Tag Archives: bioware

Maybe Anthem Should Have Been An Early Access Game

BioWare’s Anthem launched with a lot of problems, and even after today’s patch, the game’s still got issues. On this week’s episode of Kotaku Splitscreen, we discuss the unpolished, unfinished feel of Anthem, compare its rocky launch to Destiny’s early days, and wonder whether Anthem should have instead entered an official early access period for its first six months.

The full episode starts off with us discussing the games we’re playing, with Jason describing his new love affair with Bloodborne (3:23), then my speculation about which age group Kingdom Hearts 3 is actually for (17:30), and Kirk describing Far Cry New Dawn’s charming choice to re-introduce him to Far Cry 5’s settings and characters (22:30). After our Anthem segment (32:13), we end the show with Kirk’s music pick of the week (73:17), which in this case inspires us all to reminisce about the cult classic comedy Wayne’s World.

Listen here:

Get the mp3 here, or read an excerpt.


Kirk: The launch of a service game fascinates me. The way that we talk about it and the way that we consider it. The expectations game. Even the expectations game you’re talking about, the internal one, Jason, where they think, “Okay, we’ll get railed in reviews, we’ll do okay, and then we’ll make it better, and over time eventually it’ll be this big success story.” I think we’re really at a point where that’s—for reasons we’ve already talked about—not happening.

With Fallout 76, for example, it seems like maybe that’s just not going to happen with that game. With this game as well, there’s a feeling that maybe it won’t. I don’t know. It’s so different from the launch of a standard game, like Metro, actually, which launched also with a lot of technical problems and that’s also sort of frustrating, that at least fits into this familiar paradigm of, a video game comes out and people play it and review it and it’s just a single-player game.

This is almost like a software launch, or an operating system launch, right? I feel increasingly like each of these games comes out and — when Windows 11 comes out, or whatever, you don’t necessarily buy it on day one, because there are usually all these problems, and then you see all the reports on Gizmodo or wherever that are like, “Windows reveals your credit card information to everybody! Don’t buy it yet! And they’re gonna patch it, but don’t get it!” This is sort of that same feeling of, don’t play the game initially. Which is something that gets said a lot on this show. We give that advice for various reasons. This reason strikes me as an interesting one, is that it’s basically software in development. They almost always launch rough, maybe not always this rough, and then we assume that they’ll get better over time, and that’s a very strange place to be in, I think, because of how video games have been released for so long.

Jason: Yeah, and even more than software, games are so dependent on hearing what players think and what they want out of them that it’s almost impossible to get it right the first time you launch a game like this.

Kirk: I will say to BioWare’s credit, they are being very, very responsive to the community. No one’s saying they’re railing on Reddit and not getting heard. They’re all over the place responding. And those first patch notes are pretty impressive…

Jason: Those first patch notes signal to me that the game that they launched last week is a much earlier build, like from a few weeks ago maybe, and that they’ve been working on this day one patch for a long time.

Kirk: And even those demos also had problems.

Jason: I mean, yeah. Such a strategic blunder to not think of February 15th as your launch day, instead to think of the 22nd. And the reviews are just punishing them for it. But the point I was going to make earlier is that I think because it’s so difficult, if not impossible, for a game like this to get it right on the first try, I think that all of these publishers need to step back and if they’re launching a new service game, they need to say, “Hey, we’re not gonna do a traditional triple-A launch with this because it’s just going to blow up in our faces. We need to do an early access or a long beta.”

Imagine if Anthem had been like, “All right. We are going into beta in February. And for next five months, for the next six months, this game, you can buy it for $60, but we are warning you, it is gonna be broken. It is gonna be a work in progress. We are gonna work with you players to make this game what it can be for the official launch in September.” Imagine if they had approached it that way. And they still get their sales or whatever, but they make it clear to players that this is a game that is a work in progress and are just honest about that fact instead of being like, “Yeah, Anthem launch! We’re expecting high 70s Metacritic and then hopefully we fix it later.”

These traditional publishers are embracing this future technology and this idea that games are constantly changing, which is really cool and good, but they’re sticking with the old way of doing things, which is a single launch day and marketing all tied to that day.

Kirk: Selling a season pass. And it’s like, preview the season pass now!

Jason: Although Anthem doesn’t have a season pass.

Kirk: I guess that makes sense. That’s kind of EA’s thing, right? They do a lot of free updates now.

Jason: I think so. The whole point is that it’s cosmetic microtransactions and then free updates attached to the game. But yeah, imagine if they had just done that approach. It’s almost like No Man’s Sky when we talked about that back in the day and how that should have been an early access game.

Kirk: And Fallout 76. I think we’ve said this for multiple games.

Jason: Should’ve been an early access game. It’s like, some honesty and transparency and just being like, “Look. This is fucking hard. Making this game is hard. We have no idea—”

Kirk: “Look. This is hard.”

