Anthem's Loot Is Not In A Good Place

Screenshot: TooBoo4U, Reddit

Anthem has a lot of problems, and while some run deep, others feel like avoidable missteps. How the game handles its loot falls into that second category. As we get farther into the game’s post-launch life, a lot of its end-game feels like reliving the dark days immediately following Destiny 1’s release.

For a brief period after Anthem’s day-one patch went live on February 21, players noticed the game had gotten extremely generous with its loot drops.

Then that went away. The game’s lead producer, Ben Irving, eventually took to Anthem’s subreddit to explain what had happened: The day-one patch had unintentionally buffed the drop rates for the game’s epic and masterwork gear. After confirming what had happened, BioWare proceeded to revert the drop rates back to their standard pre-day-one patch levels.

After reaching level 30, players are able to run existing stronghold missions on grandmaster difficulties. They have three tiers, with each successive one granting higher odds of getting better drops.

For the brief period following the day-one patch, players were finding a healthy selection of rare, epic, and masterwork gear, the equivalent of Destiny’s green, blue, and purple engrams respectively. Now, drops more frequently consist of just common, uncommon, and rare loot, with epic and masterwork drops few and far between.

Since even Anthem’s best gear comes with a handful of randomised stats, there’s an incentive to collect multiple versions in the hunt for one with a better mix. Naturally, the baseline drop rates can feel that much stingier.

Anthem’s Masterwork items have one unique buff followed by randomised stat bonuses meaning some versions can be much better than others. (Screenshot: Anthem, EA)

The game’s most diehard fans were angry about the change. Though many people started playing Anthem on February 22, subscribers to EA Premier on PC had access a week early.

As a result, many, myself included, had already embarked on the end-game grind by the time the day-one patch rolled around. More than anything else, the temporary shift in drop rates helped throw into sharp relief just how gruelling and unrewarding Anthem’s current end-game activities can feel.

An ever-growing list of popular posts on the Anthem subreddit are decrying the current state of the game’s loot, with some players afraid that by erring on the side of being less generous, BioWare is potentially turning away players who are currently on the fence about whether to stick with Anthem.

Over the weekend, Travis Day, who worked on Diablo III’s soft reboot with the Reaper of Souls update, added his two cents, suggesting that the way the Anthem currently rewards loot to lead to burnout as players focus on running the same mission over and over again in the hopes of getting end-game equipment.

It’s not unlike the first few weeks following Destiny 1’s release when purple engrams could still decrypt into useless blue gear, a nasty trick that also masked just how scarce purple gear was. Bungie started addressing the issue with its 1.0.2 patch, which made purple gear drop in a wider range of activities and stopped it from sometimes turning out to be a blue piece of equipment in disguise.

It took months and years, however, for Bungie to hone in on a more balanced grind in which players could get access to some of the best weapons earlier on and then work on slowly strengthening them rather than still be at the mercy of incredibly low odds even after hours of grinding.

While it’s standard for an ambitious new loot shooter with a lot of moving parts to not get everything perfect at launch, it feels like Anthem is hitting many of the same pitfalls nearly five years later. The game’s director, Jonathan Warner, told a fan yesterday on Twitter that BioWare is already considering adjustments in the wake of player feedback.

We’ll see if Anthem is able to get it right faster than Destiny did. 


Comments

    perhaps that's how it's meant to be, you can read about all the mistakes everybody has ever made but until you experience it yourself and felt the pain... you won't learn from it

    surprise life lesson from Bioware!

      I think it's definitely worth trying to learn from the mistakes others have made though. If you can skip some of the major pain points they have to struggle through, wouldn't you? So the fact they're facing basically the same problems without any of the learnings from both Destiny 1 and 2 is just baffling.

        Look at Nintendo. It took the lessons Sony learned with the Vita and turned them into a successful product without repeating the same mistakes (mostly).

        oh for sure, Anthem currently has a boat load of issues that that other live service games have faced and subsequently fixed.

        personally for me, that's part of the reason why Anthem is disappointing. it's like BW either operated in a vacuum or purposely just ignored every live service game

      Except... Bioware should have a whole book written on lessons learned from running Star Wars the Old Republic MMO.

      I feel like no AAA studio really deserves a, "That's just how it is, you can't really learn lessons from others' mistakes, you have to make your own," pass. This is a AAA developer, playing with big investor money. Learning from mistakes in the industry could almost be argued to be a bloody legal requirement.

        I would have thought learning from the mistakes of others would be a good thing in general... but I've worked in large multinational companies for 20+ years and I've met some really stubborn people so yea...

    After reaching level 30, players are able to run existing stronghold missions on grandmaster difficulties. They have three tiers, with each successive one granting higher odds of getting better drops.

    Aren't there only three stronghold missions, none of which is particularly exciting? No wonder it could lead to burnout. Sounds a bit like the Destiny Loot Cave without the loot, if you ask me.

