BioWare admits and pledges to address workplace issues after Anthem exposé

Tuesday saw the publishing of an astonishing exposé by Kotaku into the development of Anthem and the workplace flaws and hubris that led to the game’s especially troubled launch. It once again highlighted some of the less desirable working practices rife in the industry, as Anthem’s preproduction shifted back and forth for several years with an unclear vision of what the game wanted to be, before a last minute sprint to get the game shipped under poor leadership and with developers burning out and taking medical stress leave.

It’s a damning story off the back of numerous anonymous interviews, and well worth reading. In the hours that followed, BioWare released a blog post response that did little to address the issues raised, and was reportedly seen as being rather tone deaf by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier. However, those same sources have now leaked to Kotaku that BioWare studio GM Casey Hudson sent an internal memo looking to address the issues.

The memo reads:

Hey BioWare,

I wanted to get a note out to you to share my thoughts on the Kotaku article and the online discussion it has raised.

The article mentions many of the problems in the development of Anthem and some of our previous projects. And it draws a link between those issues and the quality of our workplace and the well-being of our staff. These problems are real and it’s our top priority to continue working to solve them.

What we found out-of-bounds was the naming of specific developers as targets for public criticism. It’s unfair and extremely traumatizing to single out people in this way, and we can’t accept that treatment towards any of our staff. That’s why we did not participate in the article and made a statement to that effect.

When I was offered the opportunity to return to BioWare as GM, I came into the role knowing the studio was experiencing significant challenges in team health, creative vision, and organizational focus. I was – and continue to be – excited to help drive improvements in those areas because I love this studio, and above all I want to create a place where all of you are happy and successful.

I’m not going to tell you I’ve done a good job at that, and on a day like today I certainly feel like I haven’t. But some of the steps we’ve taken towards this include a more focused studio mission and values, so that we have clarity on what we are here to do and how we define a high standard for our studio culture. We updated our studio structure around a matrix so that department directors can be fully focused on individual career support and well-being. We are defining better role clarity so that people can succeed better against clear expectations. And we are putting in place production changes that will provide for clearer project vision as well as a significant post-production period that will further relieve pressure and anxiety on teams during development.

But I know there’s much more to do, and we will talk in more detail about other actions we have been planning in response to internal feedback and postmortems at next week’s All-Hands. As always please continue to provide feedback on further steps we can take to make BioWare the best possible place to work.

I’m committed to getting us to a place where we are delivering on the highest expectations for BioWare games, through a work environment that’s among the very best in the world. With your help, we will get there.

Please let me know if you’d like to talk in person and I will be happy to set up time to hear your thoughts.

Casey

These are certainly encouraging words to see. One of the main issues highlighted in Kotaku’s investigation was that the success of Dragon Age: Inquisition meant that workplace issues felt by developers during that game’s development weren’t addressed, with the company’s expectation that the old “BioWare magic” would see them pull together and come good in the end.

Hopefully this experience can see BioWare improve their stature once more, making their development processes more cohesive and friendly to their employees and releasing games that live up to their legacy once more.

Source: Kotaku [1, 2]

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2 Comments

  1. Schreiers article is excellent, what an insight into what happened with Anthem..! Sounds like Bioware fell victim to their previous success, what a development he’ll they were in… It’s also quite an insight into games development in general, and should be read by everyone interested in games.
    Bioware’s reply seems rather lame to me, but then, this studio seems so much a wreck, it’s hard to imagine it can be saved, to be honest. What a shame.

  2. By the way, RSS seems broken on TSA, my feed reader does not want to update it since 2nd of April any longer, while other feeds still work…

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