Sources: BioWare Plans A Complete Overhaul For Anthem

Recent silence and a couple of high-profile departures from BioWare have led fans and pundits to speculate that the studio has abandoned its most recent game, Anthem, but the opposite is true. For the last few months, BioWare and parent company EA have been planning an overhaul of the online shooter, according to three people familiar with those plans. Some call it “Anthem 2.0” or “Anthem Next.”

Many of the details are still in flux, and there’s no clear timeline for the Anthem Next project just yet. In fact, from what I’ve heard, the developers at BioWare haven’t even decided how it’ll be distributed. They’re still figuring out whether updates should be released all at once or over an extended period of time. Anthem could be overhauled through a series of updates, a la No Man’s Sky, it could get a game-changing expansion like Destiny’s critically acclaimed Taken King. Most of Anthem’s biggest systems—its mission structure, its loot, its world—will change drastically, but the developers have not yet figured out exactly what that will look like. They’re even considering releasing Anthem Next as a brand new game, although those who work on the project said that could take a lot of forms (and it’s unlikely they’ll charge full-price to Anthem players). 

The one thing that’s for sure is that BioWare has not abandoned Anthem, despite recent breathless declarations that the game is dead. (There are few better ways to get views on YouTube than declaring Anthem to be dead.) Right now, dozens if not hundreds of developers at both of BioWare’s offices—in Austin, Texas and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada—are quietly working on plans to overhaul the game.

“We spent a few months just tearing it down and figuring out what needed to change fundamentally (a lot),” said one person on the project. “And we’ve been rebuilding for another few months since.”

A representative for EA declined to comment on this story.

Anthem, which launched in February 2019, was a big change for BioWare. The studio made its name on heavy role-playing games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, so fans were surprised when they saw BioWare trying to take on the likes of Destiny with an online shooter. Thanks to a messy development process plagued with technical issues, vision struggles, and many other stresses, the game flopped. It was buggy, tedious, and lacked the long-term appeal of its competitors. 

In the coming months, BioWare would delay Anthem’s endgame Cataclysm event, and on September 17, the developers said they were moving away from previously announced update plans in favour of long-term fixes. “We hear your concerns on core issues in Anthem and are acting on it,” wrote BioWare head of live services Chad Robertson in a blog post. “Those systems require a more thorough review and re-working versus quick fixes. We’ve got a team working on that now, and early results are promising.”

A month and a half later, Robertson had quit, following in the footsteps of lead producer Ben Irving, who’d left in August. The optics of these departures combined with EA’s vague messaging about Anthem’s future have led to non-stop speculation. “Bioware Ditches Anthem For Good,” proclaimed the YouTube news show Inside Gaming Daily on November 1. Around the same time, Forbes journalist Paul Tassi wrote: “I no longer really care about hearing about future plans for Anthem because I simply cannot imagine they will be anything beyond the bare minimum of keeping the game alive on life support, if that.”

But the reality is that BioWare is still putting a lot of work into Anthem. Details on Anthem Next are hazy, but among other things, the game’s developers plan to overhaul the loot, the quests, the social aspects of the game, the difficulty, the progression system, and the world map. One person on the project said they’re planning to change the game’s entire structure. Right now, the entire world of Anthem is set on a single contiguous map; separating the map into segments would allow developers to tweak and play around with those segments without worrying that they might create bugs and glitches all across the world. “We’re also looking at breaking up the need to go back to [Fort Tarsis] after every mission,” said the person, “and what a mission technically is. That was always a weird disconnect. [We’re] trying to integrate the disparate parts of the game together.”

A second person on the project told me yesterday they were still doing “lots of testing things out and experimentation but still nothing concrete.”

With so much in the air, it’s impossible to know what will and won’t change, but it’s safe to say that Anthem won’t suddenly transform into a brand new franchise—we still expect to see Freelancer mercenaries, Shaper artifacts, Javelin exosuits, and all of the other core ideas that the game has established. BioWare’s plan is to zoom out and overhaul the gameplay systems that most players have agreed don’t work. How and when this plan will come to fruition remains to be seen.

Anthem was developed by both of BioWare’s offices, but the plan had always been for BioWare Edmonton to pass the baton to BioWare Austin once the game went live. That has been happening slowly, sources said, which is exciting to members of the Austin team who think they can improve the game. (As detailed in our piece about the development of Anthem earlier this year, there were tensions between Edmonton and Austin all throughout the game’s production, many of them the result of disagreements on how to approach a live game.) As of right now, there are people in both studios working on Anthem Next.

BioWare, meanwhile, is still invested in role-playing games. In addition to the much-anticipated Dragon Age 4, which BioWare teased last year, a new Mass Effect game is in very early development at the Edmonton office under director Mike Gamble, a longtime BioWare producer.


