You may or may not blame the woes of Anthem on the engine it’s built upon, and odds are that’s probably not the cause of every single issue. But former general manager of BioWare Aaryn Flynn spoke recently about his time with the studio at the Reboot Develop Red gathering and called out the Frostbite engine specifically. Flynn discussed at length how the engine allows for very high performance but also has to be very carefully managed and thus slowed down the studio’s development:
But then chapter two comes along, and we switched to an engine called Frostbite. And Frostbite is an EA internal engine; very powerful, fast, beautiful, purpose built to do some really cool stuff. But it’s also extremely delicate and needs a huge crew.
It was getting harder and harder to make the content that people wanted. It was harder and harder to move that content through these pipelines and do things. And even though we had more people — we had more teams, more folks — we were slowing down the rate at which we could build and craft these experiences.
Of course, an engine alone does not make for top-level design choices, and the confused decisions made during Anthem’s development (or for that matter, the overall buggy arc of Mass Effect: Andromeda) cannot be wholly excused simply due to the engine being used. Flynn himself departed before Anthem’s launch, although it was in development during his tenure; he also has a history of not specifically blaming Electronic Arts for development woes. Still, it serves as an insight about particular issues that this specific engine can have, and perhaps a source of understanding how much impact a game engine can have on overall performance.