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What EA learned from 'Mass Effect' will shape its future


The state of ‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’

In 2013, Soderlund told me that if the experiment to move all nonsports game development to Frostbite didn’t result in games that looked, sounded, felt and played better, that would be cause for concern. “We can talk all day about the developer communities and the speed of development, but unless that yields better games for the consumers, it’s not worth anything — it’s a simple fact.”

Since then, pretty much every EA studio has shipped a game using the Frostbite engine. Most of them have been pretty good, but there are a few exceptions. Despite the game indeed looking and sounding better, Battlefield 4‘s multiplayer barely functioned at launch and, more than that, dabbling in multiplayer had a nasty habit of wiping progress in the single-player campaign. The long-awaited follow-up Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst was effectively a dud that did little to capture imaginations the way its predecessor did in 2008. Visceral Games’ gritty tale of militarized cops and robbers, Battlefield: Hardline, failed to set the world on fire as well, sitting at 73 percent on review-aggregator site Metacritic and prompting a return to historic wars for the series.

Which brings us back to Mass Effect: Andromeda from earlier this year. Here’s the full question-and-answer.

Engadget: I know that you have said you are very proud of the team’s work and how the game turned out, but that isn’t the complete consensus on the consumer side of things with how the animations worked — glitches and bugs, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that.

Soderlund: No, and as you should. Here’s how I look at this: A game that we launched in the market that doesn’t function and is full of bugs, that’s not who we are and that’s not who we should be. Trust in me that that’s something I look at and I say there needs to be a change in process and a change in strategy. What I will say, though, is that we are a large organization with 6,000 developers. If one game comes out and we have those issues, then we come out and we attack that problem.

That doesn’t mean that the whole organization has that problem. But what you said, I can only agree with. It warrants a change in process, it warrants a change in approvals, which we’re going through. So all I can say to those people who feel that way is, we hear you, and we agree with you. We will make sure that we rectify that going forward.

With Mass Effect, the game wasn’t maybe as finished as people wanted it to be. Of course, we take that seriously. What we do is we look at that toward the Mass Effect team themselves, but we also look at what learnings can we apply to the rest of the organization so that this doesn’t get replicated in another place around EA. Of course, anything that comes out of BioWare we’ll apply thorough dialogue and change to ensure we get the best possible game in the market.

On BioWare’s new big project, ‘Anthem’

Despite how Andromeda turned out, BioWare was in the spotlight at today’s media briefing with the long-in-the-works Anthem. Which, honestly, should show that EA still has plenty of faith in the role-playing studio.

Soderlund: You’ll see us announcing a new IP from BioWare at EA Play, but that game, I think I can say, without sounding like a complete arrogant prick, I think it pushes the boundaries of open-world fidelity to a whole new level, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. … It’s a new IP from BioWare, they’ve been working on it for quite a while. We’re gonna have a very short section of that at our press conference, and then it will appear with a gameplay demo at a partner’s press conference the day after.

It’s cool for us because it’s been awhile since we came up with a new IP. We actually have several new IPs in development, but to create something from scratch and build something new takes time [laughs]. And this is the first out of more new IP you’ll see from us, and massive, hugely, hugely ambitious — almost to the point of too ambitious, but I like that — and I’m very bullish on it. I love it. I’ve been very personally involved in it and maybe that’s why I’m biased, but I hope people are going to like it.