With the exciting and extensive EA PLAY showcase still fresh in memory, we sat down with the Lead Producer for Anthem™ Michael Gamble to talk about some of its innovative core elements and how they’re shaping a new era for BioWare™ games.
How the Story of Anthem Is Told
We’ve heard during EA PLAY that Anthem represents the future of BioWare games. How will that play out in the story? What narrative innovations can we expect from Anthem?
We’ve focused a lot on being able to tell a BioWare-quality story, with BioWare-quality characters, in a social environment. This is done through the concept of “Our shared world – my personal story.”
What you’ll see are hub areas within the game that are filled with the kind of characters that you’ve come to love from BioWare games. Dialogue choices will be part of the interaction with these characters, and those choices are personal, and based on what I as a player want to do.
The world of Anthem is a shared, cooperative experience, so while you’re able to talk to characters inside your hub spaces, there’s a lot of emergent storytelling with your friends and companions that are part of your Freelancer squad.
The Challenges of Telling a Single-Player Story in a Shared World
So the story is told in single-player, but the game is built around a shared world. What creative challenges does that present?
So, you and I are grouped up, and we’re going on the same mission together and share the same action. But, when that’s done, we go back, and we make choices, and have follow-up dialogue separately with the characters in the world. That’s the personal story.
You have to make sure that the personal story choices and the missions blend and seem seamless. And, of course, there are technological challenges regarding saving your own personal choices within this larger context.
Bridging those things is one of the major challenges, and this is something we’ve worked hard on. To solve it, the game team built these different kinds of personal and shared story moments into the DNA of the game.
The Characters of Anthem and Fort Tarsis
BioWare has always produced incredible characters in their games. Do you have any characters from Anthem that have stuck out as favorites?
Yeah, I mean there are many, but from the ones that we’re revealing now, I like Haluk quite a bit.
You and Haluk go back a long way, and you have some really complicated history. He plays a very important part of the game’s critical path. As you can tell, he’s kind of jolly and upbeat, but he’s also a deep and interesting guy.
One location we’ve seen a lot of is Fort Tarsis. Can you describe some of the thought behind the unique design of this city-fortress?
Tarsis is a place where humanity feels safe in the world of Anthem. It’s a large, sprawling city, but more importantly it’s filled with all different kinds of characters. Different factions are represented, such as the Arcanists, the Freelancers, and the Sentinels – each playing a different role within Tarsis. It’s very much a living hub, and a place where we can tell some pretty cool stories.
How the Rich World of Anthem Is Created
One of the big challenges of a new universe like this one is that it’s a big blank canvas that needs to be filled. How did you go about creating the rich world of Anthem that we’ve seen so far?
At the genesis of any IP, you kind of define the sandbox and the building blocks that you’re able to work with. The world of Anthem is one that was unfinished by the gods – that’s essentially the core of what it is. The gods who were creating this world left behind massive Shaper technology that’s scattered everywhere. No one knows why they went, but they’re gone. And they left behind their tools and this uncontrolled, chaotic energy that exists within the world.
Once you have that context, you can say “To survive this dangerous world, we have the Freelancers, and those Freelancers pilot Javelins, and the Javelins are handcrafted technology which allows you to become truly superheroic in this world.”
All those things build on top of each other, and eventually we have a nice package of what Anthem is about.
The Concept Behind Anthem
Anthem has been described as “science fantasy.” Could you speak to how those two interplay in this world?
In science fantasy, you have a sense of realism and physicality to the things that you see. For example, the Javelins are handcrafted machines that use technology which is found in the world. However, the technology we can’t explain, we don’t know what it is, where it’s from, or how to control it.
Also, there are beasts and monsters roaming the world. There’s a fantastic element to it, but the science part is grounded in certain real elements. There’s tons of mystery in the world that underpins a lot of stuff that we do.
Making the Javelin Exosuits Your Own
What can you tell us about Javelin customization?
We have two separate things, customization and personalization. In terms of personalization, we have the visual effects, the armor pieces you can swap, different decals and paint jobs, and silhouette changes. So, if you play as a Ranger, there are different versions on how they will look like. Then, there is the customization – that is about progressing gear and weapons differently on each of the Javelins.
Your character has an associated skill tree, so all of these things will let you create something that’s specific to you and the taste that you want. For the Storm, it is definitely similar to an Adept from Mass Effect™, but it can also be a Vanguard depending on what gear you use. Actually, all the Javelins can do that – the Colossus can play a slightly less tanky Colossus if that’s what the player wants. And remember, for every single mission, you can choose a different Javelin if you want to.
Finally, and this is more of a personality test than anything else, but which Javelin is your top preference?
Right now, my top preference is the Storm. The Storm is a bit of a glass cannon, so you have to be very careful with your survivability and how much damage you take, but it can totally change the course of a battle with its damage. I also just like the look of it!
Thanks Michael for taking the time to share!
–Daniel Steinholtz (Follow Daniel on Twitter @dsteinholtz)
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Anthem launches February 22, 2019 for Xbox One, PlayStation® 4, and PC. Early Access begins on February 15 for Origin Access and EA Access members.**
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