The final months of Anthem’s development and the first weeks after the game’s launch were a hard time for BioWare.
The last months
Throughout 2018, Anthem has had so many changes that have made important features previously discussed publicly evaporate from the final version of the game. Take the game’s tree system for example, mentioned in July 2018: BioWare promises that gamers will have a skill tree that allows their Exosuit to develop in many different ways, and learn the Skill applied to all suits of armor. You can easily guess what happened: this feature was cut from the game during development.
The truncation of content is probably to serve another purpose considered by BioWare to be more important: making the game “unable to memeize” after Mass Effect Andromeda was mocked. In Anthem, because the dialogue with the characters in Fort Tarsis always takes place in the first person perspective, gamers will spend a lot of time looking at the NPCs, and so they have to look good.
To create realistic expressions for the characters, BioWare chose Performance Capture (pcap), a motion capture technique on the face that helps them create very realistic expressions. The downside of this technique is its expensive price, which forces the game team to achieve the desired quality level on the first spin. But because Anthem changed so fast, so often, a lot of pcap movies became irrelevant after they were filmed and created some rather confusing scenes in the game.
An example of this is the Sentinel Dax mission in the game. During this mission, Dax said his armor was destroyed, but that did not happen in the game. This was the result of the plot being changed after the mission was done, but BioWare didn’t have the budget to return to the new pcap film so they were forced to reuse the old clip temporarily, though it didn’t. also fit. Another situation occurred when one NPC talked about another NPC as if the other person was not there, even though they were actually in the same room.
Despite being the great ambassador in completing Anthem in 18 short months, the leadership of Mark Darrah also has drawbacks mentioned by the Anthem development team. Due to so much work to do and so many decisions to be made in such a short time, BioWare employees cannot know what their game will eventually be like. Even in the last few months before the game’s release, new features are still being rolled out. An example of this is when the development team realized that gamers didn’t have a place to show off their armor, they immediately turned to Motive’s studio to develop Launch Bay, where you can show your wealth level. yourself with others.
The inadequacy of the game also causes another problem: the game team does not have time to step back and look at the game they are making in general. They also can not know whether the equipment system of the game is well or badly balanced, the content of the game is plow hoes or duplicated by the unfinished plot. In fact, the game server has not been able to run smoothly, making it difficult to log in to test the bug. “I remember there was a time I couldn’t do anything all week because of server issues,” one said. Another said that they had to test the game’s tasks in the offline environment, even though they were designed for 4-person co-op.
Optimism before the release date
Under these circumstances, BioWare leaders are still optimistic that the game will be okay. The BioWare miracle will be performed. It is true that the game is constantly becoming more complete, but the price is the terrible pressure on the members of the studio. Before Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare employees had never had to take sick leave because of stress, but since Andromeda and Anthem, sick leave has spread among the BioWare ranks. One employee who quit said that “people take a series of leave. I’m really shocked at the number of people leaving. ”
BioWare’s “brain drain” is more serious than you think. You may know about the departure date of Drew Karpyshyn, the script director of Mass Effect in early 2018, but there are many other important characters of BioWare leaving without the public knowing. These include former BioWare CEO Aaryn Flynn, art and motion director Neil Thompson, technical director Jacques Lebrun, design leader Kris Schoneberg … Some of these people have been with BioWare for more than a decade. years, but they left because they were tired of Anthem.
By the end of 2018, those who remained with Anthem expected a few more months to complete the game. Mark Darrah really made the game development a long way, but they realized that they would not be able to launch a game with as much content as the fans expected. Because it could not ask for more time (EA forced BioWare to release the game by March 2019), BioWare had to offer plowing features to extend the length of the game, such as Challenge or Legionnaire, tasks. This must be done in the main game to unlock the catacombs. A BioWare employee also revealed that one of the missions also required gamers to wait a few days to complete, but fortunately it was canceled before the game was released.
Despite knowing Anthem’s status, BioWare is still a bit comforting that they can continue to improve the game after its release date, because it is a “game as a service”. They predict that the game will receive over 75 points on Metacritic, and will increase as new content becomes available. “Anthem is an online service. We will develop content for games for many years to come. We will fix the problems in the future. ” The success of Diablo 3, Destiny or No Man’s Sky gives BioWare this belief.
On February 15, 2019, Anthem was released for EA’s Origin Access Premier service. Gamers and journalists began jumping in to see how the game BioWare was 7 years pregnant with for quality, and they saw a confusing mess. Although the basic gameplay elements of the game such as flying, fighting and exploring are attractive, everything else in the game does not match the name BioWare and the expectation of gamers. The 75+ score that the BioWare leadership team once dreamed of became a distant thing – that score is now 55 (PS4) and 65 (Xbox One).
BioWare members are stunned with this score. “Nobody thought the game was that bad. They really think the game is pretty cool, too, ” a BioWare employee said.
But what journalists and gamers criticize about Anthem is not really new – it was the members of the game team who reflected the issues on studio leaders during 2017 and 2018, but were dropped. over . “Reading reviews is like reading a list of interesting things that employees have proposed to lead,” said a person who worked on the Anthem project. Issues such as the NPC lines in the radio are often engulfed by the chats of other players in the team, the meaningless conversation options in Fort Tarsis, or the temperature bar to prevent gamers from flying too long … all have been mentioned by BioWare staff, and are ignored by their bosses.
“I think Anthem is probably the necessary kick to BioWare executives to see that the way the game is made has changed a lot. You can’t start from scratch and grop until you find a cool feature, ” a BioWare veteran said. Indeed, the BioWare Austin studio took on the responsibility to support Anthem after its launch, while BioWare Edmonton is gradually transitioning to new projects such as Dragon Age 4 as originally planned by the development team. To avoid repeating the mistake of Andromeda and Anthem, Dragon Age 4 will be developed on the Frostbite platform that BioWare has created for Anthem instead of starting over again. Let’s hope that after creating “Bob Dylan of the gaming industry,” BioWare will regain its form in a new project to be launched in the future.