Another writer allegedly leaves BioWare – what on earth is going on with Anthem?

Surfacing at the tail end of last week was the news that multiple former BioWare devs who’d all contributed heavily to Star Wars The Old Republic at one point or another in their careers were moving on to a new studio called FogBank to work on unnamed narrative-centric games. The Fogbank roster includes Daniel Erickson and Alexander Freed, both of whom left BioWare and SWTOR years ago. But it also includes renowned storyteller Drew Karpyshyn, who’d returned to BioWare specifically to work on Anthem, which certainly cast some doubt on the state of that game, which has been delayed at least once (though EA denies it).

On Saturday, Anthem studio boss Casey Hudson address growing player concern on Twitter, suggesting rather ambiguously that Karpyshyn had simply finished his work on the game and was moving on as part of the natural course of development. “Story will always be an important part of every BioWare game,” he wrote. “Drew has wrapped up his work on the project, but Anthem’s Lead Writers and their teams continue to do amazing work developing the world, story, and characters.”

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Former SWTOR creative director and key writers form up under new studio FogBank

We don’t know exactly what titles they’re working on, but three former Star Wars: The Old Republic veterans have joined forces under a studio now called FogBank, working on an “episodic narrative” game developed in conjunction with an “interactive storytelling platform.” As GIbiz reports, FogBank isn’t entirely new; it’s a a spinoff of Kabam that was picked up by FoxNext as Aftershock, then renamed.

The studio is led by studio director Daniel Erickson, the former creative director of Star Wars: The Old Republic; he moved around in the last few years after departing BioWare and SWTOR, most recently doing a stint for Kabam, where he was the director on mobile titles Spirit Lords and Star Wars: Uprising.

VentureBeat notes that Alexander Freed, the beloved SWTOR senior writer credited with the popular Agent storyline, will oversee narrative development for the new company. He left BioWare in 2012 too.

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Hyperspace Beacon: What was not said in the SWTOR 2018 Roadmap

Star Wars: The Old Republic players leaped for joy when Producer Keith Kanneg finally released the winter and spring 2018 roadmap last week. It was good to hear from him after so much silence over the holidays. I don’t begrudge the silence, personally. It’s typical for people in the games industry to slow down some over the November and December holidays. And many companies do not receive their annual budget until mid-to-late January. So the simple truth is that BioWare Austin probably couldn’t make any real promises for 2018 until February.

Also, Kanneg made some great statements at the beginning of his letter to the SWTOR fans. He said, “We’ve decided to use the Forums as the means to get you the information about the next couple months versus waiting for a Roadmap.” I’m completely on board with this. And I hope that SWTOR fans on the forums allow the developers to be more open and honest with their communication. That would mean that there will probably be things that are said that have to be taken back and more we-hope-we-can-do-this statements that aren’t actually promises.

Despite the good things, there were a few subjects that weren’t talked about or were glossed over in the roadmap that do raise some concerns.

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EA pushes BioWare’s Anthem to 2019 but denies that it’s a delay

When is a delay not a delay? When Electronic Arts says so, obviously.

The video game mega-publisher announced today that it was moving BioWare’s Anthem to 2019, seeming to confirm a report last week that mentioned the new launch window for the multiplayer shooter. The reason depends on who you listen to; Kotaku says that it is due to development falling behind, while EA claims that it’s to give space between the launch of this fall’s Battlefield title and next year’s Anthem.

While a longer wait until launch is never something that fans want to hear, at least they can be entertained by EA admantly declaring that this move “is not a delay” and that “people are trying to create a story.”

Ironically, this declaration seems to have triggered a small Streisand effect, drawing a greater amount of attention on this delay-that-is-not-a-delay and pretty much daring every news source to use that word in its title.

Source: The Verge, Twitter. Cheers, Sally!