Maddy: “We have no idea how to make games!”

Kirk: “We have no idea what the fuck we’re doing! Anyways, bye!!”

Maddy: [laughs] I don’t know! Don’t you feel like the counter-argument to that would be that there are many players who don’t like that and find it irritating that they’re basically being asked to pay to be a QA tester for a game for six months or a year, and that that is now just a cultural thing we’ve accepted as being normal and fine?

Jason: Well, we’ll see if people accept it. They didn’t accept it with Fallout.

Maddy: I mean, a lot of other games, people have kinda done it. But yeah, Fallout is an example of players being like, “No, this isn’t what we wanted, and we are not going to play it.”

Jason: I can’t see people accepting this. The big question here—the elephant in the room is, is EA going to allow Anthem the time, and BioWare the time, to get Anthem right and give it the foundational fixes and big scale changes that it needs? Is Anthem even gonna have a chance to have its Taken King moment? I don’t know.


For much more, listen to the entire episode. As always, you can subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts and Google Play to get every episode as it happens. Leave us a review if you like what you hear, and reach us at [email protected] with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.

Source: Kotaku.com

In Anthem, Falling Is Faster Than Flying

BioWare’s new loot shooter Anthem really nails the feeling of flying around in Iron Man-style exosuits, except when dive-bombing. As players have learned, it turns out the fastest way to get around in the game’s world is by simply falling.

While it’s nice to pause every once in a while and take in the beautiful sights, of which Anthem has many, the fact that it’s a game based on grinding for loot means players spend a lot of time doing the same stuff, in the same places, over and over again. Repeatedly playing through one of the game’s Stronghold missions, like the Tyrant Mine, means getting to know it like the back of your hand and figuring out how to finish as quickly as possible. So it didn’t take long for players to discover that falling in one of Anthem’s Javelins is a lot faster than flying.

How much faster? I did a handful of tests of my own in the initial starting area in free-play right outside of Fort Tarsis to find out. Every area in Anthem has an invisible ceiling. Fly up to it and the game will eventually envelope you in a wind tunnel and redirect you back toward the ground.

Going up to this point right above the first waterfall in the Ranger Javelin, I used the stopwatch on my phone to track how long it took to hit the ground. In free fall it took 4.84 seconds the first time. Pointing my Javelin straight down and using its thrusters at max throttle it took 9.72 seconds. I did this four more times and got similar results. Based on these preliminary tests, falling in Anthem is about twice as fast as flying.

It might not sound like much, but Anthem’s world has a ton of verticality. A lot of the map is divided into high plateaus abutted by large canyons and just about every underground cavern has at least a couple of large plummets. Of course, some players have found even more exotic means of getting around faster, like linking together canceled melee attack animations to conserve momentum. Where there’s loot, players will find a way.

Logically it doesn’t make much sense, but that hasn’t stopped a number of players from debating science fiction physics on the game’s subreddit. Some argue that of course the pull of gravity aided by a rocket should be faster than gravity alone. Others claim that since flying downwards in Anthem cools off your engines, the added air intake is probably what’s slowing the Javelins down.

Either way, the end result is that no one piloting a Javelin’s going to be able to save someone falling from a crumbling building anytime soon. Unless they start falling, too.

Source: Kotaku.com

Anthem’s Loading Times Are A Real Problem

On Saturday night, I logged into BioWare’s new game Anthem and loaded up what I thought was a mission called Finding Old Friends. Instead, I got to play an entirely different mission: Finding Old Friends On Facebook While Wondering If Anthem Will Ever Actually Load.

Anthem, which came out February 15 in early access and launches for real on February 22, is riddled with bugs and issues, some of which may be fixed in the day-one (read: day-seven) patch. Perhaps the most prevalent issue is the loading times, which have been absurdly long for many players, myself included.

After sitting through a number of painful loading screens in previous missions, I finally pulled out a stopwatch for Finding Old Friends. The period from hitting the launch button to entering the game took an excruciating two minutes and 24 seconds. But that wasn’t all. By the time I got into the game, my other three squadmates had already gotten way ahead of me, so I had to watch yet another loading screen as the game yelled at me for lagging behind and teleported me ahead to catch up.

Then, after shooting some aliens and watching a mid-mission cutscene, I watched a loading screen pop up for another three minutes or so before Anthem decided it’d had enough and booted me from the game entirely. That was about the time I decided to shut down my PC and go take a few stabs at Martyr Logarius.

This is a problem that BioWare says it’s fixing in Friday’s patch, which isn’t much comfort to anyone who dished out extra for one of EA’s subscription services to play Anthem a week early. It also makes me think of an amusing anecdote.

