Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My thoughts regarding the Mass Effect: Andromeda animation issues

First, some links regarding the animation issues in Mass Effect: Andromeda

This from Jonathan Cooper on Twitter (if you're not following him, then you should start doing it)

And this one from the AnimState site, which includes some very savvy animators like Gwen Frey, Simon Unger and Tim Borelli.

Both links pretty much sum up what most game developers will tell you: Animators alone are not to blame. I understand (in a way) why most gamers do this: They have no idea all the systems involved in a game of this scope and that's not excuse though to justify insults towards people, so let's be clear on that subject too.

For me, this game reminds me of Assassin's Creed 3. It was a game that tried to do too many things, with limited time and not enough resources, though that last part is weird given how Ubisoft tend to do their games (multiple studios come in to help if needed).

Both games lacked a lot of polish and that, in my opinion is the root of all this trouble. I think at some point, producers and decision-making people should have sit down in a quiet room and ask themselves an honest question: What do we need to cut in order to make something else better? It is a difficult question because it implies (in a certain way) defeat, but is a question that at some point you need to ask to yourself and your team if you see that your game is full of bugs and there's not enough people to fix them.

Simon Unger said it best in the AnimState round table linked above: Focus on what the people will see most. Personally, for a game like Mass Effect, that's the main story and combat gameplay. Additionally, you need to be sure that your tools are working properly. This is especially true given that ME:A changed from one engine (Unreal) to another one (Frostbite).

Once that's done, focus on less important stuff. For example, have less side quests. Or remove some parts of the background story that are not important. Multiplayer? Who needs it when the story is so compelling that you want to replay the game just to try a different ending?

And if you're worried that some people might complain for the lack of content... Seriously, people will always complain about something, but I prefer that people say "This game doesn't have procedural side quests!" instead of having tons of videos of weird facial expressions and funny walk cycles.

Mass Effect is a huge franchise, with a huge fanbase. And every time there is a new ME game coming out, there are HUGE expectations. I thought at some point that the gameplay trailer that was shown last year increased the hype of the game from what it normally is, but a friend of mine told me something that I agree 100% with: The hype for a Mass Effect game is always there.

Finally, I honestly think that issue with the game is not exclusive to the animators (as most people think), or the designers, or the programmers (though every single person that worked on the game has a share of the blame when a game doesn't meet expectations). If I have to point my finger to one department in particular, it will be the people doing the planning. Those are the people that need to ask themselves the tough question of what to remove in order to make the overall experience better. If they don't, you will end up with a half-made huge game that people complains about, not because the lack of content, but because the lack of effort.

DISCLAIMER: I have no idea what the planning was for ME:A. What I've put in this post are my opinions on why I think the game failed to meet expectations. And for the record, I have nothing against anyone at Ubisoft, but ME:A reminds me so much of AC3, that it's difficult for me not to make comparisons. Cool thing is though, after AC3 came AC4, which is a hell of game! So, I hope the next ME game will be incredible! :fingers_crossed:

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