Mass Effect: Andromeda’s unfavorable reception has been a frequent talking point since the game’s release nearly three months ago, and a recent report has given extensive details on what appears to have been a troubled development cycle at Bioware Montreal—one which involves the developer scrapping a fully explorable, procedurally generated Mass Effect galaxy!
According to the report by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, the questionable quality of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s infamously criticized animations, lip-syncing, and story writing are all results of—as one would expect—a multitude of factors, including a shift in leadership, technological challenges, turbulent office politics, and understaffing. One of the recurring themes of the story is the multiple large-scale re-scopes of the game’s design. According to Kotaku’s sources, Bioware’s original vision for the next Mass Effect game—which entered pre-production back in 2013—included an entire galaxy of hundreds of explorable planets, all procedurally generated.
This concept will no doubt sound familiar to anyone who remembers the similarly lambasted sci-fi game No Man’s Sky (2016). Like Hello Games’ infamous space exploration game, early concepts of Mass Effect: Andromeda involved an entire galaxy with explorable planets, spaceship aviation, and resource mining similar to that of the original Mass Effect.
‘The concept sounds awesome,’ said a person who worked on the game. ‘No Man’s Sky with BioWare graphics and story, that sounds amazing.
Unfortunately, the idea was slowly and painfully reduced down from hundreds of planets to a few dozen, then eventually a meager seven hand-crafted explorable planets. According to the report, this massive change in the project’s scope came after Bioware Executive Producer Casey Hudson and Game Director Gérard Lehiany—who was one of the original visionaries behind the procedurally-generated galaxy concept—both left the company in 2014. Up until that point, the Andromeda team was “having trouble executing the ideas they’d found so exciting just a year ago,” specifically space flight and procedurally-generated planets. Ultimately, upon Lehiany leaving the project, the decision was made to abandon the massive galaxy-exploration concept in favor of a more focused explorable world. Schreier’s report explains that this redirection was made uncommonly late in the game’s production cycle, leading to a very compressed development schedule—which was already heavily troubled by all manner of other issues, including technical issues with the Frostbite engine, dissonance within the game’s writing and cinematics (Lehiany’s departure hurt the writing team particularly, as he had been leading the story team), and several other debilitating obstacles.
Since Mass Effect: Andromeda’s release, reports have stated that Bioware has scaled down its Montreal team—demoting it to ‘support team’ status—and has put the Mass Effect series on hiatus. In the event that the series does come back, our own Hunter Wolfe has some ideas on how to better the Andromeda experience.