Ranting about Anthem and Bioware


#1

Right off of EA’s conference, I gotta say I’m extremely worried about Bioware. If they get disbanded within the next 2-3 years, I’ll be extremely sad but I won’t be surprised at all.

If Anthem gets canceled in a year, I won’t be surprised at all. There’s no way this game is anywhere near ready enough to come out in 2019. It’s either getting massively delayed or canceled. I’d say I was angry for them proving their detractors right about the first “gameplay” we saw for this game. I’d say that if I cared even a little bit about this game.

There’s a lot wrong with Anthem already, mostly that it’s being developed by Bioware and it’s basically the exact opposite of the kind of games Bioware excels at making.

Bioware’s strengths are story and characters. Anthem by it’s very nature of being a mashup of Warframe, Destiny and Monster Hunter can’t have a story or characters. These kinds of games are made for and kept alive by Aesthetics, community, and microtransactions. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just nothing Bioware has any business doing.

The biggest issue to me is that, it doesn’t have to be this way. They could’ve made Anthem or a game like it, and played to Bioware’s strengths.

Example of what I’m talking about:

Anthem’s pitch - You’re a “Freelancer”, you pilot a mechsuit called a “Javelin” and use it to protect humanities colony on this hostile alien world.

Anthem’s pitch if it were playing to Bioware’s strengths - In the far future, a post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited by pockets of humanity who use the weapons of the old world (Javelins) to defend their communities from hostile life, mostly in the form of other humans. An empire has risen from the ashes of the old world, consuming every pocket of humanity it encounters in the name of attaining resources and fulfilling their divine right.

The difference between these two pitches is that the one I just came up with centers on conflict between people, and that it necessary to actually have characters and story or even just lore that people actually care about. And if people care about that then they’ll keep coming back, look at Overwatch.

Instead Anthem looks like it’s just gonna be the rustic Iron Man aesthetics and shooting bullet sponges. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Again it just isn’t what Bioware should be doing. Especially not after their last game.


#2

#3

#5

I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not much of a Bioware player—I kind of just missed their games by a few years. I’ve played bits and pieces of Mass Effect and watched some more, but that’s kind of it. And I get the frustration of people who want more of what Bioware has historically done, because there isn’t a lot like that in the space, and that audience deserves more than they get.

But I’m not sure I agree with this notion that a studio, or dev team, or even a single dev should have a specific core strength that they stick to across their games. It can be good for a studio to have an identity because that helps them build an audience and hone a certain skillset, but saying that a studio shouldn’t try something different because that’s not what they’ve historically been good at sounds like the “this band changed their sound and now they’re terrible” argument in a different medium. I mean look at Subset. FTL and Into the Breach are about as distanced from each other genre-wise as Bioware’s previous games and Anthem seem to be. They’re both extremely well-designed games that have found a core audience, not all of which overlaps.

That’s not to say Anthem can’t or won’t be a bad game. It certainly might be. But if it is, it’ll be because of bad design, or microtransaction bloat, or stale writing, or something that was an active choice on the devs’ part and not just a byproduct of their strengths being elsewhere. I’m just not here for reprimanding a dev about trying something new because it’s not what they’ve done in the past.


#7

Fair enough! Like I said, I don’t follow Bioware all that closely so I wouldn’t really know.


#8

While it doesn’t discount any of the disappointing possibilities regarding them being forced to make something they don’t want to, I think in addition to the idea that studios should be able to work on stuff they haven’t been historically good at, it’s worth noting that any studio (edit: of Bioware’s size) sees a significant amount of turnover in staff. And while the glass half empty crowd might rightfully be concerned about talented individuals who leave, there is also the possibility for new people to come in that offer expertise in fields where the studio hasn’t historically had it.


#9

I share your concern about the dissolution of Bioware, especially since Anthem has to follow Andromeda. There seems to be a lot of pressure on Anthem, and it doesn’t look like something that the core group of Bioware fans will be in to at all.

My crazy dream is that CD Projekt Red will by them and their IP and turn them in to Bioware Projekt Edmonton. Unfortunately, you would have to pry them away from EA’s cold dead hands. They would rather shut them down and leave it all to rot in an abandonware closet in the basement of EA headquarters, so nobody else could make money off of Mass Effect or Dragon Age.


#10

The lack of romances leads me to believe that the work/life balance is so poor for Freelancers that they don’t even have the time to pursue meaningful social developments.

14? I think I have 14 freelancer jokes about Anthem in me before E3 ends. Probably two will be stolen from Rami Ismail.


#11

Tfw all the npcs try to pay your freelancer in “exposure.”


#12

It’s a shame how many contractors think respawning is a good enough healthcare benefit to freelancers.

13 left.


#13

At this point I’m kind of zen about BioWare crashing and burning - and I say that as someone who loved pretty much everything they put out up to and including Mass Effect 3. But they’re an EA subsidiary, and EA’s gonna EA. Best we can hope for is the talent leaving and reforming as a different company somewhere down the line.


#14

It’s really shocking to me how little of the gameplay loop EA is allowed to be shown off, and that’s my prime cause for concern. This game has been in development for 6 years and the only footage we’ve seen is heavily curated snippets of missions.

I wonder, though, if that’s not in some small part a defensive posture related to the early reactions to Andromeda - Bioware may be less willing to show off anything that isn’t highly polished for fear of the fanbase going knives-out again.


