During EA Play this weekend, EA announced Origin Access Premier, its attempt at a subscription service on PC. For $100 a year, you’ll basically get a service pretty similar to what already exists on Xbox: You’ll be able to play all the big new games, like Anthem, plus other titles within the Origin Vault, for that flat fee.
Subscriptions rise again, right? Is this a good thing for games outside the service?
“As always, I want to Bree to win the lottery, buy up some MMOs and take them to the Island of Misfit MMOs where $200 per annum gets you sub/pref access to all of RIFT, LOTRO, STO, SWTOR, et al.,” MOP tipster Sally wrote to us, urging us to write about the sub. “But picture that you are a hard-working indie dev. You already have the issues with dealing with Steam. Now a customer has to decide whether to buy your game or just play something like Anthem for no additional cost.”
Will you be subbing to EA’s new Origin Access Premier service? Do you think it’ll have a catastrophic impact on indie games or MMOs with subs?
You’ve seen the teaser. You’ve heard the rumors. You’ve watched the E3 trailer. And now it’s time to find out, exactly, what Fallout 76 is.
On Sunday night, Bethesda took the stage at E3 to finally talk about what Vault Boy and his comrades are up to with this prequel game. Let’s start with the bombshell (so to speak): “Fallout 76 is entirely online.”
That’s right: Bethesda is bringing the Fallout series online with this game, with the option to play solo. It’s what the studio is calling “softcore survival” — death doesn’t mean the loss of progression or your character. Players will be able to hop over to wherever their friends are and play on servers populated by dozens, but not hundreds, of people. Choices are key here as players will decide on the heroes and villains.
There is PvP here and co-op adventures as well. Scavenge, gather, and crafting is a major component. Players, solo and grouped, can build bases anywhere they want and move those buildings to desired locations with mobile platforms. Oh, and there will be nuclear sites that players can use to nuke the world if so desired.
B.E.T.A. (Break-it Early Test Application) testing begins soon, and Fallout 76 will launch later this year on November 14th.
At Bethesda’s E3 presentation this evening, ZeniMax’s Matt Firor announced that The Elder Scrolls Online’s
next DLC is called Wolfhunter, complete with werewolf theme. And even later this year, we can expect yet another DLC called Murkmire – yep, we’re diving into Argonian culture in Blackmarsh. Finally, right?! The company promises both this year – in the “second half of 2018.”
Firor says the game is up to 11 million players, with 1 million new in the last year. There’s a brand-new trailer for E3, focused mostly on Summerset, as well as a Murkmire teaser.
At this afternoon’s EA Play, EA and BioWare have revealed Anthem’s brand-new trailer. The game is now slated to launch on February 22nd, 2019.
During the developer discussion, BioWare said it recognized the problems inherent in storytelling in a multiplayer shared world (reiterating Casey Hudson’s dev blog from not that long ago), but it thinks it’s found a way to reconcile driving the story without sacrificing multiplayer gameplay.
Characters will play as “freelancers” piloting Javelin exosuits, trying to survive in a hostile environment, and fighting the bad guys trying to exploit the power. There are four Javelins, each with a different way to play the game: Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor, Storm. “You are not your suit,” BioWare cautions; you can flip between them depending on the gameplay you want to take part in from moment to moment.
We’re just a week and change away from E3, and you know what that means: Every major game company is going to be trickling out info ahead of time, negating the need to spend money to head to LA. Yay! That appears to include EA and BioWare’s Anthem, as according to the companies this morning, EA’s pre-E3 show will include a new trailer for the game.
“You’ll get a glimpse into the story, characters, and monsters that bring the game to life,” says EA. “Last year we showed off some of the core gameplay that you can expect from Anthem – flying, fighting, and of course, collecting loot. And this year we’re happy to show off some more. Tune in to see it all. […] One thing we’ll be showing in-depth this time around is combat. The power of the Javelin exosuit will be on full display as players take on the most ferocious enemies seen yet.”
The whole shebang starts at 2 p.m. EDT on June 9th. And yes, we’ll be at E3 this year!
What began as a general vision statement for BioWare quickly turned into a treatise on how the studio is going to handle Anthem’s multiplayer mode.
General Manager Casey Hudson returned for another dev blog in which he attempted to reconcile the studio’s focus on players being the “hero of your story” while participating in Anthem’s multiplayer environment.
“We’re taking this problem head-on and structuring the entire game design to provide a specific solution for this,” Hudson wrote without going into detail on said solution. “We think it creates a unique experience where you have control over your own story, but your story is set in an ever-changing multiplayer world. And yes, even though Anthem is meant to bring out the best parts of playing as part of an online community, you can choose to play through the story with only your friends, or even on your own.”
Hudson said that BioWare has other teams working on envisioning future games and different experiences. He also confirmed that Anthem will be shown live before an audience at EA Play (June 9th through 11th).
EA’s quarterly financial report and investor call turned out to be a doozy this year with quite a bit of useful news. To wit:
BioWare’s Anthem is set to ship “in the last quarter of the year, and in the last month of that quarter,” so if we’re counting by fiscal quarters, that’s March 2019, and no wiggling out of this latest delay, EA. According to PCGN, multiple execs inflated the hype, arguing it’s a “stunning and ambitious” game with a “fundamentally social experience.”
Also, in spite of industry interviews to the contrary, it appears that EA learned basically nothing from the Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco that drove the ancient lockboxes-are-gambling argument out of weary corners of the online gaming market and into mainstream politics. The plan going forward appears to be fighting the perception – now codified in Belgium – that lockboxes are gambling in the first place. “We don’t believe that FIFA Ultimate Team or loot boxes are gambling firstly because players always receive a specified number of items in each pack, and secondly we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items or virtual currency for real money,” CEO Andrew Wilson said during the call.
How big a deal with the lootbox controversy that finally hit the mainstream last year? Pretty big, SuperData argues. In a new blog post, the analytics firm argues that “the loot box controversy hampered Star Wars Battlefront II out of the gate” as shown by the game’s monthly active users compared to its predecessor’s, and that the resulting dumpster fire has caused publishers to rethink lootboxes and self-regulate or at least modulate their greed – an effect we’ve already seen in the MMO industry too.
“At the upcoming E3, we’re likely to see presenters announce ‘no loot boxes’ or that paid content is ‘cosmetic only’ in order to get on the good side of creators and hardcore gamers,” SuperData predicts. “Loot boxes won’t disappear anytime soon given their success in games like Overwatch (over $600M of loot boxes sold through February 2018). In the short term, though, ‘No loot boxes’ will be the game industry’s own ‘gluten free water’ — and we’re likely to even see this slogan used to market titles where loot boxes would not make sense such as adventure games.”
While not going into any details about the progress of Anthem’s development and testing dates, BioWare nevertheless attempted to prime the pump for fans’ expectations this week.
BioWare General Manager Casey Hudson wrote the first of apparently several upcoming posts on Monday in which he acknowledged the studio’s failures in delivering more stories for Mass Effect: Andromeda while also putting in a plug for a brighter future with Anthem. Hudson said that Andromeda’s DLC stumble led to BioWare “refocusing” its mission by not losing sight of the world, character, and storytelling in its games.
“It’s in that spirit that we are working through production on Anthem,” Hudson said “a game designed to create a whole new world of story and character that you can experience with friends in an ongoing series of adventures. It will be unlike anything you’ve played, but if we do it right, it will feel very distinctly BioWare.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.