Kotaku: "How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong"
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On my way home from school today I read an article recently published by Kotaku about what went wrong with Anthem: Kotaku: "How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong"

I was mostly interested to read the article because of excerpts from it talking about the problems FrostBite was causing the developers, and I was curious just how bad EA's flagship engine could possibly be. However, if you choose to take the time to read it (I strongly recommend you do) it's much more than just fighting with a game engine like it's a difficult child. Moreso, before you jump onto the bandwagon of "tl;dr EA bad", it's more than just that, and it's more than just Anthem when you take scenarios that BioWare developers talk about and realise they can apply in varying degrees to the wider reaches of game development and the industry as a whole.

In the event you don't want to read it all, or just don't have time right away, here are some notable points:

Kotaku Wrote:
Many features weren’t finalized or implemented until the very final months, and to some who worked on the project, it wasn’t even clear what kind of game Anthem even was until that E3 demo in June of 2017, less than two years before it actually came out.
Kotaku Wrote:
[Anthem] is a story of indecision and mismanagement. It’s a story of technical failings, as EA’s Frostbite engine continued to make life miserable for many of BioWare’s developers, and understaffed departments struggled to serve their team’s needs. It’s a story of two studios, one in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and another in Austin, Texas, that grew resentful toward one another thanks to a tense, lopsided relationship. It’s a story of a video game that was in development for nearly seven years but didn’t enter production until the final 18 months, thanks to big narrative reboots, major design overhauls, and a leadership team said to be unable to provide a consistent vision and unwilling to listen to feedback.
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“EA had these team health reports. Anthem’s morale was among the highest in all of EA. It was really, really good for quite a while. Everybody saw there was so much potential in those early prototypes. ‘Potential’ was always the word there.”
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“The root cause of all this was that lack of vision. What are we making? Please tell us. The recurring theme was there was no vision, there was no clarity, there was no single director saying, ‘This is how it all works together.’”
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“Frostbite is like an in-house engine with all the problems that entails—it’s poorly documented, hacked together, and so on—with all the problems of an externally sourced engine. Nobody you actually work with designed it, so you don’t know why this thing works the way it does, why this is named the way it is.”
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“I would say the biggest problem I had with Frostbite was how many steps you needed to do something basic. With another engine I could do something myself, maybe with a designer. Here it’s a complicated thing.”
Kotaku Wrote:
It often felt to the Anthem team like they were understaffed, according to that developer and others who worked on the game, many of whom told me their team was a fraction of the size of developers behind similar games, like Destiny and The Division.
Kotaku Wrote:
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. All of BioWare’s best-laid technological plans could go awry if they weren’t getting the help they expected.
Kotaku Wrote:
At E3 2017, BioWare announced that Anthem would launch in fall 2018. Behind the scenes, however, they had barely even implemented a single mission. And the drama was just getting worse.
Kotaku Wrote:
That the first name in Anthem’s credits is someone who started working on the game in October 2017, just 16 months before it shipped, says volumes about its development.
Kotaku Wrote:
“I’d never heard of ‘stress leave’ until the end of Andromeda,” said one former BioWare developer, referring to a practice in which BioWare employees would take weeks or even months off for their mental health. On Anthem, the developer added, this practice just got worse. “I’ve never heard of people needing to take time off because they were so stressed out. But then that kind of spread like wildfire throughout the team.”

Honestly, I could keep going with snippets from this article that are stand out points on not just the state of the game, but the state of the team and what is quite possibly one of the worst examples of game development crunch that has been documented. I'd go as far as to say it might be the most extreme case of crunch that has actually happened on any game, judging from the damage it caused on an entire studio. I'd rather have been part of the financially sinking ship at Telltale than lose my job by losing my sanity in the dumpster fire BioWare found itself in.

I know crunch is a standard thing for the gaming industry, but holy shit there's a difference between staying up all night for a week to prepare for a final exam and spending an entire semester or degree program like a lost lamb that knows the battle is so far gone that it essentially begs to be put out of its misery. I would love to know how many stories there are of crunch being beyond reasonable limits, and I don't even want to imagine what the results would be on psychological testing of game developers.

