Dragon Age 4 Producer Leaves BioWare

Just a day after a producer on BioWare’s much-maligned Anthem left the studio, Fernando Melo, a senior producer working on Dragon Age 4 is leaving as well.

Melo made the announcement on social media that he’s leaving the once renowned developer after 12 years. Both departures may signal problems for BioWare which just released the Cataclysm update for Anthem. The update doesn’t seem to have galvanized the player-base and some fear BioWare may go the way of several other shuttered EA studios.

Both Melo and Ben Irving, the producer on Anthem, say that they are leaving the company on amicable terms. Melo mentions the upcoming game in his post calling it “the definitive Dragon Age experience” and that he looks forward to playing it as “a fan this time around.”

He’s not the only one hoping the next Dragon Age hits it out of the park. After the issues fans had with both Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, many see Dragon Age 4 as the studios last shot at restoring the faith many used to have in the developer.

New Anthem Update Today and Dev Video Stream Tomorrow

Anthem, the much beleaguered online shooter, received its first update in almost a month today. Update 1.20 adds many features that gamers have been clamoring for since the release of the game in February.

  • The compass at the top of the screen will show when you are near a collectible.
  • Enemies that are guaranteed to drop loot will show up on the compass as well.
  • Adding a Public Test Server for PC.
  • And the big one, the ability to fast travel to any of the strider locations in Freeplay.

There are many Quality of Life and general improvements added in to the update as well. Three more Legendary Missions have been added and load screens will now share lore as you wait for the status bar to finish. A full list of the patch notes can be found right here.

There have been many rumors about what is coming to Anthem and there will be a developer livestream tomorrow talking about some of the upcoming changes, including the Cataclysm. An event in the game lore that can cause chaos across the world. That stream starts at 3 PM Central Time on Thursday May 30th and can be seen on Twitch or Mixer.

We will drop the details as soon as they become available.

Anthem Devs Assigned to Dragon Age

If you have been paying attention at all to gaming news, Anthem has somehow become the epitome of every failure that EA Games, Bioware, and somehow any Prussian or Austro Hungarian government has ever made. Ever.

javelin
I has a sad.

Last week the Nets and the Twitters exploded with the news that three of the main devs for Anthem were leaving that project and moving on to Dragon Age 4. Mike Gamble, Mike Darrah, and Jonathan Warner were reported as leaving the beleaguered game. But, is this a sign that Anthem will soon join the scrap heap of history? To one day fill a landfill a la the Atari fiasco of the ET game?

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Beee strong

I do not think so.  For one thing, Mike Gamble and Mike Darrah are a part of Bioware Edmonton, the division of Bioware that typically is working on the new stuff. Whereas, Ben Irving and Chad Robertson who are listed as the lead producers of Anthem now are Bioware Austin, the division of Bioware that handles the live services of Anthem (and Star Wars: The Old Republic, another online game that was made poorly but rescued by a very dedicated team in Austin.) Perhaps this is just the change of reins that was expected and the gaming media is blowing the news out of proportion. Bioware Austin has a track record of turning a product around, though it could certainly be argued that they shouldn’t always have to be damage control… but that is not the world we live in yet.

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It’s okay Bro, they bungled my outing too.

I still play Anthem, and I constantly see people on my friends list in game as well. While Bioware and EA could have easily released a more polished game, it is my opinion that they did not release a bad one. One can only hope that Bioware and EA give the developers the time, support, and space to make Anthem and Dragon Age 4 (whatever it may be) the great games that we (and they) deserve.

Anthem Updates as Bioware Listens

While our readers await our full review of Anthem, the developers at Bioware have been listening to fan feedback and are moving quickly to update the game and fix issues that have arisen in this live service game.

It has not been a full week yet since Anthem was officially launched into the world, and in that time the developers at Bioware have been listening to fans on Twitter and Reddit and have been making changes to better the experience of the Anthem Freelancer.

An update released this morning increased the tethering time for missions. Previously, if you fell too far behind the group of people you were playing with, an automated timer would appear and force you to reload into a new area. Now, there will be more time given for you to catch up to your squad.

