Jason Schrier's Anthem piece for kotaku is done and out, it's a doozy


#1

I’m still reading through it because it’s a very meaty article, but bioware posting a preprepared response within 3 minutes of it going live is wild to me.


#2

It’s amazing how good Jason is at this. This piece is devastating.

Manveer Heir is going off on another one of his “yo, fuck frostbite” rants again which is fun


#3

I’m guessing Schreier gave them a heads up and last minute chance to comment before the article went up. At which point the PR flacks went to work.


#4

This piece is sooooo good. Super fascinating.


#5

So, It’s less that there was a prepared response. He reached out for comment and they knew this was coming. But they had it up in his own words, before anyone could even have read the article. They knew this was going to look positively awful for them.


#6

Bioware’s response is also interesting in context of that article because it seems out of touch with the content Jason wrote.

“We chose not to comment or participate in this story because we felt there was an unfair focus on specific team members and leaders, who did their absolute best to bring this totally new idea to fans.”

I read the whole article and he doesn’t really drag any particular member. He mentions “leadership” having issues a few times, but mostly criticizes the company culture as a whole.


#7

If you reframe the idea of an article (that a lot of people won’t read beyond a headline) to look like character assassination, you might mitigate the amount of people who notice that structural critique actually has a point.

Including, y’know, games workers who have their employer’s structure deliberately obfuscated and normalized on the reg, who might even start seeing the point of all this union talk, too.


#8

Yep. It’s also possible that he named names more specifically in his request for comment in instances where it made sense, given that he was talking to BioWare/EA, not writing for the public. With the depth of his interviews/sourcing, I find it hard to believe he’s not sitting on a wealth of accounts about very particular incidents that are corroborated by multiple people. (And that are non-specific enough to avoid disclosing sources.)


#9

Having finished it, one of the things i find most interesting is this is an almost beat for beat retread of what happened to andromeda partially borne out of studio directives directly trying to prevent another andromeda “Make it unmemeable”.


#10

i’m grateful for schreier’s articles but good fucking god i hate kotaku’s layout (haven’t finished reading yet)


#11

Kinja is such an incredibly hostile CMS


#12

Hearing about stress leaves and instances of developers hiding away to cry and attempt to relieve stress was particularly upsetting and damning of their company structure.
I felt like I could physically touch the developer’s frustrations in this piece regarding upper management and the direction of the game, not to mention the slim time-frame they all had to crunch to get the thing out the door in the end.
My heart goes out to all the devs involved, and who felt they had to quit to preserve their health.

I don’t think multimillion dollar companies like EA can sufficiently acknowledge human lives but I hope this piece can open up the eyes for potential pitfalls of other developers including studio management and leads in the future.

Also, EA, let your bloody developers use a third party engine for god damn sake.


#13

OMG. There is literally nothing worse for any project than decision makers who won’t make decisions. The final product makes so much sense in this light.

Also, I don’t want anyone to feel they have to sit on their office and cry. I feel torn about buying this one now. I want those people to be okay, but I hate rewarding the mgmt that led to that :frowning: Please come work in not-games, crying developers. We pay better and there’s way less tears.

Edit: Also. Non technical people insisting everyone should use the same tech: also the worst.


#14

This piece is great! As always, it’s well reported and surprisingly specific!

I have some problems with Jason’s framing of these issues though. He often starts by listing off a game’s critical and commercial failures before getting into the nitty gritty of how awful the game was to work on. I think the implication is that we should care about labor issues in the industry because they result in worse games, but I think that’s wrong headed and insidious. If we keep framing this as an issue of quality, publishers will just hear that we only care about people being treated poorly if the game is bad.


#15

major this, the idea that games are bad /because/ of bad labor practices, rather than bad labor practices being bad in and of themselves, only leads to muddied discourse when you get major titles like Red Dead that critically succeed despite widely publicized labor issues. game-likers end up seeing the two side-to-side and naturally (if completely incorrectly) waving it off as “excuses for why the game is bad”, and the notion of crunch-as-real-development continues unabated.

Anthem isn’t just Bad Game because people crunched on it, it’s bad AND ALSO was plagued by terrible management and crunch, which need to be weeded out of the industry irrespective of whether the products they produce pass the Fun test


#16

I find the UK version more manageable than the US version (but then you are UK based? So maybe you dislike that still)


#17

i am UK based, i tried to mess around in developer console to make the thing full width but i couldn’t find the right container, so i just settled for zooming out to like 65%


#18

My favorite part is that Bioware management refused to even let anyone say the word “Destiny” oh my god.

God this whole things sucks for all those developers who had to be led around by such an incompetent, egotistical management. I would not be surprised in the slightest if the only remaining Bioware office ends up being the Austin one at this rate.


#19

I’m very curious what was going to be in that cancelled GDC talk bioware was going to give about “pile of sand” development. All the indications are that it sounds like they rebranded big bang software development, which is terrible. The description made it seem like they thought the bioware magic was going to happen and then anthem came out and they had to face the fact that it truly was half baked and no one was going to follow their development methodology.


#20

I’m not really able to share the general enthusiasm around this piece, because frankly: It’s almost exactly the same story as always.

It’s always about mismanagement, a culture where people are too afraid to speak their minds and workers being exploited just to keep fueling an unsustainable hype machine.

And as soon as the next big game hits, every games site is going to flood the internet with content and maybe even mention how the workers that made that game got treated poorly, but at least the game was good. And if not, we might get another 3000 word report about mismanagement out of it.

I don’t have a good suggestion what to do differently here, but I’m just so tired about reading these same types of stories, without any real desire to push for something better.

Sure this push also has to come from folks who are working under these conditions, but I’m pretty sure games media at large can do more than publishing pieces like this every six months.