      The problem is compounded by the fact that one of the strongholds (Hive Tyrant) is easier than the others, but the rewards are the same.

      So... path of least resistance, everyone just spams runs of Hive Tyrant and gets burned out even faster because there's no variety.

    I'm getting real tired of AAA studios thinking that what they're doing is so unique, so special, that they don't NEED to look at what others in the industry have done to see what the problems might be or how they should be solved.

    Why do they keep doing this? Is it really something as simple as just... arrogance?

    Whatever it is that drives this behaviour, it's harmful and the industry really needs to take a closer look at it. It costs points on reviews, it costs development rework that didn't need to happen, it costs brand value for the studio.

      I guess part of the problem is that the data used to tune these sorts of systems is often considered a trade secret. Bungie wouldn't have been updating Destiny solely based on complaints posted to social media. They'd also be using analytics from the game itself to e.g. check median results and measure player engagement.

      If people are complaining that the rewards are too stingy but still playing, then there might be no reason to change things. If people are playing less than expected, or the average player has received less drops than expected, then that is reason to change.

      With that said, you'd hope that EA would have some corporate experience in this kind of thing (e.g. the aborted Battlefront 2 loot box system, FIFA Ultimate Team, etc) rather than just leaving the devs at Bioware to feel around in the dark.

        Bungie wouldn't have been updating Destiny solely based on complaints posted to social media. They'd also be using analytics from the game itself to e.g. check median results and measure player engagement. If people are complaining that the rewards are too stingy but still playing, then there might be no reason to change things. If people are playing less than expected, or the average player has received less drops than expected, then that is reason to change.

        This is where they're basically reading tea-leaves, diving what they WANT to see in the stats instead of hiring someone who's actually studied stats at a university so that they can jump in and correct every assumption they incorrectly draw.

        Heat-maps will show you what people are doing, but not how they feel about it.

        How they feel about what they're having to do will affect how long they're willing to do it, and unfortunately, you cannot draw a direct relationship between what people are willing to do, and how much they enjoy it.

        If people didn't do things they didn't enjoy, almost none of us would have fucking jobs. And perversely, the same goes for entertainment.

        The skinner box experiment shows us that the player brain just straight-up doesn't work rationally. And there's a baseline of 'new release enthusiasm' that grants more patience for shitty mechanics. Many players will actually be playing for the novelty, at this point, which will run out. And by the time it does, they'll have had no 'heat map' warning.

        The corporate experience you'd HOPE would warn studios about idiotic mistakes that they still keep making, over and over and fucking over again... that experience is fatally compromised by the corporate priorities that are not as simple as, "Let's make an enjoyable experience."

      IKR, although when you look at Destiny for instance, they made a lot of the same mistakes in D2 as they did in D1. They already had data from their own IP, nothing external, but still managed to make the same mistakes! Arrogance...? Maybe. But I'd be more inclined to aim the root cause squarely at publishers putting far too much financial pressure on developers, and overriding design decisions.

      I mean we know Bioware and Bungie, for instance, make good games. To me there is no other explanation for these failures other than bigbrother publisher sticking their nose into decisions that they shouldn't be making. Case in point with Anthem: the stupid EA release schedule that Bioware said they did not like publicly, but had no choice in the matter.

    Are we sure it's not just standard tactics? Generous initial drop rates to get everyone invested then revert back to the not so generous rate by which time people are now already chasing that Skinner Box high?

      Well, it was only 11hrs and hotfixed outside of the patch schedule, so I'd be pretty confident it was unintended like they claim.

    Dont understand why these kind of games dont copy borderlands 2 and diablo and become way more generous with loot. I want to see loot explosions . The other thing that is missing is weapons with unique properties similar to destinies exotics.

      The masterwork and legendary weapons have unique properties and inscriptions that roll randomly for each drop.

    One thing I find annoying other than all the other stuff people are complaining about (load time... like... Fuck me) is not being able to break down all the loot at the end of a game having almost 30 pieces the other day and only one master work I wanted to keep.

      you can go to the vault, mark everything you don't want as junk and then mass break down.

      although if you have 4 javelins and multiple loadout, you're going have to go to each loadout to unequip before you can break down (which incidentally leads to one asking why there isn't a "unequip from all loadout" option)

        Marking as junk takes almost as long as just breaking it down individualy though.

    Anyone else glad they didn't buy Anthem?

      Actually super glad I bought it - troubles and all. My only regret is that it takes so long to play thanks to fucking loading screens, and that I'm trying to play it co-op with my partner, who has less availability than me for playing.

      I did cancel my legion of dawn pre-order after the atrocious demos(alpha/beta). Then pick it up after release on cdkeys for $60 bucks on PC. Apart from random crashes on PC and some other shortcomings I'm enjoying it. Think I would have regretted paying $109 for it though!

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