BioWare shifts resources to Anthem and debates SWTOR’s future

Talk about putting all of your eggs into one basket. While BioWare is nominally working on both the next Dragon Age title and Star Wars: The Old Republic, Kotaku reports that most of the studio’s personnel and resources are being devoted to the development of 2019’s multiplayer Anthem.

The outlet said that it had spoken with several unnamed sources close to the project that say BioWare is staking its future on Anthem as the studio continues to reassign employees to this title.

“There’s a belief that if Anthem doesn’t live up to EA’s expectations, BioWare will look very different in the future, especially after the disappointment of Mass Effect Andromeda led to EA absorbing BioWare Montreal into the studio EA Motive,” the article said.

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Lockbox roundup: MMO studios on ‘elegant’ lockboxes, legal issues, and the ‘cosmetics only’ angle

You know the lockbox thing is reaching saturation when there are so many things to cover we have to resort to a roundup. Nevertheless, for those of you who want to stay on top of developments and arguments, here we go.

Polygon has an explainer piece up on Destiny 2’s Eververse fallout and why everyone is still rioting over the game’s monetization. Of note for this discussion is the publication’s note that if Destiny 2 is hell-bent on having lootboxes, it ought to adopt Overwatch’s lootboxes, as they’re relatively tame and haven’t produced a Reddit in full meltdown.

Gamasutra has a roundup of MMO developer quotes from studios that believe they’re doing lockboxes “elegantly,” including Trion (for Defiance), PWE (for Star Trek Online), Wargaming (for World of Warships). In this particularly case, that means either being easily accessible through in-game play (not just in the cash shop), making lockbox drops tradeable to other players, creating systems of accruing lockbox rewards, or offering a choice of lootbox type.

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MMO Year in Review: Morrowind, Stormblood, and Secret World Legends (June 2017)

We’re taking a time-machine back through our MMO coverage, month by month, to hit the highlights and frame our journey before we head into 2018!

Easily the high point of the year, June saw the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind and Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood, along with the relaunch of The Secret World as Secret World Legends.

Meanwhile, Shroud of the Avatar launched a controversial equity crowdfunding campaign, Cryptic announced a Magic the Gathering MMORPG, and we got a look at Skull & Bones, Sea of Thieves, and Anthem at E3. We also confirmed that Neowiz and Aeria had cut ties, leaving the former to bring Bless Online westward alone.

Read on for the whole list!

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Perfect Ten: 20 multiplayer games to watch in 2018

A couple of weeks ago I covered 20(ish) MMORPGs that we are looking forward to seeing develop, test, and launch in 2018. But as you well may know, Massively OP covers a small university’s worth of “not-so-massively” multiplayer games that have some crossover into the MMO space. We do this because it gives some people much-needed gripe fuel and also because a lot of our readership is also interested in these games.

There is a lot of movement in the multiplayer game space, especially as the larger video game market continues to adapt and hew to MMO design. It’s a blended mess as we continually try to sort these games out into their proper categories, but while we do that, you can enjoy this list of 20 multiplayer games that you should be tracking in 2018. From survival sandboxes to pirate simulators to sequels, here we go!

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BioWare’s Anthem may have a virtual reality mode

BioWare has been unusually quiet about its upcoming Destiny 2 killer, Anthem, since the title’s initial announcement this past summer. And while nothing official has been stated, some fans spotted an interesting detail at a company party that might indicate that virtual reality is in the game’s future.

The picture in question shows a BioWare party in which a cubicle wall in the back appears to have the words “Anthem VR” on the side. Now as someone on Reddit pointed out, this doesn’t confirm anything, as there could be several explanations for the photo. Someone claimed that this was simply an internal VR booth set up for the party and wasn’t indicative of any actual VR software being designed for the game.

Still, it’s interesting food for thought as we continue the wait for the company to talk more about this multiplayer shooter.

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The Daily Grind: How do you feel about Destiny 2 six weeks post-launch?

