Edited by Michael Darsch
On February 20th, Lead Producer Ben Irving and Head of Live Services Chad Robertson were joined by Lead Producer Mike Gamble and Executive Producer Mark Darrah from Edmonton to discuss the early access release, upcoming patch fixes, and what is coming in the near future. Community Managers Jesse Anderson and Andrew Johnson (AJ) were running the show as per usual and fielding questions from the chat, and we got some surprising answers and reveals this time around. Let’s get started with the current game state.
The game had a soft launch on February 15th, 2019 for people who have Origin Access Premier on the PC and a 10 hour trial for those who have Origin Access Basic and EA Access on the Xbox. During that time we’ve had one server side fix deployed, one event that began on February 20th involving an influx of Outlaws in freeplay, and as of this writing, the day one patch went live to all players.
The team began with a small retrospective of things that have gone right, things that have gone wrong, and what their plans are for fixing some of the issues. Darrah began with the following:
“We’ve learned a lot of things from the early access builds. It’s given us an opportunity to get a lot of feedback from the community, but I think overall that people are having a pretty good time. As people have seen, the changes have gone in since the demo. I hope that we can start to set that expectation that we’re going to continue supporting this game, and this is just the start.”
Mike then continued, “There’s a lot of people who came into the early access, and honestly, did a lot of good Freelancin’, and we found a lot of important issues from the early access time period. We appreciate everyone putting up with some of the things in early access which were actually fixed for day one. It’s super good for us to see bugs out there, and found new ones that we can get into the live service patches, but also equally cool for us to see things that have already been fixed in the patch that we can validate ‘Yep, okay, you guys aren’t going to see that in a couple days.’ So it’s kinda good all around for us to see this stuff and continue to be engaged with the players and continue to be engaged with what everyone is seeing.”
Ben led the team into talking about the upcoming day one patch, which at the time of the stream was slated for “before worldwide launch.” He dropped the news that they were actually going to deploy the patch in a few hours, after the stream was over, to all platforms. There was no service interruption, but to get the patch required a game restart and around a six gigabyte update. Gamble’s favorite fix was an ‘increase’ in load times for those who have older hard drives. The team quickly corrected him to say a decrease in load times, but Mark teased Mike by telling the community, “Load times are too short. So what we’re doing is we’re making them longer.” Load times should be significantly improved when gathering the party in the tether mechanics. Chad then stated his excitement for the patch came from the breadth of the patch. “As we’ve talked about before, and the previous demo weekend, a lot of what ends up being in this patch, and subsequent patches, comes from community feedback.” He went on to cite the Tomb of Legionnaires questline in the game, which received sharp criticism for how it slowed down progress. Changes have been made to allow for people to have the quest unlock earlier, and have their progress towards it saved, so that when players reach that portion of the story, they don’t hit a wall but instead are almost done with it. It was also revealed that, for whatever reason, the codename of their worldwide launch is called Aardvark. Your guess as to why this is as good as mine. Other changes made for the day one patch can be seen here.
This is when the stream turned a bit more light hearted and fun as Mark Darrah pointed out that twitch user bullzeyee1 called him “Grumby”. A simple typo perhaps, but Darrah continued, “What the hell does Grumby mean chat?” “It’s a little bit of grumpy plus Gumby,” Mike replied. Unfortunately for both of them, grumby has an actual meaning, which Mark Darrah later revealed on twitter.
“I am not a twitch streamer as you can tell by the chat going by here, but I am gonna answer a question from the chat though. People asked how are people playing on the PS4 already? Yeah, those people have STOLEN COPIES of the PS4 build that’s how they’re playing.” Mark Darrah, not being a twitch streamer, sure did a great job at entertaining the community with his sassiness. Mike however pointed out that it may have been retailers that had broken street date. “Which is just as bad. Also go to jail,” Mark replied to everyone’s delight. Ben continued with stating how he enjoyed the Colossus changes and fixes to inscription text and actual application of the power they gave, only to be interrupted by Mark once again. “All I can see is that everyone loves me and wants me on the streams more. I also wonder how much trouble I’ll get in if I tell everyone to subscribe to T-Series. What’s going to happen on the stream if I say that?”
