"Dragon Age 4 becomes BioWare's next big focus, as Anthem loses its lead creators"

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#1 Posted by Rorie (5748 posts) -

I am putting that in quotes because I'm not entirely sure that I agree with the author's interpretation of events here.

In recent weeks, three key members of Anthem's lead development team have departed from work on the project, including Executive Producer Mark Darrah, Lead Producer Michael Gamble, and Lead Director Jonathan Warner, with only the latter intending to return to the game following a personal sabbatical.

According to a recent tweet from Gamble, the reason for this behind the scenes reshuffle seems to be Dragon Age shaped, as BioWare places the majority of its focus on getting Dragon Age 4 our of the door, following several reported reboots of the RPG sequel.

I can't find a source for these internal BioWare movements of the leads. These people didn't leave the company, at any rate, and this kind of movement is probably not uncommon after a product ships, especially at the lead level. Most likely the movement from Anthem to DA4 is unrelated to the state of the game as it is, but tying them together doesn't make BioWare look super committed to Anthem's future. I don't know if you need these specific people around to right the ship, though; BioWare hopefully has a gameplan for design fixes and it seems like the future stuff is probably in the hands of people who would've been handling it all along.

I dunno! This looks bad, but I think the headline might be a bit leading here. Anyway, hope they fix Anthem!

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#2 Posted by conmulligan (1902 posts) -

Wasn't it always the plan for BioWire Austin to take the reins post launch?

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#3 Edited by nutter (2110 posts) -

@conmulligan: That’s what I recall hearing. I assumed the leads would move on to fucking up Dragon Age after Anthem shipped.

EDIT: Tongue-kinda-in-cheek for the “fucking up” line. I don’t specifically blame anyone for Bioware’s fall from grace...BUT SOMEONE’S BEEN FUCKING UP OVER THERE!

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#4 Edited by Humanity (18720 posts) -

It is probably for the best that they just let Anthem slowly die. Huge loss but from everything I've read that game would need a year or more to get re-made from the ground up. I don't think patches can turn this around because unlike Destiny which had a solid base that needed content, Anthem not only lacks meaningful content but is also built in a way that simply tacking more missions won't help.

As for Dragon Age, I don't even know. I had a ton of fun with Inquisition while most people found it lacking. I recently purchased Mass Effect Andromeda for pennies to see what the fuss was about and everything people complained about in Inquisition I see front and center in Andromeda. Kind of strange that it didn't bother me that much in Dragon Age considering I'm way more of a sci-fi guy than fantasy, and yet something about Inquisition was just fun for me while Andromeda seems like a chore to play, not to mention all the narrative shortcomings etc. So let's just say that I'm worried to say the least. Dragon Age is weird in that every single release has been very different from the one that came before it which in a way makes it not really have a lasting identity. First game was a classic PC CRPG type of deal. Second game was a strange dungeon crawler aimed at a console crowd I think. Inquisition was an extremely modernized open world attempt. I wouldn't be surprised if Dragon Age 4 was an over the shoulder action focused title with light RPG elements bolted on top.

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#5 Edited by Zeik (5192 posts) -

It feels like this is becoming a never ending cycle for them since Andromeda.

Game development for project "X" is on fire > pull all hands in from other games and crunch until the game is launched > game still launches all fucked > spend a few months trying to put out the fire > fail > move everyone to next project that is now on fire > rinse and repeat

Granted, I don't know for sure that DA4 is on fire right now, but given their recent track record I expect it is.

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#6 Posted by nutter (2110 posts) -

@zeik: Yeah, Bioware is very much in “win me back” territory. I bought every game they made for damned near 20 years. One regret. Immediately after that, I didn’t buy Anthem. No real plans to keep going with them.

They’ve tarnished their name in a way I can’t really recall another studio doing quite so quickly. It’s as amazing as it is sad.

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#7 Edited by SethMode (1978 posts) -

I don't think they've tarnished their name so much as they reached the end of their untenable production method under EA. The whole "panic, crunch, hope for the Bioware magic" sounds like it has been their culture for a very long time now (maybe even before EA for all we know), and their luck finally ran out.

I find it odd that as these various stories about crunch come out, it seems like people look at crunch when a bad game comes out of it as "bad" but crunch when a good game comes out is "okay, just part of the business". The whole point is that it SHOULDN'T be part of the business, and it will slowly, but surely catch up to ALL of these studios, especially as more and more people leave because they're unhappy, and they then take on people that they pay less to do more work, only in this case the new people are working with less experience. Until they unionize, this is going to be a sinking ship, the only variable is going to be how slowly the ship sinks.

