Live commenting the Andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda behind the scenes.

From conversations with nearly a dozen people who worked on Mass Effect: Andromeda, all of whom spoke under condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk about the game,

It will never be not weird to have NDAs that long. The game has been out for months, it’s a $100B industry. We should be able to talk and have conversations without all that hiding going on. It’s unhealthy, we can’t learn and do better this way.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was in development for five years, but by most accounts, BioWare built the bulk of the game in less than 18 months.

Five years. Half a decade. Probably 3 years of trying things out and 2 years of absurd pressure. Classic, quite standard but definitely not good.

Rather than develop a Mass Effect 4 at the studio’s main headquarters in Edmonton, which had made the first three games, BioWare decided to put its Montreal studio in charge.

Game companies have massive tax cuts in Montreal. Games cost a lot. It makes sense to send an expensive franchise to be made where it costs less. Cutting off the main team though, is… Very risky.

“No Man’s Sky with BioWare graphics and story, that sounds amazing.”

I mean. Any seasoned designer or programmer would tell you that it is ultra risky to do something like that because tons of technical reasons. It blows my mind that they would try something that cocky on a huge franchise. Cockiness should be in the polish, not the scope. Try new things out on short projects, not pillars.

Frostbite is capable of rendering gorgeous graphics and visual effects, but when BioWare first started using it, in 2011, it had never been used to make role-playing games.

No problem! Risk on top of risk on top of more risk for a beloved franchise. All good! This is going to work!

I just don’t understand how Electronic Arts, a 35 year old game company that produced hundreds of games still makes pretty much all the bad decisions possible on one of their biggest franchise. Wouldn’t you polish the previous games main features, perfect them? Create a spin-off, less costly, with procedural exploration? Have a RPG engine or layer developed and perfected for years for RPGs to come? Five years, hundreds of people working hard and the result is memes and an IP put on halt. Pretty sad and probably avoidable.

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