We’ll move on, but I highly suggest watching the VOD of the stream for more of these shenanigans and a few more bits of information regarding the day one patch.
After some quick Q&A, which is compiled below, the team began to get set up to talk about upcoming features and changes. Mark however, wanted to cover a topic that people continue asking about consistently. This is about crossplay.
“We’ve talked about crossplay not being available at launch. We’re still looking into it. Do we have any further details to give at this point?” Chad replied to the question with no additional details at this point, to which Mark shouted for chat to stop asking about it. He then continued on, “We do want to do it. There’s nothing inherent in the game itself from a technical perspective stopping us from doing it. There’s just some service stuff that needs to be worked out and of course we have to get the console manufacturers on board. I’m also the BEST EVER IT SAID RIGHT THERE!” he shouted, while pointing at the screen.
Ben stated that some upcoming changes were mainly based in player feedback, but other things they have had in the works for things potentially making it into the first patch after launch, which would be a few weeks later. The first topic covered was Stronghold vanity chests. The team received feedback from the community in regards to wanting to make themselves look cool, and they want strongholds to feel rewarding. In addition to adding in the boss dropping loot that is relative to the difficulty you are playing, the team is also going to be adding in these vanity chests at a later date. The current version, subject to change, is that you’ll have a daily challenge that will award you a key. When you finish a stronghold, four chests appear, containing objects from a pool of around one hundred items. You can open one of these four chests at the end of a dungeon to be awarded a vanity item to use on your Javelins. Not only do you get this item, but your squad members can also get this from your key. If you have four people with four keys, then you each get four items. This works on a knockout system, meaning you will not get duplicates, and it will give you a vanity item that you do not currently have. The chests can also contain crafting materials in addition to the vanity items. These vanity items include vinyls, armors, and emotes, so it will help you to get some vanity to mess around with and really personalize your Javelin the way you want. It’s a really great sounding system to add more rewards for the end of strongholds and a good start to how to potentially add more unique rewards later down the line. The team will monitor what works and doesn’t work and make changes to the system as needed.
In the same patch, the team would like to add Legendary Missions. Instead of allowing for replaying of the story missions, they want to introduce them to the endgame. Ben used The Lost Arcanist for an example here. This is one of the first missions introduced to you in the game, and you fight what they call “easy encounter types” which doesn’t introduce the player to the full breadth of the Scar enemy types. The Legendary version of this mission would include “extreme encounters” which contain a harder combination of these enemy types for players to tackle. The team placed these right before strongholds in terms of difficulty level for endgame, with the order being freeplay, contracts, legendary contracts, legendary missions, then strongholds. These missions will not have the story attached to them, or have any dialogue or choices related to them in Fort Tarsis. The best way to experience the story once again is to make a new pilot. When creating a new pilot, a lot of things are tied to your account, rather than your pilot. So you keep your suit unlocks and your vanity, as well as many other items, but have the opportunity of going through the story once more if you choose to do so.
Chad then wanted to discuss the further live service of the year calendar containing the acts. There is a more detailed 90 day calendar the live service team is going to share potentially within the next week to show how they plan to stage events in the game balanced with quality of life fixes and additions of content, leading up to the Cataclysm event. The team wanted to let people know it is their intention to share as much as they can. They have to take into consideration their dev schedule and ensure they are going to be able to deliver in the timeline stated, as well as making sure they do not reveal too much ahead of time due to being part of a publicly traded company that has to adhere to SEC laws. Their goal is to get the content out to the community, get the community feedback on that content and either add more of it for positive feedback, or tweak it based on negative feedback. A lot of community input is important to them putting this content in place.
As per usual, here is a list of the questions from the stream, some edited for clarity.
1. Will Anthem support DLSS ever?
Chad: “Yes, soon. That work has been completed, but will be coming in an upcoming patch. Not today’s patch.”
2. Will Anthem support SLI?
Chad: “Yes, Anthem will support SLI. That update will be combined with the DLSS update.”
3. Are you going to have Armor sets?
Mark: “We’re looking into set bonuses at a future time, but not today.”
Ben: “Did they mean more armor packs though?”
Mark: “Oh, maybe, I don’t know it’s really hard to read this stream. AJ’s gonna turn around the monitor so I can’t look at it anymore.”
