Flight is the “core of the superhero fantasy” in Anthem

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Since the dawn of time, mankind has yearned for only one thing to truly elevate its existence: Noise-cancelling headphones that can drown out any Capetonian the very second you mention where you had a burger one night and their instinctual habit to scoff at your decision and offer their best fun on a bun location kicks in.

Flying would be a close second I reckon. I mean walking is great and all but let’s be honest: All we’re doing is activating a series of controlled falls and moving our almost-crashes in the direction that we want. While pulling a Superman and taking to the skies is biologically impossible, the dream of flying can be lived through more dangerous means such as hang-gliding or vicariously through some video games.

For Anthem, the ability to go full Iron Man and take to the skies isn’t just a key gameplay feature. It’s the sum total of the power fantasy that Bioware wants to deliver with the game, albeit a system of navigation that did pose some challenges for the studio. Speaking to JeuxVideo (with a transcription from WCCTech), Game Director Jonathan Warner and Lead Producers Ben Irving and Mike Gamble detailed just how Anthem’s flight system came to be:

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Mike Gamble

The first big idea was heroic combat. As a superhero you’re always moving forward, you dive into action and do amazing things. The question was then what was superhero enough in our eyes without breaking the game. We found the answer in the first month of working on Anthem’s concept.

Player controlled characters must be able to fly. Everyone loves it and it’s one of the oldest dreams of humanity. The reason why chose flight is because it’s at the core of the superhero fantasy. If you want to feel like a superhero what’s the most important thing? Flight! The possibility of going at high speed and see things from a bird’s eye point of view. Therefore we had to successfully make flying work and started to focus on it from the very beginning.

Jonathan Warner

It is something we wanted from the beginning, but we fought with it at some point because we were scared that people might miss loot. In a ‘shooter looter’ players are always looking for loot.

The flight ability is extremely dangerous in a videogame because players could use it to ‘break the game’, go off the limits defined by the level designers, or use it to avoid zones and thus miss an opportunity to get loot. Combat designers, level designers and motion designers all had to work together to make sure they would create a flight ability that was fun and harmless to the game.

think that flight is one of the big things that set us apart because it allows us to think the world in a different way. Instead of considering the space as a flat surface we consider it a volume in which you can freely move. The game becomes more interesting at every moment, you are constantly making small decisions like ‘Where do I fly? How do I go there?’

Ben Irving

There were so many problems. We had a lot of talking about blocking flight during combat, but it ended up being pretty boring because flying was too cool. After that, we thought about enemies being unable to attack at long ranges, which created behaviour where flying was making you win the fight instantly. Then we had to put some limitations on flying time to make the game work.

Several iterations of enemy behaviour were made with more range and more ways to put you down in order to force you to think and play more tactically.

Anthem flies into view on February 22, with a VIP demo for EA Access and Origin members kicking off on January 25, in case you want to boot up your Spotify playlist, switch to the Foo Fighters and croon about learning to fly.

Last Updated: January 14, 2019

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