Last January, in a piece about the severe pressure that BioWare was feeling on Anthem, and about how the studio had rebooted and paused Dragon Age 4 as a result, I reported that the game had been delayed from fall 2018 to early 2019. I wrote that, as BioWare sources had told me, the fall 2018 window was “never realistic” due to Anthem’s rocky development. Shortly afterwards, EA confirmed that delay in an unusual fashion. On a quarterly earnings call in February 2018, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that it wasn’t actually a “delay” because actually, the game would’ve been ready—they just wanted to move it away from Battlefield V.

“Regardless of how it’s being portrayed, we’re not looking at that as a delay,” Wilson told investors. “The date is chosen by portfolio balance, not product readiness.” And, wrote the Wall Street Journal: “The company denies a report in videogame site Kotaku earlier this month claiming the change is due to development being behind schedule… ‘It’s not a delay,’ EA’s finance chief Blake Jorgensen tells the WSJ. ‘People are trying to create a story.’”

Now that it’s February 2019 and Anthem players need to wait for a day-one patch to fix critical game-breaking issues, those EA executive comments sure are fascinating.

Source: Kotaku.com

Anthem’s Day-One Patch Promises To Fix The Game’s Biggest Issues

Screenshot: Kotaku (Anthem)

Anthem will get a patch on February 22 to fix a number of issues both big and small that players have had with the game since it entered early access on February 15 for PC and Xbox One players with paid EA subscriptions.

Chief among the changes will be improvements to some truly soul-crushing loading times as well as problems with players getting disconnected from the game at pivotal points and then needing to repeat their progress. Other changes include making the warning and countdown timers for not being in the right mission area “more lenient.” While it’s unclear exactly what that will mean in practice, the game currently requires you to be extremely close to the rest of your party during missions and, as other players have noted, it can get really annoying.

The update will also address some of the problems players have had with the game’s loot. Currently, there’s a bug that makes it so players don’t get loot from chests which are opened or bosses that are killed while they’re dead and waiting to be revived. It’s happened to me and I can tell you there are few things worse in Anthem than slogging through a tough mission only to not get all of the loot you were owed because you happened to die at the wrong time.

BioWare is also going to change how the final bit of loot from Stronghold missions is handled. Instead of hiding it on the post-mission overview screen, which can be tedious to get through, it will fall out of the final boss’s body when it’s killed, as nature intended.

This is being called a “day one” update, and while its true that most people won’t start playing Anthem until its retail launch this Friday, it’s also true that lots of people have already started playing the game thanks to EA’s ongoing commitment to staggered release dates. So far, this “early access” period for paid subscribers to EA Access and Origin Premier has also served as an additional mini-beta for the game, further diluting what it means for a game to get released. Some game sites have even already posted their reviews of Anthem. (We’re waiting a bit longer before we fully evaluate the game, though.)

BioWare already pushed out a small update over the weekend to try and address one of the game’s more tedious sequences. It requires checking off a number of arbitrary achievements in order to unlock secret tombs. Rather than only track those achievements once the mission for them opens up, the game will now track them starting when the player hits level three, making it more likely that they’ll have already met a number of the requirements by the time they get to that point in the story.

Here are the rest of the changes currently announced for the February 22 patch:

High level fixes

  • Improved loading times
  • Fixed many infinite loading screens
  • Fixed multiple challenges not tracking properly
  • A number of issues have been fixed that were causing players to disconnect or crash
  • Weapons and gear now have numbers present for modifiers

General Fixes and Improvements

  • Loot Reveal and Expedition Summary now correctly play during the end of expedition screen.
  • The gather party mechanic has been made more lenient in a number of situations
  • At the end of expedition screen players will no longer get stuck on “Recording Victories” or “Skipping All”.
  • Game no longer hangs in Javelin menu when unlocking the second, third or fourth javelin
  • During the mission “What Freelancers Do” dying after killing Junkmaw & freeing Arcanists leaves you unable to progress, this has been fixed
  • Challenges now unlock for players at the correct levels
  • Fixed some camera issues during cutscenes
  • Legendary Contracts can now be accepted from the Social Hub contract board
  • Some enemies have had their shield values decreased
  • Loot now properly drops for players who are downed
  • The texture quality on the NPC Prospero has been improved
  • Final boss of strongholds now drop loot instead of only being shown on the end of expedition screen
  • Fixed the time outs on echoes and relics to prevent griefing and to handle disconnections properly
  • Players can no longer fall through the floor during the 3rd trial in the Fortress of Dawn
  • Completing the tutorial expedition will now show the correct Ranger appearance
  • After disconnecting, rejoining an expedition will now place you back into a squad if you were in one previously
  • Corrected an issue where players could not interact with each other in the launch bay in certain circumstances
  • Corrected an issue during the Mission “Bad Deal” where outlaws won’t spawn, blocking progress
  • The start of expedition screen has been improved
  • Addressed a variety of situations where killing enemies does not properly progress world events
  • Opening a chest now increments Tomb of the Legionnaire progress for all squad members present
  • Scar snipers can no longer shoot through Storm Shield
  • Corrected an issue where players would get stuck on the end of expedition screen in some situations
  • Players will no longer get disconnected if joining the “Finding Old Friends” mission while the cinematic is playing
  • Addressed a number of situations where players can get stuck on the environment in the launch bay
  • Increased the damage of the electric status effect
  • Corrected an issue where the Shield of Dawn could be crafted with less materials then intended in some situations
  • The Platinum Mission feat now grants completion as intended
  • Status effects can more reliably be applied to Titans

