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

If you haven’t already, I would suggest seeking out Jason’s deep dives on Mass Effect Andromeda and Dragon Age Inquisition. Frostbite is one of the common themes of all these games development hells.

Ohhhhh boy

oh man that ratio ooooooof


It would almost be beautiful if it wasn’t so damn despicable.

I was thinking more about this and I’m left wondering how much we as laymen can foist blame for this mess on Frostbite. I’m not saying it isn’t a cause, and Schreier’s reporting on BioWare these past few years certainly shows Frostbite to be a common source of woes. But then I think back to articles like this that show how little the average player knows about game engines in general. So I’m left thinking that while we should discuss this article and criticize BioWare’s poor practices, should Frostbite be a legitimate avenue of criticism for the bulk of us without CS or game dev experience? I’m not sure how to answer that as I’m coming from a place of not knowing what I don’t know. What do you peeps think?

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We shouldn’t, Anthem sucks ass because employees were treated like shit and its development was an unfocused shitshow. There’s plenty of games that were saddled with a less than ideal engine on some technical level but are still awesome.

There’s a lot of text on the internet from developers talking about bad experiences with it. However, it should be kept in mind it’s only one piece of a whole story. It’s part of the bigger web of bad management and ignorant corporate mandates. It being foisted upon people is part of misguided money-saving measures and probably a myopic viewpoint of “it’s pretty so it must be good.”

I think that’s a valid concern, however, there seems to have been enough documented reporting on the issues Frostbite brings to the table that it’s a valid point to make. These are reports from game devs, people who worked with FB and the requisite knowledge to make an informed opinion on the difficulties it entails.

Then again, the issue with Frostbite isn’t to be taken in a vaccuum. It’s an issue largely stemming from top down decision making by people who don’t have their feet on the ground in the dev studios and a lack of resource distribution based on financial projections. If Frostbite is annoying to work with, why are devs forced to use it? Why are they not provided with people and resources that can help them circumvent the bullshit? Ultimately the blame should fall mostly on management and EA not prioritizing their studios in favor of cost cutting.

I think it’s fine as long as we treat it as one of the many problems and not the only one.

So, if we substitute layman for people who read reddit in this case I think the report did a good job making it clear frostbite wasn’t the only issue here. I skimmed the r/anthem one out of morbid curiosity yesterday and there was both a lot of sympathy for the exploited workers and a lot of the animosity seemed to be pointed at management in general, the rest of it was mostly stuff like RIP DA4.

Yeah, most of the ire I’ve seen levelled at Frostbite has been in the context of it being a shitty business decision by EA that doesn’t work in practice and overlooks the nuances of different types of games.


I think Frostbite discourse is still pretty different from Gamebryo/Creation Engine discourse, for example. There’s this narrative with Bethesda that they have to stop using their engine because their games are busted and broken and it’s all cause of the engine. Frostbite isn’t really discussed this way by consumers, possibly because there’s words from actual developers and not just discussion among the mod and consumer community. There’s obviously Battlefield bug gifs (especially with like 3/4?) but the engine simply isn’t discussed as this total trash fire by gamers as a whole.

I think in this instance the gaming community as a whole is doing okay so long as Frostbite is (generally) recognized as one part of a bigger problem rather than this bogeyman to point at as “the reason all the EA games are buggy now” or something.


A steadfast commitment to using the same software, or having someone else’s proprietary tools foisted on you due to corporate machinations, are far more often symptoms of a pipeline problem than the primary cause of it.

I was excited that Square-Enix started transitioning to using middleware like UE4, not because proprietary suites like Crystal Tools and Luminous Engine are necessarily bad and impossible to work with, but because it represents a willingness to embrace fundamental change within their development process.


I think the difference is that Frostbite looks good. Like it makes damn good environments and beautiful games. While other engines like Bethesda’s or the late Telltale’s notorious in-house engine made cruddy looking games with obvious bugs. You can make a fantastic trailer with Frostbite and for a lot of people that’s good enough.

Also you’d think EA would have looked at some point at SE’s well-known struggles with their White Engine/Crystal Tools/FFXV whatever and realized “yeah, one engine for everything isn’t a good idea”.

