A statement by former BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn has revealed that the developer was not forced to use Electronic Arts’s in-house engine, Frostbite, and that the contentious decision lay entirely with the developer.
The decision to use Frostbite during the creation of Mass Effect: Andromeda was met with critical and fan-based confusion as the engine struggled to adapt to the RPG genre. In fact, much of the game’s tragic reception and marketing came down to the engine’s failings, which was wrongfully blamed on Electronic Arts.
Electronic Arts’s care of in-house developers has been criticised in recent years, but the notion that the publishers force all of its studios to use Frostbite appears to be a non-starter. In an interview with Kotaku, Flynn stated, “We had been wrapping up Mass Effect 3 and we just shipped Dragon Age 2 and we knew that our Eclipse engine, that we shipped DA2 on, wasn’t going to cut it for the future iterations of Dragon Age. It couldn’t do open world, the renderer wasn’t strong enough, those were the two big ones. We thought about multiplayer as well, as Eclipse was single-player only. We talked internally about three options. We could have burned down Eclipse and started something new internally, we could have gone with Unreal Engine, or we could have picked Frostbite which had shown some really promising results on the rendering side of things and it was multiplayer enabled.”
The focus on multiplayer was a strong motivation for the decision to move to Frostbite, but many of the project’s bugs, poor animations, and general awkwardness was caused by the engine. Instead, if BioWare had focused on single-player first, then perhaps Andromeda would have reached its full potential. Flynn’s statement is also a little contradictory, as Mass Effect 3‘s multiplayer was run entirely on the Unreal Engine and was arguably more successful than Andromeda‘s.
Andromeda impressed OnlySP’s DJ Arruda on release, who could see past some of the glaring issues the game had. Unfortunately, poor reviews and fan reception stifled the series in terms of future content and DLC.
Flynn does not regret moving to the engine, instead opting to see the positive side of Electronic Arts: “Being part of a community—everybody at EA is on it now—that is powerful. It’s a good place to be,” Flynn explained. “It’s a credit to the Frostbite team how they keep so many diverse titles on one engine, everything from FIFA to Anthem, it’s amazing to me.”
With Mass Effect on indefinite hiatus, the series is stuck in limbo. Whilst BioWare was not forced to use that engine, the developer’s involvement with Electronic Arts undoubtedly influenced the business and design decision. Overall, BioWare was dealing with an engine that they were not well informed about or comfortable with, and that shows in Andromeda‘s mess.