In Defense of Anthem

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 6, 2019

Filed under: Column 81 comments

It just figures. Every once in a long while I try to be nice. Sometimes it’s good to set aside the negativity and criticism and deliberately acknowledge the good parts of a game. So that’s what I did in my column this week when I made the case that Anthem has some really good qualities.

Right after I turned that column in, three things happened:

  1. Friday: I suddenly lost all interest in the game. I was there on Friday night, ready to settle in for some weekend gaming. Suddenly I realized I no longer cared. Yeah, the robot suits are cool and getting around is fun, but I can’t bear the thought of sitting through all those loading screens so I can slowly chip away at those massive health barsNot to mention the shields, which sometimes magically refill just before you finish the mook off. for an hour. Just the thought of it is wearying.
  2. Saturday: I read the news that Anthem can crash your console. I’m on PC so it doesn’t apply to me, but it’s still mortifying to have THAT news story sitting right next to my praise for Anthem.
  3. Sunday: I saw the story about the streamer who got banned from Anthem, for life, for basically opening too many treasure chests. Keep in mind that this is an online-only game. They’ve got this guy’s sixty bucks, and they took away the product they “sold” him. Even if he was “exploiting” the game (he totally wasn’t) that’s still crazy. Exploiting drop rates in a pretend world is nothing compared to, you know, stealing from people in real life. This game doesn’t even have any sort of trading with other players! Even if he had been outright hacking, nothing he did impacted anyone else. The idea of banning someone for this without warning is ludicrous.

So basically, screw this game. When I finished the article I was really hoping Anthem would be allowed to live long enough to reach its full potential. At this point, I’m happy to watch the whole thing burn down and sink into the swamp. The whole “Is EA going to kill BioWare?” question is irrelevant. BioWare has been dead for a couple of years now. At this point we’re just waiting for EA to stop using the corpse to market their shitty Destiny knockoff.

By a strange coincidence, yesterday’s Mass Effect: Andromeda article had the same theme. I went in with the intention of being positive, and was then forced back into negativity by BioWare’s relentless self-sabotage.

EDIT: Apparently, the player was banned for using a glitch that let him use his ultimate ability too often? That’s slightly more understandable than banning him for opening chests, but it’s still pretty outrageous. He didn’t take anything from other players or hurt their progression in any way. At worst, he was ending fights too quickly and denying players the enjoyment of slow-grinding all those enemy health bars away. If there’s an exploit in the game, a better solution is to issue a warning to this player while waiting for the patch that will fix this exploit. Anyway, the perma-ban was changed to to a two-week suspension, which is… better. Sort of. Technically.

EDIT 2: But wait, it’s worse! A Reddit user ran some experiments and found that your trash Level 1 starting weapon is actually the best weapon in the game, able to kill foes even faster than max-level legendary weapons of the same class. Sure, the damage numbers SAY the legendary is doing more damage, but the trash weapon takes fewer shots to kill the same mook. So it’s a double fail. The weapon balance is broken, AND the damage numbers are meaningless.

At the end of my column I concluded that everything in Anthem could be fixed with patches, but now I feel compelled to abandon that claim. Yes, you could probably fix this in a patch, but it points to some major problems with the underlying design. If you just hammer out some numbers to fix this quickly, then you’ll probably wind up breaking some other part of the game. Balancing for long-term grind is hard, and if BioWare whiffed this bad on the first try then it will probably take a few iterations to figure it out. They might need to go for a major overhaul to really fix things, and they don’t have that kind of time.

Whelp, that was a waste of a hundred million bucksA random guess. Probably reasonable for six-year project at a major studio.. What’s next EA? Close the studio, or put another $100M in the ol’ slot machine? Keep trying, idiots. I’m sure another FIFA will pop out eventually. You just gotta sacrifice more money, studios, brands, and franchises.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Not to mention the shields, which sometimes magically refill just before you finish the mook off.

[2] A random guess. Probably reasonable for six-year project at a major studio.



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81 thoughts on “In Defense of Anthem

  1. Mattias42 says:

    Really? Playing your grindy thread-mill of a game too well is a banable offence now?

    That’s just plain messed up.

    At least when people found that hidden extra good chest and the Sanctuary loot circle in Borderlands, Gearbox just patched those to give slightly worse loot so people wouldn’t do it for hours and hours instead of playing the rest of the game.

    1. Preciousgollum says:

      Something similar happened with Fallout 76 where a player crafted too much special ammo and got banned.

