Guinness World Records 2016 Gamers Edition

     

After years of development, BioWare finally launched Anthem earlier this year to a wave of critical & community backlash.

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BioWare"s next big thing didn"t seem like it had it all together, leaving fans to lớn wonder where the six years of dev time went. The answer was offered earlier this month when Kotaku"s Jason Schreier published a fairly lengthy report on Anthem"s development. The report noted a laông xã of directorial vision, several mechanics changes, and of course, issues with the Frostbite engine.

The latter has been a comtháng problem at Electronic Arts studquả táo. The last few BioWare titles-Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect: Andromedomain authority, & Anthem-all had problems utilizing Frostbite during development. For fans, the engine has become a scapegoat for recent problems in EA franchises, from Need for Speed, lớn FIFA, lớn the Star Wars games. The perception is that Electronic Arts is forcing all of its studtiện ích ios to use Frostbite, which is borne out by nearly every EA title switching lớn the engine But some development leads have sầu countered that belief.

"It was our decision," former BioWare general manager Aaron Flynn told Kotaku Splitscreen in regard to lớn using Frostbite for Dragon Age: Inquisition. "We had been wrapping up Mass Effect 3 and we just shipped Dragon Age 2 và we knew that our Eclipse engine, that we shipped DA 2 on, wasn"t going khổng lồ cut it for the future iterations of Dragon Age. It couldn"t vị open world, the renderer wasn"t svào enough, those were the two big ones. We thought about multiplayer as well, as Eclipse was single-player only."

But even if developers have taken on Frostbite willing, it has definitely caused some major issues across Electronic Arts studquả táo. So it"s worth looking baông xã at the rough road that got the engine lớn where it is today.


What is an Engine?

Let"s establish in rough terms what an engine is. It"s software-development infrastructure that allows people khổng lồ build đoạn phim games. An engine is what developers craft their games on top of, providing them with several development necessities lượt thích a renderer, audio, scripting tools, artificial intelligence, animation, & physics simulation. It"s a toolbox, allowing a developer khổng lồ quickly lớn get to lớn core of game development, rather than reinventing the wheel & rebuilding these tools from scratch. A good example is the old Infinity Engine games: BioWare made the engine for Baldur"s Gate, but Black Isle Studquả táo was able to lớn use the Infinity Engine, skip that stage of development, and roll right inkhổng lồ crafting the world and narrative sầu of Planescape: Torment.

These days, many developers can turn lớn robust general engine lượt thích Unreal Engine, Unity, CryEngine, or MonoGame. These engines require development effort in order to make them do exactly what a studio wants, but they also have sầu huge communities of other developers who are doing the same thing; there"s a shared expertise that developers can draw on. Many of these engines also make it easy lớn port your finished game over khổng lồ different platforms lượt thích PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, và even sản phẩm điện thoại.

Developing your own engine from scratch can be a much costlier affair, since you"re building a framework from the ground up. The difference here is a bespoke engine can be directly tailored to your game, while a general-purpose engine is a jack-of-all-trades. There"s also the issue of licensing fees. If you"re using Unreal Engine, you pay 5 percent of your revenue khổng lồ engine developer Epic Games when you ship your game. The additional cut taken by digital storefronts và other middleware can add up, lessening the actual profit a developer sees. With an in-house engine, you"re not paying anyone; and if you stichồng to a certain genre, you"re likely to have an engine that can roll forward from game-to-game.

Major publishers are keen to lớn not pay licensing fees, but their handling of their own engines vary. Ubisoft has been rather successful with its handful of in-house engines: AnvilNext 2.0 powers Assassin"s Creed Origins, Assassin"s Creed Odyssey, và Ghost Recon Wildlands; Snowdrop has been used for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, & The Division 2. Capcom had its MT Framework & currently uses the in-house RE Engine for Resident Evil 7, Resident Evil 2, & Devil May Cry 5, while also licensing Unreal Engine for Street Fighter 5 & Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. EA has tried to follow in their footsteps, but Frostbite hasn"t been the one kích thước fits all solution that it might have hoped.


The promises of Frostbite 3 | Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts Moves to Frostbite

Electronic Arts used khổng lồ have several studtiện ích ios that each utilized their own engines. The engines didn"t always have keen names because they were just what the games were built on. The real shift began all the way back in 2006, when EA acquired Digital Illusions Creative sầu Entertainment (later known simply as DICE). DICE had developed the successful Battlefield series (Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, & Battlefield 2142) for EA, & the publisher wanted to bring them further inlớn the family.

