– From there, what is
the future of “Anthem”? And is there a future of “Anthem”? That’s a question I see a lot.
– Yes, there’s a future – Okay.
– for “Anthem”. A very bright future, we hope. (gentle music) ♪ Don’t give up, ’cause you have friends ♪ ♪ Don’t give up, you’re not beaten yet ♪ ♪ We’re born different, we’re
born innocent, we’re perfect ♪ ♪ I’m not like you, I’m a ♪ ♪ Born lover ♪ – “Anthem”! “Anthem”, “Anthem”, Leslie Grantham. What is there to be said about “Anthem”? Quite a lot. For me, at least, the chance
to do a hot take on “Anthem” is an opportunity that never cooled down. I’ve got all the time in the world to talk about the
disaster that is BioWare’s live service extravaganza. And I believe “Anthem”
to be a cautionary tale, an example of what can happen when a studio tackles something that it’s got no experience with and no real business
tinkering around with. It’s an example of jumping
aboard the live service bandwagon without a plan of action. And it’s a warning to customers
not to jump upon a hot new live service game that doesn’t
have an evidenced plan. So there’s a lot to dissect
there, a lot to pull apart, a lot to do. A lot of organs for us to cut into with a patented Jimquisition postmortem. So enough talk, get on with the video. Which is nothing but talking, so it’s not enough talk, literally. Enough talk, let’s talk. Development on what would
become “Anthem”, began in 2012, straight after “Mass Effect
3” was released, Jesus, and under the watchful eye of BioWare game director, Casey Hudson. In this embryonic stage the
game was codenamed Dylan, after the legendary musician Bob Dylan. This is because BioWare
hoped their new game would, like the Traveling Wilbury himself, be talked about for many years to come. (Jim laughing heartily) While funny in hindsight, there’s
a serious point to be made with this, perhaps, arrogant and certainly, presumptuous codename. At this time BioWare had to no
real ideas for project Dylan. They knew they wanted an action game, they knew they wanted co-op play and they knew it shouldn’t be like Mass Effect or Dragon Age. That’s it. All they had firmly decided was that it’d be a co-op action game. Technically, they had more
ideas on what it shouldn’t be than what it should be. And yet, they compared
this formless, faceless, practically conceptless
game to Bob fucking Dylan. The lesson here is maybe have
an actual game in your hands before you decide it’s
pop cultural impact, yeah? The game would get a less
cocky working title, Beyond, which it kept until 2017. Early ideas for Beyond, included the concept of a location akin to the Bermuda Triangle,
where dangerous creatures and perilous disasters were sucked in. Players would have powered
robo suits, like Iron Man, and take part in survival based gameplay, striking out from a safe
area to complete missions before fighting their way back. Many comparisons were made within BioWare to other titles at this stage. “Dark Souls”, “Shadow of the
Colossus”, “Darkest Dungeon”. Evoking a world of
intimidating monstrosities and lethal challenging gameplay. From dynamic weather phenomena
to huge scalable beasts the ambition for beyond was off the charts and a far cry from the
generic and repetitive looter-shooter that “Anthem” would become. “Anthem”, still internally, Beyond, was first glimpsed by
the public at E3 2014 with a self-aggrandizing developer video. And by glimpsed I mean BioWare confirmed the
existence of something. – While the Montreal studio is working on the next Mass Effect game, our team here in Edmonton is
developing a completely new IP. – It’s a chance to have
a clean sheet design, start from most fundamental
principles you can have. – We wanna take on very
contemporary stories and yet, we wanna build
a world that is as big and as imaginative as
everything we’ve done before. (dog farting) – [Jim] It’s named unrevealed, BioWare simply said it was working on a new intellectual property, while BioWare Montreal handled
the next Mass Effect game, “Mass Effect: Andromeda” Development was a
struggle, to say the least. In 2014 Casey Hudson left BioWare, leaving the project leaderless
and existing staff worried about keeping things on track. In 2015, Dragon Age’s David Gaider would come to work on the game’s story, but his influence made it feel more like BioWare’s previous work, which is exactly what
