What Happened with Anthem?

How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong on Kotaku attempts to figure out how BioWare's latest effort went awry, leading to the lowest review score on Metacritic since the company's formation in 1995. This is based on interviews with 19 individuals involved in or connected to the development of the action/RPG. They say this paints a picture of a "studio in crisis," and talking about the departure of dozens of developers over the past couple of years, which one of their interviewees calls "stress casualties." There is also a response to this on the BioWare Blog that explains why they did not directly respond to Kotaku's request for comment on the article. They explain they accept the validity of such criticism, but did not want to participate in singling out individuals for blame. They also address the concerns raised about crunch: "We put a great emphasis on our workplace culture in our studios. The health and well-being of our team members is something we take very seriously. We have built a new leadership team over the last couple of years, starting with Casey Hudson as our GM in 2017, which has helped us make big steps to improve studio culture and our creative focus. We hear the criticisms that were raised by the people in the piece today, and we’re looking at that alongside feedback that we receive in our internal team surveys. We put a lot of focus on better planning to avoid 'crunch time,' and it was not a major topic of feedback in our internal postmortems. Making games, especially new IP, will always be one of the hardest entertainment challenges. We do everything we can to try and make it healthy and stress-free, but we also know there is always room to improve." Here's a bit from Kotaku on how rushing a few weeks old build into Early Access turned out to be a mistake:
“I don’t think we knew what Anthem was going to be when it shipped,” said one developer. “If we had known the shipped game would have that many problems, then that’s a completely different take than, ‘Oh, it’s okay to get this out now because we can improve it later.’ That wasn’t the case. Nobody did believe it was this flawed or this broken. Everyone actually thought, ‘We have something here, and we think it’s pretty good.’”

While talking to me, a number of former BioWare developers brought up specific complaints that were voiced by players and critics, then shared anecdotes of how they had made those same gripes to the leadership team throughout 2017 and 2018 only to be brushed off. It’s easy for developers to say that with hindsight, of course, but this was a common theme. “Reading the reviews is like reading a laundry list of concerns that developers brought up with senior leadership,” said one person who worked on the game. In some cases, perhaps they just didn’t have time to address the issues, but these former BioWare developers said they brought up bigger-picture concerns years before the game shipped.
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48.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 5, 2019, 13:14
48.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 5, 2019, 13:14
Apr 5, 2019, 13:14
 
I look forward to the Star Citizen version of this article.

Not only will it be epic, but it will also be worth the $35 I spent on the game if the game never makes the finish line.
If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. Slava Ukraini!
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47.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 4, 2019, 09:58
47.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 4, 2019, 09:58
Apr 4, 2019, 09:58
 
I find the comment that it "isnt that bad" baffling because what little content the game has is repetitive and thin. Even measured against Destiny 1 at launch Anthem would fare badly.
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46.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 4, 2019, 01:39
Ash
46.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 4, 2019, 01:39
Apr 4, 2019, 01:39
Ash
 
Riahderymnmaddog wrote on Apr 2, 2019, 21:39:
Anthem wasn't and isn't that bad. A solid 85% of the problems are EA released it. Division 2 had core game machanics broken on release and weeks after release, a 48 gigabyte day one patch and the raid is just now being released, nobody cried like they did over Anthem.

Erm pretty much everything you wrote there was wrong, unless you meant TD1.
TD2 launch was smooth as butter, and the game was and is in great shape.
45.
 
Re: Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 4, 2019, 00:27
45.
Re: Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 4, 2019, 00:27
Apr 4, 2019, 00:27
 
Kxmode wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 23:51:
Several firsts.

- First! BioWare attempting to develop a FPS
- First! BioWare attempting to develop a looter-shooter
- First! BioWare attempting to develop an online FPS
- First! BioWare attempting to use Frostbite
- First! BioWare attempting to develop a game that had no decision or direction (okay maybe second)
- First! A mass effect of veterans leaving the company
- First! Going 5+ years into pre-production and still not knowing what the game was
- First! Games-as-a-Service
- First! Asking paying subscribers to basically beta test an alpha demo

Anything else I'm missing?

It was their 3rd Frostbite game and all had MP capabilities. The excuse of "it had no inventory system", that shit was handled in DA:I and even so, like they don't have competent engine developers in-house to add features to their own engine? Come on.
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44.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 23:51
Kxmode
 
44.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 23:51
Apr 3, 2019, 23:51
 Kxmode
 
Several firsts.