DICE was beginning work on Battlefield: Bad Company, a game that wasn"t aimed at the PC like previous Battlefield titles. Instead, Bad Company was coming to PlayStation 3 và Xbox 360. It was also the first game that would use Frostbite. Instead of building a new engine for each game, Frostbite would carry from game khổng lồ game for DICE, improving with each iteration. By 2011, DICE was releasing Battlefield 3, which looked fantastic & showed off the power of Frostbite 2.

At the time of Battlefield 3"s release, EA had a host of major franchises all using their own engines. EA Labels president Frank Gibeau wanted all the studtiện ích ios to get on the same page.

"Frank Gibeau, myself và others said that this has to lớn stop; this has to get a unified platkhung because it"s too expensive sầu và inefficient for everyone to lớn be operating off of different engines," former EA chief kiến thiết officer Patrick Soderlund told Engadget at the time. The idea was lớn show the other EA studios how awesome Battlefield 4 looked, & point to lớn Frostbite 3 as the reason. According Soderlund, BioWare và Need for Speed developer Ghost Games were the first to lớn reach out about using Frostbite for their titles. Not everyone was up for switching lớn Frostbite though: EA Sports was about to switch khổng lồ the Ignite engine for its 2013 releases, và third-party studtiện ích ios like Respawn Entertainment stuông xã to lớn engines they were used lớn, like Valve"s Source engine. Still, EA believed heavily in Frostbite.

"If you look at the magnitude và complexity of a Battlefield game-using Battlefield 4 as an example-you can see that you can build pretty much everything with this engine khổng lồ a very, very high unique," said former EA DICE general manager Patriông chồng Bach at the time.

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BioWare had to lớn work hard just to get horses inlớn Inquisition. | Electronic Arts

The Troubles Begin

Seemingly, the major issue with Frostbite is that it was an engine built for a specific purpose: first-person shooting và multiplayer. The problem is manyEA games obviously aren"t first-person shooters: BioWare builds RPGs, Ghost Games makes racing games, và Madden & FIFA are sports sims.

For Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare had lớn create a dialogue system within Frostbite and make an animation system for dogs & horses, but Frostbite could only animate bipedal creatures. For Need for Speed Rivals, Ghost Games had to rework Frostbite"s streaming system khổng lồ accommodate the tốc độ at which its cars could move.

"You can drive around our world indefinitely, và that"s something that wasn"t without its teething pains, but now that it"s in and working, it"s a really powerful thing that any open-world title is going to be able khổng lồ use moving forward," Need for Speed Rivals senior producer Jamie Keen told Engadget.

"We started with a really solid foundation of the engine but we had lớn build a lot around it," said BioWare producer Cameron Lee about using Frostbite on Dragon Age: Inquisition. "The concept of save games didn"t exist, at least as Bioware knows them. The tactical camera, just being able khổng lồ pause a game and still work within it, Frostbite didn"t have sầu that, it had no concept of that. We"ve sầu had lớn add all of these things to lớn it over the course of our development over the last four years. We built all of these different tools for the engine."

The idea was that all this knowledge could feed baông xã inkhổng lồ Frostbite, creating a general purpose engine for all of Electronic Arts. It"s an excellent idea, but not one that has gone off without a hitch.

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Dragon Age Inquisition was technically BioWare"s second foray into Frostbite. | Electronic Arts

BioWare Hits The Skids

BioWare worked on another project prior to starting on Dragon Age: Inquisition, code-named Blackfoot. It was a multiplayer-focused Dragon Age, but it really was a way for BioWare lớn get used to Frostbite. The studio knew that The engine would provide challenges, but it needed a way lớn see how deep the well went.

"Frostbite doesn"t really understand the idea of stats or items or saving a game, conversations, cutscenes. Like a bunch of things that we take for granted it doesn"t even really conceptualize. We actually had a project code-named Blackfoot which was the first game we had that was looking at Frostbite. That became the core of what became Dragon Age Inquisition, the techlines, more than any of the development, so we"ve sầu actually been looking at this a long time," said Inquisition executive producer Mark Darrah told GamesIndustry.biz baông xã in 2014.

