Mass Effect: Andromeda devs tell tales of what went wrong during development
"For the last few months of the game, we spent most of our effort just trying to keep it together rather than polishing. Just trying to stay ahead of how quickly it was falling apart."
- An anonymous BioWare developer, speaking to Kotaku about the production of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
What happened to Mass Effect: Andromeda?
Now a number of anonymous BioWare devs trusted by Kotaku have shared stories about the game's creation -- including how badly it was hampered by trying to fit an RPG into EA's Frostbite engine, and how most of the game was done right in the last 18 months of its five-year dev cycle.
"If there’s one thing that should’ve happened in hindsight, the cuts that were made should have happened earlier," one dev reportedly told Kotaku. "So there would’ve been less of them. I think in general the team tried too hard to execute a game that was not doable."
They and many other sources quoted in the feature are referring to a significant reduction in Andromeda's scope -- from hundreds of procedurally-generated planets (a la No Man's Sky) to 30 to about 7 -- that reportedly happened painfully late in production.
That in turn caused problems across the project. Most notably, the animation team -- which was reportedly chronically understaffed -- was overworked and unable to heavily count on outsourced help due to scenes and dialog coming in late as the game's scope shifted.
"If the story is locked and writing is locked 18 months out, then at that point you know what the scenes are gonna be, you can do up your storyboards, send that to outsourcer and they’ll send you back a finished scene,” another source told Kotaku. “But with the [writing and design] teams still working until very late in the process, that foundation shifts so much that it makes it very difficult to rely on outsourcing."
Upon release the game was roundly mocked for some of its character animations, inspiring a number of experienced animators to host a roundtable discussion on why game animation is so incredibly challenging and why, like so many other aspects of game development, it can be drastically impacted by problems elsewhere in the project.
The full feature on Mass Effect: Andromeda's troubled development makes it sound like the project ran into many such problems, and is well worth reading over on Kotaku.