According to a detailed and lengthy report from Kotaku's Jason Schreier, unnamed sources connected to BioWare have revealed that depression and anxiety was commonplace within the studio during Anthem's development.
The game, which released on February 22, has seen no end of criticism thrown BioWare and EA's way. Its Metacritic score of 55, the lowest since the company was formed in 1995, hardly leaves doubt that there's lots of room for improvement.
Per the report from Kotaku, Anthem was actually in development for seven years but did not enter production until the final 18 months as a result of consistent design overhauls, narrative changes, and a leadership team unwilling to take employee feedback into consideration.
The term "BioWare Magic," which is said to exist within the studio, stems from a belief that no matter how bad production gets, everything will come together in the final months. The magic clearly ran out during the making of Anthem, given the many issues it still faces, and was the cause of lots of grief for the persons who undertook its development.
“People were so angry and sad all the time,” one of the sources told the publication. Another said, “Depression and anxiety are an epidemic within Bioware.”
Dozens of developers - some of them long-serving vets - are reported as having left BioWare over the course of the last two years, while doctors ordering "stress leave" was rather frequent.
“I actually cannot count the amount of ‘stress casualties’ we had on Mass Effect: Andromeda or Anthem,” a former BioWare developer told Kotaku in an email. “A ‘stress casualty’ at BioWare means someone had such a mental breakdown from the stress they’re just gone for one to three months. Some come back, some don’t.”
Kotaku's report is based on interviews with 19 individuals who either worked on Anthem or adjacent to it. The publication reached out to BioWare and EA for comment before the article was published but did not receive any. However, they put out a response in a blog post after it went live.
"Making games, especially new IP, will always be one of the hardest entertainment challenges." A message from our team regarding Anthem's development process. https://t.co/WC7Cui0jQh— BioWare (@bioware) April 2, 2019
"As a studio and a team, we accept all criticisms that will come our way for the games we make, especially from our players," the statement reads. "The creative process is often difficult. The struggles and challenges of making video games are very real. But the reward of putting something we created into the hands of our players is amazing.
"People in this industry put so much passion and energy into making something fun. We don’t see the value in tearing down one another, or one another’s work. We don’t believe articles that do that are making our industry and craft better."