Strongholds

  • Fixed an issue that would cause a Stronghold server crash after defeating the last boss
  • Temple of Scar – Players can no longer get stuck in the mined tunnel in the explosives room
  • Temple of Scar – Players can no longer be blocked from entering the explosives room due to fog wall
  • Fixed Tyrant Mine so people that join the stronghold in-progress do not end up locked away from their team
  • Adjusted lighting in Tyrant Mine underwater section to make it easier to navigate to the exit
  • The Swarm Tyrant will no longer get stuck in the side cave entrances in some situations
  • Corrected an issue where players would spawn into different areas of the Tyrant Mine in certain situations

Gear and Weapons

  • After having 1st pilot unlock suit after tutorials, creating a new pilot and going to forge no longer causes load screen hang
  • Ice damage bonuses are now correctly applied on ice gear
  • Suit-wide bonuses from inscription are now functioning properly
  • Players can no longer salvage equipped items
  • Javelin specific gear and/or weapons are no longer able to be used on javelins they aren’t intended for
  • Corrected an issue where in some circumstances Masterwork Components do not have any inscriptions
  • The Endless Siege Masterwork Autocannon no longer displays a damage increase of 0% in its tooltip

Javelins

  • The Colossus javelin is now able to activate its shield more quickly after using an ability or firing a weapon
  • The Storm javelin now reacts to getting hit when its shields are up
  • Fixed an exploit that allowed the Storm’s ultimate attack to be used more times than intended
  • The Colossus javelin can now shield and revive at the same time
  • Interceptor Combo Aura has been increased in power and now has a damage over time component

Crafting

  • Non-Masterwork materials purchased from the crafting store now show as their proper rarity instead of incorrectly showing as Masterwork

Controls

  • Additional Mouse and Keyboard control improvements have been made

UI

  • Some conversations were not popping up the reputation points post conversation completion, this has been fixed
  • The squad screen now displays the correct information for each player
  • Fixed a number of issues where subtitles will no longer get stuck on the screen after dialogue has finished as often
  • Settings should no longer reset upon exiting and restarting the game on Xbox One
  • Motion blur can now correctly be turned off
  • The Electric Status Effect now shows scaled damage properly
  • An option has been added to hide the Squad Member HUD
  • The edge of the compass will now pulse to indicate enemy locations
  • A notification has been added in Fort Tarsis if a player’s vault is at the cap of 250 items
  • On the “Repair the Strider” step of “A Cry for Help” the search radar has been adjusted to correctly lead the player to all 4 tools
  • Primer and Detonator icons have been added to all Interceptor gear
  • Corrected a user interface issue where a player’s ultimate would show as available when it isn’t

Source: Kotaku.com

Six Hours In, Anthem Has A Lot To Love

I’ve played about six hours of Anthem, a game where players fly around in mechanical suits blowing stuff up in search of ever more rare loot, and while I’m still getting my bearings I already feel a lot better about the game than I did back during its two demos.

The game launched earlier today on PC for Origin Premier subscribers and on Xbox One as part of a 10-hour trial through EA Access, with a full-launch for non-subscribers and PS4 players on February 22. Unlike the two demo sessions earlier this month and last, I haven’t gotten disconnected from the servers or experienced any bugs on the scale of the never-ending loading screen. Load times are still a nuisance and I wish developer BioWare had done something to make them less noticeable and boring than a bar slowly filling up above a still image, but at least they’re not broken. There have been occasional graphical glitches, but nothing that lasted for more than a second or in any way interrupted what I was doing. So far, Anthem works.

It’s also a lot of fun. The core of Anthem is flying through ancient caves and jungles dotted with ruins, and that part of the game could not feel any better. Punching the left analog stick to turn on forward thrusters or the right one to gracefully hover in place is easy and responsive but full of complementary camera effects and richly layered sound effects that really convince you you’re controlling a sentient rocket. Even if Anthem were just a fantasy-infused flying sim, it would still be a ton of fun.

But of course there’s a lot more to the game than just flying around. Anthem revolves around getting missions from the people in your hub, a city called Fort Tarsis, going out into the big, bad, dangerous world to complete them, and then returning and using the loot you collected to upgrade a mechanical suit, also known as a Javelin. You can play as part of a group of up to four players or alone, though some of the missions really are built for teamwork. Happily, Anthem offers automatic matchmaking for everything.

