Mass Effect: Andromeda was hotly anticipated, but it launched to middling reviews and with a number of technical and content issues. Today, a new report about the development of the game sheds light on a lot of the questions surrounding its release. Among other things, it explains that BioWare had planned to make a dramatically different game, one that looked and was designed more like No Man’s Sky than what Andromeda eventually ended up being.
Kotaku published the report and cited several unnamed employees who worked on the game during its five-year development. According to the story, BioWare ran into numerous obstacles and problems during work on the game. Multiple ideas were scrapped, and eventually the studio was forced to put together most of the game in less than 18 months. The employees Kotaku spoke with generally corroborated this characterization, although one source disputed it.
The report also illustrates a game significantly different than the one that was released. Early on, BioWare wanted to fill Andromeda with procedurally generated planets, similar to No Man’s Sky. BioWare started conceptualizing a procedurally generated universe before No Man’s Sky was announced, and this plan apparently was received with enthusiasm from many employees. One told Kotaku, “The concept sounds awesome. No Man’s Skywith BioWare graphics and story, that sounds amazing.”
Unfortunately for the developer, technical hurdles prevented them from being able to execute on this vision. EA’s Frostbite engine, which many of its studios use, is powerful but difficult to work with. Many of its most ambitious prototypes, like procedural generation, eventually had to be cut due to technical and budget restraints. Since these cuts happened deep into development, it caused even more issues.
“If there’s one thing that should’ve happened in hindsight, the cuts that were made should have happened earlier, so there would’ve been less of them,” one employee told Kotaku. “I think in general the team tried too hard to execute a game that was not doable.”
There’s a lot more in the report; you can read the whole story here.
Mass Effect: Andromeda released back in March for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. GameSpot gave it a 6/10; in his review, critic Scott Butterworth said, “In many ways, Andromeda feels like a vision half-fulfilled. It contains a dizzying amount of content, but the quality fluctuates wildly. Its worlds and combat shine, but its writing and missions falter–and the relative strength of the former is not enough to compensate for the inescapable weakness of the latter.”
Last month, Kotaku reported that Mass Effect had been put on “hiatus” and employees moved to other studios. However, EA also voiced support for the series in its earnings call in May.