Anthem's been faced with many issues since the game launched in mid-February, but a new report suggests that one of the root causes of its poor reception is EA's Frosbite game engine. The Frostbite engine is a suite of technology used to make EA titles, primarily as a method to both unify the technology each studio uses under the EA umbrella and to save on licensing fees.
The Frostbite engine was originally created by DICE in order to create the Battlefield games, and has since been adopted by EA over the past decade. BioWare first began using Frostbite for Dragon Age: Inquisition in 2011, which apparently caused a slew of issues for the experienced development team. Many of the features present in other game engines don't exist in Frostbite: save-load systems and third-person cameras need to be built from scratch, which creates a lot of extra work for those using Frosbite. The same problems plagued Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game that was one of the worst-reviewed BioWare titles ever.
According to a report from Kotaku, the use of the Frosbite engine has been a significant source of the problems that Anthem has encountered since its launch, and remained a developmental hazard for BioWare throughout the creation of the game. Apparently, many of the early ideas the team had for Anthem simply weren't possible to create on Frostbite, which allowed for giant, gorgeous environments but couldn't support the detailed survival features they'd come up with for Anthem. According to a former BioWare employee in the report, Frostbite is difficult to deal with for many reasons, and not particularly well-liked by developers:
"Frostbite is like an in-house engine with all the problems that entails—it's poorly documented, hacked together, and so on—with all the problems of an externally sourced engine. Nobody you actually work with designed it, so you don't know why this thing works the way it does, why this is named the way it is."
That problem didn't just persist during Anthem's development, though, as the studio is still struggling with the engine today. Another person who worked on Anthem elaborated on why it has been such a struggle for BioWare to implement fixes to the game's most broken features:
"If it takes you a week to make a little bug fix, it discourages people from fixing bugs. If you can hack around it, you hack around it, as opposed to fixing it properly."
The report also details several other issues that were present during Anthem's development, such as the development team feeling understaffed, and the game's online nature presenting problems for BioWare that the company hadn't needed to deal with on Frostbite previously. There were also assets from previously built games, like Dragon Age: Inquisition's inventory system, that couldn't be ported well into Anthem, leading to the team needing to do even more work on systems they'd already designed previously.
While there's no one source of Anthem's flaws, it's become apparent in reading the report on its development that the Frostbite engine is a major contributor to many of them. For the many people who have criticized EA for stifling the studios it acquires with unnecessary rules and regulations—like, for instance, requiring the use of a flawed game engine—this should prove to be useful fuel for the argument against EA's acquisition style. For BioWare, it's cold comfort, but if Frostbite ends up getting enough criticism that it's not required anymore, perhaps the studio gain something from its departure in the future.