I doubt there are stories as bad as this one, but if this article reminds you of any other documented cases, please share them. Otherwise, what do you think of the revealing nature of this article? Is there any particular party at fault here, or is virtually everyone feeding the problem?
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Moonface Offline
Am I a cute pussy? OuO
Posts:
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On my way home from school today I read an article recently published by Kotaku about what went wrong with Anthem: Kotaku: "How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong"

I was mostly interested to read the article because of excerpts from it talking about the problems FrostBite was causing the developers, and I was curious just how bad EA's flagship engine could possibly be. However, if you choose to take the time to read it (I strongly recommend you do) it's much more than just fighting with a game engine like it's a difficult child. Moreso, before you jump onto the bandwagon of "tl;dr EA bad", it's more than just that, and it's more than just Anthem when you take scenarios that BioWare developers talk about and realise they can apply in varying degrees to the wider reaches of game development and the industry as a whole.

In the event you don't want to read it all, or just don't have time right away, here are some notable points:

Kotaku Wrote:
Many features weren’t finalized or implemented until the very final months, and to some who worked on the project, it wasn’t even clear what kind of game Anthem even was until that E3 demo in June of 2017, less than two years before it actually came out.
Kotaku Wrote:
[Anthem] is a story of indecision and mismanagement. It’s a story of technical failings, as EA’s Frostbite engine continued to make life miserable for many of BioWare’s developers, and understaffed departments struggled to serve their team’s needs. It’s a story of two studios, one in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and another in Austin, Texas, that grew resentful toward one another thanks to a tense, lopsided relationship. It’s a story of a video game that was in development for nearly seven years but didn’t enter production until the final 18 months, thanks to big narrative reboots, major design overhauls, and a leadership team said to be unable to provide a consistent vision and unwilling to listen to feedback.
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“EA had these team health reports. Anthem’s morale was among the highest in all of EA. It was really, really good for quite a while. Everybody saw there was so much potential in those early prototypes. ‘Potential’ was always the word there.”
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“The root cause of all this was that lack of vision. What are we making? Please tell us. The recurring theme was there was no vision, there was no clarity, there was no single director saying, ‘This is how it all works together.’”
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“Frostbite is like an in-house engine with all the problems that entails—it’s poorly documented, hacked together, and so on—with all the problems of an externally sourced engine. Nobody you actually work with designed it, so you don’t know why this thing works the way it does, why this is named the way it is.”
BioWare Developer Wrote:
“I would say the biggest problem I had with Frostbite was how many steps you needed to do something basic. With another engine I could do something myself, maybe with a designer. Here it’s a complicated thing.”
Kotaku Wrote:
It often felt to the Anthem team like they were understaffed, according to that developer and others who worked on the game, many of whom told me their team was a fraction of the size of developers behind similar games, like Destiny and The Division.
Kotaku Wrote:
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. All of BioWare’s best-laid technological plans could go awry if they weren’t getting the help they expected.
Kotaku Wrote:
At E3 2017, BioWare announced that Anthem would launch in fall 2018. Behind the scenes, however, they had barely even implemented a single mission. And the drama was just getting worse.
Kotaku Wrote:
That the first name in Anthem’s credits is someone who started working on the game in October 2017, just 16 months before it shipped, says volumes about its development.
Kotaku Wrote:
“I’d never heard of ‘stress leave’ until the end of Andromeda,” said one former BioWare developer, referring to a practice in which BioWare employees would take weeks or even months off for their mental health. On Anthem, the developer added, this practice just got worse. “I’ve never heard of people needing to take time off because they were so stressed out. But then that kind of spread like wildfire throughout the team.”

Honestly, I could keep going with snippets from this article that are stand out points on not just the state of the game, but the state of the team and what is quite possibly one of the worst examples of game development crunch that has been documented. I'd go as far as to say it might be the most extreme case of crunch that has actually happened on any game, judging from the damage it caused on an entire studio. I'd rather have been part of the financially sinking ship at Telltale than lose my job by losing my sanity in the dumpster fire BioWare found itself in.

I know crunch is a standard thing for the gaming industry, but holy shit there's a difference between staying up all night for a week to prepare for a final exam and spending an entire semester or degree program like a lost lamb that knows the battle is so far gone that it essentially begs to be put out of its misery. I would love to know how many stories there are of crunch being beyond reasonable limits, and I don't even want to imagine what the results would be on psychological testing of game developers.

I doubt there are stories as bad as this one, but if this article reminds you of any other documented cases, please share them. Otherwise, what do you think of the revealing nature of this article? Is there any particular party at fault here, or is virtually everyone feeding the problem?
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