In the lead-up to Anthem’s launch on February 22nd, we spoke to Lead Producer, Mike Gamble about everything from post launch content, to inspirations for the game, to those demo issues and what the team learned from them.
With Anthem being Bioware’s first venture into the big online world as well as their first IP in over 10 years, it’s clear that it’s going to be a journey beyond launch and I wanted to get a little bit of an idea of how that looks.
LAST WEEKEND SAW THE FIRST MASS HANDS ON WITH THE VIP DEMO? WHAT HAS THE TEAM ALREADY LEARNT IN PREPARATION FOR LAUNCH?
Mike Gamble: We were monitoring minute by minute what was going on.A lot of players were having issues with connectivity in the first couple of days. When we put the demo together and we QA’d it, we didn’t see some of the issues at scale, so once you have 100,000s of players trying to play at once, issues start to magnify.”
We saw all that and it was good. Every game like this has to go through things like this. I don’t care what people say, there’s a first time when you put something out that hasn’t been put out before. You see the holes and then you can plug them, so that’s been the process. I think by the third day, it increasingly got better, so when the open demo hits, we won’t have these problems but we’ll probably have a new set of problems. In the lead up to launch, we’ll keep getting better and better and at launch we’ll hopefully have a smooth launch.
SO THE GAME WILL BE ALL GOOD FROM A STABILITY POINT OF VIEW AT LAUNCH?
For sure. There will be mistakes and things that have to be fixed, but it’s about getting people access to the game and having them play the fundamentals.
WHY WAS THE DECISION MADE TO DIFFER SOME OF THE CORE GAMEPLAY MECHANICS FROM THE DEMO TO THE MAIN RELEASE?
Half of it was a function of timing. The demo was branched off of the main game at the end of December, so obviously things have changed since then. So some of it wasn’t intentional, it’s just where the game was.
The other half is that we wanted people who played the demo to get a good vertical slice of the game. So getting a good feel of cosmetics and levelling up. So we only gave four missions, free-play and a stronghold in the demo. In saying that, we can’t have the progression be this quick in the main game, otherwise we’d have people being level 500 after no time.
SOMETHING WE’VE BEEK ASKED A LOT IS LENGTH AND AMOUNT OF CONTENT? HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR THE AVERAGE GAMER TO COMPLETE?
I don’t mind going into length, because there’s a lot of content in the game, but it’s hard to say because it’s down to player choice and speed of play. There’s some people who will rush through this game and get straight through to the end game. There’s other people who will take their time, read the codex, stop and smell the roses in free-play and take 10 times as long.
I will say, there’s a lot of side content, there’s strongholds, there’s repeatable and different gameplay horizons in terms of new difficulty. There will be players who eat it up like that, and we’ll try to keep putting out content to keep them happy.
HOW MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL VISION IS THERE ON DAY ONE? WERE THERE THINGS YOU WANTED TO BE THERE THAT WERE CUT DUE TO TIME?
No, everything that we built for the game is in the game. The game went gold last week, so the stuff we’re working on now is the live service stuff.
WHAT IS THE GOAL WITH END GAME CONTENT? WHAT DO YOU DO AFTER YOU’VE COMPLETED THE MAIN STORY?
You’ve got different progression horizons once you finish the story. You then want to increase your gear score and get your hands on legendary loot, which is the initial driver of the end game. You’ve got strongholds and then you’ve also got three levels of grandmaster difficulty.
You’ve got legendary contracts which get given to you by the agents. If you play these twice in a row, you’ll see differences between them because there’s a level of dynamism and randomness.
There’s also the live service content, which we’ll continue to put out very soon after launch. We’ll also look to change the world as time goes on, so for instance we can turn the sun off and have the entire world go dark, or have only legendary titans spawn in free-play for a weekend. There will definitely be events as time goes on.
COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE MORE ABOUT POST LAUNCH SUPPORT? DOES THE TEAM HAVE AN ALLOCATED AMOUNT OF TIME FOR POST LAUNCH CONTENT?
Honestly, we don’t know. If players are loving the game, playing it and wanting more and more and more, we will continue to support it with content.
WE’VE HAD A LOT OF PEOPLE ASKING HOW ACCESSIBLE THE GAME IS FOR THOSE WANTING TO PLAY SOLO?
When you play solo, you can play through the entire story. When you get to end game, we’ll try to match you with players. You can’t do Strongholds in solo mode, but there’s a tonne of content for people who want to play through solo and we’ve got a lot of good feedback based on people playing the game solo. The difficulty also scales for when you’re playing on solo so we’re really happy with that.
In post launch, if we see people playing through solo content, we’ll provide more content for that.
THE WORLD FEELS FIT FOR PVP. IS THIS SOMETHING THE TEAM LOOKED INTO AT ALL DURING DEVELOPMENT?
We definitely discussed it, but the thing about making a game like Anthem PvP with the Javelins being so different and having a loot chase, it had to be aligned around a certain goal and that was PvE.
If we do introduce PvP later on, it would have to be a seperate thing, because the economy and balance would have to be totally different. Ultimately, for launch, we wanted to make PvE feel great.
HOW MUCH WORK HAS GONE INTO BALANCING THE JAVELINS? HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT PLAYERS DON’T ALL GRAVITATE TOWARDS ONE?
It’s been a huge job. We wanted each Javelin to feel unique based on the play style. Ultimately, we hope to attract people with play style. Some people like to Tank whilst some people like to play AOE. Certain Javelins only have access to certain gear, so there is a trail there.
The most important thing was not locking anyone into a class. This is so that we don’t have 90% of our groups being mages and 10% being tanks. Giving people access to all four Javelins allows people to switch out frequently. Obviously balance is a big thing, so when the games out we will find things that we have to nerf and buff.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE INSPIRATIONS FOR ANTHEM’S DESIGN AND ART STYLE?
Many of our team had worked on Mass Effect originally, so there’s definitely that. There’s obviously a lot of competitors we take inspiration from too.
Obviously movies is a big one. It’s not Sci-Fi, it’s not fantasy, it’s somewhere in between. Flying robots and feeling like a Superhero could be seen as taking inspiration from The Avengers or other movies too.