August 19th, 2017 Year of Our Lord. A day of mourning for a lot of fans of the once acclaimed Mass Effect series. After merely 5 months since it’s release EA and Bioware have announced that Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s last update, 1.10, will be its final single player update. You can read their update below:
A moment of silence is in order…
Okay that’s enough.
This may come as a surprise to anyone that hasn’t been forcibly strapped into the abusive roller coaster that has been the Mass Effect series; but for those of us that have braved the endless floggings this was the inevitable cataclysm looming over the horizon.
Let’s roll back time to give you an idea of how bumpy this ride has been. I will be focusing on events days before and after launch of Andromeda to avoid any mention of the SJW menace or other political rantings that resemble the dead equus caballus. Here we go:
March 21st of last year was a busy one for the internet laugh machine but it didn’t start there. Early reviews praised the game for its storytelling and game play (aspects I personally didn’t find worth any praise) but all clamped down on the issue of ugly character models and unpolished animations as well as many other mistakes; like this backwards gun.
These reviews put quite a bit of folks on edge and shined a light directly on Bioware Montreal. With the bright light of a massive fan base beating down on the rookie team a sliver of hope was announced with a planned day one patch. Although this patch fixed many of the serious issues for fans such as black screens and crashes it didn’t seem to include any fixes to the animations themselves. Lead Designer Ian Frazier responded to fan inquiry with a tweet:
This lack of attention towards player feedback upset a good portion of the community and fans demanded a patch addressing these complaints asap. A patch that didn’t come until April 4th, and still didn’t address majority of the issues.
Patch 1.05 and 1.06
Patch 1.05 was rolled out on April 4th and contained some significant improvements(full patch notes here). Most significant being character animations that one would think wouldn’t have been overlooked. Popular Youtuber and somewhat crackpot theorist Yongyea detailed a scene that was improved significantly with this patch. You can take a look for yourself below:
As you can see this patch made a significant change to the quality of facial animations but it really only touched up the worst of the worst and was still nowhere near looking like an actually finished product. the 1.06 patch, released on May 9th(full patch notes here), improved it even more but fan still weren’t satisfied. Patches 1.07-1.10 quietly rolled out over the months with about the same effect.
If you take a look at the full path notes you’ll notice that wonky animations weren’t the only focus. The list of changes in each patch extend farther than even early access games of today, which begs the question: Why would EA and Bioware release a clearly unfinished game? There isn’t exactly an answer to this, but what I can bring to light is the restructure of Bioware that came about mere weeks after Andromeda shipped.
On May 10th, a day after 1.06 released, Kotaku reported on a rumor that Bioware Montreal was preparing for a full restructure. The anonymous source told Kotaku that a good number of employees for the Montreal studio were being shifted to EA Motive, the team developing Star Wars: Battlefront. The source also claimed that EA would be putting the Mass Effect series on Hiatus, contrary to their ambition to create another trilogy. When Kotaku reached out to EA they received a reply saying:
Our teams at BioWare and across EA put in tremendous effort bringing Mass Effect Andromeda to players around the world. Even as BioWare continues to focus on the Mass Effect Andromeda community and live service, we are constantly looking at how we’re prepared for the next experiences we will create.
The teams in EA Worldwide Studios are packed with talent, and more than ever, we are driving collaboration between studios on key projects.
With our BioWare and Motive teams sharing studio space in Montreal, we have BioWare team members joining Motive projects that are underway. We’re also ramping up teams on other BioWare projects in development.
There will be much more to come from BioWare in the years ahead.
Bioware Montreal also wasn’t the only Bioware division receiving some shake ups. Two months after Kotaku reported on the rumor Bioware’s General Manager, Aaryn Flynn, announced that he’d be parting ways with the company. His replacement? None other than Casey Hudson. These drastic shake ups came within months of Andromeda’s release and although I can’t claim that they were the sole reason for the mess that was Andromeda, I can definitely say that a studio plagued with this many drastic changes could not have been a structurally sound one from the get go. Maybe this along with the fact that Mass Effect:Andromeda was their first project led to the final product being the way it is. Getting handed a massive game with such a huge fanbase would put a lot of pressure on a studio, and I’m sure EA’s suits didn’t help them either. What came next was a huge blow to us all.
The Silent Fall
August rolls around the corner as quickly as ever and yet no word has come from Bioware or EA since Casey Hudson’s comeback. I feel like at this point everyone knew what was looming over the horizon. It was like we had taken a sick pet to the vet and were waiting ever so patiently by the phone for good news. But what we got instead was the announcement that Bioware Montreal had been put to pasture, followed by Andromeda not even a month later. Yet another small studio swallowed by the monolith known as EA, with only one game to be scratched on their epitaph.
Although the stench of death is prominent EA promises that Mass Effect isn’t done with. Maybe the return of Casey Hudson will usher in a new age for the beloved Sci-fi RPG, or maybe Andromeda really was our final journey through the stars.