- First! BioWare attempting to develop a FPS
- First! BioWare attempting to develop a looter-shooter
- First! BioWare attempting to develop an online FPS
- First! BioWare attempting to use Frostbite
- First! BioWare attempting to develop a game that had no decision or direction (okay maybe second)
- First! A mass effect of veterans leaving the company
- First! Going 5+ years into pre-production and still not knowing what the game was
- First! Games-as-a-Service
- First! Asking paying subscribers to basically beta test an alpha demo

Anything else I'm missing?
"What does Ramen mean? It means Japanese spaghetti."
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43.
 
Re: Into the Black
Apr 3, 2019, 21:29
43.
Re: Into the Black Apr 3, 2019, 21:29
Apr 3, 2019, 21:29
 
Kain wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 18:08:
That's just PR, internally there was a push to get Frostbite across the board on all of their titles. No one ever wants to switch away from Unreal Engine, the toolset is so robust and well documented. They simply didn't want to pay royalties and Dice pushed for it at the right time. Not by coincidence, it started when Soderlund from Dice became more and more entrenched in the corporate culture of EA.

Oh I agree that's entirely possible, but in the case of Andromeda it was a former General Manager saying it was Biowares choice. I realize he could still be covering for EA despite working elsewhere, I'm just saying that they had already made bad engine decisions over and over. So if it isn't ironclad that they have to use Frostbite it wouldn't surprise me if they did anyways just to shoot themselves in the foot some more.

EA absolutely deserves blame for that Frostbite push you mentioned, both for apparently not having sufficient resources to support all of their studios using it nor proper dev tools or engine features to make games in other genres.
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42.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 18:31
42.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 18:31
Apr 3, 2019, 18:31
 

Angry Joe https://youtu.be/kUopKcRLNGA
- At this point, Windows is the OS equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome. -
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41.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 18:08
41.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 18:08
Apr 3, 2019, 18:08
 
NegaDeath wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 14:45:
Creston wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 13:38:
I mean, let's not go giving EA a free fucking pass here. They MANDATE that every studio uses that garbage shit engine, and then refuse to give them support because FIFA needs it, and then took the few devs within Bioware that knew Frostbite and put them on FIFA. It's literally like EA just WANTED Bioware to die.

Which, I have to say, they've done a good job of.

I have no desire to ever give EA credit, but according to Bioware they weren't forced to use Frostbite with either Andromeda or Anthem. If one should take them at their word at this point is debatable, but it lines up with another dumb decision they made regarding not using the engine modifications from prior projects. I recall this exact tidbit came up during the Andromeda post-mortem too, how they had to modify the engine to run basic features of the game like 3rd person cameras, detailed facial animation and inventory functions, and didn't recycle any of the tech developed to do that in Inquisition. It seems like they just wanted to do things from scratch each time, and when it imploded on them they kept fucking doing it.

That's just PR, internally there was a push to get Frostbite across the board on all of their titles. No one ever wants to switch away from Unreal Engine, the toolset is so robust and well documented. They simply didn't want to pay royalties and Dice pushed for it at the right time. Not by coincidence, it started when Soderlund from Dice became more and more entrenched in the corporate culture of EA.
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40.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 16:16
40.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 16:16
Apr 3, 2019, 16:16
 
NegaDeath wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 14:45:
Creston wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 13:38:
I mean, let's not go giving EA a free fucking pass here. They MANDATE that every studio uses that garbage shit engine, and then refuse to give them support because FIFA needs it, and then took the few devs within Bioware that knew Frostbite and put them on FIFA. It's literally like EA just WANTED Bioware to die.

Which, I have to say, they've done a good job of.

I have no desire to ever give EA credit, but according to Bioware they weren't forced to use Frostbite with either Andromeda or Anthem. If one should take them at their word at this point is debatable, but it lines up with another dumb decision they made regarding not using the engine modifications from prior projects. I recall this exact tidbit came up during the Andromeda post-mortem too, how they had to modify the engine to run basic features of the game like 3rd person cameras, detailed facial animation and inventory functions, and didn't recycle any of the tech developed to do that in Inquisition. It seems like they just wanted to do things from scratch each time, and when it imploded on them they kept fucking doing it.

I dunno man. I mean, I obviously have no inside sources or anything, and if the GM of Bioware says "it was our decision not EA's", then fair enough. However, at the same time, EVERY EA game uses Frostbite now. So did every studio just decide at the same time to use that engine?

And if Bioware decided to do it themselves, and they had a god-awful time with it during Inquisition, and a god-awful time with it during Andromeda, WHY DO YOU KEEP FUCKING USING IT???? Holy fucking shit.