      Now, whether hacking or not, Fallout 76 is bad so they’re lucky people play it at all. And other articles have popped up about people worried about getting banned for being on the tail-end of a glitch. So I’d predict that mod team are being tough on the ‘transient’ types so that the faithful keep playing and the whaling can continue.

      Secondly, the idea that you have ‘too much ammo’ in a Bethesda game is ludicrous – their economies areally broken experiences…
      …and at some point in a Fallout game the amount of ammo you collect vs expenditure means that you basically have ‘infinite’ ammo anyway because you are unlikely to run out.

      The irony is that MMOs solved this problem already by not making your attack options tied to consumables. Bethesda also solved this by making ther games single player experiences,

      And also Mass Effect 1 solved this problem with ‘Heat-guns’ before Mass Effect 2 and 3 somehow managed to unsolved it by supplying conventional ammo.

      In summary, as has been stated in article, there really needs to be a better precedent set than banning people and taking away their game. If it happens to someone else for some stupidly contentious situation, then it could happen to all of us.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        Fallout 76 should, as any game, be tough on hackers. The idea that they should be lax because they have a small playerbase is a terrible idea because the presence of hackers only shrinks playerbases further as earnest players get turned off.

        Now, for the guy who got banned for too much ammo, well we don’t know exactly why it happened but some people have speculated why (Joseph Anderson is one), and suggest that it wasn’t having lot of ammo that caused the ban, but trading lots of ammo.

        He thinks that the way servers count ammo is like this: Say you have 10 rounds of ammo on account 1. Nothing fishy. Trade those 10 rounds to a second account, 2. Now account 2 ‘has’ 10 rounds and account 1 ‘has’ none. But the server also has a count for how much ammo you have ‘acquired’, and in this case, you have ‘acquired’ 10 rounds of ammo on both accounts. So, if you trade those 10 back to account 1, account 1 now has ‘acquired’ 20 rounds of ammo by ‘acquiring’ 10 rounds twice, and account 2 has ‘acquired’ 10 rounds despite currently holding none. No more than 10 rounds exist, but the server treats them as though they are 30 rounds simply because they were traded twice.

        Now, do that several times with thousands of rounds of ammo, and suddenly there is a metric on the server that suggests that a player has ‘acquired’ an unreasonably large amount of ammo, despite not holding or owning an unreasonably large amount of ammo concurrent to any point in time.

        Now, you could say that the server could have just assigned an id to every round to make sure the server knows when people are using their own ammo, which is a great idea… if you want to slow down the server and every interaction involving using, shooting, dropping or trading ammo in a game already rife with server problems.

        You could say that the game should just abandon the idea of ammo. But, in a Fallout game, it’s supposed to at least have a nod towards survival, and in survival games resources have to be limited. Yet another reason why Fallout 76 should never have been made.

        Really, with any anti-cheat system there will be false positives. It’s just that, in Fallout 76’s case, it was a high-profile player and member of the community, the response from Bethesda was terrible, and it was yet another bad headline for a game which had (in many ways deservedly) become the internet’s favourite punching bag.

        1. Hector says:

          If it had just been a few, that would not be an issue, though. Obnoxious but maybe understandable. Unfortunately, Fallout 76 had an entire wave of people reporting false-positive bans. Most likely, the people in charge of monitoring this simply don’t have the tools or experienced needed to properly administer the system. And this should be surprising, since they evidently didn’t have the skill to properly implement literally anything else in the game’s entire development cycle.

        2. Preciousgollum says:

          Fallout 76 economy doesn’t work ‘as intended’, so I struggle to see the point in defending an economy, for other players, who themselves are engaging within a broken economy. The developers get to change the economy whenever they want.

          In other words, Fallout 76 doesn’t need to ban players but would instead need a reset. Or, here’s an idea – reset individual characters and then monitor their behaviour. Let them play the game using a new character. A total account ban is a draconian measure, and seems to come without warning.

          Why would it be better to be over-zealous?

          In persistent multiplayer games, it seems like an element of real-world (political) rule making is in place, and companies get to try at wielding power on the basis of having created the community.

          It would be like if you went on Safari to shoot animals and carried a series of powerful weapons that wasn’t a double-barrelled hunting rifle, in order to protect yourself from dangerous animals that could eat you … but then you get arrested for ‘carrying too many guns/ammo’. Or worse, shot on site by a military unit because you are mistaken for a poacher.

          – Oh wait this can actually happen.

