BioWare launches its new and anticipated IP, Anthem, this month. STACK spoke with lead producer, Michael Gamble.
How did the concept for Anthem originate?
Several years ago a small group of us got together with Casey Hudson (now BioWare’s general manager) and started brainstorming ideas for a brand new game. We had some very loose guidelines around what we wanted to achieve, and then the team started coming back with questions that we wanted answers to. ‘How could we do great storytelling in a cooperative way? How could we create a living, dynamic world that changed over time? What conflict would underpin the game to give weight to endless conflict and storytelling?’ We gathered the ideas we all liked the most and set to work creating a game around these pillars. And thus, with a lot of time and energy, Anthem was born.
When did work begin on Anthem?
If you go back to those early pitch meetings, it’s been a solid five or six years that we’ve been working on the game in some form. From there you start to bring on additional teams to work on elements of the game until, eventually, nearly everyone in the studio is touching it. So we’ve got some folks who have been working on the game for the past couple of years, and some who have been on it far longer.
Was it conceived to be only an online game? Were there ever considerations to make it just a single-player experience?
One of the first things we thought about when coming up with Anthem was, ‘How do we make a game that’s best experienced with others?’ Teamwork and a shared experience has been part of the DNA of Anthem since day one. We’ve made basically all our design decisions around that idea of a game that’s the most fun when you’re playing with other people, and without the friction you typically see in shared online games.
What were some of the design inspirations for the Javelins?
We really wanted players to feel superheroic when they put the suits on, so we looked at comic book heroes and movies as a big source of inspiration. Almost everyone, when they play the game, says ‘Oh wow, I feel like Iron Man,’ and we think that’s pretty high praise.
How did you settle on just four? Can we expect new Javelins post-launch?
The Javelins each fulfil an important role in combat, and they complement each other nicely. The Colossus is a lot like your tank, dishing out damage and taking it in return; the Interceptor acts sort of as a rogue, the Storm as a mage and the Ranger as a warrior, so they all fit nicely together. We could absolutely introduce new Javelins down the line, but I won’t spoil any surprises now.
Almost everyone, when they first play the game, says “Oh wow, I feel like Iron Man,” and we think that’s pretty high praise
What level of Javelin customisation can players expect?
Tons! We’ve got a number of paint jobs, decals and suit materials that all change your appearance, as well as emotes so you can express yourself out in the field. If you want to feel extra heavy metal, I recommend a jet-black paint job with lots of skulls and the air guitar emote; it’s pretty great.
What can you tell us about Fort Tarsis?
Fort Tarsis is one of the few relatively safe spaces in the world of Anthem, a spot where humans have scratched out a living and try to thrive. It’s also the single-player hub where you’ll meet and talk to NPCs, get missions, learn more about the story and lore, customise your Javelins and generally spend your downtime between missions. As you play the game, you’ll open up more and more of Fort Tarsis and meet new characters with interesting personalities and motivations. It’s a really cool place to unwind and roleplay after a tough day of fighting chaos.
How will campaign co-op work? Will players be able to drop in and out of each other’s campaigns? Are there any barriers – e.g. level- or skill-based?
There are several options for co-op, and we tried to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. You can group up with friends or other players before you launch a mission, and if you want to keep a team together you can party up and go from mission to mission. We also let you look at the map when you’re in Freeplay and drop into missions with other players who have open slots as a reinforcement. This will get you bonus loot and XP, so if you’re looking to kill some time and upgrade your Javelin, being a reinforcement is a great way to do that. In terms of the campaign, if you’re about to jump into a mission that’s further along in the main story than where you currently are in your game, we provide a warning that you may be about to spoil the story, but we still allow you the opportunity to play so you can stick with your friends even if they’re a bit further along on the game.
Once you’ve completed the core campaign, will you be able to repeat missions? What can your character do once the main storyline is complete?
Yep, missions are repeatable and you can quick-play in to help your friends. When you’ve completed the main story we unlock additional content in the form of strongholds, as well as legendary Agent contracts, both with adjustable difficulty. These activities give you the most efficient way to level up, as well as the opportunity to acquire the best weapons and gear. And trust me, you’re going to need to be geared up for when we start delivering the post-launch content.
Will there be live events in Anthem?
Yep. When you’re in freeplay there will be events spawning in the open-world, all of which are random and meant to provide fun and rewarding distractions while you’re flying around. This might be something like changing what creatures spawn in an area or offering rarer crafting materials, so if one of your friends says that there’s a storm raging in Anthem, you’ll definitely want to jump on and see it for yourself. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though.
How does Anthem differentiate itself from its competition?
Anthem is unique in that it is a shared-world action RPG with an emphasis on storytelling and characters. When we started working on this game we knew we wanted to tell a great story, which BioWare is known for, but we also wanted this to be a multiplayer-focused, cooperative game where you could have really memorable moments with your friends, and we think that’s allowed us to make something special and different from really anything else that’s out there right now.
Anthem releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on February 22.