It just makes management seem even dumber than they already do, which hardly even appears possible.
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39.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:50
39.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:50
Apr 3, 2019, 14:50
 
Ugh. Bioware's (let's not kid ourselves, this is from EA) PR response to the article makes it clear that they didn't even read the damn thing and did a quick damage-control response without learning a single damn thing from it. Nothing at Bioware or EA is going to change: http://blog.bioware.com/2019/04/02/anthem-game-development/


I've spoken to several current and former BioWare employees since my article went live today, including some I hadn't interviewed earlier. General consensus has been sadness and disappointment at BioWare's statement, which read as disheartening to those who hoped for change.
- From Jason Schreier's Twitter page
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38.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:45
38.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:45
Apr 3, 2019, 14:45
 
Creston wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 13:38:
I mean, let's not go giving EA a free fucking pass here. They MANDATE that every studio uses that garbage shit engine, and then refuse to give them support because FIFA needs it, and then took the few devs within Bioware that knew Frostbite and put them on FIFA. It's literally like EA just WANTED Bioware to die.

Which, I have to say, they've done a good job of.

I have no desire to ever give EA credit, but according to Bioware they weren't forced to use Frostbite with either Andromeda or Anthem. If one should take them at their word at this point is debatable, but it lines up with another dumb decision they made regarding not using the engine modifications from prior projects. I recall this exact tidbit came up during the Andromeda post-mortem too, how they had to modify the engine to run basic features of the game like 3rd person cameras, detailed facial animation and inventory functions, and didn't recycle any of the tech developed to do that in Inquisition. It seems like they just wanted to do things from scratch each time, and when it imploded on them they kept fucking doing it.
Avatar 57352
37.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:44
37.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:44
Apr 3, 2019, 14:44
 
Stop calling them Bioware. Bioware was great, but Bioware is long dead. There is only EA
36.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:23
36.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:23
Apr 3, 2019, 14:23
 
Plus, the Anthem team worried that if you could fly, you’d blaze past the game’s environments rather than stopping to explore and check out the scenery.

So then, we made a system where if the lead guy is ahead, you have 5 seconds to catch up before we teleport you back to him. All that pretty scenery? You never get to see it.

God what a clusterfuck turd this game is.
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35.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:10
35.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:10
Apr 3, 2019, 14:10
 
Creston wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 13:35:
ShakaUVM wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 00:23:
There were a lot of things bad with Anthem (almost everything was bad, in fact), but the 100% inexcusable problem with it was that the storytelling was horrendous. The plot was terrible, the dialogue was written with the skill of a 4th grader being assigned their first essay, and the NPCs weren't just badly written, but they were aggressively bad. I wanted literally all of them to die except the old Russian dude.

I'd accept that level of quality from an idsoft tech demo, but it is a complete failure coming from Bioware, the company that is best known for its good writing, exceptional plotting, and memorable NPCs.

Their main Dragon Age writer worked on it, and all the staff was whining that it felt too much like Dragon Age, and it should be "something different", without going into any explanation what needed to be different. So he quit.

Then they brought back their main Mass Effect guy (the guy who wrote ME1 and 2, not the shit that was in ME3), and he quit again pretty soon after.

Pretty damning evidence that like with everything else on this game, nobody knew what they wanted the story to be. And so, they just wound up with the bullshit McGuffin anyway.

Bioware is dead, guys. It's just dead. The Magic is gone.

"We have a fantastic single player RPG developer in house. I know, let's get them to make a multiplayer looter-shooter!"

Also, EA was thinking "Destiny clone" and Bioware brass was telling the team, "Never ever say 'Destiny clone'"

Yup, RIP Bioware. I'd say the name means almost nothing as far as future games go.
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34.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:07
34.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:07
Apr 3, 2019, 14:07
 
Sacrifex wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 10:31:
ExGemini wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 09:15:
EA appened.

Anthem was originally designed with tons of microtransaction like BattleFront 2.
After EA hit the fan with its own shit, they had to scramble what was there to begin with.

Anthem today is the result of such rush scramble, not quite finished.

Except, according to the 19 sources tapped for this article, this is not at all what happened. Just because EA is trash does not clean Bioware's hands of culpability here - in fact, EA seems like the much less guilty party in all of this.

Continuing to believe in "Bioware magic" is what has landed Bioware where they are right now.
Right, they learned *nothing* from the debacle that was ME: Andromeda.
If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. Slava Ukraini!
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33.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:05
33.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:05
Apr 3, 2019, 14:05
 
Kirk Johnson wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 10:05:
God damn.