Ben Irving, the lead producer for Anthem, announced on Reddit last night that another update would be coming within the day that would also deal with Inscriptions on weapons and alter the frequency of loot drops.  The inscription issue offered bonuses on weapons that were not equipped and many players have found frustration at getting better loot at the endgame.

The patch notes for this mornings update can be found here. And the notes for the upcoming update can be found here.

Anthem First Impressions

Anthem is the latest game developed by Bioware and published by EA games. It is an open world, always online shooter in the same veins as Destiny or The Division. If you have been to any site this week that deals with video games you have probably seen an inordinate amount of criticism and hate for a game that is still not released. A small caveat there of course, not fully released UNLESS you are an Origin Basic or Premier member on PC or have a subscription to EA Access on Xbox.

Origin Basic and EA Access both had limited ten-hour trials and Origin Premier had full unrestricted access to the game starting last Friday. I spent 10 hours with the game on Xbox One and will talk about that in a moment. While the game is in a playable state, it still has not had a hard release, there is a significant Day one patch, but every early review of the game I have read is based on an “almost” released game. Not to say that the early demos and even the early access didn’t have their problems. They did. But reviewers are treating this game like it kicked their dog while shoving their grandmother down the stairs.

Why do people hate a game that isn’t out yet?

I can only speculate dear reader, but here are my opinions:

  1. The game is published by EA and EA is not particularly loved, for a long list of reasons. They buy studios, drive away creative talent with corporate malaise, and then shutter said studios. Micro-transactions. Abominable customer service. Find an article about EA or its games and you will find a long list of people who are unhappy. There is one addendum to be had here, EA also published Apex Legends which is getting near universal praise and acclaim.
  2. Bioware. Responsible for developing amazing games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Dragon Age, Jade Empire, Baldurs Gate etc.) Bioware has had some mixed success for the past few years. Mass Effect:Andromeda was released with quite a bit of criticism for wonky animations that were eventually ironed out. Dragon Age: Inquisition, while popular and profitable, was quite unfavorably compared with The Witcher 3 and found to be lacking. Find an article about Bioware and you will see a long list of people lamenting that the company should be shuttered and that they are past their prime. And in my opinion, MOST of this hate stems from the ending of Mass Effect 3, which will be an article for another time.
  3. People who make their impressions on early betas. It is true that the early betas had problems, the first VIP beta was virtually inaccessible for the first day. Glitches and dropouts and long loading screens were reported with a high amount of frequency. And while I do not criticize those who formed their impression on an early beta, it was STILL a beta. They are supposed to have these kind of issues. It’s tests like those that help a game get better before release.
  4. People who dislike the “games as service” model. Games as service refers to games like Destiny or The Division that are always online. Publishers love this model of gameplay because it involves reduced development cost after launch and brings profit in the form of season passes and micro-transactions. Destiny and The Division both had issues with keeping enough content in their endgame to keep players coming back. An issue that both games resolved… eventually.
  5. I don’t know…maybe Bioware or EA kicked their dog while pushing their grandmother down the stairs.

Regardless of the hate it has received, I have throughly enjoyed my time with it. I only  have had ten hours in the game and will be able to access the full game later tonight, but what little I have played has me hooked.

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So pretty.

Anthem is set on a world that is unfinished, mythic creator beings known as the Shapers left the planet unfinished using a semi mystical power known as the Anthem. The Shapers left a long time ago and their creation has been swallowed by entropy and chaos and humans have been left to survive in a world that can suddenly and terrifyingly change at a moments notice. To deal with this series of challenges, humanity created the Javelin, a mech warrior suit that allows freelancers to face nature or monsters behind a steel shell enhanced by an array of abilities and firepower.

Our sites full review will be forthcoming once the game is fully released and we have had time to break it down and explore some of the end game content. For now, I will do what the title says, give you my impressions.

Gameplay in your javelin is a visceral joy. Flying around blasting beasties and bad guys is very well delivered. There is a weight to your javelin and you feel like a badass. I have played with three of the four types of javelins and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I main a Storm which is the MMO equivalent of a mage, you hover on the battlefield and blast enemies with elemental attacks.save_0

Kept my Javelin simple due to my ten hour limit, but there are many customization options available.

