Home / Technology / BioWare's hymn is a constantly changing science-fiction world designed to tell stories

BioWare's hymn is a constantly changing science-fiction world designed to tell stories

Toward the end of October 2012, Hurricane Sandy began as a tropical storm that would eventually become more devastating. From its beginnings in the Caribbean Sea it moved around the world and steadily gained strength. When it reached Kingston (Jamaica), it was classified as a hurricane and devastated Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, before it finally reached the United States, where the storm hit 24 different states. In New York and New Jersey, with flooded streets and subway tunnels, it was particularly hard.

At the same time in Edmonton, about 2,000 miles northwest of New York City, the developers of BioWare found out what their next big project would be. The studio was best known for its epic single-player role-playing games, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age but the team wanted to go in a slightly different direction for its new game at that time Codenamed "Dylan" stood. The idea was to create a lasting online world in which players can share experiences. They developed an ethos that they called "massively shared but not massive multiplayer."

Casey Hudson, a longtime employee who now works as general manager of BioWare, was involved in this brainstorming process for "Dylan" was fascinated by the destructive path of hurricane Sandy. He recalls how he has received text messages on his phone and is tracking the storm's online moves. One morning, when he walked into the office, he immediately turned to CNN, spellbound by a live stream of the storm that reached New York. An abundance of news and reports had built this dramatic moment and brought Hudson to an idea. "I thought about that, I wanted people to be able to talk in the game," he recalls.


"Dylan" will later launch the Anthem the next month. And for a studio that has been primarily focused on linear storytelling, it's a big change. Superficially, it looks like other online sci-fi shooters, such as Destiny or Warframe, where you can create futuristic suits, fight alien swarms with friends, and unlock cool new weapons armor as you go. However, BioWare also tries to put the well-known worldview and narrative beyond this frame – think of interesting characters you'll be tying yourself to, and a complex mythology full of secrets to discover – while staying in a persistent one , shared world works. To this end, the studio had built a whole new world, designed from the ground up for dynamic storytelling.

The idea of ​​telling a story in a big, shared world is not exactly new. However, the concept has certain problems. For one thing, it can be slow; In a massive online multiplayer game, players generally have to wait for important updates or enhancements to add new story elements. This makes it hard for developers to respond in time to what fans are doing. In other cases, the idea of ​​a narrative seems to contradict the game itself. Fortnite made headlines for significant events in the game, such as the rocket launch or the rolling die, but these moments can also be a source of frustration for many players as they take place within a winner-take-all game Royale game. It's hard to enjoy a one-time event when someone kills you before it happens. In Destiny the most interesting remnants are not even included in the game itself, so most people are unaware that they exist.

To avoid this ongoing problem, BioWare decided to build a new world that was explicitly designed to change quickly and change based on the desires of designers – and players. Anthem takes place on a hostile alien planet created by a group of gods who had to give up the process in between. The result is an unstable world where it is difficult to predict what will happen. treacherous storms can seemingly come out of nowhere, or monster hordes begin to spawn to go along with changing weather patterns. "This world was unfinished by the gods, and all these relics lie in the landscape, and they are ruins that create a chaotic energy that transforms the world," says lead producer Mike Gamble. "This underpinning supports all the different kinds of things we try to do."

This premise is the core of what Anthem is. Against this background, humanity lives in walled enclaves, and freelancers (the role players will assume) go into the rough wilderness to undertake missions and solve puzzles. There is a more straightforward story. In fact, the game is split in half, one of which is like a classic BioWare game. The main mode is the third-person action you play with friends. However, there is also a first-person experience where you are mostly single-player, where you can return to the city after missions and talk to people and interact with computer-controlled characters. It's Easier Than a Classic BioWare Adventure – Instead of branching out dialogues, you can only make binary decisions in entertainment – but it should scratch that it scrapes for longtime fans.

Anthem will have even greater extensions of the story down the road, but what makes the game so different from the studio's recent work are the moments that will occur between these great story beats. Mark Darrah began working on Anthem last year, after spending years working as an executive producer on the Dragon Age series, and he says that these are major gaps between the updates in the traditional Extension / The downloadable content model has always been a problem for BioWare.