          However, a game basically summons bullets out of ‘nothing’ – the cost is probably less (it being the cost of electricity) than arms manufacturing (and they’re also less dangerous). So, how can you limit ammo in a game where players need it to survive? Does ‘survival game’ mean occasionally dying? That’s NOT survival!

          Oh sh*t the guys who have too much ammo in Fallout 76 are basically The Jackal from Far Cry 2. Games and reality are melting together, and people who run ‘get video game rich quick’ schemes are basically Bernie Madoff AND his victims at the same time. Not only is Michael B Jordon’s character in Black Panther correct in saying that The British Museum stole from Wakanda, but by playing games early and paying the most money for them, YOU are STEALING the e-loot from the tombs of raid bosses which is talking from native peoples AND ruining the economy when EA/Activision decide to make the same loot rarer for players who pay less money for their games at a later date. You’re just as bad as the people who find new gold – thus encouraging devaluation of the gold standard and the Wealth of Nations. Boo!

          Also, do China’s prisons farm e-commodities like WoW gold to sell on the Internet? AND/OR is this the work of entrepeneurs/ free people?

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Once again, I’m reminded of this comic.

      Also, how the hell does Anthem damage the PS4 used to play it?! Is some Faustian bargain EA made a decade ago finally catching up with them? Did someone on the dev team deliberately embed a virus in the code out of spite/desperation?

      If this were in a fiction story, people wouldn’t believe it.

      …will the Escapist let you add an edit to your original article? Because you know that their comments section is going to fill up with people saying ‘OMG this guy doesn’t know that Anthem can brick ur ps4 therefore everything else he says is wrong!’ etc if you don’t mention it.

      1. Joshua says:

        Looks like the comments have already started…

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        From what I heard, the game restarts the PS4 in such a way that the console thinks it’s been unplugged (and potentially damages the HDD in the process). No idea if it’s a compatibility problem with the PS4’s OS, or a bug in the game, or anything else.

      3. Lino says:

        Don’t worry – even with a correction, the Escapist comments will fill up with people saying “OMG, this guy doesn’t know anything!”
        After all, this is a positive article about the current thing the Internet has decided to hate on – it’s gonna get a lot of hate regardless of any points it tries to make.

      4. Derjungerludendorff says:

        Apparently it make the PS4 think you messed with the power cable.

        1. GloatingSwine says:

          It does an unexpected shutdown that, apparently, can corrupt the operating system.

  2. Scampi says:

    I want to make the case that it’s not that bad when judged as a looter-shooter.

    I guess it can’t be judged properly as a looter shooter if people get banned for playing it as a looter shooter?
    I think not being allowed to loot too much ought to be a pretty big taboo in a genre dedicated to looting.
    I don’t think Diablo would have been very successful if Blizzard had at any point decided people became powerful too fast and patched out any powerful drops or any such thing.
    The entire idea of, as a developer, deciding how a game has to be played and actually enforcing it is rather brazen.

    1. Actually, in Diablo III they patched it out so that you could no longer get good loot from chests because people were repeat-farming places in the game where there were guaranteed chests within a quick run of a teleport platform. After that, the only way to get good loot drops was to kill mobs.

      So . . . problematic example?

      Granted, I don’t remember hearing that they BANNED anyone for doing it.

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        I play Diablo 3 regularly and I get plenty of good loot from golden chests, I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

        1. evilmrhenry says:

          The urns in the Royal Crypts no longer dropping gold is the most commonly known example. This was back in the RMAH days, and Blizzard had a significant problem with the fastest way to progress being farming gold for an hour, then visiting the auction house, instead of questing.

          Blizzard might have let those drop gold again at some point; the economy is completely different now.

          1. Yeah, this was back close to release. Virtually every aspect of the game has changed radically since then.

      2. Xeorm says:

        It’s a good example. Diablo 3 on release was widely disliked. The entire looting system and end game had to be redesigned.

        It had staying power due to the brand so it didn’t end up being terrible…but D3 in general is still fairly unsuccessful.

      3. Scampi says:

        As someone who hasn’t played Diablo III himself, I referred to the earlier entries.
        I wasn’t aware they did this in D III. I still think it’s something different, as there appears to be a difference between patching the game to make access to certain items harder/prevent abuse or banning players that found an abuse which the devs didn’t notice was in there until they found players exploiting it.
        Maybe the example was problematic, but I actually meant to refer to the series’ (and possibly the genre’s) growth in general.
        I think my example was not especially well thought through. My apologies.

    2. Syal says:

      It’s fine if they patch the game to reduce power levels. It’s atrocious to try to patch the playerbase.