Implementing basic RPG features took a very long time in Frostbite. BioWare was working hard lớn build one of the biggest games it had ever crafted, partially inspired by Bethesda"s The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyryên, while working with an engine not built for RPGs. It was like pulling teeth.

"I had khổng lồ get lớn the conversation in-game, open my tools at the same time, & then as soon as I hit the line, I had to hit the pause button really, really quickly," Inquisition cinematic designer John Epler told Kotaku"s Jason Schreier for his book, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels. "Because otherwise it would just play through to lớn the next line. Then I had to add animations, và then I could scrub it two or three times before it would crash and then I"d have khổng lồ start the process all over again. It was absolutely the worst tools experience I"ve ever had."

Worse, DICE was updating Frostbite with new features because the engine was being used for a host of games. So BioWare"s developers were grafting new things onto an engine that was changing underneath them.

"There"d be times when the build wouldn"t work for a month, or it was unstable as hell. Because the new version of the engine would come in, the tools team would start doing the integration. All the while, the team is still working và moving ahead, so it gets worse & worse and worse," Lee told Schreier.

Towards the kết thúc of development though, BioWare và DICE synced up better and Dragon Age: Inquisition started to come together. It finally launched on November 18, năm trước, becoming one of BioWare"s best-selling games. Frostbite had proved difficult to lớn handle, but ultimately engineers at BioWare and DICE made it work. And those features who help in future BioWare games. It seems logical that all the work BioWare did for Dragon Age: Inquisition would flow right into lớn Mass Effect: Andromeda. They"re both RPGs, right?

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Mass Effect: Andromedomain authority could be a looker. | Electronic Arts

Lost on the Way to lớn Andromeda

BioWare Montreal, the team behind Mass Effect: Andromedomain authority had big dreams. They wanted a title that would allow players lớn explore a galaxy of vast, procedurally-generated planets. It was supposed to lớn fulfill the promise of the first Mass Effect, utilizing new giải pháp công nghệ.

Frostbite was missing features, but Inquisition was wrapping up when Andromedomain authority went into pre-production, so the latter title was getting some of the features it needed. The problem was the outline for Mass Effect: Andromeda was actually a much bigger project than even Inquisition. Andromeda"s maps were supposed lớn represent entire planets, so they needed to lớn be bigger than even Inquisition"s vast spaces, & Frostbite wasn"t equipped to lớn handle that.

"Whenever you"re trying khổng lồ vày something that fits the engine-vehicles, for example-Frostbite handles that extremely well. But when you"re building something that the engine is not made for, this is where it becomes difficult," one developer told Kotaku.

"It"s been painful," said another. "The pain started with Dragon Age: Inquisition và continued on with Andromedomain authority as well."

Mass Effect: Andromedomain authority began pre-production in 2013, but by 2015 BioWare Montreal was cutting out the concept of procedurally-generated planets. Ultimately, due khổng lồ this laông xã of direction, BioWare Montreal had khổng lồ scramble to create the final version of Andromeda, most of the work coming in the last 18 months. And Mass Effect: Andromedomain authority didn"t fully right the ship prior to lớn launch. Instead, it had a host of bugs và poor animations, leading to lớn poor review và a bad reception in the community. Ultimately, BioWare Montreal was shuttered and merged in EA Motive sầu.

The pain of what Mass Effect: Andromeda could"ve been, & what it was, lingers for some developers. One developer, Andromeda designer Manveer Heir, pointed lớn Frostbite as one of the big issues during the game"s development.

"Frostbite is easily the worst, shittiest, most pain in the ass engine I"ve sầu ever used in my career, and I shipped Wolfenstein off the Doom 3 tech," said Heir on Twitter. "The exact same game kiến thiết in Unreal vs. Frostbite will take dozens more engineers, money, và time on FB because of the way its architected và how far behind it is from Unreal (unless you are making BF). There is a reason I chose Unreal Engine 4 as my engine for my next project."

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Sadly, Ragtag is dead và buried. | Electronic Arts

The Ragtag Group Loses

While Dragon Age: Inquisition was wrapping up, EA acquired the exclusive sầu license to make video games based in the Star Wars universe. The first title on the docket was Star Wars: Battlefront, a first-person shooter built by EA DICE, based on the older games developed by the defunct Pandemic Studquả táo for LucasArts. Star Wars: Battlefront looked great thanks lớn the ongoing work on Frostbite, but fans hit it for a laông xã of depth và longevity.

