BioWare has criticised a detailed report into Anthem’s development, which alleges that mismanagement and long working hours contributed heavily to the game’s failure and the poor health of numerous employees.
Kotaku’s report, which is based on interviews with 19 people who either worked on the game or had knowledge of the development process, labels BioWare a “studio in crisis”.
It claims that Anthem, which was poorly received by most critics and has been beset by problems in the weeks since its release, didn’t enter production until the final 18 months of a protracted six-and-a-half-year development cycle.
The development process, it’s claimed, was severely hampered by a series of “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”.
The report also claims that dozens of developers have left BioWare over the past two years, with many citing stressful working conditions at the studio as developers battled against the clock to get Anthem ready for launch.
“Depression and anxiety are an epidemic within BioWare,” one employee told the site, while another said that doctor-mandated stress leave “kind of spread like wildfire throughout the team”.
Responding to the report, BioWare said in a blog post: “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.”
Interestingly, Kotaku claims that BioWare’s “apparent response” to its piece was posted just minutes after it ran its story. While the site sent BioWare a summary of its story prior to publication, it says the studio wouldn’t have had a chance to read the article before publishing its response.
BioWare added: “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.”
While Anthem’s troubled launch has led to questions about the title’s long-term prospects, BioWare general manager Casey Hudson said in March that the studio remains committed to its roadmap for the game.
He wrote in a blog post: “As we move through this most difficult period of launching a new game and IP, we are also working on the things that will really show what Anthem is capable of – a series of world events, new story content, and new features, that all build towards the Cataclysm later this spring.”
VGC’s Anthem review awarded the game 2/5, noting: “There’s an intriguing game buried somewhere in Anthem, lying broken beneath its loot and structural frustrations like chunks of fossilised dinosaur bone.”