The facial animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda have been the subject of mockery and ridicule in the recent past, with many bashing characters' expressions, shoddy transitions and body movements, and the seemingly stock, stiff dialogue. But now, there may be an explanation to the abundance of visual issues: BioWare apparently outsourced animations to various other studios.
Gaming historian Liam Robertson, known on YouTube as the "Game History Guy," recently spoke with a few BioWare employees, who revealed that the company sought out external studios to create facial animations for Mass Effect: Andromeda. In a video posted to his channel, Robertson delved into the alleged outsourcing and the confusion as to why the title even had animation troubles in the first place. Echoing many fans' thoughts, Robertson questioned, "Why in a huge, triple A game like this, with a multimillion-dollar budget, were some of the characters and animations not given more attention?"
According to the information Robertson gathered, BioWare apparently relied too heavily on a technology known as Cyberscan to create the game's animations. The tech cuts out the middle man in animation by using digital mapping to track a human subject and render a 3D model, which serves as the foundation for an actual character inside the game. Allegedly, BioWare chose this route rather than enlisting artists to manually sculpt models for Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Robertson mentioned that while Cyberscan technology is a helpful alternative, it isn't enough to create high-quality game assets, at least not without additional artist input. Human faces in particular require fine-tuning after scans are complete, as capturing the intricacies of their expression isn't something that can usually be done in a single step.
The BioWare staff members Robertson spoke to admitted that one of Mass Effect: Andromeda's largest mistakes was not employing expert artists to offer a steady hand in refining facial animations. Instead, BioWare allegedly outsourced. One Andromeda artist explained to Robertson that the majority of human characters were handled by out-of-house studios. Reportedly, the only subjects "given much attention by BioWare's in-house art team were hard-surface assets like environments and ships," such as the Nomad vehicle, "as well as select robot and alien characters."
Much to the dismay of BioWare's artists, initial human character scans were shipped out elsewhere. Robertson's sources unanimously agreed that the decision to outsource these animations was one made by BioWare's management team. These staffers allegedly "outsourced almost all the work on human characters to external teams associated with Electronic Arts." Robertson mentioned that most of the studios in question are still a mystery, but one of his sources at EA suggested that EA Bucharest in Romania helmed a large portion of the outsourced work.
If proven true, the allegations of BioWare outsourcing Mass Effect: Andromeda animations would certainly help explain why so many players have been experiencing issues. However, for a considerable number of gamers out there, the hiccups inside Andromeda stretch far beyond twitchy eyelids and awkward gaits. Players have been dealing with multiplayer matchmaking lags and PC launch troubles, and there has been some controversy surrounding the game's romance options as well.
BioWare is slated to address the Mass Effect community concerns during an event on Tuesday, April 4. It seems the outsourcing allegations are yet another pressing matter the company will eventually need to comment on, but perhaps Andromeda's laundry list of other issues are the bigger fish to fry.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Source: YouTube - Liam Robertson