Anthem – After a Pause

I read a lot on the ship.  Nearly 5 books in the Foundation series.  I’ve read that entire series every 2 years since I was a teen.  It’s vision of hard sci-fi (and everyone smoking) was quite the pinnacle of the golden age.  What it truly missed was Haldeman’s appreciation for rate of change.  Which is fine really, since in the 40s the rate of scientific change was measured in decades.  Today, we’re lucky to go a year without a massive change on the tech scale – primarily driven though insane advances in computing technology.

When I played the original Diablo, what was delivered was pretty much what I got until the expansion launched.  Diablo 2 had more updates, but most were over years. Diablo 3 had big tweaks that took months to roll out –  the concept of Seasons alone was a big shift.

So now let’s look at Anthem.

The game “launched” on Feb 22, so we’re 1 month in.  Next week is patch 1.04, which is not adding content but is addressing a laundry list of bugs and some major complaints on loot.  More info from a recent livestream.

Let’s get to the point though – at launch Anthem’s end game was for most purposes broken.  The content was buggy, unbalanced, and un-rewarding.  Each patch has made large strides to correct this.   As the game stands today, the best way to get gear is

  • Run Freeplay only
  • Run at the highest comfortable difficulty (e.g. a normal enemy doesn’t take a full clip)
  • Kill everything you see (I got a legendary from a regular wyvern)
  • Use your highest power level (lower levels get less drops)
  • Have ~90% luck (hard cap)

Recent changes have made Freeplay better – Titan spawns are actually manageable, there are more events, and more enemies.  1.04 will add map icons for events (yes!!!), simplify overheating, but won’t address respawn locations.

Strongholds were recently brought in line, so that they generally have the same difficulty / duration.  Running them until you get your first MW skills is a smart move, but after that, there’s little reason to run them.  1.04 will change that.  Daily challenges provide keys, which can unlock after you take down the last boss.  1 chest per player who has a key (so up to 4).  There will also be Legendary Missions (replays of existing quests) – not sure what the rewards are here.

There are still some gaps left to address – among those I consider critical rather than Quality of Life.

  • Power scaling (Storm are the worst here since Gear stats are much worse than Weapon stats)
  • Support gear masterworks (given that power levels impact nearly every end game calculation)
  • Loot drops rates / inscription balancing

I would note that nearly all of these issues were identified in the demo open beta, or within a few days of launch (when people were at max level).  Anyone who’s reached end game could see these issues – which is the topic for another post.

After a month, I would say that BioWare has managed to apply 3 distinct kitchen sink patches, with another due next week.  As much as it’s a symptom of the times that these 4 patches are required, it’s worth note that this cadence of change is insane.  Can you imagine the hours the devs are putting in to push this much out?  I’ve done my fair share of crunch before a product launches, and as painful as that is, it is but a fraction of the crunch required once a product launches and things go sideways.  Taking a step back, I really hope the industry at large takes a look at what’s happened here and does it’s damn best to avoid it in the future.  For half the investment (time), it would have received double the return (happy players and positive news articles).

At the least it’s obvious BioWare wants the game to succeed and is taking very large strides to fix things in a rapid fashion.

Anthem – Progress

A patch is coming on the 12th, with something like 300 bug fixes.  I think that says two things.  First – clearly this game was rushed out the door.  Second – it would appear the devs have not slept in quite a while.

When your game makes the major news waves that it’s potentially bricking PS4, no one is really going to get some sleep.

I’ve also been unlucky enough to have Tyrant Mines bug out on me three times.  This happens when you pop into the dungeon stronghold and end up after the final boss.  Means you can no longer select it from the map.  Thankfully, Isey was there 2 of those 3 times to invite me to a new group, which squashes that bug.

That said, I have been lucky enough to pick up some gear to kit out my storm.  Chaotic Rime & Ponder Infinity work well together.  That combined with some rather significant Gear Cooldown stats, means I can cast Chaotic Rime for an infinite duration – essentially freezing the entire map.

I was however struggling for weapons.

I decided to give colossus thiccbois a chance.  These guys are useless without MW components, then they become iron beasts.  Not only does their armor get an insane boost (5x) and then you can stand toe to toe with anyone and survive.

Again though, crappy luck on weapons.

