Bioware “working around the clock to improve and build on” Mass Effect: Andromeda

Newbie Mass Effect game Andromeda [official site] has proved to be the most controversial since, well, the last Mass Effect game. The fuss this time is not to do with convenient space magic endings and dangling plot threads, but instead a tri-gripe of its feeling somewhat routine, a shower of bugs and a feeling that its facial animations are a little bit Christmas panto.

Devs Bioware have been relatively quiet during the storm, but are now offering the first details on how they plan to get their new era for Mass Effect back on track.

The key things to know are a) they’ve announced that they do plan to do something about at least some of the above, rather than just hoping that existent fondness for Mass Effect will be enough to keep Andromeda selling and b) they’ll be telling us exactly what those plans are in five days’ time.

“Working around the clock to gather information and plan out solutions to improve and build on Mass Effect: Andromeda” is the key phrase. Though it offers reassurance about how seriously they’re taking this, I can only hope it does not mean that EA has forced a team of devs back into crunch because a bunch of noisy internet people became facial animation experts overnight.

My guess would be that the announcement will entail a patch primarily focused on bugs and animation, and given a fancy title to imply a relaunch of sorts. Perhaps they’ll even do something like a ‘director’s cut’, as was the case for the first couple of Witcher games.

I’d be surprised if, whatever it was, it involved rethinking story, characterisation and side-quests at this stage – both because of the scale of the task and because it would represent a deeper admission of failure that does not come easily to big studios and publishers. I suspect we’ll have to wait for DLC for something substantial on the story/characters front.

But maybe there’ll be a few meatier changes. Recasting Foster ‘my face is tired‘ Addison would be a smart move, for instance. While discussing this post, John also said various things with exclamation marks at the end regarding the excessive incidental chatter from AI character SAM.

We’ll find out what’s what next Tuesday, April 4, in any case. Here’s the full Bioware statement. Not too late to send ’em feedback, if you have something constructive and non-sweary to say that you think might help.


  1. Bull0 says:

    You don’t have to be an overnight facial animation expert to see how badly they screwed up the facial animations. All they need to do is reign in the crazy eyes a bit. Probably too late now, though.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Not really. With the right intent, all of the technical problems can be resolved, even if it takes a little time and effort.

      Look at The Witcher: Enhanced Edition…

      • Bull0 says:

        That was clearly a labour of love though, and launched a series. This is a swansong for a series that long ago stopped being much of a passion project for the devs. I’ll be amazed if it gets that much attention.

        • Optimaximal says:

          Really? Swansong? This is a whole new chapter in the Mass Effect series, designed to keep the series going into the current console generation. It’s also widely acknowledged as the main reason EA bought Bioware in the first place..!

          EA won’t leave this to die, not whilst there’s sweet money to be made.

          • Galdred says:

            How so? EA buried a lot of game studios already.

          • typographie says:

            EA has buried a lot of game studios that stopped making money, yeah. But Bioware is still one of their golden children. For all of the complaints about the lack of polish in ME: Andromeda, I haven’t heard anyone accuse it of selling poorly.

      • nogglebeak says:

        No shit, Sam! I know it’s cold outside and warm inside. You don’t have to tell me every… single…. time.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      You don’t have to be an animation expert to think this mess might not be bargain fixed in a few weeks.

    • Furiant says:

      Friggin infants are facial animation experts. You don’t have to be a professional 3D artist to know when a face looks disturbing.

  2. ahac says:

    I’m having a lot of fun with the game, I just wish they fix some of the bugs, make SAM shut up, let us skip the stupid animations when moving from planet to planet, allow saving on all missions, add quicksave and an option to completely disable voice chat in multiplayer.

    • appel says:

      Are those not disguised loading screens? I prefer them over boring static images.

    • atticus says:

      Seconded! Also: Invert mouse needs to apply to all aspects of the game, not just the moving about and shooting. Driving the Nomad without constantly crashing and/or falling off cliffs is impossible for me at the moment.

      • Dingobloo says:

        Scroll down a bit in your Control options, there’s a Vehicle invert X and Invert Y separate from on foot invert.

        • atticus says:

          Can’t believe I missed that one… Thanks alot!

