Publisher Electronic Arts has announced a rebrand of its proprietary game engine, Frostbite. In addition to its new logo, featuring less jagged edges and looking more like a normal human handprint, EA has relaxed previous mandates requiring studios under its ownership to use the engine for all of their games, as opposed to more popular third-party options like Unity or Unreal.
In the unveiling of the new look, EA announces a “renewed focus on partnership with our teams and creators.” Despite describing the Frostbite engine as a tool “developed specifically for EA” and confirming that the publisher is “deeply invested in building the best tools and technology” for its games, the announcement states that “EA game teams are free to develop on any engine they choose“. This formalises a steady move away from mandating EA’s proprietary engine that has been occurring with the release of Star Wars Jedi duology and rumours regarding the upcoming Mass Effect game.
The Frostbite engine was originally developed for DICE’s Battlefield franchise, thus with first-person shooters in mind. When EA mandated that all of its studios use it, regardless of game genre, many developers ran into problems. These included RPG specialist BioWare having to develop inventory management systems and other key RPG features from scratch for Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mass Effect: Andromeda, resulting in imperfect, buggy launches and often turbulent developments.
Many recent EA releases have continued to use Frostbite, such as this year’s Dead Space remake. In addition, despite BioWare seemingly moving away from Frostbite with the next Mass Effect game, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf will follow Inquisition and Anthem in using EA’s proprietary engine. In general, however, developers under EA’s umbrella will no longer be expected to use it for future projects if a different engine would be more appropriate. Frostbite is certainly a powerful and useful engine, and there are definitely advantages for developers using a proprietary tool owned by the publisher rather than relying on third party resources over which they have less control. That said, just because it is powerful doesn’t make it suitable for all situations. EA’s studios are expected to have more control over the tools they use from now on, which should hopefully lead to better games overall.