Targeting Loot

Running a stronghold gives a guaranteed MW skill.  This is useful, since the pool is somewhat limited (~10 each).  A few runs, and you’ll get the one you want (just not the stats you want).  Running a Legendary Contract gives a MW component.  You can run 3 per day.  My suggestion is to run those 3 on a class for which you have not yet acquired all the MW components (e.g. fill out all 6 slots on all 4 classes).

Weapons – there’s no way to target them.  Pure random, and there are a LOT of them.  So what to do?

Crafting

You can craft MW items if you complete the associated challenge.  For gear (skills) you need to complete a mission or freeplay event with it equipped.  Very doable.  For components you need 50,000 of each faction.  That is a VERY high bar.  Unlikely anyone but the most dedicated will get there.

Weapons – you need to kill 10 legendary enemies with that weapon equipped.  Very luck based that you get the weapon in the first place.  A neat bypass was posted on Reddit. Basically you equip the specific weapon sub-type and attack a legendary target.  Someone else needs to hit it with any MW weapon.  Only 1 hit per weapon is needed.  Once it dies, it counts as 1/10 kills. I did this twice and got the following 2 items.

Rather, I crafted the following items.

Recall that it takes 15 salvaged MW items in order to craft 1 of these.  So while not exactly cheap, it’s a good way to fill out some slots and bypass the RNG gods a little bit.

 

Good luck out there.

Like a Stick in the Wheels

Anthem  is doing a hell of a job getting in it’s own way.

It really is two different games.  The 1-30 part is good.  You can get a solid 20 hours of of that part, and generally not have issues.  Then you reach 30, and unlock Grandmaster 1 (GM1), and it feels like self-sabotage.

anthem - 0 gear.png

That’s right – 0%.  Devs put it to this value because a bug caused it to stack to infinity.  At least I get Ammo 33% faster from enemy drops.

The list of bugs I mentioned last post persist.  Still can’t get Tyrant Mine to show up… apparently I need to be manually invited to a run.  Hundreds of posts on the main forums, not a single answer from the devs.  That I found the solution on a major gaming website is more than telling.

Stability

In most any other space, I’d say stop what you’re doing, throw everyone on stability.  Anthem goes to extreme ends to make the gaming experience painful.  I am happy for those that are not having issues – more than happy.  When it works, the combat here is really solid.

But golly molly, what is with this game?  I get Bethesda not being able to tie their shoelaces without burning the house down, but this had 6 years of development and would barely qualify as alpha in terms of stability.  I’m sure in a month’s time this will be old news… but this game doesn’t have a month’s time.  It has 2 weeks until Division 2 comes out.

Focus

I don’t quite understand what Anthem is trying to do.  The story mode from 1-30 is 100% gone at max level, with the aside of talking to NPCs (which add entries to a practically hidden part of the game).  Which is fine.  The issue is that the game insists in putting you back into story mode (Tarsis) at every single step, and go through loading screens that are pointless.  Even the post-mission screen is useless aside from trying to sell you on the cosmetics.

If Anthem is trying to sell me on the looter/shooter, then it needs to actually make it possible to do that.  Looter specifically in that I get loot, I can try loot, and get to content that gives loot in a rapid manner.  Right now, the process is:

  1. Load the game (10s)
  2. Press space to load into Tarsis (30s)
  3. Walk over to the launch bay (60s)
  4. Load Launch Bay (30s)
  5. Collect all Legendary contracts (10s) (1 place to click, rather than 3)
  6. Load Expedition screen (10s)
  7. Launch expedition (30-45s)
  8. Complete Contract (~10 minutes) (or Tyrant Mine if it wasn’t bugged at ~25m)
  9. Load post-mission screen (10s)
  10. Skip post mission screen (or wait 30s)
  11. Watch loot screen and break down all non-purple items (10-30s)
  12. Enter Forge to see if the loot I got is an upgrade or not (20s)
  13. Clean out inventory (2m)
  14. Load back into Tarsis (20s) (Launch Bay takes longer than Tarsis to load, and is bugged 50% of the time)
  15. Turn around and enter Javelin
  16. GOTO 6

Step 7 is the one where I actually play the game.  Everything else is overhead.  If I’m doing contracts, that’s ~50% of my time not actually playing the game.

