Releasing a new “live service” game never goes well, does it? Especially when it’s a brand new entry into the market, like Anthem. A new series with it’s own style and flair.
Look at Destiny, The Division, Warframe. All in much better places now, but they all went through a rough start.
Anthem, from BioWare/EA, is in that position now. The mystery around it, though, is why?
It had all these high-profile games to learn from, regardless of a troubled development (putting it mildly), they seem to have repeated a lot of the same mistakes.
Lack of content beyond the core story. Nothing to work for, or towards, beyond a max level, which is an awful grind for no reason. Standard.
After that, though, you expect updates and a plan. Engagement with the thousands of people who invested time and money in your new world. Instead, we have silence.
Please shut up
Before we go any further, it’s worth mentioning that Anthem has/had a VERY vocal fanbase. To the point of detriment, if I’m honest.
The subreddit alone quickly became another cesspit for people doing “science” and writing an “open letter to BioWare” etc. Embarrassing, cringe-worthy stuff.
Sure, some of the points were valid, and there should absolutely be a dialogue, but fucking hell. Imagine if thousands of people targeted you with that level of vitriol on a daily basis. Paid to be a community manager, or not, I’d be hesitant to reply.
Honestly, every single response on twitter, or blog update is mangled up and spit-out. Mis-construed, upsetting someone and letting people run wild with their expectations. Only to be disappointed when things aren’t delivered in that exact way.
Don’t get me wrong, BioWare are at fault here, and I’ll cover that next, but damn, “gamers” can be real dicks.
If a constructive dialogue can’t be maintained on both sides (I realise it’s the hyper-vocal minority that ruin it), then what good is it?
Let’s drop all the online bollocks. Sure, air those grievances with the community and share your experiences. Let’s not just pretend we have any clue about the state of the studio, or the work being put in behind closed doors. These are real people, potentially working their dream job, in what used to be one of the best studios in gaming.
Calm the fuck down.
We all love games, but they are just that at the end of the day. Games.
Dropping the ball
Venomous as the community can be, and ridiculous as their expectations may be. The Anthem community team need to get back to engaging with the players as soon as possible, because weeks and weeks of silence is not good.
Tough as it is to lay-out road maps, and have to them change them because of the state of your game. Them’s the breaks. Good news or bad, you need to constantly let your customers know what’s going on.
Yes, the responses are unjustified. Death threats and malice because of a game, is sadly the norm now, and it’s ridiculous. However, you need to find a way to persevere and get around that (or, ideally we all work to eradicate it).
I’d suggest that, even delivering bad news is better than delivering no news.
If it was a single-player campaign-only game. Sure you’d do your bit with building up hype, letting people know about it and really going for it. Your expectation to service and maintain that game still exists, but not at the level of an online-only, always-on live service title.
You can’t just go quiet. You just can’t.
The game could be the best ever made, and Anthem could be set as the high watermark for all future releases (it isn’t). People would still have problems and want updates. The quality of the game certainly exacerbates the quantity and ferocity of communications, but it would exist non-the-less.
As of now, the lack of communication and engagement is arguably the biggest problem with Anthem. A fundamental breakdown in the basic engagement with paying customers.
All of the flaws that the game has can be worked on. Granted it’ll never be quick enough for the “hardcore gamers”, and they burn through content so quickly. But if people that are passionate about your game can’t be treated as a part of the wider-community, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Everything in Anthem can be fixed apart from good will
I wrote a really lengthy piece about the state of Anthem 1 month from release. It was positive with constructive criticism of the failings.
Posting it would have been redundant, though. Suddenly the tides had turned and everyone was on the “this game is dead” train. Another voice lost in the ether (no doubt this will be the same). I held it back, it’s sat as a draft, and I guess it always will be.
Fact is, those gripes haven’t really changed, even a couple more months down the line.
Levelling to max level is awful, loot drops aren’t good enough to make the chase worthwhile, and the amount of content available isn’t enough to encourage continued engagement. It’s that simple.
This can be fixed, and I hope it is, because there’s a lot going for it in my opinion. The flight, the combat, the acting. Anthem looks excellent, and I really like playing through stuff with friends. We had fun.
It could be, that in another 12 months we’re all singing praises about the redemption of Anthem. I really hope we are. The problem is, we don’t really know what’s going on.
Build up that dialogue, talk to people who want to love your game. Explain things. Be as candid as you can, set up events and invest in your community. You’ll get it back over and over.
The roadmap of new content is off-track (unless we get that Catclysm in the next 3 days), and bug fixes aren’t really fixing the substantial issues.
Flawed as it is, I’m hopeful. This is the first time BioWare have delivered a title like this. So, despite what people claim to know about the development and support of it, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Open-up to us a bit, let us in and help manage expectations, before it’s too late. You’ll end up being met with total disinterest if you release stuff and everyone has already abandoned the game.
Help us, help you.