One of the big questions facing the game prior to release was whether it would have any meaningful story beyond a few wacky sci-fi premises strung together to explain why you were flying around a strange world in robot armor. And while the narrative does take a back seat to everything else going on in the hours I’ve played, it does exist. Playing as a freelancer, a class of warriors tasked with protecting humanity from deadly forces of nature brought about by mysterious artifacts, you become entangled in a plot to stop a particularly ruthless faction called the Dominion from obtaining special artifacts that could be used to do any number of terrible things.

Based on what I’ve seen of it so far, it doesn’t have anything as complex as the political conflicts and intrigue at work in any of the Mass Effect games. Instead, it’s more in line with the Destiny games’ clear-cut drama around good vs. evil, and it’s decent enough with a world that feels somewhat more lived-in than Bungie’s series. Where Destiny’s hub, the Tower, is located up in the clouds and feels somewhat like a dream, Anthem’s Fort Tarsis feels more like a giant, greasy car repair shop with a bar inside it. I have no idea what the people in Anthem smell like but I’m absolutely sure they smell like something.

The game’s otherwise straightforward plot is also helped out a lot by a cast of extremely well-voiced and well-acted characters. Motion-capture is the basis for a number of the performances and it shows, with small winks, bitten-lips, and idiosyncratic mannerisms helping to set each person apart. You can see this in characters like Owen, a side-kick who helps guide you over the radio during missions. He’s charming, scrappy, and way out of his depth.

So far Neeson Giles is my favorite, even though I only spoke with him once and the conversation didn’t go very well. A loser who just wants to hang with the cool kids, Giles told me Owen was weird and unstable before backtracking after realizing he’d clearly offended me to say he’d only heard other people say that Owen was weird and unstable. He then proceeded to say we should hang out again sometime, before eventually begging me to hang out again some time. I have no idea if Giles will play an important part in the main storyline or if he’s just there to add flavor. Maybe he’ll have an interesting set of missions for me at some point. I could have easily just walked past him and never met him at all. Did I mention he’s voiced by Brooklyn 99’s Joe Lo Truglio?

Though I’m running the game on medium settings to keep the framerate up thanks to my under-powered GTX 970, it still looks crisp and detailed, especially considering all of the action. Despite all of the flying around and almost non-stop explosions, everything has run smoothly. The few times I’ve slowed down to push my settings to the max to take in how the light peers over a ridge or bounces off the ripples in a pond, I’ve been really impressed. Even when the environments start to run together and feel repetitive, their size, scope and detail are breathtaking.

Of course, the real challenge for a game like Anthem is whether it can still feel almost as exhilarating after 100 hours as it does after six. Even now I have concerns the breadth and diversity of enemy encounters and mission types. Almost to a one they’ve consisted of some version of a spherical arena space that requires slow, methodical circling. When I end up in a tight spot, I fly out of range and then begin a new sweep. The mission objectives have so far been simple, consisting of either holding down a point or collecting orbs to activate an artifact. Enemy AI doesn’t help either. On more than one occasion I’ve seen enemies standing completely still, or turning around and showing their backs, exposing their weak points to me, for no particular reason. Given all of the powers and mobility at the player’s disposal, Anthem seems to try and make up for these slip-ups by giving enemies a good chunk of health and throwing tons of them at you. In the end it can all feel a bit chaotic, more like a free-for-all than a tightly wound shootout than forces you to actually consider strategy and tactics.

I’ve only completed about a dozen missions so far including one stronghold—a longer dungeon that’s made for a party of four players and features a boss at the end. As I unlock more abilities and equipment, I’m hoping the game’s encounters will change things up as well, beyond just offering me higher difficulties to complete all the same old missions on. I haven’t yet found one I would love to run again just for the hell of it. For now, there’s plenty of other things to keep me coming back.

Source: Kotaku.com

Anthem’s Demo Ends With An Exciting Cloud And A Less Exciting Rock Monster

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

Anthem’s open demo, which launched this past weekend, had its first “mini-event” last night. A fiery vortex formed in the sky, and some big rock monsters appeared on the ground below. It made for a nice change of visuals and something new to hunt, but like a lot of what the demo has shown off, something seemed to be missing.

BioWare’s multiplayer shooter is entering the growing landscape of live service games that get small updates every few weeks or months so that players feel like there’s a reason to keep returning to them. For example, Fortnite started off this year with a mysterious icy sphere, and Destiny 2’s Valentines-themed Crimson Days event kicks off next week. Anthem’s mini-event unfolded in a familiar fashion.

On Sunday morning, the game’s Twitter account started tweeting about a weird new anomaly in the sky in the game’s freeplay mode. As players became aware of it, they started taking snapshots and sharing them online. After seeing those reactions, I decided to hop back into the demo and see what was going on for myself. The pictures looked cool. The first part of the mini-event worked.