the team didn’t want. When Gaider would leave, in 2016, things would shift closer
toward the original concept, but these constant
changes would take a toll on the designers and artists. An issue further compounded by Electronic Arts’ Patrick
Soderlund’s mandate, that all EA games must use
the frostbite’s engine. BioWare had problems working
with the unfamiliar engine and subsequently had fewer developers working on project Beyond, after EA moved some of
the developers on to FIFA. We wouldn’t know exactly
how strained, messy and thoroughly fucked development was until after the game’s release. When Jason Schreier published
his now infamous expose on “Anthem’s” history. But we’ll get to that. For now let’s just safely say that working on the future “Anthem” was stressful, confusing
and mentally unhealthy. In 2017 it really went to cock. Patrick Soderlund had seen
a demo of the game in action and he was worried. In his view, the state of the project didn’t match what BioWare’s
efforts had promised in 2014. And he ordered senior staff
to discuss game improvements with Frostbite developer Dice,
and expected a new demo made. At this point it was believed
if the next demo failed the project was over, and they spent six weeks putting
something fresh together. Fortunately for BioWare, their decision to implement
a flight mechanic, something that was on and off the table several times during development, gained a positive
reception from Soderlund. Less fortunate, was the
suggested difficulty in trademarking a name like Beyond, causing by where to rely
on a backup name, “Anthem”. At this time “Mass Effect: Andromeda” had released to the raucous
booing of the general public. A mediocre and buggy game,
it’s tepid release was followed by the closure of BioWare Montreal. Continuing a long legacy of Electronic Arts studios shutting down. But hey, it freed up some folks to join the “Anthem” project I guess, and “Anthem” was publicly
unveiled at E3 2017. (dramatic music) – [Man] This storm’s getting crazy. (lighting cracking) So what are we supposed to do? Fly into it? – [Woman] All right, let’s do this. – [Man] See you on the other side. (man farting) – The game had a projected release period of Q4 2018, but that wasn’t gonna happen. EA would not give BioWare
much of an extension either, saying “Anthem” had to
be out by March 2019. Casey Hudson had come back, and executive producer Mark
Darrah joined the effort. Among several other developers that were previously
working on “Dragon Age 4” and were bused over to “Anthem”. “Anthem’s” public perception wasn’t exactly overburdened with hype. In November 2017, Electronic Arts had
brought its own reputation to a staggering new low, with the release of “Star
Wars: Battlefront 2”. Oh, ho, ho, ho, dear. A game maligned for its
over reliance on loot boxes, grinding and unrewarding gameplay, and a bevy of associated PR fuck-ups. This would include the
notorious Reddit comment. The most down voted
comments in Reddit history, where EA tried to justify the
exhausting grind of the game as encouraging a sense of “pride and accomplishment,”
in its players, bleh. At this time “Anthem” had
drawn inescapable comparisons to “Destiny”, despite
BioWare’s intentions, and the idea of a looter-shooter published by the micro-transaction obsessed EA, especially off the back
of “Battlefront 2”, was far from exciting. This wasn’t helped by
“Anthem’s” embarrassing showing at E3 2018. It was bad to the point of comedy, as it became quite clear
that even at this late stage “Anthem” had barely
anything to show for itself. Much of the presentation
relied on concept art and most of the gameplay footage focused purely on the flight mechanic, which resulted in slow
and uninteresting imagery propping up the big reveal. After a long wind-up the presentation would show a
comparative speck of combat, but it was underwhelming
and only served to highlight what a dull, dry and
listless presentation it was. And outside of the flying it still looked like
“Destiny” to a lot of people. Given the game’s impending release date all of this are looked pretty damn bad. Creating a world with a universe. Presumably in which things happen. – [Conrad] Just jet packs though. – Just for floating about
the jungle on a jet back. – More jet packs.