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#8 Posted by Efesell (4475 posts) -

I feel like Dragon Age is where I maintain faith if only because it's the one aspect of the company that has yet to really disappoint me.

Maybe a lot riding on DA4.

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#9 Edited by Casepb (674 posts) -

From what I've heard, a BioWare dev said Dragon Age 4 at the moment is pretty much Anthem with Dragons. So yeah, I'm expecting DA4 to be the same quality as Anthem.

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#10 Posted by Sweep (10595 posts) -

Having read the reports on studio conditions at Bioware it seems like the indecisiveness of the leads and studio heads, and the resulting crunch culture, was what dickfucked Anthem in the first place. As a result I don't think "Veteran Bioware Game Designer" really carries as much weight as it once did and the idea that they're just reshuffling the "talent" they already have doesn't inspire much confidence.

The speed at which they dropped Anthem to me implies some serious financial issues, so they're playing a Borderlands 3-esque ace of spades as a last ditch effort to stave off bankruptcy. It's not the game they actually want to make but it's the only way they're going to be able to keep anyone interested at this point.

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#11 Edited by nutter (2110 posts) -

@sweep: Look, I love Dragon Age 1 and 2 for very different reasons. I liked a lot about Dragon Age 3, too.

But their Ace of Spades was played poorly and prematurely with Andromeda...

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#12 Posted by Sweep (10595 posts) -

@nutter said:

@sweep: Look, I love Dragon Age 1 and 2 for very different reasons. I liked a lot about Dragon Age 3, too.

But their Ace of Spades was played poorly and prematurely with Andromeda...

This isn't about which Bioware Franchise is better, Mass Effect 2 is one of my favourite games ever and I think Dragon Age Inquisition is pretty high on that list too, but Dragon Age remains the only franchise they haven't completely ruined in recent years, and that's why it's currently their ace; it's the IP with the least negative associations for consumers.

They know this is going to be basically their last chance and they have to make it count. I really hope they have a solid post-mortem system in place and someone has gone through all the data and figured out where the bottlenecks are.

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#13 Posted by nutter (2110 posts) -

@sweep: Oh, I hear ya. I just don’t see Dragon Age moving the needle at this point. I think it’s too little, too late.

I hope they come out swinging and make something new and exciting while holding onto the classic sensibilities.

I just haven’t seen reason to believe they still have the chops in quite some time...

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#14 Posted by Efesell (4475 posts) -

@nutter: I think one strong success, especially in something as important as Dragon Age, would repair more damage than you think. The memory on this sort of thing is remarkably short. Surprising success or failure can override a lot of what's happened before.

I feel like Assassin's Creed does this on a cycle.

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#15 Posted by nutter (2110 posts) -

@efesell: Oh, sure. I’m not so spurred by Andromeda that I’ll never give them another shot. I just don’t really have faith in them.

If Dragon Age 4 is a resounding success, great! They’ll get a new lease on life, hopefully, and be back on the path. I just think it’s a long shot.

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#16 Edited by NTM (11749 posts) -

No one can deny the disappointment that Andromeda brought, although I do think it was worse for some than others. For instance, I didn't run into that many bugs, and the majority of the ones I did run into weren't game breaking. That was when I played it on base PS4 before any of the major patches, but in wanting to play a more improved version, I bought it again on the Xbox One X and I had almost zero issues. Aside from its repetitive side tasks, and an overall sense of been there, done that (which is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to a next-gen Bioware product), I thought the game was great. I love Dragon Age, and to my surprise Inquisition was my favorite of the trio that came out despite its (like Andromeda) repetitive side tasks.

Now, I didn't play Anthem; I didn't like the demo that much, and from everything I've seen and heard it's not where a game should be. Plus, from what I understand it wasn't necessarily EA's fault, but Bioware's in that they made the game the way it is, and while I don't think developers should always stick to one thing, they kind of abandoned what I felt Bioware has always done great, which is story/character-based adventures taking place interesting locations. So, when it comes to my faith in what they can do now, I'm just not sure, but I'm always excited for more Mass Effect and Dragon Age. If the stories are true though when it comes to Bioware, I just hope that all gets worked out because it sounds terrible.

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#17 Posted by Bollard (8164 posts) -

Hmm. I agree with the sentiment though that they'd be better off just letting Anthem die. I'd rather they try to make DA4 a good product (and I don't even play DA games) than pour resources into a game I (and I presume many others) have 0% intent of ever going back to.

