Anthem is still causing image problems for BioWare. Each time we see more of the game, debate swirls around the studio's departure from single-player storytelling, for which it is so well known, into cooperative multiplayer action games.
No romances, no (NPC) companions to accompany you on your missions, no ultimate control over the fate of the world? What happened to the BioWare formula we know and love? What happened to Dragon Age and Mass Effect? Will the studio ever be the same again?
They're questions BioWare has tried to answer already, but evidently the messaging hasn't been convincing enough. It's why BioWare general manager Casey Hudson felt the need to assure fans again Anthem will not permanently rewire the studio and its output.
"Some weird stuff going around about how our future games will be influenced by Anthem," Hudson wrote on Twitter. "Of course when we do a Dragon Age game it will be designed from the ground up based on what Dragon Age should be. Same with Mass Effect...
"Anthem is a specific thing that's unique from our other IPs in many ways," he added. "What carries forward is what we learn about game design, which is a constant evolution."
Some weird stuff going around about how our future games will be influenced by Anthem. Of course when we do a Dragon Age game it will be designed from the ground up based on what Dragon Age should be. Same with Mass Effect...— Casey Hudson (@CaseyDHudson) September 4, 2018
Hudson's comments echo - but in stronger terms - what BioWare lead producer Mike Gamble told Tom at E3 this year. "We have various projects in the works," Gamble said. "There's a team working on Dragon Age stuff right now and Mass Effect is certainly not dead."
A Dragon Age 4 has long been whispered about of course, but Hudson's saying "when we do a Dragon Age game" might be BioWare's strongest commitment to a new instalment yet - likewise his mention of "same with Mass Effect". Mass Effect, you may remember, was put on ice following the lukewarm reception of Mass Effect: Andromeda.
It's promising to hear, although full production of a Dragon Age 4 will presumably have to wait until after Anthem has been released (22nd February 2019) and established as a live, content-rich service. And there appear to be ambitious plans for this.
"We definitely are planning to do some seasonal content - bigger stuff," executive producer Mark Darrah told PC Gamer at the just-finished PAX West. "But then I think we need something more than that. I think what Fortnite, what Epic has done that others maybe haven't figured out, is that they have seasons - big 10 week-long things - and then within that they're like, we're just going to sprinkle in something on top of that.
"What then you see is a lot of developers are missing that second level. They've got the season and they hit that cadence [of] 'we do five things a year, six things a year'. But they don't have that extra little bit of spice, and that's what Epic has figured out.
"We have a full plan," Darrah said. "Potentially even a third layer," Mike Gamble, who was also in the interview, added.
BioWare also talked at PAX West about how the single-player story Anthem does will work, and Johnny was there to hear it. In short, you will have your own instanced city of Tarsis to affect, filled with quest-givers and NPCs who you can form relationships with, although not romantic ones. Some of the most important characters in Tarsis will be your pit crew, the people responsible for keeping your javelin exosuit in good nick.
"A multiplayer shooter it might be," wrote Johnny, "but it seems like Anthem might well manage to become a decent single-player game at the same time, which would be quite some feat."
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