Anthem's E3 Reveal FAKED: Game made in 16 Months
In the “Most Anticipated 2019” list I spoke very highly of the game Anthem. I believed all EA had to do to avoid another loss was to sit back, get out of Bioware’s way, and throw money at them. I assumed that the only thing that could impede Anthem was EA and EA had the potential for a easy win. I referred to the team making Anthem as the A-team Bioware because that was what they were known for.
So when the game released, even after a near unplayable beta, I was still surprised at just how bad the game ended up being. In my review I struggled to review something with enjoyable gameplay and graphics, but just awful everything else. Level design, loot, nonsensical dialogue, repetitive identical missions, lack of lore, and a boring short “story” etc… All I could do was scratch my head, befuddled at how the once mighty Bioware, the makers of Mass Effect and Dragon Age turned out something so hollow. Was it EA’s fault? Were they forced last minute to adapt it or make changes? What happened behind the scenes all these years?
Well thanks to a very lengthy, shocking, and in depth investigation by Kotaku, we now what happened and who’s fault it was. Shockingly, while EA of course has some blame, we actually have EA to thank that a game launched at all. Bioware apparently is just a disastrous mess.
(Click for original Kotaku Article here.)
Apparently Anthem’s development was one of the biggest dumpster fires in recent memory. Reportedly, the game was in “pre-development” for 5-6 years starting back in 2012 with little to no progress. For 5 years Bioware “thought about” making a game; however, after 5 years, the game didn’t “really” exist, and even had a different name. Years would go by before decisions were made on details surrounding the very concept of the game.
Games can have long pre-developments. That’s not what was wrong solely, what was wrong was what happened next.
I remember watching E3 2017 and seeing Anthem for the first time. What I (and any of us) didn’t know then, was that many developers were in the same boat as the rest of us. You see, the E3 demo we all saw was pretty much FAKE. That’s right, it was created specifically as a concept demo for the executives and then used for E3. They barely had a mission started, and many on the team were unaware what type of game it would even be. At that time “Anthem” was nothing but a jumbled mess of concepts and assets. In the Kotaku article is showed that many developers finally saw what the game “was supposed to be” during that very reveal. When the public thought this game was almost or mostly done, it had barely begun. In fact, many of the devs didn’t even understand the name “Anthem” during the reveal, not only because days before it was called “Beyond” but because the lore topic of “Anthem” hadn’t even been made concrete. Some dev’s didn’t even know what it meant. It was shocking to hear that the developers poised to make the game were seeing all this for the first time with us.
Just imagine how insane this was. The game didn’t really exist, had a “fake” concept demo made to show to an exec, and had a different name. That was the state of the game when they decided to reveal what looked like a working, highly polished, beautiful game to the public. Many Bioware devs were in a panic because they were being asked to make the game we saw in a YEAR. Bioware leadership wasted a over half a decade being indecisive on concepts and when time game to show it to everyone they had nothing but a fake video they made.
(Infamous Angry Joe discussing this scandal and the Kotaku article)
It seamed like everything that could have going wrong did: “A-team Bioware” unwilling to listen to help and feedback from other Bioware teams; Unrealistic development cycle; a bad engine uncooperative for the game type; massive amounts of talented people leaving due to the mess. You name it.
Bioware was racked with leadership issues losing huge players during the entire period. Developers are shown for having massive amounts of work erased. Leadership was said to ignore development problems. People were said to be leaving in massive quantities, and developers were said to be crying in the bathroom, suffering from depression. The developers buckled under the stress of building a AAA game in a year.
This chaos sounded more than just “crunch”. As with promised release dates approach, crunch time is expected. However, Anthem was almost entirely built during this year and a half of “crunch”. This is why it was a ugly buggy hallow shell of what was promised.
Where EA does get some blame is that they mandated Bioware must use the Frostbite engine, an engine built for first person shooters, not RPG’s. This engine was very difficult for Bioware to use causing fundamental mechanics to need to be built from scratch. Something that was difficult enough when they barely had enough time to build a game, and when they were always short staffed. The experienced team members who knew Frostbite were also being constantly redirected to work on FIFA. EA was the one that gave the March 2019 deadline. We really can’t blame EA for drawing a line in the sand with Bioware leadership, after 6 years of nothing they wanted a game, but it was the developers and the players who suffered for it.
The insanity that is this story, and the state of the "game" during its E3 reveal are just shocking to me. It's sad and aggravating to see one of the greatest studios falter and to see its talent struggle.
The Kotaku article goes very in depth on all the crazy events that led up to the failure of Anthem, and it is worth a read. Details are to their credit. All facts are based on Kotaku and interviewed developers and are unverified by Bioware or EA.
As always, stay tuned at Game Infinite News.