        • ahac says:

          That one also inverts the galaxy map controls, which is annoying. The map movement isn’t in 3D, it shouldn’t be the same as the vehicle setting.

    • AutonomyLost says:

      Yes — what in the hell were they thinking NOT including a quick-save function? After F5 failing to help me I painstakingly scrolled through each command in the menu, only to be sorely let down by the fact the option isn’t even present. Rookies.

      • jmorro says:

        Yesssss….quick save would be great. =) Not fun to replay 30+ minutes of close quarters combat due to learning the hard way that a new enemy type can skewer players Banshee style….

    • PiiSmith says:

      I am having fun too. I guess the unnecessary landing cut scenes are here to make the loading invisible. So I guess they will stay. As for the other points I agree.

  3. yogibbear says:

    Taking bets on “we’re working on it” actually means they will announced paid DLC content before any substantial patch that we might see outside 6 months.

    • LexW1 says:

      That’s not much of a bet, is it?

      We know they have DLC planned, so essentially you’re betting that they won’t pretend they don’t, and trying to casting as some sort of cynical deal? What a lot of silly business.

      That said, any patch like this is likely to come out BEFORE paid DLC to ensure that the warm feeling and late purchases the patch creates have some effect on the DLC sales.

      • yogibbear says:

        Yeah my bad I was meant to say “paid DLC will RELEASE before the patch”, not just be announced. :D

        • Sabbatai says:

          I’ll take that bet. We have to define what “the patch” is though. I am willing to bet $250 that they will release a patch that aims to fix at least 2 of the major complaints from players prior to DLC launching.

    • Optimaximal says:

      To be honest, the recent AAA-publisher MO with regards to DLC in the face of massive technical problems has been to genuinely delay the DLC or at least discount it/release it free to appease early adopters.

      The game is currently being mauled critically and in the user space – I can’t imagine EA letting the series die for the sake of pushing some DLC over fixing genuine technical problems.

      • Tridus says:

        Simcity 5 may disagree with your assessment of EA’s priorities.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Fixing technical issues won’t be enough to “save” the game though.

        It will please those who see it mainly as a cool setting for a shooter, but the deeper flaws are in the juvenile dialog, and repetitive combat padding out a series of boring side quests.

        I don’t think they’ll change the UI either. It’s incredibly annoying, but it follows a certain logic, and would require a total redesign.

        • playzintraffic says:

          I think the dialog being so unpolished comes from trying to fit the script into four divergent types of dialog options instead of the previous paragon/renegade style. It’s just a new paradigm and they’re not used to writing for it.

          • Zenicetus says:

            The additional dialog choices might be a contributing factor, but I think the main problem is the whole Young Adult Novel level of the plot, the characters, and then the dialog that follows from that.

            It was a mistake (IMO) to make the central character in the game look and act so young and inexperienced. It’s a standard trope for YA novels, or even classics like Lord of the Rings. But it’s a poor fit for the Mass Effect series, which is basically a sci-fi version of the Seven Samurai/Magnicent Seven films, where a grizzled warrior assembles a team of misfits to kick ass. Shepard at least felt like a team leader, instead of someone stumbling through every situation and alternating between super serious and going “gosh wow” all the time.

            It’s possible that as an older gamer, I just resent being thrust into this characterization. But I’ve read some YA novels in my time and haven’t been this put off by it. I think it’s just bad writing.

          • Scelous says:

            “But it’s a poor fit for the Mass Effect series, which is basically a sci-fi version of the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven films”

            I mean, Mass Effect 2 could be put into that category. I never got that feeling from 1 or 3. And I’m not sure where it was written that the Mass Effect series is supposed to be like Seven Samurai.

            “It’s possible that as an older gamer, I just resent being thrust into this characterization”

            Personally, I’m 35 years old, and I find it so, so refreshing to not play as buff, bad ass military Doom guy yet again. I am bone tired of playing the same confident badass in every single action game ever. Seriously, it’s as bad as playing yet another modern military first-person shooter set in the Middle East – I’m just tired of it. I love how awkward the main character is, since I can’t remember the last time I played an action game with a character like that. And I’ve looked.

  4. Eraysor says:

    It was just launched before it was done. Simple as that really. EA had to get it out before the end of their financial year.

    • Rizlar says:

      Definitely feels that way, with all but two of the asari characters having identical faces n that sort of stuff.

