzles and move it toward, if you will, a Portal.
Personally, I'd like to see a Mirror's Edge 2 that moved away from gunplay. The idea was that Faith was an athlete, able to run from the cops (who would be just normal people doing their duty, no?) or to take them down nonlethally through quick and agile disarms. Adding watered down gunfights made the game a mediocre shooter instead of focusing on the strengths of running one's way through a starkly beautiful urban setting.
So if it were up to me, Mr Riccitiello, I'd tell you to do that. But it's not, so all we can do is hope for the best - for a sequel that legitimately improves on the original.
Maybe they should ask the team that worked on Assassin's Creed II for pointers.