Once my javelin loaded into the world, I started looking around for the big red ring in the sky. I thought it might appear as an icon on my mini-map, like Fallout 76’s blast zones, or that there would be a dramatic shift in the lighting in the direction where the vortex could be found. Instead, I spotted it just by scanning the horizon. It looked beautiful, sparkled with bits of meteors burning up as they fell from it into the atmosphere below. It also looked super far away, at which point I realized it probably wasn’t something I could actually go inside and rather was purely decorative.

So I launched my javelin into the air and flew off in search of what else might be different in the world. I stumbled upon a mission marker and started to engage with a group of enemies but soon I realized that it was an old mission type I’d already done before and also, it didn’t have anything to do with the vortex. I flew around a bit more, trying where possible to go in the direction of the firestorm but never seeming to get much closer to it. I eventually stumbled into an altercation with an Ash Titan, a giant molten rock monster that throws fireballs at you and wasn’t previously on the prowl in freeplay mode. Mystery solved.

I’d already fought a couple of Ash Titans during the Anthem demo’s brief narrative questline, and though it was nice to see something new during my patrol, it wasn’t the payoff I wanted. Anthem’s demo has suffered from a lack of interesting encounters and mission types; mostly, they involve flying into a room, killing everything you see, and then flying onto the next one. That sequence could be used to describe a lot of what you do in most shooters, but the combination of sprawling open spaces and mostly stationary mobs of enemies has made the simplicity feel especially obvious in Anthem.

“You dare to take on six bars of yellow health all by yourself?”

Ash Titans are easier to take down as a group. They are big bullet sponges while playing solo, especially if you’re playing as the melee-oriented Interceptor class like I have been. It felt sort of like solo-ing a volcano. Ash Titans might be slow and pretty stationary, but you do not want to get caught trying to stab them with a laser sword. Unfortunately, no other online strangers showed up during the fight.

I saw one player had tweeted at Casey Hudson, BioWare’s general manager, to ask if the there was anything else to the event or if it was safe for them to log off. Hudson responded: “Yep, if you went out in the storm that formed today and fought some titans then you’ve experienced the mini-event that we added to this weekend’s demo. Just a small tease of some of the things we’ll be doing when @anthemgame goes live.”

As with everything else in Anthem, it’s too soon to tell how all of its individual parts will fit together. BioWare has kept almost everything to do with the game’s overall story, in whatever form it exists, under wraps. Given the world of Anthem is full of ancient artifacts and mysterious technologies with the power to do large-scale terraforming, there’s plenty of room for interesting events in the future. Hopefully future events will involve more than a pretty picture and old bosses.

Source: Kotaku.com

Anthem’s Fragmented Launch Risks Ruining What Makes Online Games Great

Remember when games used to just, come out? They had a release day. On that release day, or potentially the night before, you’d go to the store, hand a person some cash, the same amount as everyone else, and walk out with a game that you could then go home and immediately start playing. That was nice.

Anthem’s release is not that. Instead it’s so convoluted EA released a chart to try and help people make sense of when people can play the BioWare-developed shared-world shooter. How early and how long you can play Anthem for in mid-February depends on things like which video game-playing machine you own and how much money you’ve agreed to have auto-debit from your bank account each month.

If you buy Anthem on PC and have an Origin Premier subscription for $15 a month you can start playing the game on February 15. If you only have an Origin Access subscription for $5 a month you can start playing on February 15, but only for 10 hours. You can also do that on Xbox One with a $5 a month EA Access subscription. Everyone without some sort of subscription, or if playing on PS4, will have to wait until February 22 to start playing.

It’s needlessly complex and a bit frustrating. The release of a new online multiplayer game feels a bit like a concert. Which is great. Concerts are fun. Except when you feel like you’re getting nickel and dimed to get the best experience, or when your friends are in the pit but you’re stuck off on the lawn.

To put it another way, part of the excitement around Anthem is getting to be part of a new community exploring a new world. It’s never fun when right out of the gate that sort of shared experience starts getting divided into tiers and gated based on the platform you’re playing on or how much money you’re paying.

This isn’t a new trend for EA, or other companies, but it’s certainly becoming more common and more complicated, especially as its subscription service tiers multiply. Things like EA Access, Origin Access, and even Origin Premier can be great on their own, providing a way for people to try out different games from an expansive library of demos and back catalogue titles available to all subscribers. When they become tools for further stratifying the audience for a particular game, however, they mar a game’s launch. If EA is using early access to get people to spend money on these services because selling Anthem for $60 isn’t profitable enough on its own, ann easier way might just be to charge $70 and let everyone start enjoying the game together at the same time, no charts needed.

Earlier today, one player tweeted at the Anthem Twitter account and asked why players on PS4 didn’t have any options for getting a headstart like everyone else. Jonathan Warner, the game’s director, responded by saying that EA Access not being an option for PS4 owners is out of BioWare’s hands and strictly negotiated between EA and Sony. “If it were up to me we would ALL play on the same day,” he wrote.