      But I wouldn’t expect them to address that in a patch. I do hope they address some of the great many bugs though.

      • lglethal says:

        Is it really only two faces? Or are you just being racist, and thinking they all look alike!


  5. svge says:

    Can’t fix horrendous writing and voice acting unfortunately.

    • LexW1 says:

      Destiny fixed the latter, actually. They replaced one of the main NPCs in the game, played terribly by Peter Dinklage (most likely due to poor direction) with Nolan North. Lines were still terrible, but much better delivered.

      Also, fortunately ME:A doesn’t actually have much bad voice acting or writing, especially past the beginning, and if you avoid selecting “Casual” tone constantly.

      • Bull0 says:

        Much as I love Dinklage nobody can touch Nolan North’s sheer weight of experience doing VO work, and his range is staggering (although granted in most games he does the same generic tough dude voice)

      • natebud says:

        They did fix Destiny’s Dinklage problem, but that was only one character. ME:A has many many more characters that are badly in need of rewrites.

      • Zenicetus says:

        The Witcher enhanced versions were touch-ups on games that were fundamentally well-written, and just had a few technical issues.

        The problems with ME:A run much deeper. They’re not going to re-write the awful teen flick dialog, or re-record all that voice acting. Compared to that, the glitchy animation is nothing. I already managed to ignore it. Can’t ignore the dialog though.

  6. Darth Gangrel says:

    I’m sure it’s not as bad as “everyone” is saying, just like Torment: Tides of Numenera or Pillars of Eternity or Tyranny isn’t what people say it is or isn’t. It’ll probably be fine once I get to it, which will be when the complete edition is 75 % off. If we can’t rely on the devs, then how about the modding scene? Anyone have a clue on how mod friendly ME:A is?

    Still haven’t decided when to get Mass Effect 2, because I dislike not having a GotY edition with all DLC and detest having to buy any DLC with Bioware points.

    • Hoot says:

      I thought much as you did, but then I played the 10 hour early access trial on Origin (if I went ahead and bought it then it would STILL have been cheaper doing it this way thanks to the 10% discount you get from being an Origin Access member).

      I can tell you, with a heavy heart, that yes…it IS that bad.

      Garbage UI, juvenile writing and delivery, no weight behind charcaters or choices made and comedy animation. There’s just so much wrong with the script it’s unreal…the entire cast behaves not like explorers in a new galaxy but like 17 year old social retards with interaction difficulties.

      Granted, they can fix the UI which would be a big plus and they can fix the animation which would also be a big plus. Having the shitty script delivered by an animated face that actually looks like it’s talking and not just moving it’s lips would go a long way. Recasting the turd that is Foster Addison would also be awesome. But…even with all of this…still bargain bin GOTY material.

      EDIT :- We all know it’s going GOTY for some random website right? EA is relying on denial and non-objectivity in the face of abject fandom and some reviewers are playing right into that.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        I’m a big fan of doing my own research and I can always check out a gameplay video with whatever future improvements have been made and decide from there.

        Given my comment about ME2 (and the ever looming presence of the backlog), getting ME:A seems very far off, almost as far off as the Andromeda galaxy.

      • spron says:

        I wonder if, someday, developers will code some dialogue options for the sort of “First Contact gone wrong” scenario that seems to be present at the beginning of this game. Like why would you immediately resort to mass murder when, probably, you are the entity that gave offense? Order a retreat, get your diplomat out there, and apologize profusely instead of slaughtering a tribe of creatures whose planet you, honestly, have just invaded. Frankly, I’ve annihilated enough alien civilizations already. Maybe, once in a while, I could at least be offered the option to say, “Oops, sorry,” BEFORE the bloodshed.

        • playzintraffic says:

          I don’t think that scene was ever supposed to end peacefully. The kett are the aggressors and main big bad for the whole game. The scene is supposed to demonstrate humans trying to start things off peacefully but still being attacked. All the talk of first contact protocols is really just window-dressing to show how unaware the protagonists are at that point of the threat the kett pose.

    • natebud says:

      Here, have a 20 min compilation of the many problems of ME:A. Good for a laugh.

      link to

      It’s going to be a very very very long time before everything gets fixed.