– More jet… (Conrad laughing)
(Jim laughing) It’s the same bit! – [Conrad] They’ve shown that! (Jim laughing) They’ve deleted all the,
they’ve deleted the game! That’s what happened? – This I the best press
conference I’ve ever see. Thanks to Schreier’s report we now know why this E3
showing was so full of fluff. Under Mark Darrah, the
majority of “Anthem”, which started as project Dylan in 2012, had in fact been developed just one year prior to
its release in 2019. Years of meandering, cluelessness,
stress and staff changes had taken their toll. None of this stopped Electronic Arts from hyping “Anthem” up as
the next big live service that would be supported for years to come. Exactly like Activision
had erroneously promised with the first “Destiny”,
EA suggested “Anthem” would see a decade long development cycle, with Patrick Soderlund saying, in 2017, “‘Anthem’ is a social game
where you and your friends “go out on quests and journeys. “It’s a game we’ve been working on “for almost four years now. “And it’s a game that, once
we launch it next year, “Will be the start of maybe
a 10 year journey for us.” (laughs) It’s definitely
coming out next year. In February of 2019, it was time to unleash “Anthem” on the world
to like a weaponized virus. “Anthem” would be one of
many games, this generation, to boast multiple release dates
based on customer privilege. If you had the Origin Access
Premier subscription service you could play “Anthem” on February 15th. If you had Origin Access Basic, you could play the game
on February 15th, also, but only the first 10 hours of it. Everyone else would have to
wait until February 22nd, a significant gap that
affirmed EA’s commitment to selling early access and exploiting the cultural
phenomenon of FOMO, fear of missing out. And on reflection can
you imagine being scared of missing out on “Anthem”? (chuckles) As for the game itself,
it was crap, basically. It was really fucking shit. Despite over half a decade of development, most of “Anthem” was
rushed at the last minute and it showed. Content was thin on the ground. Important things like narrative cohesion and gameplay balance
had not been addressed. The game was unforgivably monotonous. Almost every mission
consisting of flying somewhere, shooting something, listening to dialogue, playing a frustrating
game of hot and cold, flying somewhere and repeating. By god, the hot and cold
mechanic was friggin’ awful and it was constant. “Anthem’s” loading times
were horrendous to boot, which might not have been
quite so glaring an issue if the game was worth the wait. Ever. Which it wasn’t. Ever. Because it was trash. Like so many live service triple-A games, “Anthem” was undercooked and paper-thin in the content department,
excused by the developer with a road map of
promised content updates. This road map was to begin
the following month in March, with act one, Echoes of Reality. The reality was however
that “Anthem” was fucked and these promises were bullshit. Maybe not intentionally bullshit, but, as time would bear
out, bullshit nonetheless. “Anthem” would continue to
make headlines throughout 2019 and always for the wrong reasons. One glaring issue was the early discovery that loot didn’t seem to actually matter. A bit of a problem for a game
based entirely around loot. A level one rifle, for example, was found to deal
significantly more damage than a higher level, Masterwork,
version of the weapon. Actually removing gear, in some cases, made players more deadly. A load of math is behind the
wise and the how’s of this, but basically the way BioWare
had averaged out the power of equipped gear on a
player was totally borked. This wasn’t a bug this
was just fucked up design that perhaps spoke of
BioWare’s inexperience with a looter-shooters. In March the PS4 version
of the game kept crashing and booting people into the system menu because not even the machine
itself wanted to play “Anthem”. This was followed by the loot shower bug, that saw top tier items
drop at an increased rate, until BioWare rushed to fix the issue. The issue that people actually enjoyed. In fact, it had fixed the problem of the game being more rewarding quicker than it had ever fixed
the games long load times. You see, the loot shower had made the game more fun for players and the return to normal “Anthem”, highlighted how stingy and grindy it was with its loot drops. Prompting players to protest and demand the loot showers return. “Anthem”, so shit people
want the bugs put back in! Players would have to grind
and grind a way to acquire any items of worth, going
over the same old missions time and again with a
little, if any reward for it. The loot drops were so miserly,
“Anthem” had been compared to the original version of “Diablo 3”, the version that withheld
