Former Bioware General Manager: The problem with frostbite engines is that efficient research and development tools are hard to do

To do good, you must first take a good hand. For game developers, engine choices often determine whether you can make your ideas into the game and create an experience that the player praises. In 3A gaming, EA’s Frostbite Engine has created countless masterpieces such as Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Need for Speed, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Wars.

However, from the industry as a whole, its penetration rate is not high, even within the EA, the engine is beginning to appear “unable to do.” As a technologically advanced, stunning high-end engine, what’s wrong with  Frostbite?

Former Bioware General Manager: The problem with frost engines is that efficient research and development tools are hard to do

Recently, Aaryn Flynn, a former General Manager of Bioware, detailed problems with Frostbite Engine and likened EA’s internal technology to F1: with both huge energy and difficulty in showing peak performance.

Here’s the details of GameLook:

Flynn, who is building a research and development studio for Imbee, spoke extensively about the better tools in game development at an event in Canada recently, and said choosing good and efficient research and development tools was “the most important thing for game developers today.”

“The game is still made by people,” he opened. The more high-quality tools you give to the people who build these games, the more likely you are to succeed. These tools can increase their productivity, help them do their jobs better, and try new things and ideas.”

However, part of the presentation was an introduction to personal experience, with Flynn talking about the process from entering the game industry to joining Imbele through the tools he used in game-specific development. His first project was to join Bioware’s “Broadgate 2” after stepping out of college 20 years ago. Flynn then became a tool programmer for Neverwinter Nights, a game that is more notable for providing creative tools for players.

Former Bioware General Manager: The problem with frost engines is that efficient research and development tools are hard to do

Screenshot of “Neverwinter Nights”

“It’s really great to give players the customized experience they love, but it’s a very bold attempt to adapt to the RPG gaming needs of the PC platform.”

It was a very influential experience for Flynn. The ultimate need is to make tools that are both intuitive and powerful so that players with no research and development experience can get started without in-depth training. Bioware’s team believes that the best way to achieve this is to develop games with the same tools, rather than treating them as different products.

The tools in the Neverwinter Nights game were actually the same as the tools used in the game’s development, and they were then handed over directly to the player community. In general, this approach was successful, and it became a classic in both the category and the gaming industry at the time.

“To this day, people are still using those tools and finding different ways to expand it and make it better, and it’s not unusual to see the Neverwinter Nights community still exist, but what really sets it apart is the tools that make players use the same tools as the developers,” Flynn added.

The project was also, in a sense, the end of a phase of Bioware, and shortly after the release of Neverwinter Nights, the company decided not to rely on licensed IPs, such as Dragon and Dungeon, Star Wars Old Republic, and began creating its own IP. The sequels to “Neverwinter Nights” and “Star Wars Old Republic” were given to other studios for development, and Bioware’s projects turned into the “Dragon Age: Inquisition” and “Quality Effect” series, which, according to Flynn, are “fascinating in terms of breadth and depth.”

Former Bioware General Manager: The problem with frost engines is that efficient research and development tools are hard to do

The Century of Dragon: The Trial

In fact, it has been since then that Flynn has taken on increasing responsibilities on the team, and when Quality Effect was released, he was in charge of technology across the company. EA’s acquisition of Bioware also changed his career in 2007, and in 2009 he stepped down as general manager of Bioware’s entire studio.

However, in the process of growing and changing, Flynn says his experience with the Neverwinter Nights project has “left a deep mark on his heart.”

“I’ve been learning throughout my technical career, seven to six months of that time as a programmer, and I’m obviously not the smartest programmer. But what I really like is working with them, understanding the problems they face, and trying to create software that solves them, which I love very much.”

Things soon changed, however. “We started to change a tool called a frost engine, which is the engine inside eA. It’s powerful, fast, and high-quality, designed to create cool projects, but it’s also extremely sophisticated and requires a lot of staff.”

He likens the frost engine to an F1 car that can run out of extreme speed and represent the pinnacle of technology in a particular area. However, it is difficult for F1 racing to remain at its peak and there will often be problems that require a lot of expertise.

“Incredible, impressive technology is really the pinnacle of what technology can achieve. But it takes a huge team to sustain it in order to make it perform as well as it should, which is almost the early state of the frost engine.”

To be precise, Flynn didn’t really use the frost engine because he left EA two years early. But Bioware’s first frost engine project was completed under his leadership, 2014’s “Dragon Age: Inquisition”; the second, 2017’s Quality Effect: Andromeda, ran into a major technical problem that was considered the “worst culprit” for the series’ humiliation.

Bioware’s most recent project, Anthem, was released after Flynn’s departure, but he was the studio’s general manager during the development.

Former Bioware General Manager: The problem with frost engines is that efficient research and development tools are hard to do


“My experience with this engine is that you can use it to do something amazing, and some aspects are very efficient, but it’s like a very sophisticated, large instrument that’s hard to manage.”

Despite Bioware’s potential, Flynn says, “we’re actually slowing down by it”, but it’s also common that people in the gaming industry always want better, better, more beautiful content, but always have problems using more complex, more difficult technologies.

“It’s getting harder and harder to make what people want, and it’s getting harder and harder to apply the content they create to other tools in the research and development process,” Flynn said of the experience of using a frost engine. Even if we have more hands and more teams, it’s still slow to use it to make the game experience.”

In Flynn’s view, the biggest pain of using a frost engine is that it’s hard to use it to make efficient research and development tools. While there are many tools to choose from, Flynn says that overall, Bioware uses tools that are “not even as powerful as the tools we used in previous projects.”

In this case, the research and development team can’t find a solution with these tools, but most frustratingly, Flynn is still the general manager who leads the entire studio, “I have to think a lot, especially when I leave EA, and I need to know, why is this going to happen?” Why are these tools so hard? I’ve been working on research and development tools for a long time, what have I missed? “

This time of thought has been a great help to him in setting up Imbee Edmonton Studios, where by early November his team was close to 70 people, and says that after the next game is released, more powerful tools than the Bioware era will be used.

“What I’ve learned with developers is that they love to make content and are willing to show their work. It’s hard to show during the research and development process, but according to my experience, they’re happy to share it. So, for me, it’s frustrating to have these systems and tools for developers to show their work.”

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