There was more troubling news from Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem developers BioWare this week as a new Kotaku article shed light on the extremely segmented, erratic development of Dragon Age 4, a game that was scrapped in 2017 due to a myriad of issues but has since been rumored to once again be in the very early stages of development.
After an exhaustive exposé let the gaming masses in on just how strained things are in BioWare’s offices, this new info seems to further call into question the developer’s future.
Kotaku’s previous article focusing on the troubles faced during the development of the ill-received looter shooter Anthem made it known that the studio’s issues could be traced back to 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game that managed to receive some positive recognition despite enduring an almost equally exhaustive development cycle.
Multiple BioWare employees have chalked it up to “BioWare magic” or the studios’ uncanny ability to amend a game’s flaws late in development. The unprecedented success of the aforementioned Dragon Age game, however, inhibited their successive efforts, as that tenuous magic upon which they relied couldn’t be reused.
Anthem and Andromeda both flopped for a host of different reasons, and that could have been the case for Inquisition’s successor were it not rebooted sometime in 2017. The long, abrasive hours and deleterious environment had a major toll on Bioware’s recent output, and reports of untenable working conditions and employees frustratedly abandoning the company are now widespread.
Yet, it wouldn’t be fair to pin the blame entirely on BioWare higher-ups, as much of the studio’s problems seem to stem from their less-than-lucrative relationship with notoriously maligned publisher Electronic Arts. As referenced in Kotaku’s recent article, the developer has struggled to meet the demands set by EA’s “games as a service” mandate.
This new style of development forces recurring spending opportunities and microtransactions to the forefront of a game’s design and shoves the development of actual content to the backburner. This is, as fans could easily imagine, antithetical to the story-driven, highly-detailed core of most classic BioWare experiences, and the heart of many of Anthem’s failures can be traced back to this gap between the two entities responsible for the game’s production.
Only time will tell if the same fate is to befall the apparently-upcoming Dragon Age 4. While the game’s recent restructuring will likely have saved gamers from yet another mediocre experience akin to something like Anthem, there’s no telling what sort of problems could get in the way in the coming years. BioWare employees mentioned how difficult it was to ship a game to five separate consoles back in 2014, and they could be facing a similar scenario as the dawn of the next console generation approaches.
What’s more, EA isn’t likely to give up on its “live service” model any time soon. It’s no secret that single-player, story-driven titles aren’t at the forefront of the publisher’s interest, and that will continue to be an issue for BioWare so long as it remains under EA’s thumb.