  7. Zaxwerks says:

    With a game as complex as this (or Skyrim, or Fallout 4 etc) I always wait until the first or even second patch come out before starting to play as it’s sadly inevitable in this day and age that the initial release will be buggy some of which can be game breaking.

  8. Jane Doe says:

    Can’t fix bad writing.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Yes you can. You delete it and write something new. That’s the genius of word processors (or Tippex)!

      • Hoot says:

        CDPR re-wrote and re-recorded the entirety of The Witcher for their first Enhanced Edition in response to the script being too juvenile.

        They’ve also released Enhanced Editions and many, many patches for the 2 sequels that have fixed pretty much any complaint you could have levelled against those games. The level of after-market support they give their games is unparalleled, except by maybe Paradox.

        • KenTWOu says:

          They rewrote the first game script? Are you sure? Cause I thought they just improved translations to other languages, and English was one of them. I mean, they rewrote and rerecorded some of the dialogues of localized versions, but certainly not the entire game.

          • Jekadu says:

            Localization isn’t trivial. There’s a reason fan translations and official translations tend to differ significantly.

            The fact that CDPR were able to pull it off at all is quite remarkable. For a game like Andromeda, which has a significantly bigger script and many more voice actors involved, it might just not be possible at all.

        • mvar says:

          yes but that was CDPR, a studio that loves making games and treats its customers with respect. Now about EA …….

        • poliovaccine says:

          Would certainly seem like all that extra work and attention to feedback and willingness to admit fault and improve kinda totally paid off by TW3…

  9. Filthius says:

    The worst thing to me about this game, after loving the first 3 Mass Effects, is the UI. It’s terrible. To the point its stopped me playing. I can’t see them fixing that in the patch. The crap you have to trawl through to check on quests etc is just unbelievable. It was harder to create a UI this bad than make a better one.

    • Optimaximal says:

      It’s pretty damning. The UI was completely redesigned for the PC releases in the original trilogy, so the fact they’ve just thrown out a hybrid mishmash for this release is sad.

    • Divolinon says:

      They have a great crafting system, but the UI is preventing me from delving into it.

    • LexW1 says:

      I think re-doing the entire UI is going to be a bit of a task, as they’d have to actually re-concept a lot of the UI, from a fairly basic level, to fix the problems it has – and that would be very confusing/annoying to people playing the game, who, by then, will have gotten used to the current UI.

      Which isn’t to say that they shouldn’t improve aspects of it, but top-to-bottom re-work? I don’t think that’s likely. If they just improved the quest journal and re-worked crafting a bit, for better visibility in both cases, that’d be a massive improvement.

      • Optimaximal says:

        As above, they did it for the PC release of the original Mass Effect. Like everything, when/if there’s a will, there’s a way and there’s precedent for fixing universally panned things.

        I guess half the issue was the game took so long to make (don’t forget it was built from scratch in Frostbite) that they couldn’t see the wood for the trees in the design and UX problems.

  10. DThor says:

    While I would have all the respect in the world if they actually made the game less of a joke, but it would sure take a crapload of work to redo so much. I don’t see it happening. I’m sure they can work on fixing the bizarre pathing issues that trigger three stooges calisthenics routines, polish up some of the more critical cutscene facials *cough*, but the game is still the game. Still haven’t seen anything that would make me want to invest dozens of hours of my life in.
    They might get their act together for the next game in the series, but I think this will always be the Windows Vista of ME releases…

  11. ukpanik says:

    As long as it has menial tasks to keep them busy and shagging, the retarded majority will be fine with it.

  12. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Man, Gary Oldman is unimpressed in the header pic there.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Who cares about the Fifth Element, there are a lot more elements in this game that needs reworking.

  13. Wormerine says:

    I am afraid they can fix it as much as they want, but I still won’t be interested. I can deal with really wonky games, if there is something rewarding deep there (godness me, I pushed myself through Alpha Protocol which was half brilliant and half cancer).

    From what I saw of Andromeda, it is just not very interesting. My opinion is not very valuable as I only watched it but I would probably feel about it similar as I feel about Bethesda games – bugs dont break my immersion, they make something interesting/entertaining happen in otherwise boring game.