Around the same time, Electronic Arts executive Patrick Söderlund, to whom BioWare’s leadership reported, played the Anthem Christmas demo. According to three people familiar with what happened, he told BioWare that it was unacceptable. (Söderlund did not respond to a request for comment.) He was particularly disappointed by the graphics. “He said, ‘This is not what you had promised to me as a game,’” said one person who was there. Then, those developers said, Söderlund summoned a group of high-level BioWare staff to fly out to Stockholm, Sweden and meet with developers at DICE, the studio behind Battlefield and Frostbite. (DICE would later bring in a strike team to help BioWare work out Frostbite kinks and make Anthem look prettier.)

In Söderlund's defense, that first demo sounded pretty awful. Imagine Anthem with way worse graphics, no flying, no hub, and no missions.
If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. Slava Ukraini!
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32.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 14:04
32.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 14:04
Apr 3, 2019, 14:04
 
ExGemini wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 09:15:
EA appened.

Anthem was originally designed with tons of microtransaction like BattleFront 2.
After EA hit the fan with its own shit, they had to scramble what was there to begin with.

Anthem today is the result of such rush scramble, not quite finished.

From the article, MTs were the least of their problems.
If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. Slava Ukraini!
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31.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 13:38
31.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 13:38
Apr 3, 2019, 13:38
 
Sacrifex wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 10:31:

Except, according to the 19 sources tapped for this article, this is not at all what happened. Just because EA is trash does not clean Bioware's hands of culpability here - in fact, EA seems like the much less guilty party in all of this.


Weeeeelllll.... When you see shit like this:

When a BioWare engineer had questions or wanted to report bugs, they’d usually have to talk to EA’s central Frostbite team, a group of support staff that worked with all of the publisher’s studios. Within EA, it was common for studios to battle for resources like the Frostbite team’s time, and BioWare would usually lose those battles. After all, role-playing games brought in a fraction of the revenue of a FIFA or a Battlefront. “The amount of support you’d get at EA on Frostbite is based on how much money your studio’s game is going to make,” said one developer.

I mean, let's not go giving EA a free fucking pass here. They MANDATE that every studio uses that garbage shit engine, and then refuse to give them support because FIFA needs it, and then took the few devs within Bioware that knew Frostbite and put them on FIFA. It's literally like EA just WANTED Bioware to die.

Which, I have to say, they've done a good job of.

Avatar 15604
30.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 13:35
30.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 13:35
Apr 3, 2019, 13:35
 
ShakaUVM wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 00:23:
There were a lot of things bad with Anthem (almost everything was bad, in fact), but the 100% inexcusable problem with it was that the storytelling was horrendous. The plot was terrible, the dialogue was written with the skill of a 4th grader being assigned their first essay, and the NPCs weren't just badly written, but they were aggressively bad. I wanted literally all of them to die except the old Russian dude.

I'd accept that level of quality from an idsoft tech demo, but it is a complete failure coming from Bioware, the company that is best known for its good writing, exceptional plotting, and memorable NPCs.

Their main Dragon Age writer worked on it, and all the staff was whining that it felt too much like Dragon Age, and it should be "something different", without going into any explanation what needed to be different. So he quit.

Then they brought back their main Mass Effect guy (the guy who wrote ME1 and 2, not the shit that was in ME3), and he quit again pretty soon after.

Pretty damning evidence that like with everything else on this game, nobody knew what they wanted the story to be. And so, they just wound up with the bullshit McGuffin anyway.

Bioware is dead, guys. It's just dead. The Magic is gone.
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29.
 
Re: What Happened with Anthem?
Apr 3, 2019, 13:14
Kxmode
 
29.
Re: What Happened with Anthem? Apr 3, 2019, 13:14
Apr 3, 2019, 13:14
 Kxmode
 
Sacrifex wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 10:31:
ExGemini wrote on Apr 3, 2019, 09:15:
EA appened.

Anthem was originally designed with tons of microtransaction like BattleFront 2.
After EA hit the fan with its own shit, they had to scramble what was there to begin with.

Anthem today is the result of such rush scramble, not quite finished.

Except, according to the 19 sources tapped for this article, this is not at all what happened. Just because EA is trash does not clean Bioware's hands of culpability here - in fact, EA seems like the much less guilty party in all of this.

Continuing to believe in "Bioware magic" is what has landed Bioware where they are right now.

Agreed. Three main contributors:

1. BioWare couldn't figure out what Anthem/Beyond was and EA forced their hand with a deadline.
2. The turnover rate at BioWare was bonkers.
3. BioWare's lack of experience and knowledge with Frostbite. I would say this is probably purely EA's fault since they mandated all their studios use an undocumented engine Bioware never used before.
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