Development so troubled that developers hoped it would just get cancelled.
Screenshot from the game Redfall.

It may come as no surprise to you to hear that the development of Redfall from Arkane Austin was plagued with issues at all levels. This includes a lack of oversight from Xbox management, staffing issues, and an ever changing design basis for the game itself. When Redfall launched last month, it was met with plenty of poor review scores from critics and players. It was filled with a myriad of technical bugs, poor design, poor gameplay structure, and the list goes on.

A new report from Bloomberg sheds some light on just what in the world went wrong with the development of Redfall. Here's a hint: Everything.

The troubles began around the time that Xbox finalized their acquisition of ZeniMax in 2020. Redfall was already about two years into development at that point but it was going so poorly at Arkane that several developers working on the game simply hoped that it would either be rebooted as a single player game or cancelled completely.

The push to have Redfall be a multiplayer title was made by Arkane's parent company, ZeniMax. For a studio that is full of developers that have only known single-player game development, such as 2017's Prey, this shift to multiplayer caused major issues for a lot of them. Bloomberg reports that nearly 70% of the team working on Redfall ended up leaving by the end of the game's development.

Replacing these team members that left also proved to be incredibly difficult for Arkane. Again, the studio is known for crafting high-quality single-player immersive sims. Thus, most of the people applying to work at Arkane were also far more proficient in creating single-player games and not multiplayer experiences. This led to situations where it was difficult to find enough developers to replace those that left. It also resulted in a development team that was "perpetually understaffed" with a team of fewer than 100 employees.

Problems also came from the top. Bloomberg's sources say that management constantly shifted what Redfall was supposed to be. One day management would say that Redfall is going to be more like Far Cry while the next they would say Redfall was going to be more like Borderlands. Developers were left with no clear idea just what kind of game they were actually making due to this constant shift, with some leaning more towards a single-player experience and others leaning harder into multiplayer.

Staff members said that, over time, they grew frustrated with management’s frequently shifting references to other games, such as Far Cry and Borderlands, that left each department with varying ideas of what exactly they were making. Throughout the development, the fundamental tension between single-player and multiplayer design remained unresolved.
Despite ZeniMax being owned by Xbox, Microsoft was largely hands-off on Redfall's development. According to the report, the only definitive thing Microsoft did concerning Redfall was cancel a planned PlayStation release. Beyond that, Microsoft allowed ZeniMax to continue operating with near full autonomy.

Redfall also had "significant" microtransaction plans for the first three years of the game's development. It wasn't until 2021 when that idea was ultimately scrapped.

Bloomberg also heard from several people that played Redfall back in 2021. Those sources were "shocked to see how little ultimately changed" with Redfall between what they played in 2021 and what was ultimately released.

Worst of all is the hope by management of the "Arkane magic" showing up at the last minute to save the day.

Yet during the final frantic months, the remaining Arkane staff found themselves stretched thin and the debut date was pushed back from Halloween of 2022 to early 2023 and then eventually to May 2, 2023. Along the way, Smith and other leaders assured the staff that the game would get exponentially better once the final art was implemented and the bugs were fixed, promising that “Arkane magic” would manifest at the last minute as it had with previous games.
If "Arkane magic" sounds familiar to you, it's probably because the same statement was said about the development of BioWare's Anthem. In a post-mortem examination of Anthem's development, "BioWare magic" was brought up. This was the belief that "no matter how rough a game's production might be, things will always come together in the final months."

To look at it another way: The "magic" at both BioWare and Arkane is less mystical and more akin to long hours of exhausting crunch to try to get a game ready for release. In both cases, that "magic"/crunch did not result in a good finished product.

Redfall has been out now for almost a month and there has been zero communication from Arkane. There have been nothing shared on the game's socials, Arkane's socials, or the Redfall website about future updates. There has been nothing said about what they may or may not be trying to fix with Redfall, nor has there even been one of those apology letters that have become so prevalent as of late. The (so far) only update for Redfall came six days after the game's release and included just three fixes. The only "apology" issued by anybody was from Xbox's Phil Spencer who took "full responsibility" for how Redfall ended up the way it is.