Chris Roberts: Gamers Don’t Quite Understand How Difficult Is to Deliver Everything Flawless; There’s Hope for Anthem Yet
Anthem, BioWare’s first new IP since Dragon Age: Origins shipped ten years ago, didn’t have the best launch so far. Beyond the game’s solid combat and gorgeous graphics, the lack of content, both in sheer quantity and in the breadth of activities, eventually turned many gamers away. The recent exposè published by Kotaku further ignited the outrage of BioWare fans.
In a recent chat with Newsweek, Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts discussed what happened with Anthem (and with No Man’s Sky, too) from a perspective of someone who understands the difficulty to develop such large, ambitious games. He reckons there’s hope for Anthem yet, as long as the folks at BioWare don’t give up on improving it.
You’ve seen it from No Man’s Sky and Sean Murray. Let me put it this way. There was 13 of them and they built something amazing. They should not have taken the amount of abuse and flack they had when it came out. As a technical challenge, to build something that big with that much stuff and such a small team, I am hats off very impressed by their talent.
The problem was players’ expectations were so far beyond that. They imagined all this extra stuff. When they were first showing it maybe there was some stuff that, through iteration or whatever, they couldn’t get into the game. They took a huge amount of abuse, they were written off and they just put their heads down and they kept updating, delivering and making it better and better. Now the perception has changed.
I would say the same for Anthem. I’ve played it, so I know there’s plenty of nice stuff in there, stuff that works, and then there’s some stuff that doesn’t work. It’s like what we’re doing on Star Citizen. It’s just iteration. I hope EA and BioWare don’t give up on it, that they get their heads down, roll out and improve things to make it work. Destiny was an ongoing process. That’s kind of how these games are.
A lot of gamers don’t understand quite how difficult it is to deliver everything working flawlessly. The expectations keep ramping up, and in some ways those expectations may be higher than people are humanly possible of always delivering. Then you’ve got some other realities that come in, like if you’ve been working on it for a while and just need to get it out. In the case of the live side, just keep working at it. Keep on swimming.
Roberts then pointed out that BioWare could have delayed the game if it didn’t have Electronic Arts breathing down their necks to release the game before the end of their quarter.
There may be some games that are totally broken, but I wouldn’t call Anthem that. It’s definitely got some fun aspects and fun mechanics, and I think some of the criticisms can be addressed. I don’t look at it and say it’s terminally broken. I look at it and see that there’s a bunch of stuff here.
I wish there was a bit more and it was a bit deeper, and I wish maybe some of the lore and story stuff was a bit more dynamic. I felt like when it was originally pitched to me it was supposed to be more dynamic, and it felt static when I played it. To be honest with you, Destiny had some pretty static story stuff. It wasn’t that different from what I’d experienced.
Part of the problem is that Anthem comes with the EA penalty so people are predisposed to hate on it because they feel EA messes everything up. Then there was Andromeda which happened before, so there was already a thing where they felt like that was rushed out the door. And now they feel like the next thing was rushed out the door too. Then you have the Kotaku article which sort of pours a little fuel on the fire of that narrative.
For situations like Anthem, it’s the result of friction between the needs of a public company and development. In development, if you didn’t care so much about quarters and stuff, you’d put it off for a year to polish, add more stuff and release it when it’s ready.
Do you agree with the assessments made by Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts? Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments.