The details of Anthem’s turbulent development have just emerged from the water showing an unstable workflow behind the “BioWare miracle”.
Anthem, the regretful game that BioWare has just released in February, is not really born under the name Anthem . The game’s original name is Beyond, meaning “outside” – a meaningful name because its gameplay takes gamers beyond the four walls of Fort Tarsis and encourages them to explore the world around them, taking up space. survival for humanity. However, just a few days before BioWare’s official announcement in June 2017, BioWare received the “order” to change its name.
The reason that Beyond had to change its name to Anthem was because EA felt that registering the Beyond brand would be difficult and costly, and not approve of the name. EA’s unexpected decision caused BioWare to change the game name to Anthem, one of the backup names it chose earlier. However, for the members of BioWare who were involved in the development of the game, the name Anthem had no meaning at the time, because it had nothing to do with the gameplay or the story of the game. It took more time for BioWare to find a plausible explanation for the name Anthem: the game’s world was created by Anthem of Creation, a mysterious power manifested throughout the world.
Anthem: BioWare has crushed its own quintessence. Perhaps BioWare wants to use Anthem to create new things in its gaming style. But novelty is not seen, only BioWare has crushed what has created its brand.
And unfortunately, unexpected 89 minute changes like a name change are not a rare exception to Anthem, but rather something that happens often and continuously. During the 6 years since the game was revealed in 2012 under the code name Project Dylan, BioWare witnessed a lot of different events that made Anthem’s development process a messy and chaotic mess. . The most obvious evidence for this is the sharing of anonymous characters from BioWare saying that even at the time of the E3 2017 trailer, the studio still did not know how Anthem would be a game. .
As one of BioWare’s two rare failures (after Mass Effect: Andromeda) and the lowest Metarcritic score in the studio’s 24-year history, Anthem was a major disappointment. A reader of the game had to say in the previous article “What has BioWare done for the past 6 years,” and that is a common question for gamers around the world. Fortunately, we have the answer thanks to 19 unnamed characters, all of them are veterans or are working at BioWare.
The Kotaku conducted a thorough interview with 19 people who worked with Anthem or knew about it, and revealed the details behind this failure. According to the information revealed, Anthem is the victim of the policy of forcing studios to use EA’s Frostbite engine (no different from Mass Effect: Andromeda ), as a result of the hostile relationship between the two studios. called BioWare, created after a famous development process that lasted 6 years, but actually only lasted about … 18 months. Anthem is also affected by a lack of manpower, a number of changes in gameplay design and a team of leaders who do not listen to the staff’s opinions nor hold their own positions.
BioWare’s lack of manpower is not new. Over the past few years, the author has read a lot of information about the departing of BioWare veteran employees, including large bosses who are “pointed, named” to ordinary employees. But Kotaku’s interview also revealed a new problem: the tremendous pressure that BioWare’s employees suffered during game development. Many employees at BioWare Edmonton have been forced to take days off from weeks to months on doctor’s orders because of their mental health. Some come back, others don’t.
“I can’t count the number of people who quit their jobs due to stress during their Andromeda or Anthem jobs,” an employee said. Another said that studio employees often went into empty rooms, locked doors and cried. The third person added that “The feeling of weakness and stress is an epidemic within BioWare.”
Out of spells
Another surprise was revealed by these employees. According to them, the success of Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) harmed BioWare. This game is a product of a development process full of changes and technical troubles, with most of the content built in the final year instead of being spread out evenly during development, with countless hours. Additional work of BioWare employees. Many employees feel so tired and exhausted that they think that “Dragon Age: Inquisition should fail so people realize it’s not the way to make games.”
And the “BioWare miracle” is also mentioned. Inside the studio, they always believe that no matter how stumbling and up-to-date the game development process, something will happen in the final months to turn it into an exciting game. That was true for the first three Mass Effect versions, with Dragon Age: Origins and with Inquisition. The BioWare employees compare their gaming process to a hockey stick: a straight line, and a sudden rise. Even projects that seem like a disaster can be improved with the BioWare miracle – in other words, hundreds and thousands of overtime hours for everyone.