  14. yogibbear says:

    Also why the fuck does Bioware have in-game hidden settings for voice communications (defaulted to always on of course!!! The FUCKING ATTROCITY!!!) and it overrides any settings you have set in Origin so that EVEN IF YOU TRY to not have your microphone turned on, it still FUCKING TURNS ON in MP and casts every single click and clack of your keyboard and mouse!!!!!!! FUCK YOU BIOWARE.

    • Asurmen says:

      I have in line mic control for mine, but I’ve been muting everyone I play with just because of this.

  15. Fadaz says:

    I finished the lil’ bugger to a 100% yesterday. While it has its problems… quite a lot of them, it really isn’t bad. The writing isn’t bad, it’s lazy which is a much bigger sin. In fact, that’s the overwhelming negative aspect of the game to me. There is a relentless and very forced attempt to be funny, which slightly underwhelms the sense of discovery and exploration. Every single asari not named Peebee has the same face. The story is way too reminiscent of the original trilogy (There’s an Andromeda version of pretty much everything from the Milky Way). People state how they think and act instead of you learning through interaction. Lazy, lazy, lazy. The facial animations range from meh to awful and there are numerous (mostly tiny) bugs.

    And despite all that I had a blast and am fairly optimistic about what comes next, because there clearly is a plan for more. It’s far from perfect but its biggest problem is that before it came games called Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3. It was inevitable that the series would have a misstep and I’m hoping this is it.

  16. SanguineAngel says:

    I would greatly appreciate it if Bioware would stop our companions from commenting on the astaounding, alien nature of entirely mundane geological features.

  17. Seafoam says:

    “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

    Well it seems to me that the game was rushed, and now they’re trying to damage control as much as they can. But the damage has been already done. And if they keep fixing and fixing and if the game becomes good, no one would care.

  18. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I’m torn between wanting to play a sci-fi shooter and not wanting to endorse selling a busted product with AAA-pricetag. I’m not in the camp of fans who claim everyone does it and it’s ok to alpha-test a 60€-game – “Breath of the Wild”-polish should be standard.
    Would not mind space orcs, campy plot, dialogue, awful voice-acting, script, animations and uncanny valley faces when patched up with all DLCs at 50% sale.

  19. Mumbles says:

    Is MEA a perfect game? Nope. Is it a travesty? Nope. Yeah, it definitely could have used another round or two of polish, but it is far from the abysmal game some make it out to be. Like with most everything the internet has a way of blowing things out of proportion. During my 77 hours of play – thank you, spring break – most of those nitpicks fell easily to the wayside. I had a good time with the game, warts and all.

    I also don’t understand the critique why there are only two new alien races in the game. In this setting it makes a lot of sense since we’re limited by the one star cluster whereas in previous games we were zipping all over the galaxy, hopping from one cluster to the next, thanks to the mass relays. They simply don’t have the technology to do that here.

    Story-wise, with it being all about settling a new home, I think they could have used the previous ME setting even more to emphasize the need to do so rather than have it a late-game memory/audio log unlock. The Andromeda Initiative left the Milky Way during ME 1’s timeline, and it turns out that the Hyperion received messages during transit about the full reaper invasion. This could have been used to drive the point home even more, since the arks and their inhabitants may be all that’s left from these races, as far as the protagonists know…. anyway. /ramble

  20. Brooksi says:

    I seem to recall that many voice actors went on strike in protest of low pay right around when ME:A was about 1/2 way in progress. I wonder if that is partly responsible for juvenile dialog delivery.

    What really surprised me is that EA doesn’t seem to be able to coordinate and use it’s resources efficiently. I hate to use business gibberish, but they seem incapable of creating synergies. For instance, you would think that they could utilize some of the motion capture from their sports games to make movement more realistic.

    Last, it’s clear to me that they didn’t have a strong leader or executive that could reign in the inevitable drive to keep adding more. Breathed but not depth, quantity not quality.

    • Fadaz says:

      The voice actors aren’t bad at all, but the voice direction is awful. The tone and lack of consistency is a lot more on those people than the actors.

      And I think the size of the game is more of a crutch than a strength.

  21. tslog says:

    Filthy liar Mac Walters from Bioware told everyone on Twitter that ‘they will polishing this game till they take it from our dead cold hands’ which gets keeps getting a disgraceful uncritical pass here at at RPS.
    I thought telling lies to sell a game was frowned upon. Seemingly Not for some here at RPS like Alec Meer. He’s more interested in having a dig at the victims of Macs and EAs lies, as animation experts.