Quality of Life

There’s a long list here, but the more I think about it, the more it’s less about QoL and more about just plain basic functionality in a game made in 2019.

  • A functioning & interactive map
  • A way to quickly group up with people around you
  • Loot that actually feels rewarding (1% more ammo is beyond dumb)
  • Meaningful content that is balanced
  • Clear messaging as to how stats/inscriptions impact your player (a game based on number chasing should explain said numbers)

Suggestions

  • Increase Freeplay to 16 players (I realize this requires “smart” enemy scaling)
  • Have the game start you at the gates outside Tarsis
  • Allow players to teleport to Strider launch points they have discovered
  • Allow players to mark the map in Freeplay and allow other Javelins to teleport to them
  • Have the expedition kiosk a MENU item, not a location you need to physically go to
  • Have the forge a MENU item, not a location you need to physically go to
  • Pre-load the jump BACK into Freeplay when a mission ends, while you are looking at the loot drops
  • Set ranges to inscriptions based on rarity (e.g. MW rolls min 50% of max, Leg rolls 75% of max) so that it actually feels like it’s an improvement over Epic gear.
  • Launch the additional content now – with a time balance similar to that of Tyrant Mines – at least 2 new strongholds (for a total of 5 BALANCED strongholds).

 

Buggy Bad Luck

Since the Thursday Anthem patch, I have experienced (some were before as well) the following list multiple times:

  • Joining Tyrant Mine after the final boss, causing the game to “hang”
  • Tyrant Mine no longer being an option (apparently this is impacting a lot of people)
  • The sound completely dropping (restart required)
  • The game crashing
  • Access to the server failing and causing me to go to the login screen
  • Rubber banding, where I would zip around left/right
  • Server lag where in the middle of combat, everything freezes for 5 seconds while I get a server connection error
  • Not a single instance of Quickplay being completable.  Either the counter is bugged (e.g. 4/5 boxes to break), the next step doesn’t trigger, I show up without anyone else, or it simply fails to join
  • Freeplay being practically empty of events

 

Given that both the other Strongholds are hour affairs, with bullet sponge bosses, I’m relegated to completing contracts.  At least there are 3 legendaries a day.  The good thing is that few of these items impact people who are leveling.  The bad thing is that these things are persistent, and make playing at max level much less fun than it should be.  When it works, great!  But the past few days have been not really working so well.

 

Armchair Design – Loot Tables

This is relevant to 2019, and the performance enhancements we’ve seen in relation to databases.  10 years ago… much different data models due primarily to the way indexing/searches taxed servers.  If that already went over your head, then this is going to be a rough post to read through.

Data Modelling

Most people are familiar with spreadsheets (Excel, Sheets) and that they allow an X/Y relationship (2 dimensions).  You can have fruit categories, then people, and figure out how many fruit each person has.  Advanced users are familiar with the concept of pivot tables, where you can further filter that X/Y data on additional criteria (Z or 3 dimensions).

Going beyond 3 levels of relationships, you need to get into databases (DB).  Really good DB engineers make a crap top of money, because it is both a thankless job and an extremely complicated one.  Back in my coding days, a simple calendar booking application I wrote for tanning salons had about 30 different “sheets” that were all interlinked.  Making any change to those sheets had to be meticulously planned so that it didn’t cause any bugs.

This is where data modelling comes into play.  You plan out your data markers, their main identifiers, and their attributes.  As you progress, you realize that you need more an more attributes.  That then becomes a table of potential options.  Let’s try a simple example, describing an apple.

The type, size, and color would be a good start.  Then you realize you want to track if it has seeds, the general shape, the time of harvest, the average price, and whole bunch of variables.  What you end up with is a table that is an index of those variables, and then a single table per variable type.  Could be a database with 50 tables by the end.

And that’s a simple example, since the relationships between the table are INDEX –> VARIABLE.  Complex tables have interdependence between variables, and that’s a rabbit hole that can have no end.

Long story short – you need an extremely robust data model before you start, and anytime you make a change, it needs to be really thought out.

Data Use

I am going to use a loot based mechanic with randomized stats as an example, as it’s relevant to yesterday’s post.  This will use Anthem specifically as an example.

