To call Anthem’s development cycle troubled, is putting it mildly. It was a development cycle plagued by mismanagement from executives and project leads who believed without a solid plan everything would just come together in the last months as it always had. Yet pushing politics was paramount to the project. A project the developers had no idea where it was going until the E3 2017 trailer dropped.
Post-launch didn’t see the situation improve. Players found the game to be bland, uninspiring, and a huge step backward from similar games like Destiny. Frostbite made developing new content a massive pain. A matter not improved by the developer’s long stints of radio silence.
Ultimately, three of the lead programmers would depart from Bioware, and Cataclysm failed to be the overhaul players had been promised. With no boost to the dwindling player base, Electronic Arts forcefully pulled the plug on development and shifted developers onto Dragon Age 4 or SWTOR.
The development has not been entirely aborted for Anthem as studio director Christian Dailey explained in a blog update. Though it hasn’t been aborted, the development team has significantly been downsized. By the description available, the overhaul is effectively a new game rather than a reboot of the original.
“The Anthem incubation team has kicked off and we are starting to validate our design hypotheses. Incubation is a term we use internally – it essentially means we are going back and experimenting/prototyping to improve on the areas where we believe we fell short and to leverage everything that you love currently about Anthem. We are a small team – about 30-ish, earning our way forward as we set out to hit our first major milestone goals. Spoiler – this is going to be a longer process. And yes, the team is small but the whole point of this is to take our time and go back to the drawing board. And a small team gives us the agility a larger one can’t afford.”
With a smile, he attempts to paint the state of the development in the best terms possible. Yet that cannot erase how what used to be two studios has been reduced to 30 developers. A clear sign Electronic Arts does not place any significant amount of faith in the Anthem brand going forward.
Likely owing to the backlash from the frequent stints of radio silence, the post goes on to detail how they will be more communicative and open with what remains of the fan base. A sentiment that is hard to take at face value after similar and repeated promises were made and never delivered on.
“We really want this experience to be different for the team and our players, but we know we have some tough challenges to tackle. We want to include you as we go and be open and honest with where we are at and what the expectations are with where we are going. The reality is you will see things that look awesome but end up on the cutting room floor or things that you might think suck that you feel we are spending too much time on – but in the spirit of experimentation this is all OK. We really want to provide you all the transparency we can because of your passion and interest in Anthem. But, with that comes seeing how the sausage is made – which is not always pretty by the way.”
“We also want to start putting together some regular comms out to everyone to show/talk about these changes and our progress. This blog is one example, but we also want to include you in more of the day to day and hopefully get you some real interactions with the team. These updates could come in the form of an ad-hoc live stream, or some cool concept art posted on social media, or the occasional feed of me curled up in a ball crying in the corner…
We will get back to everyone on what our update cadence will look like soon, as we start looping you into our progress.”
Perhaps if Electronic Arts spent less time focusing on politics and partnering with Stasi agents and more time listening to their developers and consumers, they wouldn’t find themselves in this mess. With Dragon Age 4 reported as being another Battle Royal title that still utilizes the much-hated Frostbite engine that doesn’t appear as if it will be the case any time soon.