I have a confession to make: I’ve been holding out on you. After the pre-panel which gave us the previous article filled with tons of Anthem goodies there was a small, room-wide Q&A. I made the decision to hold onto those questions and include them in the post for my interview with Mike Gamble and Mike Darrah. We were the last interview of the day and it was clear that Mike and Mark were both incredibly weary from a long day of answering what is likely the same questions over and over again. I want to give them both props for sticking with it to the end - it couldn’t have been easy - and putting forth the effort to answer all my questions with the same level of enthusiasm as they were showing at the beginning of the day.
If you haven’t seen the pre-panel article I suggest you give it a look really quick for context. Up first I have the Q&A from after the pre-panel with questions asked by various members of gaming press.
MMORPG: What do you mean by VIP demo? (in regards to the Feb 1st demo announcement)
EA subscribers and pre orders. Guaranteed Access. Press and such TBD.
MMORPG: Will the demo be restricted to specific platform?
No, all Three.
MMORPG: Are there more than two decisions in conversations?
No, just two. We are talking to a different audience with a multiplayer game. We don’t want to present you with false choices that eventually lead to the two decisions we wanted anyways.
MMORPG: How do you deal with playing with friends that aren’t in the same spot in the game?
If you finish a mission you can play the mission again with friends. Damage to enemies and their damage to you scales individually for each person [MMORPG note: similar to how WoW handles dungeons now] so grouping up with a higher-level person for your lower level content doesn’t suddenly make it completely trivial. Friends can’t come forward in level and play with you, however. We talked about allowing that but it’s hard to keep the cohesion of My Story together so it’s not allowed at the moment.
MMORPG: Any lessons learned from SWTOR that helped with ANTHEM?
The ability to have voting on what choice you make - we wanted to move away from that. That’s where My Story came from. We didn’t want to do that. We found that players didn’t like when the group decided on choices that didn’t work with how they were trying to play their character.
MMORPG: Will there be PvP?
No PvP at launch, with no plans for it right now.
MMORPG: Will relationships with characters effect gear acquisition?
We have the ability to but we have chosen not to at this point.
MMORPG: How does your own character feel? Are you just a generic freelancer?
You have a bit of a backstory, but you don’t have a background or origin like in dragon age. You’ll pick up a little just by learning about your history with members of your crew but it’s more about developing the story then jumping into a pre-existing one.
MMORPG: Which lessons from MMOs are you trying emulate and avoid?
FF14 does a pretty good job at telling story but it does this hilarious and effective thing where you are the warrior of light but you have to gather friends even though you are the chosen one but it will choose different chosen ones. Sometimes you’re playing someone else’s story. We want you to always feel like the story going on is about you. So, when you’re on a mission together you should feel like the hero of what’s going on.
MMORPG: What are the plans for end-game content?
Strongholds are our raid type content [MMORPG note: You’ll see later that all content is based around 4 player groups]. There’s something else that will be announced at a later date that will be higher and seasons-based raid content.
MMORPG: Is your freelancer going to be customizable?
We do have a character creator but it’s more limited than the past because of the javelins which will be much more customizable. You won’t be looking at your character without a javelin almost at all.
MMORPG: Is there variation in Fort Tarsis? Collectibles?
There is some, based on choices and missions that you choose today. For example, as your progress through Yarrow’s mission arc the area around him will change and you’ll see it changes based on the storylines you’re completing.
MMORPG: Will we see our face in conversation sequences?
No, first person.
MMORPG: Can I visit my friend’s Fort Tarsis?
You can’t at this time. If I can visit your Fort Tarsis then I’m leaving my story and going to your story.
MMORPG: Since you didn’t want to have a voting type thing and I make a choice and my friend makes an opposite choice.
In a mission there is no choices to be made. You have a mission and you complete it. The choices are being made at Fort Tarsis.
MMORPG: Can you play the whole game with a full crew?
You can stay in a group together but there are single player parts where you will be in your own single player instance. You’re still in a squad and can talk together but you will be by yourself for certain single player parts.
MMORPG: What was the primary reason for first person in town?
To have a divergence from being in the suite. In the suite we wanted to make you feel like a superhero and super powerful while in first person in town we can make you feel small and less important. We can also build tighter spaces in first person which you can’t do in third person because the camera would constantly bump into things.
MMORPG: Is there inter player trading?
Following the pre-panel event for the press I had to endure an entire day of PAX (I know, poor me) before I was able to return for my one on one interview. With a little help from my fellow writers at MMORPG.com I think we came up with a few pretty decent questions for Mark and MIke.
MMORPG: BioWare is known for RPGs, it’s what you guys do and do well. How did it come about that you ended up doing a game as a service?
Mark: You know a couple things. One is we have been looking for a way to tell stories in groups better. And so, this has been that journey of trying to figure out how do you do social story telling? What does that mean? But the other thing that has really been a challenge for us for a while has been wanting to tell a story after we have a game come up but feeling like the only way we can do it is to have these big monster pieces of DLC that came out and they were self-contained and in a lot of ways they were not a great way to tell stories. So like Inquisition had a great story that ends and then we release a DLC that tells a story but it’s kind of like the straight to VHS sequel to a Disney movie. It’s self-contained, it can’t nit itself as tightly into the main game as you might want because we always felt like we have something that you could play at any point. So, unless you had something like Mass Effect’s Citadel that assumed it’s at the end after people have finished the game, except for those, they always are built… they’re like the episode of a T.V. show which nothing really happens and the characters are all really the typical version of their character. They haven’t evolved or grown. So, what we’ve been looking for on that front is the ability to tell this more ongoing story and that means something that can evolve and grow and change but also, we can add a little bit of a story in much smaller amounts and much more often.
Mike: Yeah and the other thing to kind of add to that. Like, when you release DLC and you’re charging $10, $20, $30, whatever for it like you kind of have to batch up all the thing and be like “alright, that’s enough stuff that gives good player value for a $20 DLC or whatever” as opposed to the number of times we want to be like “man I wish Jacob could just talking about this”, in Mass Effect nomenclature, “and I want Jacob to start talking about his pet dog”. You have to wait until the DLC came out until you batched all that stuff up.
Mark: No one is going to pay even a dollar for Jacob to talk about his dog.
Mike: So instead, with Anthem, we push that out for free and we continue to push that out for free and we just do that over the time that the thing runs. Yeah, that was really long winded I think…
Mark: I went on like a 10 minutes journey and your kind of like.
Mike: Yeah, brought it back a little bit…