#15

I don’t really see it as crashing and burning, it’s releasing spores.

We had Black Isle and Bioware releasing those spores in the early 2000s which seeded plenty of other teams and have since grown into a new generation of Infinity Engine style games.

What I’m most interested in is when the spores carrying the memes from the development of the first Mass Effect end up bearing fruit in other studios. Now that could be quite something.


#16

Anthem will be… interesting to see.

All of the MMO-lite shooter games have had little or no “between the fighting” bits. It’s missions, shooting, looting, repeat. You go to town to collect rewards and craft or whatever. They’ve flirted with minimum dialogue and basic plots as an excuse for combat, but it’s always been light or bad. Downtime is avoided. That’s not why you play Warframe. You play Warframe to slide jump air-dash down a hallway with projectiles flying every direction. You play Destiny to make heads and juiceboxes explode, before getting the 1-2 second ult animation money shot before unleashing carnage, spraying the floor with orbs of light to let your allies do the same.

Bioware games are all about the downtime. The combat went from “ehh… well, it’s a cover shooter I guess?” in ME1, to “I guess it’s like a really slow, limited scope pseudo-turn based combat thing?” in DAO, slowly improving in both, but never being a reason to play a game. It has scaled up over time to passable in its own right.

Seeing how that translates into the genre, which is almost the perfect opposite, will be interesting, if not good. (But hopefully good, as ultimately where most of these games fall apart is missing the downtime and meaning to make you feel like you want to keep playing after slide jump spin warping down that hallway, reducing Grineer to ash as you go the ten thousandth time.)

I hope it’s incredible, and Bioware brings new and awesome things to the genre that they’re good at, is what I mean to say. (Which sounded like the direction they were hoping at least to go with it.)
I fear that they won’t. I fear that they’ll make a game like the others, comprised entirely of what they’ve historically been very bad about, devoid of what they’re good about.


#17

FWIW, Mark Darrah (especially) and Mike Gamble have been very busy on Twitter answering fan questions and such, and Darrah has been talking about the way the hubs & character interactions work in a little more detail. The hubs like Fort Tarsis are entirely singleplayer with no other human players present at all, full of NPCs to interact with, have conversations and relationship building with, get sidequests, etc. so it does sound like that aspect leans more into the traditional BioWare zones.

I am cautiously optimistic - I really do love BioWare’s output and I want them to succeed in trying new things.


#18

When people say “It’s not a BioWare game” I can see where they are coming from. However they often forget that BioWare made a Sonic game, MDK2, and Baldur’s Gate. People were really apprehensive about the transition from Baldur’s Gate -> NWN -> Mass Effect and now Anthem. Studios have to evolve, developer their craft, and try new things. Madden is adding more story, BioWare has been adding more action.

It’s okay if Anthem isn’t a game you’re interested in but it is definitely a BioWare game. When it’s released Anthem will have been in various stages of production for almost seven years, it’s not a flash in the pan reaction to Destiny that EA forced upon the studio.


#19

Yeah, this was a game that Casey Hudson helped get off the ground conceptually before going off to HoloLens land at Microsoft for a few years. While I’m sure they’ve monitored and been influenced by the games that have come out over the last few years, such as Destiny and The Division, I think the claim that EA is forcing Bioware to make this game against their will is pretty dubious.

Also, this:

Because BioWare is making it https://t.co/B994o5n1YV

— Mark Darrah (@BioMarkDarrah) June 9, 2018

#20

Ah yes, BioWare are making it.

The EA BioWare Label.

Which they can attach to and remove from studios as brands as they see fit, all while shuffling actual staff. TBH that’s a nice idea but at this point it’s definitely an EA game. From EA. Once the founders/leadership who sold a developer to EA walk away, it’s just another piece of the EA machine.


#21

The EA BioWare Label.

Which they can attach to and remove from studios as brands as they see fit, all while shuffling actual staff. TBH that’s a nice idea but at this point it’s definitely an EA game. From EA. Once the founders/leadership who sold a developer to EA walk away, it’s just another piece of the EA machine.

Ain’t that the truth. EA’s history speaks for itself: this is hardly the first time they tasked a game studio they acquired with making a game that wasn’t quite their thing, or insisting on features that weren’t to the game’s benefit. Said game always failed, leading to the studio being dismantled. That’s what EA does, and nothing in their recent pattern leads me to believe they’ll be changing their ways anytime soon. Let’s not forget that Star Wars: The Old Republic didn’t exactly revolutionize MMOs, and that was more a BioWare game than Anthem by the looks of it.


#22

Judging by the EA press conference, especially when in contrast to Microsoft and Bethesda, they seem like a company that don’t really know what their audience want. Who have been burned by their audiences and are just trying to play it safe.

Artisanal games made by real people with real feelings? Take a look at out fine wares!

Command and Conquer is back! (as a F2P clash of clans rip off).

Did somebody say THE CLONE WARS for Battlefront 2. What’s better than two lightsabres? FOUR lightsabres.

Generic shooter with sick waterfalls, in which you shoot numbers off aliens? I mean sure! It seems like a game made to combat Destiny, but Destiny isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire four years later. So…

(Having said that, if they get flight right. Anthem could be fun.)

It sucks about Bioware, but I’m also worried for Respawn. EA completely fucked Titanfall 2. It’s the best shooter of the generation, certainly of that COD persuasion.