The team then reviewed the Stronghold Vanity Chest mechanics coming up in a later update.
4. Stat page? Or Stat Page?????
Chad: “We evaluating some options for that. We had been planning for that all along, but input from the community has emphasized that is a good thing we should do. But I have a question for the community, you don’t like Excel? C’mon, what else do you need? No but seriously it’s something we’re working on and we’ll have more news on that soon.”
5. Are there any plans for providing options for when you’re downed?
Ben: “We don’t have anything in the short term for that, but we are looking into the issue, and we have some ideas about it. Things like ‘Hey, when you’re down can it just have a voice line to notify your team?’ But we don’t have that for the next couple weeks.”
Mike: “There’s a longer term discussion as well because we’ve gotten the feedback of ‘If no one rezzes me, it can be kind of boring, what can I do in the meantime?’ so there’s a longer term discussion around that.”
6. Any more plans for support and ultimate items?
Ben: “Ultimate items are going to be a longer term thing. They’re the most impactful abilities we’ve made, so you can imagine they take a little longer to build. We like the idea of doing it, but that’s kind of a longer term thing. I think on the support side, we’d like to do some in the short term. Timing TBD, but we’re talking about it right now.”
7. Ping system?
Mark: “Someone asked about having a Ping system like Apex has. I really like their system. I think it’s actually quite clever having contextual chat. We obviously don’t have it right now, and I don’t know how portable what Respawn has made would be.”
Ben: “It’s not very, we did ask, but yeah.”
Mark: “You did ask? Not very, but yeah I would love to take a look at it. One problem would be on the console controls, I don’t think we have a button, so that might be a bit of a challenge.”
They discussed how in a few more weeks they can talk a bit about how they are trying to tackle communication with members of your team.
8. Chad asked, “Who came up with the Nighthawk and Dragon bit initially?”
Ben: “I think what happened was that Mike and I were casually flirting with each other on Twitter as we like to do. I think you were making fun of me about something, and then I just went to gifs and put in ‘Brothers’, and then the Step Brothers thing came up from the movie. So I posted that, then I think we both kept just posting those things, and then on the first stream we did we thought it’d be funny to call ourselves Dragon and Nighthawk which is what they call themselves.”
Mark: “Twitter” in air quotes.
9. How much additional lore can players expect in upcoming content?
Chad: “I think that is a deeper question into what we’re planning on doing with the live service, and while we don’t have a ton of details that we can share on that yet, we do have lots of internal plans. I think the main answer is if you look at what we want to do narratively with the game for the next several years, you’ll see this overarching story that includes tons of lore that we want to include to continue evolve Anthem’s world and characters and everything that goes with it. So you can expect some big updates there. I think anyone who’s asking that question will be pleasantly surprised to know we have some big things coming there.”
Mark: “Wow, that is the 1000 word answer to ‘Yes’.”
Mike: “I think something that people don’t know about Anthem is the way that the systems are built and the way that the framework is set up is that it makes it fairly easy for us to add new and different types of content. I get this question a lot on twitter. So, [let’s say], we want to do different gameplay mechanics, we’ve done wisps enough times, we want to do something different. The way that the Anthem system is built is that all we have to do is put that new gameplay thing into the toolbox and then you’ll start to see those things represented in world events. We have a really strong framework for how to add more lore, more gameplay, it’s just a matter of us doing over the months and years ahead.”
10. Text Chad? Text Chat?
Ben: “We don’t have text chat. We are looking at some accessibility stuff, so we should get clear in that message, I don’t want to butcher it now by mistake, so we can get into that later. Like I said before with the Ping system question is ‘If I don’t want to use VOIP, how can I better communicate with my squadmates?’ and that is the kind of thing we are looking at. We can talk about it in a few weeks, or at least give an update on when or if we can do it because we think its an important piece of feedback from the community.”
Mark: “To reiterate, this question and the Ping question is more about giving me a way to communicate what’s going on, explain to someone how a puzzle works, without using voice. Whether that is text chat, or something else, more detail will come at a later date.”
11. Is Mark Darrah running for President in 2020?
Mark: “Unfortunately, I am not a naturalized American Citizen. So I do not qualify to run for President.”
Mike: “We’re hitting the most important topics in this livestream.”