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#18 Edited by Humanity (18720 posts) -

@efesell said:

@nutter: I think one strong success, especially in something as important as Dragon Age, would repair more damage than you think. The memory on this sort of thing is remarkably short. Surprising success or failure can override a lot of what's happened before.

I feel like Assassin's Creed does this on a cycle.

The gaming industry really does ride on "you're as good as your last game" because we have seen plenty of developers get dragged through the mud until they make a good game and vice versa.

If Bioware can make a game that harkens back to days of Mass Effect 2 while also introducing modern and exciting systems then people will once again get excited for what comes next from the studio. Unfortunately from that huge Kotaku expose on Anthem it seems like the odds are stacked extremely against them succeeding. Primarily because from everything I've read the issue doesn't necessarily lie with the talent but management, and sadly enough the people in key management positions don't budge as much as coders, artists etc grinding out 100 hour weeks under them. It's the big guys up top that need to realize they are a large part of the problem and figure out better workflow solutions - and I just don't see that happening with a publisher as big as EA and a developer as storied as Bioware (whatever Bioware is at this point).

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#19 Posted by nutter (2110 posts) -

@humanity: Agreed. I’d love to love Bioware games again. I’ll welcome them with open arms. I’m just not holding my breath.

This feels more like the death throes of a studio than its dark middle chapter...

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#20 Posted by Deathstriker (1159 posts) -

As someone who actually plays Anthem I don't think they should "let it die" that makes no sense. All that would do is piss off people who bought the game and many of them might not buy a Bioware game again. From a legal standpoint, I'm not sure if they can promise a bunch of free DLC before the game comes out then just say "naw, never mind" later. They'd get sued and deserve to lose.

I think a lot of the people online who act like Anthem is some garbage fire never played it or haven't played in months, since most the technical issues were fixed in Feburary. At this point, Bioware just needs to make it easier to get legendary drops, we should be able to earn them, it shouldn't be completely luck based - they're being way too uptight and it's taking away some of the fun. They need to keep releasing new strongholds, armors, free play events, and cataclyms. Do new javelins and maybe new powers for existing javelins... that's about it.

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#21 Posted by Sarnecki (1353 posts) -

@casepb said:

From what I've heard, a BioWare dev said Dragon Age 4 at the moment is pretty much Anthem with Dragons. So yeah, I'm expecting DA4 to be the same quality as Anthem.

I can't imagine a more discouraging sentence.

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#22 Posted by MonkeyKing1969 (7536 posts) -

It this whole "lets make everything a shlooter with tons of microstranations" just the game industry going through its mid-life crisis? Are they just acting out like you divorced dad buying a "Corvette" so he can impress his 30 years female old cubical partner? "I still got it, baby! I am makin' deals and cutting the fat - I'm a winner!"

Then the reality hits them. They are just sad, old companies. They, in fact, lost it sometime around PS3. They bet big on the wrong thing, so any misstep will bring their house of card down on their heads.

What happens with the next Dragon Age is deserved, they either get their shit together or EA shutters them.


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#23 Posted by Deathstriker (1159 posts) -

@monkeyking1969: Anthem doesn't have "a ton of microtransactions" though. I think Bioware's bad leadership extended the development cycle and EA's bad decision making made them think something along the lines of "We need Anthem to be fiscal year 2018 since Battlefield sold so poorly. Release it now and patch/update it later". If Bioware had another 2 to 4 months the game would've been fine. The game's story still would've been meh, but no game in this genre has a good or even decent story.

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#24 Posted by mellotronrules (2591 posts) -

i think it's time for another studio to take the mantle of 'bioware-style-rpg' and carry it forward. because from where we're standing now, it seems like bioware currently is bad management undercutting overworked devs in the trenches producing half-baked products. so even if you completely clean house with leadership, you still have burned out employees working on tarnished IPs. i suppose it's possible there's a complete culture-shift...but you can't undo any residual resentment that might be present on the team. that sort of thing takes decades to work itself out (if the studio survives that long).

bioware was easily my favourite studio, but i'm ready for someone else to take a crack at their type of games while maintaining the health of their workforce. if that means we sacrifice the 'dragon age' and 'mass effect' IPs along the way, i'm pretty ok with that.

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#25 Posted by Neurogia (147 posts) -

There's an excellent article on Kotaku, as well as several youtube videos that explain in detail what happened to Anthem. The short of it is don't waste your time playing the game.

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#26 Posted by soulcake (2753 posts) -

I still think Bioware is A.Creatively bankrupt, B. Badly run or C. a bit of both. Don't see really see Dragon Age saving that studio

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#27 Posted by nutter (2110 posts) -

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