Anthem’s less than stellar launch is just the latest in a string of continuous evidences that show that things at BioWare have been not right for some time now- and sure enough, a recent report from Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has brought to light the saddening state the studio has recently found itself is. The report sheds light on the bevy of issues that plagued Anthem during development, but what’s shocking is just how problematic those issues were- because as it turns out, the game hadn’t even entered production until after it was first revealed at E3 2017, and the vast majority of it was developed within a short span of the 12-16 months before its launch.
That, of course, also means that the E3 2017 reveal demo that was shown off was “largely fake”, and was just as much of an eye-opener regarding what Anthem is going to be for its developers as it was for audiences. That was in large part because of what several anonymous BioWare employees and ex-employees who worked on Anthem say was a lack of vision from the creative leadership of the project.
“The root cause of all this was that lack of vision,” one developer reportedly said. “What are we making? Please tell us. The recurring theme was there was no vision, there was no clarity, there was no single director saying, ‘This is how it all works together.’ They never seemed to settle on anything. They were always looking for something more, something new.”
“I think most people on the team felt like we didn’t know exactly what the game was or what it was supposed to be because it kept changing so much,” another developer said, as per the report.
That meant multiple changes and rewrites to the story, indecision on whether or not to include flying mechanics in the game, confusion regarding how to implement loot, shifting decisions on how to structure the world and how many cities and settlements it would have for players to explore, and many, many more things. Of course, another major reason for the troubled development that took more time than it should have was the mandate that BioWare had to use the Frostbite engine (though at least it does seem like they’re trying to learn from their mistakes, and won’t be making the decision to start from scratch with the engine with future projects).
Finally, Mark Darrah, executive producer of the Dragon Age series, was brought onboard Anthem in Fall of 2017, and quickly took the reigns. Under his leadership, the team was given some semblance of focus and an endgame to work towards- cobble together a product by the end of the fiscal year 2018-19, beyond which point EA was unwilling to delay the game any further. And Anthem – the game we see and play today – was hurriedly put together in a matter of just twelve to sixteen months.
The state of affairs at BioWare is disheartening to see, especially because the problem seems to be a systemic one that has reared its head on more than one occasion. The Frostbite engine should rightly be blamed for several of those issues, but Mass Effect Andromeda also suffered from indecision on the developers’ part, which led to the final product hastily being put together in the final months before its launch.
One can only hope that BioWare has learned its lessons.