As EA Dice was working on Battlefield 1 & a sequel to lớn Star Wars: Battlefront, Dead Space và Battlefield:hardline developer Visceral Games was working on its own Star Wars title. The studio had hired Uncharted creative director Amy Hennig lớn make a grvà Star Wars adventure, centered on the dirtier side of the universe. This was Project Ragtag.

The problem was again, that Project Ragtag was meant to be a third-person action-adventure game, not a first-person shooter. Frostbite didn"t have sầu all the tech needed khổng lồ make it easy khổng lồ craft the kind of game Visceral wanted. Like BioWare, it took twice as much effort lớn make things happen.

"We obviously had to lớn take the Frostbite Engine, because there was the internal initiative sầu to lớn make sure that everytoàn thân was on the same technology, but it was an engine that was made khổng lồ vì first-person shooters not third-person traversal cinematic games," Hennig told USG earlier this year. "So building all of that third-person platforming and climbing và cover taking và all that stuff into an engine that wasn"t made to lớn vì that. We did a lot of foundational work that I think the teams are still benefiting from because it"s a shared engine, but it"s tough when you spover a lot of time doing foundational stuff but then don"t get khổng lồ go ta-da! You know, here"s the game."

As the project dragged on at Visceral Games, Electronic Arts ultimately decided to shut down the studio. It moved what was Ragtag over to lớn EA Vancouver, refocusing the linear action-adventure inkhổng lồ an open-world one. Ultimately, Electronic Arts cancelled that game as well, leaving the only Star Wars releases from the publisher being Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The latter game is being built by Respawn Entertainment in Unreal Engine 4.

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Without Frostbite, there"d be no Longshot. | EA Sports

EA Sports Are Complicated

From 2013 to năm 2016, EA Sports was using its own in-house Ignite engine to lớn power all of its sports titles, including FIFA, Madden NFL, and NBA Live. With the releases of FIFA 17 and Madden NFL 18, those titles have sầu switched over to lớn using Frostbite as their primary engine. With the move to Frostbite came the addition of new cinematic story modes—Madden NFL"s Longshot và FIFA"s The Journey—which developers have said is all because of the new engine.

"I had met with their people & actually pitched this idea khổng lồ all of the EA Sports teams this crazy idea of Longshot, and I had been pitching a campaign mode for sports. I"m pretty sure without Frostbite we really couldn"t do it, and that"s one of the things that held us baông chồng from trying khổng lồ exedễ thương this thing, và they were getting Frostbite first. In the meantime, I think they were seeing some of the other sports franchises go down this path and have sầu some success. So I think everyone will assume that Madden saw The Journey"s success & followed in its footsteps, but we"ve sầu had our own path to get to lớn this point," Madden NFL 18 creative sầu lead Mike Young told USG.

Young pointed khổng lồ Frostbite"s excellent content engine và shaders for allowing the Madden NFL team to lớn build out a cinematic storytelling experience in a way it couldn"t with Ignite. Everything didn"t go off without a hitch though. Madden NFL 18 was a transition year: it looked better, but it missed some of the cleaner features and smoother motion players had come lớn expect from the Ignite Maddens. EA Sports introduced Real Player Motion in Madden NFL 19, a new animation system intended lớn make the on-field action feel real, but once players had it in their hands, they noticed the bugs và freezes. Even the Frostbite FIFA games have sầu had complaints about choppy pacing and input lag.

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NHL 19 holds onto lớn the Ignite engine. | EA Sports

"There are often some bits và pieces left behind," Madden NFL 19 gameplay lead Clint Oldenburg admitted lớn USG. "You"re not really aware it ever existed until it gets inkhổng lồ Frostbite, and when you start playing the game you"re like, "Wait this thing"s not working. Oh man we forgot the motion system.""

Despite the two key sports titles making the move, not every EA Sports franchise has switched over. NBA Live sầu 19 and NHL 19 still use Ignite, while EA Sports UFC 3 uses the all-new RPM Tech engine. NHL"s steadfast hold against Frostbite has been noticeable khổng lồ the community, and according to the developers, that"s because they don"t want to thua thảm features in the transition to the new engine.