  3. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Yeah, Bioware is now a company with no core competency. They used to get away with it because they were making a style of game that nobody else was. There are almost no AAA rpg developers, and the ones we do have each have a very different take on the genre.

    But now they’re making a kind of game that can be directly compared to others on the market, and it turns out that there’s nothing they can do that other companies can’t do better. Not even being able to out do Destiny or Warframe on a narrative level is just embarrassing for a company that once relied on their reputation as storytellers.

    Bioware might not be terrible at building shooter gameplay, but can anyone really tell me what they’re actually good at these days?

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Well, I have to say I’ve never heard of a GAME damaging or disrupting a console before now. So that’s unique.

      I mean, the Red Ring of Death comes to mind, but that was a fault with the Xbox 360 itself, wasn’t it?

      1. Viktor says:

        There have, in fact, been several games with game-breaking bugs that have either corrupted/wiped memory cards (on older consoles), or straight up bricked the console. I’ve watched a video that listed some real malicious game bugs.

      2. Xeorm says:

        Red ring of death was hardware issues. I think some games did do more to cause it than others, but nothing quick like killing PS4s like that.

        Best example of something similar that I now of is the EVE online patch that bricked some PCs.

        1. Scourge says:

          Which is a great lesson as to why one should not name an install file boot.ini” especially when one might uninstall the game.

          And why checking the proper path of where you delete files is important as well.

    2. Liessa says:

      Re the narrative, it’s been interesting for me to compare Anthem with The Division 2 after watching their respective demo/beta releases. Looter-shooter gameplay bores me either way, but based on the little I’ve seen, I found the story of TD2 far more interesting and engaging. The story and dialogue are serviceable and comprehensible right off the bat without having to look up every other word in a lore bible, and the stakes seem a lot more personal and hard-hitting (the first couple of missions have you rescuing a hostage and tracking down a missing fellow agent, rather than shooting some giant monster). Of course it’s easier when your game is set in a world that’s (mostly) already familiar to the player, but that’s on Bioware: if they’re going to create an original setting, it’s up to them to make it interesting without shoving all the important details into a codex.

      As for what Bioware are good at these days: I’ve been wondering the same thing. It’s been a slow, depressing process watching them gradually lose their identity after being taken over by EA, but I guess it was inevitable in the long run. It might well have happened even without the acquisition.

    3. Thomas says:

      I think Inquisition and Andromeda are the only games this entire console generation where you can create a character from scratch and then make conversation choices whilst adventuring with a party of characters.

      I’ve been desperate for a good one

      1. MarsLineman says:

        Divinity Original Sin 2 might fit the bill, if you don’t mind an isometric perspective. I’ve had the same craving, and DOS:2 is a genuinely fantastic game that (mostly) scratched that particular itch.

      2. Daerian says:

        Torment: Tides of Numenera, both Pillars of Eternity and both Divinity Original Sin are on consoles.

        1. Thomas says:

          Ah I have played them, (except for Divinity, which maybe I should check out). I guess I’m just being fussy then. Isometric games dont scratch that itch in the same way for me, the camera is so pulled back it creates a different relationship with the PC

  4. Mephane says:

    During the demo, Anthem was plagued by disconnects, stalled matchmaking, and other server problems. Those were serious issues, but since the first big patch everything has been fine. I’ve never run into a single case of rubber banding in my dozens of hours with the game.

    Interestingly, this varies from player to player. Whenever I enter a mission, Stronghold, freeplay etc., there is like a 33% chance that the client fails to load all my character’s data from the server. Sometimes just the armor comes out in the default colors and the head is missing altogether. Sometimes I have no guns. Sometimes no abilites. Sometimes all of the above. After a minute or so I then get booted from the session and sent back to the main menu and from there Fort Tarsis; if I want to definitely rejoin the same mission (e.g. because I was playing with friends), Alt-F4 before being booted helps, as this lets me rejoin the session after restarting the game. A friend I am playing with a lot, encounters this issue only extremely rarely. I experience that bug several times a day, he maybe once or twice a week.

    Likewise, server stability still isn’t that great. It’s not uncommon to just get suddenly booted to the main menu out of the blue, which looks suspiciously like a server crash. At least the devs had the foresight to make it so you keep all your loot, challenge progress etc. anyway, it’s automatically credited the next time you complete a mission.