loot drops to railroad players into using its controversial
premium auction house. The original loot system of “Diablo 3” was vile and despicable, but at least there was an evidenced, if avaricious and horrible,
reason for it, money. Since “Anthem’s” micro-transactions were geared toward cosmetic items there seemed to be no good reason at all for the thoroughly unrewarding gameplay. Some of this would turn
out to be simple bugs, some of it was just the
game being mean to be mean. – [Commentator] They’re telling him. Get in behind Alistair, throw. – [Commentator] No, no. Jim Sterling’s over 400 pounds! (Jim yelling) (wrestler grunts)
Oh my god! – In early April, Kotaku
published the thing that word damn BioWare the most, an expose titled, “How
BioWare’s ‘Anthem’ Went Wrong”. This article would detail
the troubled development of “Anthem”, from beginning to end. Discussing much of what we talked about at the start of the post-mortem,
as well as shining a light on just how psychologically abusive BioWare’s design philosophy was. There was a belief within BioWare that development could be as
problematic and screwed up as possible and it’d be fine because everything would
always come together at the last minute. Rather than call that what it is, bad management, crunch, abuse. The studio instead calls
it, BioWare magic. (giggles) This isn’t magic, however. It’s reckless and piss-poor leadership. The report revealed that
BioWare routinely had stress casualties. People so burned out and
exhausted by the workload that they completely broke down and needed weeks, if not
months to recuperate. Indecision, confusion and
meandering development was reflected in the report. A report that BioWare
refused to comment on while it was being written and pathetically tried to
discredit after its publication. “We chose not to comment or
participate in this story “because we felt there was an unfair focus “on specific team members and leaders “who did their absolute best “to bring this totally new idea to fans. “We didn’t want to be part of something “that was attempting to bring
them down as individuals. “We don’t see the value in
tearing down one another “or one another’s work. “We don’t believe articles that do that “are making our industry
and craft better.” Whined BioWare’s response. Interestingly, the statement was released so soon after Kotaku’s publication, nobody at BioWare could
possibly have read all of it before their statement was written. If someone at BioWare had read it maybe they wouldn’t have published demonstrably false information about the content of the report, which named individuals only in cases of important factual record, without particular or unfair focus. Not once did the Kotaku report point out any individual as bad, it just described to
the sequence of events. Seriously, going back and
looking at BioWare’s response still utterly disgusts me. Rather than address any of it, they try to bury their heads in the sand. And when the article came out, they engaged with a
none of it in good faith and instead try to impugn the journalistic integrity of a reporter. The expose revealed
poor leadership skills, and BioWare’s response to it confirmed poor leadership skills. “Anthem” had been, despite all of this, BioWare’s second most
successful launch to date. Which I think is a ringing
indictment on the market. But even so, the player base steadily hemorrhaged throughout the year. Over half the players surveyed
on Reddit in mid-April said they’d already quit the game for good and reports of a dwindling
player base continued to mount. Public interest in the
game fell off a cliff with its Twitch viewers
indicating a steady loss of anyone who gave a shit. While still technically in development, as a so-called live service, “Anthem” was losing developers as well. BioWare staff were shifting
over to development on “Dragon Age 4”, including
producer, Ben Irving. And somewhere along the line we lost track of who
was actually in charge of this whole mess. As far as the much-hyped
around road map goes, it wasn’t worth a napkin
it was hardly scribbled on. Three months after it
was initially promised, BioWare unleashed to the Cataclysm event. Finally delivering some
new gear and gameplay to the threadbare experience,
long after it was expected. While it was generally decently received, the Cataclysm would nonetheless
mark not just the first, but the last time “Anthem’s” roadmap would actually bear fruit. Basically BioWare abandoned
the map completely, doing away with the proposed
three act structure. Instead, Head of Life
Service, Chad Robertson, announced BioWare would focus
instead on “core issues,” with the game. Such as combat balance,