The logic of a loot drop follows:

  • Does an item drop
  • What rarity
  • Whom is it dropping for
  • What class
  • What type
  • What sub-type
  • What are the inscriptions

Each one of those questions has an associated algorithm.

  • Rarity:  This is a factor of the Luck stat, combined with the enemy type.  Boss characters have higher odds of dropping better items.  Legendary contracts & strongholds guarantee a MW level item at the end.
  • Class: There is a large weight associated to items a class can use, vs those of another class.  It is not possible to get a MW item for another class, but you can certainly get epic level items.
  • Item class: Weapon, Skill, consumable, component.  The odds appear to be relatively even between them, with the exception of MW drops at end of missions (as per above).
  • Item type: If this is a weapon, then what type of weapon.
  • Item sub-type:  If this is a grenade, then what type of grenade. This factor is important in order to assign the necessary inscriptions.
  • Inscriptions: The inscription pool is filtered based on all the items above, so that the inscriptions applied either work specifically for this piece or the entirety of the javelin.  Anthem applies a sub level to this step, with major/minor inscriptions, but the logic should be the same.

Each item in the game has a database entry with at least these variables.  Each inscription would have a basic yes/no table associated with these variables.  In effect, each inscription would have a validation phase that it can indeed be applied to a particular item.

Patches

The last patch changed the logic at the item type level.  Meaning that if you had a grenade, then you were pulling from the grenade pool.  Prior to this, all inscriptions were at the javelin level (the who step).  This is a major step forward, as it’s moved down two logic layers.  If effectively removed 75% of the “dead stats” in the game, things that provide no value at all.

Anthem doesn’t yet look a the sub-type.  Which means you can get inscriptions that apply fire damage to a item that only deals lightning.  These are the other 25% “dead stats”.  The logic check appears to be when the inscription is applied only to the item, or the entire javelin.  In the previous example, if the inscription was to the entire javelin, then it would potentially have some use (e.g gun, or other ability).  This is why sub-type is important, as the sub-type would indicate the effects of that particular item.

Final Example

Let’s use Frost Shards(X) as an example.  This is a Storm (A) ability, considered a Blast Seal (B) (the E button on PC).  It deals C damage of D type, has E charges, recharges at F rate, applies effect G at a rate of H.  It’s MW inscription is I.  Each of those letters is a separate table in the database. (For those counting, that’s 8 variables… and this is a simple example.)

Let’s say that you get a drop and you’ve moved all the way down the logic tree to inscriptions.  This list of options should include:

  • generic traits (e.g. health, damage) at the javelin level (applies to all javelins)
  • class traits at the javelin level (applies to only the Storm)
  • Type traits at the javelin level (applies only to Blast Seal)
  • sub-type traits that only apply to this specific item (X) at either the gear level or the javelin level

Explicitly, it should not be possible to have a gear level inscription on an item that cannot use that inscription.  That only works if there’s 1 more logic check in the steps than is current.

 

As complicated as this post is to read through, the actual implementation is relatively straightforward if and only if their data model supports it.  Entirely possible that this level of granularity has not been applied, but given the posts I’ve seen from BW… that would be exceedingly surprising.  So cheers on some major progress on loot drops, still a few more steps to go.

 

Anthem – Inscriptions

I am picking on Anthem here because it’s the flavor of the month.  In reality, all RNG looter should follow the same thought process.

Anthem’s combat foundation is like any RPG – number-based.  Each Javelin has their own set of gear and fundamental stats.  Each individual piece of gear has 3 different set of information.

  1. Baseline stats due to item type (e.g. guns have damage, rate of fire, clip size, etc…)
  2. Masterwork bonuses (only applies to Masterwork or Legendary items)
  3. Inscriptions (a random set of stats)

In practical terms, this means that any two items of the same level and rarity will have the exact same stats for 1 & 2.  You are then chasing better rolls for 3.

God Rolls

This is a term meant to identify an item with perfect randomized stats.  In a well balanced game, a God Roll would have noticeable impact but would still be comparable to a true random roll.  The odds of getting this roll would be balanced around the value of the roll.

In poorly balanced games, God Rolls are extremely overpowered and the RNG gods need daily sacrifices to attain.  In some cases, the game is not playable until you achieve a God Roll.