But with the consecutive failure of Andromeda and Anthem, BioWare employees realized that their overtime miracle no longer worked. Over the years, these two games have severely damaged BioWare’s reputation, making studio employees feel they need to find a new miracle.
Up the idea
Expected by BioWare to be the “Bob Dylan of the gaming industry,” which has a lasting value in the eyes of gamers, Anthem was conceived in 2012 under the codename Project Dylan when BioWare was still completing Mass Effect 3. It was kept secret even within BioWare – only those with a password can access the project’s wiki page, and the Dylan development team is only a few people by the majority of the studio staff at the time … Overtime for Dragon Age: Inquisition.
BioWare’s ideas about Anthem are constantly changing in its early stages. This is normal, because at this time no one knows what the game will be like and everyone is trying to come up with attractive ideas, features and consider their viability. It will be a multiplayer action game, and cannot be both traditional fantasy and sci-fi because they have Dragon Age and Mass Effect.
An idea quickly received the support of the masses: an alien and dangerous planet. Anthem will take gamers into a hostile new world, so much so that if you want to go out, you need to be equipped with a monumental exosuit. The planet will be like the Bermuda Triangle, with gravity wells capable of pulling spacecraft from orbit, making its surface dominated by extraordinary phenomena. There will be scary giant creatures reigning everywhere, and test the survival ability of gamers.
In this first version, Anthem has fascinating dynamic weather effects. Gamers can see the environment moving enough spring-autumn-winter according to the phenomena that are happening on the screen, which has been proven feasible through the demo version. The video below is one of those demos:
If you play through Anthem on launch, you’ll realize that none of the videos above appear in the game.
In the first months, BioWare had determined Anthem would be a multiplayer game, but they had a completely different direction for it. They want to take gamers on adventures with friends and stay outside the four walls of Fort Tarsis for as long as possible. You will fight in your exosuit with everything you have, from guns to fists. The goal of the game is not the spoils the monsters fall, but the time to explore the outside world. One of the original missions of the game sounds very interesting: gamers come together to the heart of a volcano to find out why it erupted, and open the bloody path when attacked by monsters. Along the way, gamers can pick up components from alien spacecraft to upgrade weapons or exosuit.
“That is the main highlight of the game. You will explore together, try to achieve something and come back to talk about it, ” one said. Another former employee added: “Very interesting. (This gameplay) has struck the hearts of many people who have worked with games. ”
However, the initial demo versions of Anthem have not clarified whether the game can serve hundreds, even thousands of gamers. This is a big question, because BioWare is not sure that the Frostbite engine they are using has enough power to meet the requirements of an online game like this.
But before the technical problems were solved and added to that idea, the game’s publishing team encountered a major transformation. It was in August 2014, when Mr. Casey Hudson – who would have been Anthem’s creative director – left after finishing the Mass Effect series. On his departure, he said that “the foundation of the new brand in BioWare Edmonton (aka Anthem) is complete and the team is ready to enter the pre-development process of a game that I believe will redefine the solution. interactive mind. ” Replacing Casey Hudson is Jon Warner, a new character at BioWare and has 3 years of experience at EA.
BioWare veterans compare this to “exchanging champions.” They compared Casey Hudson’s Mass Effect team as the Enterprise in Star Trek, where each person has a unique role and extremely effective in that role, while the Dragon Age team is a … pirate ship wandering around. before the destination. With the departure of Casey Hudson, the Enterprise lost its captain.
Even so, members of the Anthem project are still very optimistic mentally. A few months later, the Dragon Age: Inquisition was released and was a great success, and the employees of the Dragon Age development team were added to Anthem. The two passionate groups met to form the team with the highest fighting spirit EA at that time, and prepared for the development of Anthem. “Now we’re just getting started making games,” recalls a BioWare employee who had been involved in the Anthem implementation.