    Also, load times have increased again. I even moved the game to an SSD the second day of playing, to help with the loading screens. But as time went on (or rather: smaller patches were deployed), those loading times creeped upward again. Just how horrendous would they now be on a HDD? Now this seems to be a server performance issue; I can observe the game loading data from the SSD at full capacity, then around the point where the progress bar is at 50%, this stops almost entirely. I bet this is connected to the aforementioned issue of not properly loading all character data from the server, as indeed that bug happens especially after an unusually long loading screen.

  5. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Can’t you add a funny erratum at the bottom of the Escapist article?

  6. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus, you are doing some incredibly bad reporting on the banned streamer story. In the video linked, he got banned for unknown reasons (apparently he wasn’t told why). Since he recently spent a day streaming chest-farming, he assumes that he got banned for that. This is not evidence.

    You’re doing even worse than uncritically repeating the streamer’s story because at least he framed it as “I assume”, here you’ve jumped straight to “this is why”.

    Extra-double worse is that the conclusion you have jumped to and asserted as fact is wrong. After watching the video Shamus linked, I Googled “gladd banned anthem” and immediately found a two-day-old update from the streamer who received an email from EA explaining why he was banned: it was for exploiting a bug that lets you spam infinite ultimate attacks.

    1. Lino says:

      On the podcast he said that he sent the article on Friday, so at the time the video he linked was the best explanation available.
      But given the new development, I agree that he should try to have that part of the article redacted…

      1. Joshua says:

        The issue about the banning isn’t part of the article. It’s just mentioned on this page.

    2. Biggus Rickus says:

      I don’t see how being banned for exploiting a bug is any better than the original supposition. Regardless of Shamus’ lack of research, it still seems like an awful business practice.

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        Yeah, exploiting glitches is fun. In no way should be a bannable offence. Fix the glitch if you care so much about it, but don’t penalise people for finding it

      2. Moridin says:

        I’m not saying that exploiting a glitch is ban-worthy, but there’s definitely a big difference between punishing people for (I assume deliberately and repeatedly) exploiting a bug and punishing people just for playing a lot/being good at the game.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          In the video, the guy explains that he tried the exploit once on enemies that don’t drop any good loot, then Tweeted it to the devs. Personally I would have just warned him not to publicize exploits, but this company is apparently more harsh. I imagine if he’d reported it privately or on a bug-report forum for the game, he wouldn’t have been banned.

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            Didn’t he also say that he was told about it and there was a reddit topic about it?

          2. Steve C says:

            Still shouldn’t have been banned. He paid money for a product. He was then denied that product for questionable reasons. The company should only be allowed to ban him if they give him his $60 back. Of course they will get away with it, but they shouldn’t. Screw those guys.

            Personally I would literally tar and feather the senior employees of any company that does something like this. Except that is too harsh and therefore not allowed. Good thing for them that I’m not in a position of power that allows unilateral harsh actions. Like they are willing to do with their customers. What they are doing is straight up wrong.

    3. Shamus says:

      Can you post the link you found? I typed exactly the search you suggested into YouTube and got the same collection of “BioWare banned player for opening chests” that I saw over the weekend. I see nothing from exactly 2 days ago.

      Looks like I’m repeating a story I should have vetted better. The conclusion I jumped to was repeating what others had said. I wanted to go to the source, so I watched the original video. When the first half of the video matched the facts I’d already heard elsewhere, I stopped watching and assumed everything checked out.

      Now I’m wishing I’d watched the entire video to make sure. Actually, I’m wishing people would stop posting this sort of thing as talking head videos and would just write shit down.

      EDIT: The video title would also work. I’m just trying to avoid having to watch multiple rambling videos while fishing for the right one.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdfhQzVLx7w

        Ten minute ramble video but he explains right at the start.

        1. Shamus says:

          He couldn’t even show a screenshot of the email, he just reads it off his phone. ARRRRRGG!!

          Whyyyyyyyy?

          Anyway. I’ll watch this mess and update the post. Thanks.

  7. izoslav says:

    About Gladd:
    He got banned for violating ToS and (ab?)using infinite Storm ultimate glitch. So it’s not about “breaking the economy” of the game or anything like that, which is a plus and more understandable. He got unbanned, the reply from EA took too much time and they tried to explain that he “cheated in a way that made other players’ experience less fun”. I mean… Really? In a PvE game that has no PvP, no trading, no economy, he spoiled the fun of other players? How? By getting access to high-level gear before them, and thus breaking the intended progression for HIS equipment?