History Check

Diablo 3 came out in 2012 (!!).  Reaper of Souls(RoS) came out in 2014.  For 2 years, D3 ran with an Auction House that allowed you to skip playing the game and outright buy gear.  The game had God Roll issues, where some items were orders of magnitude better than others due to extremely poor itemization.

All items pulled from a standardized stat pool at equal weight.  For example, all weapons came with STR, DEX or INT.  They could also come with additional effects like attack speed, critical chance, critical damage, gem slots, bleed effects, or heal on attack.  There were certainly more, and that inflated stat pool had different values for different classes.

For example, a Wizard had zero interest in STR/DEX or Bleed effects.  It simply could not use them.  It also couldn’t use half the types of weapons in the game (e.g. bows, 2hn swords, etc.)  Due to standardized pools, only about 25% of the items that dropped at any given time were actually usable.  From there, you then needed to find a usable item with stats you wanted.  And from there, stats that were an improvement on what you had.

For 2 years, the odds of getting an item that was even remotely close to an improvement was farcical.  This was compounded by the Auction House, since your poor odds (say 1/100,000) were amplified by having thousands of people finding no use for their gear (e.g. a God Roll for a Wizard that drops while playing a Barbarian).  An hour on the AH bypassed hours/days of gameplay (and Blizz made money during the RMAH too).

RoS came out and implemented weighted drops.  This meant that item drops were pre-assigned a baseline value based on your class.  There were no more strength bows dropping for Demon Hunters.  Boots could only come with run speed, not critical chance.  Stat ranges were reigned in (typically 8 different stat options per item, with 4 present).  If an item dropped, there were high odds that it was worth comparing to what you had equipped.  It reduced the dependency on randomized stats, and instead focused on the interaction between skills.  It also increased the difficult markers for end game, so that if you did find God Rolls, you still had a challenge.  It also introduced Rifts, an end-game activities that provided rewards outside of gear drops (gems & leaderboards).

Other Looters

Path of Exile and Grim Dawn are good example of looter games based on the Diablo model.  They are really good examples of applying lessons learned.  Both have weighted stat drop pools, and a focus on skill interaction rather than baseline numbers. More notable is that these are small companies.

Anthem Loot Changes

I had this set to go out, then BioWare put up a Reddit post explaining some incoming changes in the next few days.   To compare today vs. after the patch.

Today

  • Items drop in 1 of 5 rarities (white, green, blue, orange, yellow)
  • Orange(Masterwork) and yellow (legendary) items come with extra affixes that change gameplay (e.g. 200% damage while hovering)
  • Pool of > 100 possible inscriptions, that apply either to the entire javelin (person icon), or specifically to that piece of gear (gear icon)
  • Inscription values are randomized (e.g. 1% damage or 25% damage)
  • No drop weights, meaning any item can have pretty much any inscription.  Like Grenade Launchers that improve pistol ammo capacity
  • Inscriptions that make little sense, or are bugged and have no effect.
  • The goal is to get orange+ items of the type you want, then upgrade them with versions that have better inscriptions.

After Patch

  • At level 30, item drops only come in blue, orange, and yellow.  Assuming the same quantity of items drop, this has a net effect of increasing high rarity drops.
  • Inscriptions will be weighted.  Assault rifles will come with generic inscriptions, or assault rifle specifics.  This drops the number of possible inscriptions from 100 to something closer to 30, per item.
  • You can breakdown 15 orange items in order to craft a new randomized one (down from 25).

Those changes raise the floor of bad rolls.  That is a massively positive change.  The armchair designer in me wonders why this wasn’t crystal clear obvious during QA (there was a lot of feedback on this during the demos, as most of it seemed broken).  I won’t praise them fixing something that never should have made it to launch, but I will certainly recognize that they were able to pivot quickly.  This is going to have a very large impact on reducing burn out.

avenging-herald

Great gun for Storms

Luck aka Magic Find

People always take the path of least resistance.  Always.

Luck should not be a stat people chase.  There’s a good reason all the others have removed it.  Right now, Luck has a hard cap at 90.  The effects are quite noticeable.  It makes people do things that go counter to helping the group.

Roll Luck into the difficulty level (above what’s already rolled in) and be done with it.

