What is wrong with BioWare?
This is a question floating around the internet lately. From the Reddit conversation highlighting the difference between the facial animations of The Witcher 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda to Twitter conversations lambasting BioWare’s buggy and somewhat disappointing release of the highly-anticipated new installment to the much loved Mass Effect series, fans are clearly expressing something between satisfaction and disappointment. A few reviews that I have read online state the same summation: Mass Effect: Andromeda feels like a game half-finished. For a game 5 years in the making and with a budget of $40 million, this seems to suggest BioWare has got something going on that is affecting their ability to produce excellence.
It was not always so. Early BioWare is the company behind some well-known and loved titles like Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Early BioWare (either before their merger with Electronic Arts or shortly after) saw more success with less budget. How is that possible? I am reminded of the making of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and how their budget was so low that the actors had to supply their own costumes, among other things. Yet that low budget movie created one of the landmark films of the modern cinema era, and I think BioWare has had a similar situation with their early games. With more money, more staff, and more resources doesn’t it make sense that a talented company like BioWare would produce more excellence rather than less?
If I were a full-time video game reporter I would be on the phone or digging into this issue because consumers are being affected negatively. Certain game studios like Ubisoft or now BioWare are getting a reputation with gamers. We have come to expect bugs and poorly crafted games. Many of us refuse to pre-order titles from these companies. Many consumers who pre-ordered The Division regretted it. Some gamers who purchased No Man’s Sky even took their complaints to court, citing misleading business practices and unfulfilled promises. I think one of the reasons for the immense amount of Reddit conversations highlighting the difference between the visual quality of The Witcher 3 and Mass Effect’s latest installment is a growing unease and distrust of gaming studios. If gaming wants to continue growth then isn’t a steadfast commitment to producing well crafted games with great visuals and excellent storytelling a must?
An ending caveat – I do not quite agree with what seems to be a widespread disappointment with Sara Ryder’s character. In my opinion, I think she’s cute and I am enjoying the game, but I think we all see some of the early bugs and some of the facial animations being destructive to our immersion. BioWare can do better, but I am left with this question: how much do we, the consumers or audience, need to give companies leeway before gaming studios just start releasing half-finished games?