Update: BioWare has issued a response to the claims in Schreier's report. Original story follows.
From its inception to its release, Anthem was technically in-development at BioWare for almost seven years. Despite this, the actual Anthem game as we know it was only in full production for about 18 months, with one developer saying that Anthem's development was rushed within the last six to nine months of development.
This comes from an explosive report by Kotaku's Jason Schreier, citing 19 anonymous sources who either worked directly on Anthem or were "adjacent" to it. One developer said about Anthem's development:
"You couldn’t play it. There was nothing there. It was just this crazy final rush. The hard part is, how do you make a decision when there’s no game? There’s nothing to play. So yeah, you’re going to keep questioning yourself,"
Based on the Kotaku report, it seems as though many of the troubles with Anthem's development came from a lack of a cohesive vision, leadership changes, and struggles with the Frostbite engine. This in turn created a high-stress work environment, with depression and anxiety described as an "epidemic" at BioWare. One former BioWare developer even said that the stress was so bad that they would often shut themselves in a private room to cry.
Anthem's identity crisis was so severe that BioWare was unsure what exactly the game would be all the way up to the Anthem E3 2017 demo. The foundation for that demo was cobbled together in an attempt to impress EA executive Patrick Soderlund, who disapproved of the first Anthem demo BioWare presented to him. This new demo added the flying mechanic back into the game after it was scrapped multiple times, with BioWare unsure if it would even make it to the final product. Soderlund was impressed by this second demo, and BioWare used it to make the E3 2017 demo, which was mostly fake and not representative of the actual game-in-progress.
"The demo was not actually built properly—a lot of it was fake, like most E3 demos. There was a lot of stuff that was like, 'Oh are we actually doing this? Do we have the tech for that, do we have the tools for that? To what end can you fly? How big should the world be?'" said a former BioWare developer to Kotaku.
Crunch on Anthem started thereafter, as BioWare reportedly rushed to finish the game and meet its deadlines. The end product is a title that has been widely criticized by game critics and the public. Anthem's struggles have continued since launch, with fans going as far as to threaten an Anthem boycott over the quality of loot in the endgame.
EA seemed to have a lot of confidence in Anthem, but now it's clear why the game's E3 demos were impressive, whereas the final product was largely a failure. It remains to be seen if BioWare can salvage the game with the content coming as part of its 90 day Anthem update roadmap, but with heavy competition from other looter-shooters, it seems like it will be an uphill battle, to say the least.
Hopefully leaders at BioWare and EA can learn from the mistakes made during Anthem's lengthy development cycle and avoid these issues on future projects.
Anthem is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.