Repeatable Content

I have more fun in a Contract than I do a Stronghold, simply because there’s randomness in the former.  Also, they are generally equally balanced. Legendary contracts all end with some sort of super boss + waves.  Getting a Legendary contract to spawn… that’s some dark magic Harry.

Strongholds need work.  Tyrant Mines is ~20 minutes from start to finish.  Scar/Rage both take more than than for the boss alone.  Unfortunately, they also offer the exact same rewards.  I really don’t mind difficulty spikes at different spots in a run, but right now, no sane person would run either of those two locations for anything but the chance to say they did it.  That means people are going to burn out on Tyrant Mines – quickly.

Difficulty levels also need some changes, or perhaps clarity in intent.  Anthem does say “you should be this tall” to take this ride, granted.  GM1 really hard without at least 1 piece of useful MW gear.  GM2 is borderline unplayable without a full gear set of MW.  GM3 is like walking through hot coals, covered in baby oil.  And really, that’s a-ok.  What’s missing is the reward structure.  Since GM1 offers similar rewards to GM2, and the time to finish (TTF) is so much lower… why bother?  Again, path of least resistance.  (Side note – D3 had this issue.  They solved it by explaining what each difficulty had as an effect, and they players determined that if you could clear a rift in ~5 minutes, it was time to move up difficulty.  Again, this took 2 years.)

Anthem Quick Thoughts

This after 2 beta weekends, and the main story completed.  Not at max level.

General

  • Mechanically much more stable, but still a fair chunk of game breaking bugs (quests don’t complete, game crashes, sound goes out, infinite load screen)
  • The game looks amazing.  Hats off to the world builders and asset designers.
  • There is an absurd amount of rubber banding lag that causes:
    • Enemies to randomly appear
    • Shots to come from nowhere
    • Titan attacks to hit you even if you’ve clearly dodged.
  • I find myself spending far too much time waiting.  Waiting for a loading screen, waiting for a spawn, waiting for the flight to the waypoint to complete.
    • Note: Flying between waypoints is ok.  It’s the flying at the start of the mission that’s irritating.  Why give me a 60s load screen to then make me fly for 3 minutes?
  • Running in Tarsis feel much better.
  • Voice acting is ok.  There are 3 NPCs for the main quest, then 3 faction leaders.  Rest of the gang is better than most others.
  • There’s a ton of interesting lore and bits to be found, but damn does this game go to length to hide it, then make it a pain to sort through.
  • It is way too quiet in town.
  • The loading animation into the mech is cool
  • There appears to only be 4 enemy types.
    • Scar – everywhere scar.  Snipers, bombers, mechs, casters, grunts…oh and Escarii which are spider tanks.
    • Outlaw – Not a whole lot of these, but they are much simpler than Scar.
    • Bugs – Either they blow up, or they attack you.
    • Big Guys – Ursix & Titans.  Rare enough.  Former will physically attack 1 player.  Latter will use AE attacks and summon minor elements to attack.
  • Aside from the main story quest, and a few specific instances, every single mission boils down to the same routine
    • Fly through multiple waypoints (landing along the way to recharge thrusters) until you hit a point of interest (PoI)
    • Do one of four things (sometimes a combination of)
      • Kill all enemies, including spawn points
      • Play hot/cold to find objects
      • Place objects in a location
      • Defend a location
    • Repeat said 5 things up to 5 more times.  The variation has little to do with the game content, and more to do with the people with which you complete said content.
  • There are 3 dungeons, 2 of which are repeats of main quest events.

Story

  • Big baddie wants to become a god.  You try to stop him.  There’s one trick play in the middle that most people should see coming.  It’s relatively quick.
  • I found the faction leader quests much more interesting, story wise.  There’s some appreciable progress outside of the NPCs you interact with.
  • There’s a Tomb Quest that has you achievement hunt in order to progress.  It feels like artificial padding, because it is.  And the reward is an empty room with a chest.
    • Wasted opportunity for a lore piece on who the actual person was in this tomb… a quick cutscene, or just an image with some overlayed text/voice.
  • The setup for the next part makes it feel like I played the prologue.
  • Talking to people in town is ok. There are some interesting bits (Marelda, Cardea) but there are few cases of true interaction.  More like watching a cut-scene.