Comments

    Well just look what happened with No Man's Sky. This time 2 years from now people might be frothing over Anthem too lol

      I really hope so. As much fun as it is to poke fun at Anthem, a lot of developers put in a lot of hours to make it at all, and it's better for everyone if it can be turned into a success.

        100% agree. However, this increasingly common trend of games being released unfinished needs to end. It seems like every game that comes out these days is marred by performance issues, unfulfilled promises and/or lacklustre execution. This culture of 'release now, fix later' is so anti-consumer.

          It is, however, very pro-shareholder, which is, for any large video game publisher, the more important aspect. :P

          I'm not sure the previous culture of "if the game is bad, it doesn't matter" was really that much better. We forget that there were a lot of games that had major issues, and a lot of games that relied primarily on being part of a franchise to sell. Look at how many Tony Hawk or Sonic games there are, compared to how many of those are good. Or how many licensed games there were, that weren't great but didn't have to be to sell.

          There was a time where a disaster like Anthem would have meant nothing - everyone who spent money on it lucked out. (Like those who spent money on Spore, for instance.) At least now there's an expectation that you can turn a bad game around, and it's worth doing.

            That was really well said and gave me a new perspective on the issue, thanks! I still hate the lies and deception that goes into marketing some games these days though...

            No.

            Companies should not be given a free pass to launch a game as a pile of shit and then forgive them when they eventually fix it.

            Games should be functional on launch.

            The previous culture was good because it meant Companies actually put effort into making games feature complete on launch. Now they just put out a buggy broken early access version and fix it later down the line.

            The culture you want to support is cancerous to the video game industy.

              That was the point of my initial response, but it's always good to open your mind to other opinions. Unless the powers that be decide to change the business model currently in place, we are hopelessly at their mercy. We need to make the most of what we have and at the end of the day, it's a blessing that we have gaming at all.

              The previous culture was good because it meant Companies actually put effort into making games feature complete on launch.
              What I'm telling you, as someone who's got a long memory, is that this didn't actually happen. Games frequently launched broken or with game-ending bugs, and a few launched in such a broken state that they couldn't even be finished. (I have a few of them still, I think.)

              The Iron Triangle ('fast, cheap, good: pick two') applies to games just like anything else. Any project that doesn't pick two - even if they pick just one - inevitably turns out disastrous.

                Games that launched broken were few and far between. Games back then launched with all the content instead of it being siphoned off for paid DLC.

                As compared to today where games constantly launch broken because they now gullible people like you will readily accept any excuse the companies shit out.

    Fingers crossed they can turn it around. Was so hyped for the game then it came out and hype turned into a bit meh. Was ok but could improve soo much.

    I certainly hope they can Realm Reborn Anthem.
    A lot of the issues Anthem had (Engine difficulties, poor dev priorities and general overconfidence) can be seen in the original release of FFXIV. Square Enix proved with the right attitude you can not only turn a disaster around but make it profitable, I hope Bioware can do the same.

      A Realm Reborn is probably the greatest example of a developer turning a bad game into a good one that I can think of. Not even No Man's Sky's turnaround was as dramatic.

        Couldn't agree more, I wouldn't even put them in the same category.

    They should just let Anthem die and put their focus back on either fixing/providing new content for ME:A or work on its sequel.

      Andromeda is dead. They said so a while back. This new mass effect game is not going to be what we think of for the series. I'm thinking maybe a multiplayer based on the ME3 multiplayer or if they go single player, a cover shooter out action RPG. I think EA might be done with CRPGs for a while.

    Define 'flop'? I thought Anthem actually was one of Bioware's best selling games. That must surely help to shore up some longterm support even if it isn't what we originally thought.

    Jason publishing this article probably gave the game a shot in the arm too.

    Still, 3 years is a long time in game development land.

    a new Mass Effect game is in very early development at the Edmonton office under director Mike Gamble, a longtime BioWare producer.

    Ooooooh. This scares me as much as it excites me. I really want it to be more of a ME 1 than a ME 2. I don't hate ME 2 or anything, but I'm so scared after Andromeda the might make a hard swing away from the ME 1 inspired stuff that I loved in Andromeda to the straight forward and simplified ME 2 style.

    No.

    The game should be killed off. By forgiving EA for this dumpster-fire they decide to finally fix more than a year later you are giving them and other companies free reign to launch even more games as incomplete piles of junk because they know you will forgive them if they fix it later.

    For anyone who wants to see how successful Bioware is in overhauling their games, look no further then the debacle that was Patch 4.0 "Keeping up with the Valkorians" in SWTOR. They lost a lot of subs since and have struggled to get them back, SWTOR is basically on life support and only kept alive by the cartel market whales. Bioware promised much and delivered very little in the years since 4.0, so don't think Anthem is going to be a turn around for Bioware. Their track record says otherwise.

    I'll believe it when I see it.

    Fingers crossed, I want this thing to turn around and make good on all its unfulfilled promise, but I'm skeptical.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now