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Anthem, BioWare's upcoming co-operative action-RPG, will take the studio known for its single-player RPGs in a new direction and so the developers feel this constant need to clarify how things will work there, in the process confusing pretty much everyone involved.
Back during this year's PAX West, BioWare's Mark Darrah and Mike Gamble mentioned Fortnite, of all things, as a great example of this new type of storytelling in their interview with PC Gamer. Here's an excerpt:
“Well one problem that we’ve had with BioWare games is there’s a real reluctance to talk about what you’ve experienced because of the feeling of spoilers,” says Darrah. “But when you look at something like Fortnite, there’s this very shared communal storytelling going on, like with the purple cube or the missile or the meteor showers. People share this experience because they know everyone saw it. That’s what our world actually gets us. What we’ve never had before is the ability to have a shared experience we can all talk about and have storytelling on this communal level.”
Like Fortnite, they’re starting with a malleable world that suits on-going surprising narratives of every size (and shape).
“It’s cool because the world fiction and the IP is all build around this, right?” says Gamble. “You have this incredible force that no one can really quantify that just basically is just ripping the world and changing it and creating new disgusting creatures and different things.”
Gamble’s referring to the Anthem of Creation, ancient technology left behind by an advanced race use to create and modify worlds. Ancient tech from an ancient race is a BioWare cliché at this point, but it’s necessary for Anthem’s future. Anthem is, in every sense, designed for world-building.
And then VG247 brings us a few Darrah and Gamble quotes of their own, where they tell us that Anthem's story updates and DLC will be free, and mention that this iterative method of telling a story may make its way into the other BioWare series:
“We’ve got the continuation of stories after we’ve launched,” said Michael Gamble, lead producer on Anthem. “If you remember back to the ancient times we released a game and that would the story for a set of characters, and we released DLC that enabled us to tell unique bits of story afterwards.
“For Anthem, where we’d all like to see us head, is the ability to tell new great stories throughout the years, throughout the months after launch.”
“So After Anthem we can say, okay, now we’re going to expand the storyline for one of those Agents, or now that certain points in the game world have happened, this changes the relationship, this changes this character, this changes the type of missions for certain characters. Or even we add new characters, we add new Agents. We can do all that and Anthem gives us the tools to do all that.
“My point is that I hope that future games, whether it’s Dragon Age or the other one that starts with ‘Mass’, continues to utilise this kind of storytelling.”
But then Eurogamer quotes Casey Hudson, the studio's boss, who doesn't exactly share this sentiment:
No romances, no (NPC) companions to accompany you on your missions, no ultimate control over the fate of the world? What happened to the BioWare formula we know and love? What happened to Dragon Age and Mass Effect? Will the studio ever be the same again?
They're questions BioWare has tried to answer already, but evidently the messaging hasn't been convincing enough. It's why BioWare general manager Casey Hudson felt the need to assure fans again Anthem will not permanently rewire the studio and its output.
"Some weird stuff going around about how our future games will be influenced by Anthem," Hudson wrote on Twitter. "Of course when we do a Dragon Age game it will be designed from the ground up based on what Dragon Age should be. Same with Mass Effect...
"Anthem is a specific thing that's unique from our other IPs in many ways," he added. "What carries forward is what we learn about game design, which is a constant evolution."