Anthem was a game that never managed to take off. Mixing live service and multiplayer game elements into a sci-fi shooter, it was set to be the next big IP from Mass Effect and Dragon Age developer, BioWare. But a combination of punishing development schedules, undercooked ideas, and some consumer confusion in regards to Anthem being like Destiny sank it, and now one of the former developers has opened up about the experience of making the game.
This comes from former BioWare developer and Anthem quality assurance lead Ian Saterdalen, who took to Twitter to respond to a viral thread asking game developers to talk about what they loved from their lowest-reviewed game, and Saterdalen chose to talk about Anthem.
“We knew it wasn’t ready, as this game was literally created in 15 months,” Saterdalen starts. “Which is unheard of for a game that scope. Anthem 2 would have been great!”
The lack of development time was a massive factor in Anthem’s critical reception, as it was seen as unfinished across the board, turning it into a dead-in-the-water live service experience. Our Anthem review from 2019 thought as much, saying it was weighed down by “repetitive missions and a flabby structure.”
When asked how BioWare managed to create Anthem in just 15 months, Saterdalen talked about the crunch – the over-the-top workload to get Anthem over the line – faced by the studio.
“I was working about 90 hours a week (and many others on the team) for 15 months (I’m sure others were doing those hours before I arrived). It wasn’t sustainable or even a position we should have been in.
“Maybe to our own detriment, we were too passionate to continue working in those conditions?” Saterdalen adds in another tweet. “I support unions, I hope it becomes more common in the next few years.
“There were a lot of morale hits on a personal level and a team level. Everyone had their own way of dealing with it.”
When Anthem was running up to release, there was a lot of talk about how it was going to rival Bungie’s own live service shooter, Destiny, but Saterdalen points out how making Anthem into a “Destiny killer” was never on BioWare’s radar, because it just didn’t have the know-how.
“I think maybe in the public eye it may have been positioned to be a Destiny killer,” Saterdalen explains. “It came up in conversations internally but we didn’t have the muscle or know-how to take on Destiny. It was squashed very fast because that’s a lot of pressure. Let’s walk before running.”
Saterdalen also talked about the term “BioWare magic,” which was used by the Dragon Age and Mass Effect studio in an attempt to explain what made the games so unique, and how most of the team didn’t believe in it.
“For what it’s worth most people at Bioware didn’t believe in the ‘Bioware magic’. I just laugh at it all now though. It’s sad to see that it is one of the key things in people’s minds that tie to Anthem.”
Former Bioware executive producer called out “BioWare magic” recently, explaining how it was a catch-all term used to justify late development crunch at the studio, as BioWare games often come together at the last minute.
BioWare is currently working on both Dragon Age Dreadwolf and a brand new Mass Effect, so you can learn all you need to know about the Dragon Age 4 release date ahead of time. Alternatively, you can check out our breakdown of the best open-world games on PC, if you want something with that classic BioWare feel.