Source: Kotaku.com

Anthem’s First Demo Weekend Was A Mess

Screenshot: Kotaku (Anthem)

Anthem, BioWare’s upcoming online loot shooter, has some cool ideas. Unfortunately, the game’s demo last weekend was so busted, it was hard to get a good feel for the game.

The problems started as soon as the demo went live on Friday, January 25. Many, myself included, were greeted by an error message that read, “We’re sorry, but the EA servers reached max capacity. Please try again later.” In some instances it was possible to get as far as selecting a male or female character in the opening menu before the game would automatically restart. Later in the afternoon, the connection issue spread to EA’s other games and services, including people’s ability to log into and post on EA Help, the company’s official customer support site.

Those issues eventually subsided, only for a whole host of other problems to crop up. Chief among them was an infinite loading screen. Whether trying to load the game or leave Fort Tarsis, the game’s main hub area, the loading screen bar would fill up to around 95% and then stall out indefinitely. Sometimes restarting the game helped. Sometimes the same thing happened. Sometimes it happened after finishing a mission and trying to go back to Fort Tarsis, with earned loot or XP sometimes disappearing in the process.

I spent way too long staring at screens like this.
Screenshot: Kotaku (Anthem)

Rubber banding, in which game sequences slow down, stutter, or even repeat, was also a problem throughout the weekend. By Saturday night, on Xbox One at least, the game was more or less impossible to play even when I managed to successfully avoid getting trapped in loading screens. Some players also experienced enemies disappearing mid-combat only to randomly re-appear later on. Other players still had trouble accessing the demo, or never got the link for a special code that could be used to invite up to four friends to play the game with them. There were also problems with new Javelins not unlocking after players leveled up. Though BioWare eventually fixed the issue, late Sunday just before the demo was set to end, the studio decided to unlock all four Javelin classes for every player.

Despite playing very much like a beta testing session, the weekend wasn’t pitched as one. Instead, the demo was marketed as a “VIP” bonus for people who pre-ordered Anthem or were either paid EA Access or Origin Access subscribers. Everyone else would have to wait until the “open” demo is available the weekend of February 2. Michael Gamble, the game’s lead producer, also announced that the game had gone “Gold,” meaning it had passed certification for things like bugs on both Xbox One and PS4, just a couple days prior to the demo going live. The confusion over whether or not players were signing up to get a sneak peak at a finished game or test out the server load wasn’t helped by the fact that many EA games now have multiple release dates, Anthem included. It officially launches on February 22, but is actually available on February 15, three weeks from now, for anyone who subscribes to EA Access or Origins Access.

BioWare’s head of live service, Chad Robertson, published a post on the company’s blog late Saturday apologizing for the demo’s problems, stressing that contrary to speculation on social media and the game’s subreddit, none of them stemmed from a lack of servers. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and sincerely apologize for those who have had issues getting into the game,” he wrote, calling out the overall connectivity issues, bugs preventing people from gaining access to the demo, and infinite load screens in particular. According to Robertson, the studio had only seen the infinite load screen problem in isolated cases previously and thought the issue had been addressed. “Unfortunately, the problem is exacerbated in the real-world where differences with player’s ISPs and home networks introduce new behavior,” he wrote, adding that it would be a “difficult one” to fix.

BioWare has also said that the demo was an older build of the game that didn’t include some of the bug fixes the team has made in recent weeks. Late Sunday night, BioWare announced on Twitter that details on improvements coming to the game in time for next weekend’s demo would be announced sometime on Monday.

Source: Kotaku.com

Two Hours With Anthem’s New Demo

Today BioWare’s demo for their upcoming online coop shooter Anthem went live, sort of. An apparent problem on the back end and some weird infinite load screen bug have made it difficult to actually explore the game for any sustained period of time. At the time of writing, the game still isn’t accessible for a lot of the EA Access and Origin Premier subscribers who can play this weekend. Fortunately, I was able to spend close to two hours with the game before getting booted. I came away excited but skeptical.

I first got a chance to play Anthem at E3 last year. I hadn’t expected the game to look or feel as good as it did. Intuitive movement and controls aren’t something I normally associate with BioWare, though I’ve enjoyed the studio’s past action role-playing games despite their clunkiness. After seeing how different it felt to move in fight in Anthem, it quickly became my most anticipated game of 2019.

Returning to Anthem’s world today has cooled my enthusiasm slightly. The demo, which BioWare has gone to great lengths to note is a separate slice of the game and balanced somewhat differently when it comes to the in-game economy and leveling, starts in Fort Tarsis, Anthem’s main narrative hub. From there players have the option to embark on a few different types of missions, solo or with up to three other people, to achieve specific story objectives or just to explore and grind for loot and XP.

