Some video games are diversions. Others are hobbies. And if you’re looking to really get into the groove of the gaming industry these days, other games are proper time-sinks. Gone are the days of mammoth 20-40 hour experiences, as it feels like every studio with a bit of cash to spend is looking to create a live service that pays out like a broken slot machine thanks to recurrent consumer spending.
I’m not against that idea, but if you’re looking to dominate someone’s life with daily logins, weekly activities and monthly events, you better have one hell of a game that has longevity running under the hood. The market is becoming crowded, people only have so much time during the day to commit to an adventure and this bubble is going to burst eventually.
EA and Bioware’s Anthem is throwing its Javelin into the ring, in an attempt to be the power fantasy tour de force of the year, and while it has plenty to love, it has a few gremlins under its hood as well. The biggest challenge facing Anthem is just how it intends to rise above being a great 20 hour game and create a satisfying investment of time that numbers in the hundreds of hours. Perhaps a truly challenging event that requires deft teamwork could be one cog in the machine that helps Anthem stand the test of time, similar to a certain other game’s endgame activity?
“The problem with ‘raid’, is it has a connotation – that it requires more people or has five bosses in a circle,” lead producer Ben
That’s why I’m using the word ‘aspiration content’. In other games a raid is that and while I think that is important to a game like ours, we have an idea which is different but ticks the needs of why a raid is important. It’s a similar thing. It’s the thing you’ll schedule with your buddies, will be hard, requires tons and tons of coordination and then there will be ways to show off if you are good at that or not.
Currently, Anthem’s activities come in three flavours outside of the golden path narrative. Freeplay is exploration with random stuff happening, Contracts send you off against bounty targets and Strongholds has you teaming up with other Freelancers to take down tough opponents in challenging missions. Then there are Events, which will throw players at daily and weekly activities that progress Anthem’s story. “You’re not always going to be seeing the exact same stuff,” Irving explained.
Things can change – you don’t always understand why – but things happen in the world. We have plans and ideas to pay off on that.
Something else that you’ll see updated regularly? Anthem’s NPCs, who’ll also be given some extra data to help advance the story with:
They have a bunch of things to say and then they’ll run out of stuff to say, and then we’ll add some more things! The cadence of that we have to work out – we believe telling an ongoing narrative is important so in our story planning we’ve mapped out several years of the story arc, where things go. Not all the specifics, but the big beats of how it will happen.
We can tell narrative in or out of the game, with super-expensive cinematics, or with little quips and sentences and lore in the world. We just need to find that balance of – when do we need a new role-playing conversation so someone can teach you something. When do we add a new mission with a cinematic? We’ll be adding all that stuff after launch, we just need to get the right mixture of all of it.
Bioware is also aware of the looming pitfalls of its biggest game to date, as creating a live service title doesn’t just take time and effort, but also an investment from the fans for it to be a success. “Any new live service will have its stumbling blocks,” Irving explained.
We’ve had that conversation across our entire organisation and irrespective of what happens at the beginning we’ll have support for a while. Because that could happen – and I don’t think it will happen and I hope it doesn’t – but we have enough resources to really make a great go at this live service – and that should hold true no matter what happens in the first month or two.
Last Updated: February 4, 2019