“The Story Behind Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Troubled Five-Year Development” by Jason Schreier
Like many stories of difficult or even failed video game development that I’ve read, from the collapse of Ion Storm to Battlecruiser 3000AD to Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) and arguably Half-Life 2 Episode Three/Half-Life 3, it all seems to boil down to trying to do too much when one doesn’t have a firm idea what the final finished product looks like or has no inclination to actually come up with a finished product. Sure, creativity doesn’t work on a timetable, it takes as much time as it—blah, blah, blah—creativity.
Please, our best writers and painters and scientists eventually get work done. Sculptors chisel away at the rock knowing what they’re looking for. Despite a tough time, I eventually wrote 50 short stories and a handful of novels from 2009 to 2012, like, under a thousand pages of literary fiction, because I wouldn’t start until had a beginning, middle and an end. Sadly, in the video game industry, there are a fair bit of developers, mostly on the smaller side, who are just all talk but once the popular support or the development money comes rolling in or come crunch time they’re gone and people are left hanging.
Now, that didn’t necessarily happen with Andromeda but tons of other stuff did. Read Schreier’s article!
My Main Take Aways from Schreier’s Article:
- Andromeda‘s team had big dreams that they couldn’t fulfill. It’s okay to dream big. I have no problem with that. In fact, with the recent Zelda game in mind, dreaming big sells.
- Inexperience among BioWare’s Montreal team that developed Andromeda.
- Establishing the story early on is critical.
- A main hurdle, procedurally generated planets aren’t new to gaming and shouldn’t have been a hurdle.
- It’s not a good idea to switch to new and unfamiliar development software at the same the creative side isn’t fleshed out, e.g. DNF.
- The main causes for the severe backwards step in facial animation quality were a change to new software, understaffing, and a lack of prioritization by the Andromeda team.
- Global game development, with all the time zone differences, just can’t replace people being in the same building together.
- The heads and marketing at BioWare ignored to their fierce competition and slacked off. It should be a Golden Rule of Video Game Development to never slack off when your game is going to be released at the same time as a Zelda game, AKA, the obligatory Game of the Decade.
- The inability or refusal to provide a “vertical slice” or proof of concept.
- I was never a big fan of “Captain Clutch” Mat Sundin, former Toronto Maple Leafs captain, but I recognize that he had the exceptional quality of being able to perform superbly under the highest levels of pressure and win one for the team. While there seemed to be no personality clashes in the Andromeda team itself, the project heads lacked the ability to come to firm decisions and to perform when it mattered.
- In fact, the initial project heads ditched the team and someone else from another city with scare time completed a rush job.
- Oh yeah, Andromeda took almost five-years in development when, until recently, each volume of The Elder Scrolls took about the same amount of came and came out supremely polished.