Mechanics

  • Flying is fun.  Combat is generally fun.  The javelins all feel different, and allow for some customization.
  • There’s no real difference between any of the guns in a given class.  Marksman rifles feel the same as assault rifles.  You end up just looking for highest damage.
  • Combat feels “floaty”, as the weapons don’t feel any impact or provide consistent feedback.  Skills do!  Guns don’t.
  • The inscriptions (random stats on items) are a real brain teaser, I can’t figure out what half of them do, and most don’t seem to do anything at all anyhow.
    • This feels a whole lot like the original launch of Diablo where awesome items are worse that common ones due to poor rolls.  (e.g. trade 8% pistol ammo for 25% skill damage.  Is that really a choice people have trouble with?)
  • Not being able to test skills/builds sucks.  It just plain sucks.
  • Mission length (~15 mins) is good.  Strongholds are good too, though some bosses are a bit more bullet sponge than I’d like.
  • The net effect is that the time spent preparing for a mission feels more important than the actual battle.
  • Combo system is neat.   Hard as hell to coordinate with other players.
  • Ice attacks feel mandatory due to the stun effect.  A well placed attack can lock down an entire spawn point, and makes the Scar mechs a joke.

Way Forward

  • There are plenty of Quality of Life (QoL) changes that would really improve my enjoyment.  Simple things, like not hiding my heat level with popups when I’m flying.
  • There’s apparently a lot of new content coming, though a fair focus on freeplay.  The fact that freeplay has no “quick summon” mode, and no waypoints, it’s near impossible to play with another player.  Hard to compare, but as if in WoW you were in the Eastern Plaguelands and had to get to Ungoro to participate in an event with your friend.
  • I won’t comment much on the end game, and the search for “perfect rolls”.  If BioWare hasn’t learned any lessons from Destiny, Division, or hell, even Diablo 3 by this point, then I will go and make some popcorn.
  • For a game that’s supposed to be driven by social interaction, there’s a very large gap in terms of tools to help with that.  Anthem’s fun factor goes up to 11 if you’re able to play with friends.

Overall

  • It would be easy to sink 20 hours here, wrinkles and all, while still having a lot of fun.  This goes for many Early Access games.
  • People who paid to play a week early than others, thanks for doing more beta testing for me.
  • There’s a pile of potential here, more than I’ve seen in other games of this genre.
    • Division 1 had to completely rebuild the end game
    • Warframe has rebuilt every system from the ground up.  Barely recognizable today.
  • People buying Anthem today are buying an IOU from BioWare.  If you go in with that mindset, then odds are you’re going to have fun.
  • My gut is telling me that the actual player demographic for Anthem is the 35-50 age group, in terms of “is this fun”, and in terms of cadence of updates.  Not certain how sustainable that model is (or any other for that matter).
  • EDIT: This Reddit post from Travis Day covers a lot of the end-game thoughts.

Meta

I am going to step into the cesspool a minute.  Then take a shower.

  • The model of Games as a Service reached saturation when Fortnite launched.  Whatever business model was thought of back then… Anthem is competing against giants in a market with no growth.  And recall that Games as a Service works BEST when the players are the content (e.g. PvP).’
    • Monster Hunter is a notable exception here.  I’ve sunk 80 hours into that game.  It feels like the opposite of Anthem (and shooter-looters) – melee battles and strategic boss fights.
  • Anthem deserves a lot of (but not all of) the negative reaction.  This game was 6 years in the making, and has had ample examples to emulate.
  • After Fallout 76 launched with minimal content and a slew of bugs, someone should have taken a hard look at Anthem.  No one can honestly say that the content launched on Feb 15th was a “full game”, what with a 6gb patch 7 days later.  3 months in the cooker would have put this in May, and learned a whole pile of lessons from Division 2.
  • Early access players are the true fans.  Again a lesson from FO76.  They build momentum, one way or another.
  • The Ways to Play Anthem bingo card grid is a good example of how not to do it.
  • While true that it is launching in a better mechanical state that many of its competitors did when they launched… it is not competing against those versions of the game.  Given the choice between Warframe today and Anthem today…
  • In the end, Anthem’s success depends almost entirely on it’s ability to deliver on the content promise before the novelty of flying combat wears off.
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    It clearly says “Full Game” Feb 15