Earlier today, Kotaku put up a scathing article about the missteps in the development of BioWare's Anthem. Most notably, employees have reported crushing development cycles, mismanagement, trademark issues and much more that led up to its February 2019 released that "was panned by fans and critics". Moments after the article was published, BioWare published a response to the article citing its value of studio workplace culture and its appreciation of its staff.
Among things included in Kotaku's lengthy article based on interviews with 19 employees "who either worked on the game or adjacent to it:
- the name was changed from Beyond to Anthem less than a week before its announcement
- upheaval was considered "common" during Anthem's development and "very few things went right"
- it spent "years floundering in pre-production" with many features not being finalized until the last several months. This is according to "some who worked on the project"
- the Frostbite engine has been troublesome to BW developers
- there are understaffed departments that "struggled to serve their team's needs"
- BW Edmonton and BW Austin "grew resentful of one another"
- Anthem "was in development for nearly 7 years but didn't enter production until the final 18 months"
- narrative reboots, major design overhauls, "and a leadership team said to be unable to provide a consistent vision and unwilling to listen to feedback"
- slow decision-making by the leadership teams led to long wait times for developers
Among those who work or have worked at BioWare, there’s a belief that something drastic needs to change. Many at the company now grumble that the success of 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of the worst things that could have happened to them. The third Dragon Age, which won Game of the Year at the 2014 Game Awards, was the result of a brutal production process plagued by indecision and technical challenges. It was mostly built over the course of its final year, which led to lengthy crunch hours and lots of exhaustion. “Some of the people in Edmonton were so burnt out,” said one former BioWare developer. “They were like, ‘We needed [Dragon Age: Inquisition] to fail in order for people to realize that this isn’t the right way to make games.’”
BioWare's response is brief and does not specifically address the Kotaku article.
We’d like to take a moment to address an article published this morning about BioWare, and Anthem’s development. First and foremost, we wholeheartedly stand behind every current and former member of our team that worked on the game, including leadership. It takes a massive amount of effort, energy and dedication to make any game, and making Anthem would not have been possible without every single one of their efforts. 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. We didn’t want to be part of something that was attempting to bring them down as individuals. We respect them all, and we built this game as a team.
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.
As a studio and a team, we accept all criticisms that will come our way for the games we make, especially from our players. The creative process is often difficult. The struggles and challenges of making video games are very real. But the reward of putting something we created into the hands of our players is amazing. People in this industry put so much passion and energy into making something fun. We don’t see the value in tearing down one another, or one another’s work. We don’t believe articles that do that are making our industry and craft better.
The Kotaku article is lengthy and filled with many, many details. Head to the link above to check it out fully and then leave us your thoughts in the comments.