"Really, we have sầu so much invested in what"s built in Ignite. And right now we feel that we don"t really want khổng lồ go into a transition year where... well, in our last transition year, a lot sort of had to be left on the cutting room floor, right? We didn"t deliver to our fans expectations and so right now we"ve got a critical mass of different modes where people are investing in them, they"re playing them. They want Threes. It runs in the current engine. We built our customization in it & so, right now, we"re trying to deliver lớn more fans expectations. I"m not sure that transitioning to Frostbite right away would actually deliver what our fans expect," explained NHL 19 creative director William Ho lớn USG.

NHL 19 was a give-and-take though. When USG"s Kat Bailey took a look at this year"s entry, she found a game that captured the speed và excitement of hockey, with very dynamic crowds, but it was also lacking the visual prowess in the players themselves, something that might be down to lớn the older engine. Of course, FIFA 19 looks lượt thích the real sport visually, but ultimately isn"t that fun khổng lồ play. Finding out the correct direction for all of its franchises is an ongoing struggle for EA Sports.

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I mean, Anthem does look fantastic... | Electronic Arts

Dirge, Not an Anthem

In the meantime, Andromedomain authority might have been a big pothole for BioWare, but fans still had hope. BioWare"s massive sầu next-ren game was finally revealed in June 2017 at E3. It was called Anthem, and featured players going up against a massive sầu untamed environment in exo-suit called Javelins. BioWare had been working on Anthem since 2012; it was using Frostbite, but surely the work on Dragon Age: Inquisition và Mass Effect: Andromeda meant that Anthem would be fine.

Not really. The same problems that plagued Andromeda resurfaced here. BioWare didn"t quite know what Anthem was during development, và while some of the systems could be ported over from their previous games, Anthem was firmly a multiplayer online experience. There"s not much connection between the types of games Anthem, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Mass Effect: Andromeda are. So again, BioWare had to craft new features within Frostbite và again, it wasn"t a pleasant task.

"It"s hard enough to lớn make a game," one former BioWare employee told Kotaku. "It"s really hard khổng lồ make a game where you have sầu to lớn fight your own tool phối all the time."

Different game, same story. BioWare began to cut bachồng on planned features for Anthem, lượt thích real-time weather, because trying khổng lồ get them working in Frostbite was taking forever. One developer said it can take "a week lớn make a little bug fix". Getting some of the ideas working in Frostbite required as much work as making a new engine.

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...sadly, they need lớn work on the gameplay. | Electronic Arts

"Part of the trouble was you could vì chưng enough in the engine to hack it khổng lồ show what was possible, but then khổng lồ get the investment behind it lớn get it actually done took a lot longer, và in some cases you"d run inlớn a briông chồng wall," a BioWare developer told Kotaku. "Then you"d realize, "Oh my god, we can do this only if we reinvent the wheel, which is going lớn take too long." It was sometimes difficult khổng lồ know when lớn cut & run."

Worse, engineers within EA"s Frostbite team were spread thin. If every game is using Frostbite at your publisher, then you need lớn spread that expertise around. The Frostbite team was helping with FIFA, because that made a ton of money for EA, so BioWare"s Anthem team trying khổng lồ find time to sync up with them was hard. BioWare had little help, things kept changing with the game"s design, and implementing these new changes in Frostbite was very time-consuming.

Like Mass Effect: Andromedomain authority, Anthem launched to a critical drubbing, worse than BioWare"s previous game. Mass Effect: Andromeda lowest Metascore is 71, while Anthem"s is 55. Regardless, BioWare is continuing khổng lồ push forward, improving Anthem where it can. And the studio is still working on another Dragon Age, though that project was cancelled at one point to lớn get Anthem out the door. Will this be the project where BioWare và Frostbite finally come together in a beautiful whole?

Not all of Electronic Arts" problems are related khổng lồ Frostbite though. Ghost Games has shipped three Need for Speed titles, all built in Frostbite. The biggest EA Sports games are developed on Frostbite, và while they vày have some issues with play feel, the developers are seemingly still onboard.

Electronic Arts as a whole could eventually get to the place management wants, a robust engine that can be shared across all developers. But for fans, it can be hard lớn look at the company"s most recent & upcoming exciting games, Apex Legends and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, và notice neither is developed in Frostbite.