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Yeah, the issue with Frostbite isn’t that it’s incapable of making impressive things. From what I’ve read of it, it sounds like a LOT of poorly-handled internal software in that the team that made it made it for a very specific purpose (in this case, making Battlefield shooters), and made it for themselves alone with no documentation or framework to help outsiders use it for anything else, and EA decided to…use it for EVERYTHING else, because it was “free.” The analogy from the ME:A article seems pretty good: it’s like a Formula One race car, in that it’s EXTREMELY GOOD at the one, very specific thing it was designed to do, and pretty hopeless at nearly anything else. Whereas Unreal, with its huge mountains of documentation and it being designed to be used by anybody for anything, is like a general-purpose SUV or something that maybe can’t hit 300mph but is capable of doing pretty much whatever you want to use it for.


I have not seen gamers talking about Frostbite with the same disdain that they’ve levied at Bethesda’s engine or, more frequently, at Unity. The Bethesda complaints are consistent and focused, given the breadth of their product line: the games look and feel the same, and they break in the same ways. The Unity complaints are more general, given that thousands of games are made by thousands of developers worldwide: games on Unity “feel the same” or “feel crappy”, they have that “Unity look”, and they “don’t run well on my build”. Mealy-mouthed nothing criticisms made by people who can’t better articulate that they don’t want to like Unity games without admitting a bias.

No one is going to make the case for the beauty of Bethesda RPGs. They look junky these days. On the other hand, Unity games can look gorgeous. When gamers think about Unity, though, they don’t think about AAA titles with huge art departments. They think about indie studios making comfy games about hugging frogs or dating pencils or whatever non-gamer shit indie devs are ruining the industry with. To the gamer, indie games look like shit, indie devs use Unity, therefore, Unity looks like shit.

By comparison, Frostbite is at the other end of the spectrum. It’s an engine that sprung forth from the pipeline that produces the Battlefield franchise, one of the most visually spectacular franchises in the industry. It’s used almost exclusively by AAA studios. The games that come out of it, fraught though they are, are uniformly pretty. Gamers don’t notice Frostbite because they think of engines in terms of how they look above all else. If it isn’t ugly or framey or utterly incompetent, then the engine is fine; any other problems must be caused by something else.

EA is also good at plowing through surface-level problems with millions of dollars and dozens of external devs from other studios when studios get stuck on Frostbite problems. This seems to result in a game that runs well and basically does what it’s supposed to, but is mired by the consequences of time and energy wasted trying to make the engine work for years prior. The problems that remain aren’t busted graphics or bad framerates, but long load times and missing content and other shit that devs just couldn’t figure out how to make work properly in a timely fashion. Still caused by the engine, but, to the gamer, not perceivable as such.

To put it extremely bluntly, gamers are fucking dumbasses who are dazzled by spectacle like Romero zombies watching fireworks. That’s literally the only reason Frostbite isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Creation Engine and Unity.


I’m gonna push back on this, I’ve seen a shitload of people since anthem launch talking/speculating about how a lot of that game’s problems are frostbite related. Nobody shits on frostbite because it doesn’t make a pretty game, but things like not being able to change gear mid mission and all of the loading screens are very reminiscent of problems in other frostbite games. It’s just a known quantity that it’s very powerful but a pain to work with and certainly wasn’t meant to be used for all the games EA mandated use it so changes and content updates come at glacial paces. After DA:I and ME:A I think people actually have a pretty good idea about what frostbites problems are.

Re; Frostbite

Did the switch to Frostbite hamper FIFA, Madden, or NFS with similar technical issues? Were those studios simply given more support from EA to iron out bugs, or did the scope of those games mesh more cleanly with the tools developed for that engine?

The Kotaku article says FIFA got lots of Frostbite-experienced programmers, some of whom were transferred from Bioware!

It’s probably a little of Column A, a little of Column B.

In the Column A camp, at least, there are bits in Jason’s piece that mention:

  • People at BioWare who had experience with Frostbite were pulled off Anthem by EA to go help on FIFA.

  • There’s a core little group of people at EA, or maybe DICE specifically, who work on Frostbite and support other divisions using it, and those people prioritized help tickets from teams working on lucrative things like FIFA over questions from BioWare about their stuff.