Playing on an Xbox One X, the game doesn’t look as visually striking as when I played it on a high end PC at E3. The natural lighting effects on my first outing through the mountainous jungles outside the base, for instance, aren’t as impressive as what I’ve become accustomed to in games like Destiny 2 and even Fallout 76. The interior of a temple was brown and ugly. (The diegetic music in Fort Tarsis’ open air market whips, though.) I also encountered multiple, lengthy load screens when entering different parts of the map, as well as between missions and respawning from death, though it’s hard to know how much of that is a result of the game’s current server-side maladies.

Combat is more visually interesting, bordering on effervescent. Anthem’s particle effects help give each fight a little zing. Ice attacks, fiery explosions, and shield effects collapsing fill the immediate vicinity with a ton of satisfying visual details. Despite the visual flair, aiming is a bit stiff. Numbers indicating damage pour over enemies rather than having the enemies physically react, but the sound effects of each bullet leaving the chamber make me want to keep shooting everything I can find. Being able to fly is wonderful, and moving around Anthem in general feels phenomenal, but I find myself falling into a strict rhythm of fighting enemies from behind bits of cover, moving to a new place, and then taking cover to fight more enemies. So far I haven’t come across many encounters that really require or reward using the verticality my suit affords me to try to outmaneuver my opponents.

There are a ton of options to customize the look of the Javelins, the mech suits you wear when adventuring out in the world. There are options for switching up the colors and textures of several layers of the suits’ metallic and cloth components, as well as your gun. I’m excited for possibilities when it comes to bedazzling them in the coming months. At the same time, I didn’t stumble upon that many interesting items in my initial outings outside of a few components to augment some of my Javelin’s defense and melee damage. Anthem doesn’t seem like the type of shooter where new equipment is constantly dropping from dead enemies.

Though I was dubious about another online multiplayer game with NPCs, so far Anthem’s characters seem like real people with fully-formed personalities. Matthias, who I recovered an artifact for, is both incredibly knowledgeable but also unsure himself, a dichotomy he oscillates between during conversations in subtle ways rather than remaining one note. I’ve only chatted up a handful of characters, but none of them seem like stilted, one dimensional personas who only exist to add lines to your to-do list. The residents of Fort Tarsis look like Final Fantasy X’s Al-Bhed in their skin-tight cutoffs and high-tech surgeon masks. (The jury’s still out on whether that’s a good thing or not.)

Anthem’s current demo period runs through the weekend. I plan to play a bunch more of it during that time, leveling up to unlock other Javelins and exploring some of the missions on tougher difficulties with a full party—assuming the servers are working at least. The game’s next demo period, which runs the weekend of February 1, will be open to all players, and the complete game launches on February 22.

Source: Kotaku.com

BioWare Says They Are Adding A Social Hub To Anthem Because Fans Asked For It

Anthem, BioWare’s upcoming online loot shooter, is only a month out from release and is already changing based on player feedback. The game’s lead producer, Michael Gamble, announced on Twitter yesterday that, following feedback gathered from alpha test players in recent weeks, the game will be getting a social hub.

“After a mission, you can head back to Tarsis and catch up with some of the amazing characters we’ve created for you…OR…head back to the brand new Launch Bay, hang out with your friends, use the forge, reload and grab a new contract,” Gamble tweeted. “Yeah, we listened to you… details soon!”

So far the Launch Bay looks pretty small and barebones, but by giving up to 16 players a place to chill between missions and show off their custom mech suits, it certainly looks like an improvement over just talking with teammates over voice chat.

As more people played the game during its closed alpha tests in December, some were shocked to find that something like the Launch Bay didn’t already exist. Earlier this month, someone on Twitter asked BioWare why that was. “A lot of people are concerned about Ft. Tarsis not being a social area,” the person wrote. “Players like seeing other players. Take The Division, Destiny and Warframe for example, social hubs that allow us to see others. Socially connected games have longevity.”

At the time, Gamble, who has been spending the last few months tweeting out lots of info about Anthem in response to questions, responded “We hear you loud and clear.”

Social hubs have been around in traditional MMOs for years but aren’t necessarily standard for online multiplayers games. It was a big deal for players when Warframe got its first major social hub called the Plains of Eidolon back in October of 2017, four years after the game had launched.

Fallout 76, another quasi-MMO, still doesn’t have a social hub, much to the dismay of its remaining fans. As a result, there’s no dedicated, non-PVP spot on the map where players can meet with one another and trade, and no clear signs yet of if one might get added.

While not on the scale of Destiny’s Tower or Warframe’s Plains of Eidolon, Anthem’s Launch Bay is a nice start. It shows BioWare is taking the continuously evolving nature of always-online games seriously. While it won’t be available in the VIP demo starting January 25, Gamble said Launch Bay will be live when the game releases on February 22.

Source: Kotaku.com