    • dglenny says:

      Mate, it’s a computer game. Throwing out “[f]ilthy liar”, “disgraceful”, and “victims” just makes you look unhinged.

      Besides which, you can hardly call RPS’s coverage of this “uncritical”.

      Please take a deep breath and try to relax.

  22. poliovaccine says:

    Gotta say, the shiny new tech looks goofier than ever when draped over the same old hobbled hunchbacked framework of a 6/10 game. I think what may have been more passable in, like, 2005-2010, now just seems gratingly awful and eye-slappingly unacceptable, not for being any different, but for being so much the same, and still so gussied up like it’s new.

    I think the degree of the internet’s complaints is so severe because it’s basically cumulative. As in, it’s cus it feels like, the problems this game has, we’ve had goddamned years of it. And they’re still not getting it right. If the game takes any amount of undue flak, I think it’s from that.

    • Booker says:

      “the problems this game has, we’ve had goddamned years of it. ”

      Exactly! It’s the dumbest reaction ever, to pretend like they care now all of a sudden about a problem their games had for 5+ years now. If they care so much, why do the same problems pop up in every of their games without any improvements? The only explanation for that is, that they really really DON’T.

  23. Booker says:

    “Perhaps they’ll even do something like a ‘director’s cut’, ”

    Please, don’t be absurd, EA is never going to do anything like that. They wanna earn money, not spend it. You interpreting way too much into this.

    I’m slightly annoyed that such a fuss is made over them bringing a patch, something which should be a given. Every dev is supposed to support their game as long as they aren’t defunct. Don’t let them act like they are doing as a favor, by doing what they are supposed to. The game was always going to get at least one patch.

  24. Von Uber says:

    I feel like I am the only person in the world who is actually enjoying the game. It’s got a few issues but it is nowhere near as bad as people make out; it does feel like a Mass Effect game, with all that entails.
    People just have rose tinted glasses on I think – Human Terminator? Characters as walking codexe entries? Liara and Sheps head spinning through 360 degrees following Glyph? The trilogy has its fair share of problems too.

  25. hfm says:

    Bioware “working around the clock to improve and build on” Mass Effect: Andromeda

    Nothing like throwing the dev team through the ringer because it had to release unfinished. I mean there’s no way an objective QA team or dev team didn’t know this was going to happen.

  26. MOOncalF says:

    Seems to me that Bioware had the appearance of giving in to pressure before and now people are treating them like a doormat.

  27. jeremyalexander says:

    “I can only hope it does not mean that EA has forced a team of devs back into crunch because a bunch of noisy internet people became facial animation experts overnight.”

    Wow, apologist much? You don’t have to be an expert in anything to know garbage when you see it. And I’m a little confused by the snobbish comment coming from a website that was one of the games harshest critics, and rightfully so. Now you are defending the worst game Bioware has ever made? A little consistency in tone might serve RPS a bit better.

    • Von Uber says:

      Oh give over. The game has issues but to say it is garbage is just ridiculous.

    • NationOfThizzlam says:

      I think you’ve missed the point. People make mediocre games all the time. It would just suck to make a mediocre game and then have your publisher crack the whip in the name of damage control after you probably already put in months of crunch time to get your AAA title out in the first place.

  28. Masky says:

    So I want to point out that my opinion as someone who most of the time hates bioware is that Andromeda is actually best out of ME games even with severe lack of polish. Probably unpopular opinion here since RPS audience seems to have some sort of bizarre love for ME 1.

    Like, okay, there are few stupid lines and iffy logic on some sidequests, but so did all of previous ME games and game did things Inquisition did better than Inquisition. Like, sure, still too much filler quests, but they were more enjoyable than in ME 1 or Inquisition and it did for real actually have lighter tone without feeling of “Raw world is ending, now you have to hurry along main qu- I mean collect herbs”. I’m not bothered by Addison’s face either, Bethesda games have had horrible facial animations for years and reviewers still fanboy them.

    Dunno if there is point in posting this in old article though since don’t know if anybody will read this opinion. I just want to protest the “everyone” part in article :D