Destiny 2’s Curse of Osiris has already been out a few days and… it’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. Core fanboys aren’t happy and are advising folks to just hold their wallets until Bungie gets its house in order. I’m down to just one guildie obsessively playing. And the hype? The hype for Destiny 1 was a surge that carried for months. D2 hype seems to have fizzled out.

All of that was in my mind already with MOP Patron Roger dropped the perfect topic in my inbox. “I’ve been more in pen and paper games recently than MMOs, but I have been playing something that gives me that MMO feel: Destiny 2.” he writes. “Have any of you guys played it yet? If so, how do you feel if MMOs and massive-coop-online games met closer in the middle?”

For starters, I am digging “massively co-op”! So let’s tackle Roger’s query and mine together. How do you feel about Destiny 2 six weeks post-launch? Were you one of those folks who said, “PC or bust,” and are you still PCing? What happened to the hype? Where did Bungie go wrong? And above all else, do you think Destiny 2 is that perfect midpoint between MMORPG and co-op shooter? Will it have an impact on the way the genre is developed moving forward, or will that be left to future games like Anthem?

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Jukebox Heroes: Kritika Online’s soundtrack

It’s kind of a sad commentary on 2017 that Kritika Online is one of the most significant MMORPGs to launch during the calendar year. No real disrespect to Kritika meant, just saying that in past years we might not have even noticed such a release. It’s been a meagre year for new launches, is what I meant.

Still, this odd but plucky import got the backing of En Masse (TERA) and managed to carve out a small niche to operate in the west. Instead of presenting itself as a generic or cutesy MMO, Kritika Online decided to embrace a hair metal aesthetic to match its over-the-top combat style. It’s loud, brash, and frantic — and its music complements that direction.

While there are a couple of Kritika tracks that I did enjoy a lot during my review of the soundtrack, there weren’t as many standout pieces as I had hoped. I would imagine that listening to what amounts to nonstop boss battle music would get a little old after a while, but perhaps this game is meant for small but intense play sessions. Let’s give it a listen today!

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Warframe doubled its concurrency record with Plains of Eidolon to become second top-played F2P on Steam

Four year-old Warframe’s done it again: set a new concurrency record, and not even for the first time, as it busted past its concurrency records following The War Within last year and Octavia’s Anthem last spring.

“With the Plains of Eidolon expansion, Warframe hit an all-time peak of 121,377 concurrent players on Steam, nearly double its previous record of 69,526 CCU peak in March 2017 with Octavia’s Anthem, making it the second highest peak CCU for a free-to-play game currently on Steam. Warframe Plains of Eidolon rocketed to the top five of SteamCharts, racking up 40,145,054 hours played (as of this writing) by enthusiastic Tenno.”

The update hasn’t even landed on console yet, so that number will only go up, even if all we can see is the Steam stats, which Digital Extremes notes puts the game in second place for playtime in F2P games (that’s still accurate as of this morning). Interestingly, the press release says the game still counts “more than 30 million registered users,” not that far off from the almost 31 million registered users counted in March of this year, which at the time was an increase of five million players since 2016.

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The Daily Grind: Do you think EA is pivoting into a Star Wars pseudo-MMO?

Yesterday’s surprise revelation that EA was canning Visceral Games and “pivoting” the design of its in-progress Star Wars linear adventure RPG clearly struck a nerve around here, as we received a flood of mail about it (thanks guys!), and not because that game was an MMO but because of how EA justified the closure.

“It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design,” EA VP Patrick Soderlund said. “Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

If you read between the lines, the “market” has apparently told EA to scrap a single-player RPG in favor of something more persistent, more marketable, and very likely more multiplayer, especially since Soderlund name-dropped Anthem’s engine and then mentioned how Battlefront II “fuels [its] live service” in the franchise.

What do you think? Are we looking at another Star Wars pseudo-MMO in a few more years? And maybe more importantly, do you think EA’s implication that return-worthy – presumably connected, online games – are the only games worth building right now? Read more

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