“We knew it wasn’t ready,” says ex-BioWare developer Ian Saterdalen as he details the extensive crunch involved in the making of Anthem.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, former BioWare developer Ian Saterdalen has revealed that the 2019 game Anthem was pulled together in just 15 months of crushing overtime.
“We knew it wasn’t ready,” he said, “as this game was literally created in 15 months. Which is unheard of for a game that scope. Anthem 2 would have been great!”
Unfortunately, a sequel would never happen. BioWare spent the first year after Anthem's released in February 2019 trying to fix many of the problems with the game, before announcing that the core gameplay would be reinvented in February 2020. Development on the title ceased in February 2021.
Anthem was in pre-production for years before it was announced at E3 in June 2017. But even then, full production didn’t start immediately. Saterdalen explains that work began on the first level and the Ranger Javelin around 18 months before launch, and that when he joined the team three months later, “the Ranger was not finished and the world crashed every 2-3 min.”
In another tweet, he details the gruelling overtime that went into hitting the game’s deadline. “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 and not even a position we should have been in.”
“I’m fine now, but not without damage,” he adds, noting that the work took a toll on his marriage. “I needed therapy for a while after that endeavor.”
Saterdalen partially blames the notoriously tricky to use Frostbite engine for the difficulties in development. “I guarantee we could have put something out in Unreal,” he said. “Working in Frostbite was rough.”
In 2019, the Kotaku article ‘How BioWare’s Anthem went wrong’ by Jason Schreier looked at the chaotic birth of the game, including how even core mechanics such as flying were implemented right towards the end of development. Saterdalen says that “this article only scratches the surface“.
It’s not the first time that we’ve heard complaints from former BioWare developers in recent weeks. At the start of May, the lead writer for the Dragon Age series claimed that writers were “quietly resented” at the company.