The other part of the game deals with Fort Tarsis, where you role-play your character and accept missions. This showcases the strength of Bioware which almost always has excellent writing and well performed roles. They have gone with some amazing comedians to fill out their cast including Joe Lo Truglio (The State and Brooklyn 99), Kristen Schaal (Bob’s Burgers and 30 Rock) and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock and Forgetting Sarah Marshall). The concept behind the game is that the world is open and influences everyone, whereas Fort Tarsis is suited and molded by each individual player. You can guide and direct the way that the Fort grows by conversation.

I had directed this character to leave the fort to fulfill her dream in petting a baby korox. I am unsure where such choices will lead but I am looking forward to finding out.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the negatives I experienced. The loading screens are very long. When you are in a party of four in a mission, if your group gets too far ahead of you, you are given just a little time to catch up or you face another loading screen that will eventually have you rejoin the group.

I did get kicked out of the game anytime I did something that made me leave the main game. I checked to see if the shards had been introduced in the Xbox store and that hard crashed the game. When you first load in there are a few banners you can select that open an internet browser, made the game crash.

I am also one of those weird souls that prefers inverted look for my camera. Anytime I started the game fresh I had to turn those settings back on.

Following the main developer on Twitter, it seems that most of this will be fixed in the day one patch. I do know others who frame rate drops and loss of gear, but I did not experience those during my trial.

Bioware has a lot to prove to the naysayers, but it is my belief that Anthem will provide an engaging and entertaining experience. Look for our review after Anthem has been out for some time.

Anthem: First Thoughts from the Open Demo

“Games as service.” A sort of middle ground MMO for consoles and PC’s. There is usually no subscription fee but there are many shiny cosmetics you can buy with real money to enhance a game that has an ongoing story. Destiny has been the forerunner for this model for a few years now and they are making some decent money with it. As a matter of fact, many game companies are looking at this model for future titles as it cuts development cost significantly, thus increasing profit.

Bioware, of Mass Effect and Dragon Age fame, is about to enter the field with their take on this model with Anthem, a sci-fi game where the player is a “freelancer.” A sort of mercenary that has an armored suit to fly around and destroy things. This last weekend, Bioware had an open demo to showcase the game.

And while it may not be a Destiny killer, like they are hoping. The game has much promise. The flight controls are very intuitive and give the character a sense of power. One of my personal draws to Destiny is that the movement in that game is very smooth and my Guardian leaps and twirls with a sense of grace and menace. Your “javelin” in Anthem has a bit more weight to it, being powered armor, but the two classes of javelin I played moved through the world very well.

Playing Anthem, it is difficult not to picture yourself as Tony Stark in an alien world, and that is most certainly not a bad fantasy to enact. The starter javelin you play is designated as a “Ranger” class. Versatile, equal on defense and offense. I was a bit bored with it but as jack of all trades class it did fairly well. After a few hours in the demo, I unlocked a “Storm” class. All of these javelins equating to MMO roles: Colossus=tank Interceptor=Rogue and Storm=Mage. I was immediately blown away by the grace and power of the Storm armor. Lightning and fire at my fingertips dealing destruction that had me grinning.

The feel and movement and firepower were very satisfying. There were a number of glitches however, it is to be hoped that they will be ironed out before one of the games many release dates.

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If you need a spreadsheet for releasing a game, you might be making it unecessarily complicated.

There was very little emphasis on story in the demo, but I do trust that Bioware will deliver a world that is intriguing with characters that I will find compelling.

This game is a gamble for Bioware, Mass Effect: Andromeda did not meet sales expectations and a lot is riding on this game performing well. Speaking for myself, I am hopeful that this will be a quality title. Did you play the demo? What were your thoughts?

Anthem – Our World, My Story

In a new trailer Bioware has explained a few gameplay features of Anthem.

Today, on PAX West 2018, Bioware has shown us a new trailer for Anthem. Anthem is an upcoming online shooter game with a shared world. In the trailer developers have explained that in Anthem players will have a “personal story” to explore. Alongside that, players will be able to share their experience with other players and NPCs.

You will be able to create “your own experience” with every choice that you make. Besides storyline, game will be heavy on exploration and interaction, both with players and NPCs.

You can watch trailer here: