BioWare on Why Flight Is Integral to Anthem and How They Struggled with It During Development
BioWare is about to release its first new IP since Dragon Age: Origins hit stores in 2009. The success of Anthem, an online third-person shooter/RPG hybrid with heavy emphasis on cooperative gameplay, is believed to be very important for the future of the renown game studio.
In a recent video interview with French website JeuxVideo, a few key BioWare developers working on Anthem (Game Director Jonathan Warner, Lead Producers Ben Irving and Mike Gamble, Executive Producer Mike Darrah) have looked back on the game’s development and identified one critical aspect to the game’s identity: flight. They also talked about all the difficulties they had with balancing it, particularly during combat.
Mike Gamble: The first big idea was heroic combat. As a superhero you’re always moving forward, you dive into action and do amazing things. The question was then what was superhero enough in our eyes without breaking the game. We found the answer in the first month of working on Anthem’s concept.
Player controlled characters must be able to fly. Everyone loves it and it’s one of the oldest dreams of humanity. The reason why chose flight is because it’s at the core of the superhero fantasy. If you want to feel like a superhero what’s the most important thing? Flight! The possibility of going at high speed and see things from a bird’s eye point of view. Therefore we had to successfully make flying work and started to focus on it from the very beginning.
Jonathan Warner: It is something we wanted from the beginning, but we fought with it at some point because we were scared that people might miss loot. In a ‘shooter looter’ players are always looking for loot.
The flight ability is extremely dangerous in a videogame because players could use it to ‘break the game’, go off the limits defined by the level designers, or use it to avoid zones and thus miss an opportunity to get loot. Combat designers, level designers and motion designers all had to work together to make sure they would create a flight ability that was fun and harmless to the game.
Ben Irving: There were so many problems. We had a lot of talking about blocking flight during combat, but it ended up being pretty boring because flying was too cool.
After that, we thought about enemies being unable to attack at long ranges, which created behavior where flying was making you win the fight instantly. Then we had to put some limitations on flying time to make the game work.
Several iterations of enemy behavior were made with more range and more ways to put you down in order to force you to think and play more tactically.
Jonathan Warner: I think that flight is one of the big things that set us apart because it allows us to think the world in a different way. Instead of considering the space as a flat surface we consider it a volume in which you can freely move. The game becomes more interesting at every moment, you are constantly making small decisions like ‘Where do I fly? How do I go there?’
BioWare has set up a VIP demo for those who have pre-ordered Anthem or have an active EA Access/Origin Access/Origin Premier subscription, which is due to go live on January 25th and stay up until January 27th. The public demo will take place between February 1st and 3rd, with the full game due on February 22nd for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.