economy adjustments, general maintenance really. And two nondescript seasonal updates were instead planned to replace the acts. He also added that BioWare is committed to “Backing up its words with
a great game you can play!” But those words will always ring hollow considering how many failed promises “Anthem’s” considerable sales
were already built upon. Because that’s the rub. “Anthem” is one of 2019s
top 10 best selling games. It was, at launch, a success, but its development was a
nightmarish, abusive shit show and it’s post-launch
performance was humiliation after humiliation,
couched in false pledges. The game was sold as a live service with a roadmap of content and a potential 10 years of support, but it lost developers and
scrapped its content plans, reaffirming the fact, the fucking fact, that games with roadmaps
are not to be trusted. That games were the
years of planned support are total bullshit. I mean, when they revealed
the roadmap for “Anthem”, do you think they had any actual ideas for what would be in those three acts? Were there even names
for act two and three? Or did they just shit out
the idea of three acts and call it a day? Who even friggin’ knows? When publishers stand
up there on E3 stages and say they will support
these live services for years to come, do they
have the first fucking clue what that support will look like or are they just shitting out buzzwords? Do they even believe these
games will have that support? And if so, why are they so stupid because they’re the only
fuckers that do believe it? I don’t fucking believe it, I’ve seen this shit
show one too many times. But then again this is an
industry that sells season passes for DLC before they even
know what the fucking DLC is. There is no plan there, is
no guarantee of support. And when you spend $60 on a video game. Sorry, when you spend
the starter price of $60, upwards of $60, with a full package price somewhere in the hundreds
of dollars, on a video game, you better hope that you like what’s in that package at launch. Because it might improve. It might flesh out. It might be a full package
years down the line. It probably won’t. What’s sad about “Anthem” isn’t just that it’s the perfect case of the broken life service promise, it’s that it’s far from the only one. Bob, fucking, Dylan. Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba. Boglin! “Anthem”, what is “Anthem”? Why did I say that? Where am I going with this? Oh, I actually had things to say. Bloody hell. Go away Boglin, you put me off. In our epilogue it’s worth and noting that despite having a
fairly successful launch, “Anthem” did perform below expectations for its publisher. Now, this is all too common
in the video game industry, where many publishers
promise their shareholders a moon on the stick. A moon on a stick. The moon on a stick. Fuck. But it is still worth noting
that “Anthem” did not pleasure Electronic Arts the way it wanted to. Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic
Arts, at one point did say, “The launch of “Anthem” did
not meet our expectations.” So, you know, read into
that what you will. EA has promised that it’s not going to shut BioWare down anytime soon, but if you look at Unicronic
Arts’ track record it, has a habit of buying
studios, wringing them dry, then consuming the husk,
leaving nothing behind. And BioWare in the position now that several other studios
in the thrall of EA have been in before EA closed them down, drop to the ax, chewed
them up, destroyed them. And I think right now, BioWare’s
future does hinge somewhat on “Dragon Age 4”. They’re gonna to have to nail it. They’re gonna to have to nail it. If it is another disaster, if it becomes yet more live service trash that people don’t stick with, I worry. Hopefully it comes out,
is an excellent game. BioWare learns its lesson, we hope, with “Mass Effect:
Andromeda” and “Anthem”. But this is an industry that
never learns its lesson, that will keep banging its
head against a brick wall, assuming one day their skull
will bust right through it. We shall see, but I’m worried. And “Anthem” remains a
cautionary tale of, pretty much, what not to do in the
mainstream game industry. From an ethical standpoint, the way BioWare magic
treats its employees. From a design standpoint. Having no ideas yet assuming
you’re gonna be Bob Dylan. From a support standpoint. Everything with “Anthem” went wrong. Everything with “Anthem”
went a little bit shit. A little bit, we shouldn’t do this. But it will keep happening It’ll keep happening
again and again and again because that’s the triple-A
video game industry for you. Anyway, thank God for me. Leslie Grantham. ♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh ♪ ♪ Everybody’s thinkin’ ’bout me. ♪