BioWare’s precipitous fall from grace in the last few years has also been accompanied by their forced adoption of DICE’s Frostbite engine, which almost every internally developed EA game now uses. Frostbite is a great engine, that can put out some gorgeous games, and has created some of the best looking shooters on the market. Unfortunately, it’s also completely unsuited to RPGs, which has led to BioWare struggling to get it to do what they want—and ignoring other critical things in their development process (such as quality assurance) along the way.
This is no longer just speculation. No less than former BioWare General Manager Aaron Flynn has admitted as much in a candid interview with GamesIndustry, where he has pointed out that though the Frostbite Engine has a lot of strengths, trying to use it for RPG development is like attempting to push a square peg into a round hole.
“… we switched to an engine called Frostbite. And Frostbite is an EA internal engine; very powerful, fast, beautiful, purpose built to do some really cool stuff. But it’s also extremely delicate and needs a huge crew,” he said.
“Incredible, impressive feats of technology, really at the bleeding edge of what’s possible,” Flynn said. “But they require a huge crew of folks to maintain them and get that optimum performance out of them. And that really is the metaphor for at least the earliest days of Frostbite.
“It was getting harder and harder to make the content that people wanted,” Flynn said of his experience with Frostbite. “It was harder and harder to move that content through these pipelines and do things. And even though we had more people — we had more teams, more folks — we were slowing down the rate at which we could build and craft these experiences.”
There have been reports that Respawn’s ongoing success (first with Apex Legends and then with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order) may have convinced EA to stop forcing all developers to use Frostbite, which… is a good, if long in the coming, realization. All I can hope is that freed of the shackles of Frostbite, BioWare can start putting out the sort of generation defining experiences that they were once synonymous with.