<img srcset = "https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/aGdLCq_MfixI0EyZjU7kWo-Ad_M=/0x0:1920×1080/320×0/filters:focal(0x0:1920×1080):no_upscale()/cdn.vox- cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 320w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/xh81ubBRx5dF4QY3Tgy0NQHI4AY=/0x0:1920×1080/520×0/filters:focal(0x0:1920×1080):no_upscale () /cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 520w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/ZkJORJYYP5BBXo5Um5WvSvppARg=/0x0:1920×1080/720×0/filters:focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale () / cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 720w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/b9UQDgGr11ExamKSpenHgOy7qeg=/0x0: 1920×1080 / 920×0 / filters: focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale () / cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 920w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/ thumbor / -_ 4rODO6gKOIT6SzLU-mj1DjyUw = / 0x0: 1920×1080 / 1120×0 / filters: focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale () / cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/1370961 2 / Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 1120w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/kbC_8H_svlmhZcg4JIDKa-9KRPI=/0x0:1920×1080/1320×0/filters:focal(0x0:1920×1080):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn .com / uploads / chorus_asset / file / 13709612 / Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 1320w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/pD24NDFg743BDOUyQxfFGwpoKkI=/0x0:1920×1080/1520×0/filters:focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale ( ) /cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 1520w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/KLyatkukAQqK5AD9Do-62Lt0Rv8=/0x0:1920×1080/1720×0/filters: focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale () / cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 1720w, https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/6TxOaoO200bMme9wb7iNKYfz5SA=/0x0 : 1920×1080 / 1920×0 / filters: focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale () / cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13709612/Anthem_Screen_12.jpg 1920w "sizes =" 90vw "alt =" Anthem "style = "object-position: 50% 50%" data-upload-width = "1920" src = "https: //cdn.vox-cdn. com / thumbor / TLsJLZmt4phneivt6IGsunGlJMs = / 0x0: 1920×1080 / 1200×0 / Filter: focal (0x0: 1920×1080): no_upscale () / cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/13709612/Anthema/

"What happens in the end is that the content inherently gets bigger because it takes so much effort to deliver content. So why should you be busy with little things all the time? "He explains. "It has a kind of own life. I think there is a power and an opportunity for us to have these very small moments of world-building and storytelling that can happen much more often. It changes the nature of the relationship with the people who play. With the traditional DLC you release another little game. This is more of a conversation. "

Unfortunately, we have no concrete examples of the kind of story events players can expect. BioWare designers have mentioned the weather as an important factor. Storms that start small but slowly evolve into something huge and dangerous and produce important events related to the anthem . The wildlife can also be adjusted in real time to better reflect what is happening in the game. Creatures can disappear for a mysterious reason or become more prominent due to a mystical event. These events can then be directly incorporated into larger story beats. They are attracted to the world itself.

One of the reasons why this was not possible in previous BioWare games was the way they were built – a game like Mass Effect was not meant to be updated quickly Player to respond. In addition to developing a fictitious world in which it made sense that things were constantly changing, the team also had to develop the backend tools to make this possible.

"We used to deliver the main game when we did DLC, and the main game has a certain number of jacks you can connect to DLC," says Hudson. "But it was really hard. Everyone would be his unique thing; It was not something you could easily do. You also add it to the end or middle of a story instead of having a live world that you can change now. For example, instead of patching something to make it snowy [19459005Anthem] it's more like having it on a dial so we can snow it a bit more. "This kind of tool allows the gradually changing weather and other dynamically changing elements that Hudson envisioned in 2012. "You do not have to touch and touch every pixel," he explains. "The dynamic nature is built into the game."


Anthem is a game that has been in the works for almost six years, and there have been some changes in that time. (Hudson even left the studio briefly in 2014, before returning to Microsoft Studios three years later.) Although it was a novel concept in 2012, the idea of ​​a shared, dynamic world today is not so unique. Most of the big games have a kind of interconnected element, and along with the fast-paced success of Fortnite (19459006), the developer Epic has also popularized the kind of dynamic, collaborative environment storytelling that was used for Anthem is so important]. (Only this weekend, the Battle Royale game featured an intense, dramatic blizzard that changed the entire island.)

Hudson says the studio is not affected by other games entering the room. "It's great because it confirms many things that we think are really great in really big events in a dynamic game," he explains. Gamble adds, "We do not believe anyone has focused on character and history as we did in Anthem . I do not think anyone really got that under control. "This is a problem that other studios have been struggling with for a long time, and it will not be clear if Anthem actually solved it until the game fails for some time.

This industry-wide shift to online experiences has also made the fans of traditional fans very much troubles single player games. Series Star Wars Battlefront Titanfall and Call of Duty have at various times evicted a single-player campaign altogether, while Bethesda's turnaround Fallout in a Networked Multiplayer World with Fallout 76 largely failed. BioWare is one of the longtime stewards of the solo roleplaying game, and this has worried that the studio is moving from what the fans love to the more lucrative areas of online gaming.

Hudson, however, sees it as a natural evolution. He sees change as a key component of BioWares DNA. After years of making PC-exclusive D & D games, it was controversial when the studio created a console RPG based on Star Wars . But this made Knights of the Old Republic one of the developer's most well-known publications. Similarly, there were concerns when Mass Effect introduced more action-oriented gameplay and the studio created The Old Republic a complete MMO. Looking for new kinds of stories for a new audience, BioWare has always had to change, and Hudson believes that all of the above skepticism is the latest example. Anthem

"I feel it's the same," he says of concern for Anthem . "I think in a few years people will probably look back and Anthem will be just the latest example of" Hey, why do not you make games like you always did, like Anthem ? & # 39; Because the people there will find many things that are central to a BioWare game. "

Anthem launches on February 22 on PS4, PC and Xbox One.

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