Jason Schrier has dropped a detailed article in Kotaku describing the development process that eventually yielded Anthem, BioWare’s co-op loot shooter.
While there are some important differences, starting with studio size and experience and project resources, it’s difficult not to perceive some possible parallels with OtherSide and Underworld Ascendant.
This isn’t intended as criticism – in fact, it’s more a defense of the UA team: Anthem is proof (if yet another confirming instance were needed) of at least a couple of truths:
Yes, making games is just plain hard. These aren’t mass-produced widgets; they’re art. And if you think making good art is an easily followed process, I invite you to try it yourself.
Working out the core fun of a game can be so difficult a task as to defy game studios of any size and age. And I’d say it’s an order of magnitude harder than that for a game whose fun is largely meant to emerge from system interactions.
As usual, I have to caveat this by saying I don’t agree with all the things I saw from OSE during UA’s development. Despite some big differences, I think I see some similar creative difficulties between UA and Anthem (though obviously not on Anthem’s scale).
But I also have a small idea how hard “finding the fun” in a game concept can be. There’s no easy-to-follow blueprint. It’s messy. (And that’s with a single indie dev; it’s even messier when several personalities interact.)
So I invite you to read the story on Anthem and see whether you think comparisons with UA are fair, or odious.