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


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.


It’s also a question of what the engine needs to be contorted to do. Before inquisition it had no real concept of inventory or saving and loading, things RPGs need but not like, fifa multiplayer. I also remember something about Need for Speed that has all of the cars have an invisible gun because it’s a battlefield game engine and they couldn’t figure out how to separate the must have a gun part out.


I also remember something about Need for Speed that has all of the cars have an invisible gun because it’s a battlefield game engine and they couldn’t figure out how to separate the must have a gun part out.

Surprised the NRA can afford this level of cultural propaganda, considering their dire financial straits.


I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that FIFA also had some issues regarding Frostbite. Something about the engine not being able to go through all the data which resultere in some animations that weren’t great.


This is great reporting.

It’s also a huge bummer. When I was a kid I was blown away by Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2. I had brief dreams of becoming a writer for Bioware. Glad I didn’t go down that road!


I often in my head cannot reconcile that the Bioware that made Baldur’s Gate and the Bioware that makes games like Anthem and Dragon Age are the same.



So Bioware management is not taking things well



This is an increasingly bad look for them. Wow.


Well, I guess if that doesn’t change, I’ll be skipping out on any future Bioware releases. They can either fix their culture and be good to their employees or they can lose business.

Like, even if the myth that this suffering created “better” games was true, I’d still rather have a good-instead-of-great game than give money to a company that’s causing people this kind of stress. But the myth is a myth, and their own games keep turning out poorly despite their belief in it.

Ugh. This whole thing is such a goddamn mess.


The piece gave me some sympathy for Bioware management – it sounds like a lot of their problems were inflicted or exacerbated by EA corporate – but their response so far is really burning through whatever goodwill I had. Oof.


To just push back a little on the horror at the “Bioware Magic” bit; it’s obviously poor planning to just assume that everything will work out. But at the same time, there’s a generally accepted conventional wisdom that developers don’t even know if their game is actually good until they get to the end of development and all the systems start coalescing together. Like, even if they have faith in individual pillars, there’s no knowing for sure how they’ll work together until they’re actually working together. Look at any of the stories about God of War, for example.

To me, that’s what it seems like they’re saying about Bioware Magic. The trust that when all the pieces fall into place, they will take the shape they’ve been aiming towards. I imagine not having that trust is a recipe for an endless cycle of tinkering and hesitation. When you’re making something at this scale, belief in Bioware Magic seems less like a liability and more like a necessity.


I would be willing to give them this benefit of the doubt if not for the fact that Inquisition used “Bioware Magic”/crunch to get out the door as a successful game. It seems as though the crunch and magic are being somewhat conflated. Because even if game development is messy, complicated and hard to predict, the way to resolve that is with good management and preparations. Rather than leaning on the workers to “fix” problems by burning themselves and then rebranding it as “passion” or “magic” to obfuscate any employees having serious introspection about what happened.


A weird response I’m seeing a lot of is “now can we stop blaming EA, this is Bioware’s doing,” and it’s totally baffling me.

Like, the Frostbite thing is part of the article for a reason, and I’m not sure why that is not getting a lot of blame. Manveer, who literally talked about working for Bioware when he was on Waypoint Radio a while ago, said on twitter it was the worst engine he’d ever used and basic things like baking lights took 24 hours instead of two.

Frostbite can’t be blamed for Bioware’s tremendously awful mismanagement, of course. But how can we ignore it was a massively exacerbating factor? Anthem would still have a troubled development regardless, but how would working in a better supported, less insular engine have benefited them? How many of these issues were made dramatically worse by working with an engine that fought them every step of the way? Also how much crunch and overtime was demanded by this awful piece of technology?


This “Bioware magic” bullshit isn’t even unique. Y’all remember this from the RDR2 fiasco?

“Houser later, in [a profile by GQ magazine’s U.K. edition] that carried the same tone as New York Magazine’s, spoke patronizingly about development. “Sam [his brother and Rockstar co-founder] and I talk about this a lot, and it’s that games are still magical. It’s like they’re made by elves,” he said. “You turn on the screen and it’s just this world that exists on TV. I think you gain something by not knowing how they’re made.””


It’s common for projects to not really coalesce into a cohesive whole in the last several months, usually because the individual parts have been disparate, or the dev team have been too close to the game for too long to know for sure if it’s any good.

But that’s often indicative of how many projects only make it into being well-regarded games by the skin of their teeth. Banking on that happening every time is asking for trouble, especially if it demands massive sacrifice on the part of the development team.

You should ideally have a project that the majority of the team is confident in once pre-production ends.


I’m disappointed that even in this internal statement, they keep trying to characterize Jason’s piece as some sort of public hit piece on specific people.



It would be boring if it wasn’t so horrifyingly common.


I’m sure the game itself will be worth it’s own thread eventually, but the only thing I could think after seeing the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order trailer this afternoon - single-player, story based, no multiplayer, no microtransactions, Unreal Engine - is why the hell didn’t they let Bioware do that.


Right? The leap from ME3 to Star Wars in the same engine would have saved so much hassle.