Subscribers to Origin Access and EA Access subscription services have had a few days to play Anthem, but its worldwide launch is still coming this Friday. Today, BioWare hosted a stream outlining some of the fixes coming to today's "Day One" patch, while also giving players a glimpse into the future of Anthem. The hosts for for the stream were executive producer Mark Darrah, lead producer Mike Gamble, lead producer Ben Irving, and live service head Chad Robertson.
The team kicked off the stream thanking players for enjoying the Early Access period prior to launch. "We found out a lot of important issues from the Early Access time period, so we appreciate everyone putting up with some of the things in Early Access which were actually fixed for Day One," said Gamble.
"I hope we can start to set that expectation that we're going to continue supporting this game. This is just the start." added Darrah.
Fixes in the "Day One" Patch
One major issue players have brought up during Early Access is group tethering, where Anthem teleports a player from their current location to wherever their group is. Currently, the ether distance is too short and, combined with lengthy re-loading time, the system can currently leave players looking at load screens for quite a while. BioWare is promising shorter load screens for group tethers.
The developers also addressed the Tomb of the Legionnaires questline, which comes in the middle of Anthem's story campaign.. This quest requires you to complete in-game tasks like collect chests, finish missions, or perform combos in order to pass four trials. The issue is that completion is supposed to be retroactive, counting actions done before you received the quest, but it was bugged for some players. BioWare said that's been fixed with a small improvement. It was supposed to unlock after the quest "Finding Old Friends," which was about level 8 for most players; instead, your actions will begin counting towards that quest starting at level 3.
Another issue with the Tomb of the Legionnaires quest is the chest collection marker previously required you to open the chest yourself. If you were in a group, the 15 chests needed were per person. This meant it was actually better to split up to complete the marker. Now every player within 250 meters of the chest will receive credit for its opening.
Anthem lead producer Ben Irving explained that a number of inscriptions, randomly-rolled bonuses on weapons and armor, were actually bugged. This meant players above level 25 weren't getting "all of the power you were meant to." This unknown issue has been fixed in the new patch. Irving says he hopes to see more theorycrafting now that the system is properly working.
For the Immediate Future
Part of the stream dealt with changes and additions coming to a patch planned for a few weeks from now. In regards to armor and weapons, BioWare revealed a few new tidbits. First, the team is looking at set bonuses for armor, where having an entire set of similar gear gives an additional bonus. Darrah said that's coming "at a future time," so you shouldn't expect it anytime soon. The team said that the vanity store will be refreshing every 2-4 days, and more vanity armor will be coming through a new gameplay mechanic called Stronghold Vanity Chests.
Stronghold Vanity Chests are a new system intended to address the issues with Stronghold loot not being meaningful. Under this system, when you finish a Stronghold, there will be four chests available. You earn keys to open these chests by doing things like Daily Challenges. A nice additional point is everyone in the party gets loot for an opened chest, so if all four members have keys, you get four chests worth of vanity loot. The loot includes vinyls, armor pieces, This is a great system that should promote more social play and group connection. The chests will be "random-exhaustive," meaning the rewards are random, but eventually you'll get all the vanity items available. This also mean players won't get any duplicate items.
Players previously asked BioWare for a way to repeat the story campaign missions, and the developer has an answer: Legendary Missions. The studio will repurpose some critical path missions, adding in harder enemies and harder enemy combinations. The team is still working out the rewards. If you want to replay the story campaign with all the cutscenes and story dialog, Irving said players should just start a new pilot.
Looking Into the Future of Anthem
The rest of the stream involved features and fixes that BioWare wants to bring to Anthem, without even a vague release window. Players, including myself, have been asking for a character stats page, an odd omission for a looter shooter like Anthem. BioWare said it's "evaluating some options" for a stats page, but no timetable was given for a release.
Another change for the indeterminate future is the current downed system. Right now when a player dies, they have to just wait for their teammates to revive them: you can't look around or let your team know you're down. BioWare is looking into fixing that and the team has some ideas on that front. Gamble noted there's also a longer term discussion on giving players something to do while they're down.
Currently, Anthem only has voice chat and a few emotes, so if you lack a microphone it can be hard to communicate with a group. Someone on the stream chat asked about the possibility of a Ping system like Respawn's Apex Legends. Irving said that the team did talk to Respawn about the system, but found that it wasn't easy to port to Anthem. Darrah also noted that on the console, they currently don't have a free button for a proposed Ping system. "We have been looking into an alternative to that. We've talked about some other ways we think we can leverage the existing control scheme," added Irving. He said that can talk about that in a few more weeks.
Text chat, especially on PC, is another major feature request from players. Irving said the team is looking at some accessibility options, but like the Ping system, he believes it's a problem with current communication options. He didn't have all the details on stream, but BioWare is looking into methods to improve squad communication.
No new details about cross-play either, though BioWare is looking into it. "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," said Darrah.
Robertson said that BioWare will be sharing a more detailed 90-day calendar for Anthem content and improvements in the next week. This will include story content, events, quality-of-life fixes, and the upcoming Cataclysm endgame system.
In its Early Access state, Anthem has already gone through a critical drubbing for some weird design decisions, thin content, performance issues, and other bugs. Will today's patch fix everything? Probably not. Anthem, like other games-as-a-service titles, likely has months of patches and fixes to get to its proper state. Yes, it's perplexing that what BioWare is calling "Early Access" isn't really a beta period, but rather earlier access to the full game. It's also a problem that Anthem is repeating mistakes made by competitors years ago. Despite that, BioWare is attempting to move forward and being rather transparent about future changes coming to the game. I look forward to seeing where the team takes Anthem in the future.