    I haven’t bought Anthem, but I really wanted to. Reading all this stuff and being up-to-date on everything that is going on with this game, be it a roadmap, numerous design flaws, or system breaking errors (I know that rebuilding database in safe mode works, but come on), I decided that it’s really not worth it. There are other, older looter-shooter games that are fun, cheap and not fundamentally broken like this one.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I mean… Really? In a PvE game that has no PvP, no trading, no economy, he spoiled the fun of other players? How? By getting access to high-level gear before them, and thus breaking the intended progression for HIS equipment?

      In my experience, plenty of MMO players take offense when one of the party member has access to stuff the others don’t, even when it’s PvE and co-op. Never understood why, as that usually helps the whole party, but I know it’s a thing.

      1. Geebs says:

        The foundational principle of MMO gameplay (and monetisation) is to make the player wait around for arbitrary lengths of time before they can be allowed to perform an action.

        The act of exploiting a glitch to bypass a timer therefore calls into question the reason for being of the entire MMO genre. No wonder it’s anathema to both developers and fans.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Well, what I’m talking about applies even when it’s 100% legal/legit/whatever, like having real money “advantages”. I mean, I can see why exploiting a glitch is badly received, but when it’s not something bad like that, I don’t get it.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Pretty sure that’s just the fairness effect in action.

            In my own short layman’s terms: it doesn’t matter if you’re getting an immediate benefit, if there’s someone right next to you getting a better benefit for the same amount of effort you put in, it’s natural to get pissed off.

        2. Biggus Rickus says:

          Then fix the glitch. It’s not the player’s fault he found an exploit and used it. Expecting people to abide by some ridiculous honor system or lose access to something they bought is insane to me.

      2. Rack says:

        I picked up an extreme aversion to this from Phantasy Star Online. There was no cheat or hack protection of any kind in that game and there was rampant duping of gamebreaking equipment. The game was completely ruined by players “helping the whole party” by completely ruining any challenge the game had.

        Nowadays it’s unlikely to get anywhere near that extreme but I’m still severely averse to any kind of help that isn’t fairly earned. I’m not going to care too much of people upsetting the balance of Anthem because it’s an unbalanced mess but the defense of “it’s PVE only” carries no weight to me.

    2. Preciousgollum says:

      Exploiting a glitch *is* at some point going to ‘break’ an economy (in a system that has economy in mind).

      … so it is much of a muchness.

      … And then we get into the issue of ‘Who’s fault is it that glitches exist?’

      … Quick! Lock up the speed runners for using glitches, because they are breaking our precious precious video game economies and under-cutting the hard work of the video game worker.

      Actually… that’s a point. Would a video game union distance itself from speed runners for under-appreciating the work of artists, or would the union file a lawsuit against motion blur and Depth of Field for the destruction of texture sharpness?

      1. Anthem doesn’t HAVE an economy. You can’t buy, sell, or trade gear. You can’t even turn them into cash. There’s nothing TO break, and if other players find you annoying they can just add you to their “ignore” list and never group with you again.

        If there’s a bug in the game that allows infinite ability spamming, they need to fix the bug. No need to ban anybody and no way it can POSSIBLY hurt other players any more than any other transiently annoying player behavior.

        You’d think they’d be a lot more concerned about how easy it is to grief other players by picking up one of the puzzle fragments and refusing to turn it in.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Right, if there’s a bug in the game that causes problems for the game (players too powerful, they get things too easily, etc) you have to focus efforts on squashing the bug. The idea that you can write the TOS to say “don’t do things that are possible in the unmodified game client” is laughable and could open them up to lawsuits. That’d be like making a “realistic car driving sim” game and allowing the players to drive at any speed the car could realistically move but then fining them real money for passing over an in-game speed limit.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            The idea that you can write the TOS to say “don’t do things that are possible in the unmodified game client” is laughable and could open them up to lawsuits.

            No it couldn’t that’s not how terms of service or laws work. I’m going to skip right past engaging in legal argument with someone who makes that kind of wild assertion, and point out that banning people for things possible in the unmodified game client is a well-known industry practice: ever hear about someone getting banned for toxic chat behaviour?

            1. Syal says:

              Probably into politics, but I can’t believe there isn’t some kind of default time limit on these contracts. Charging someone $60 for a game and then locking them out of the game two weeks later with no money back seems completely wrong, even assuming toxic behavior.

            2. shoeboxjeddy says:

              You can say “use of certain kinds of language using the in-game chat is prohibited.” You CAN’T say “playing a multiplayer match on a Tuesday allows us to ban you forever.” A TOS can’t say literally anything you want and be enforceable.

              1. Preciousgollum says:

                Another thing is that ‘toxic language’ etc is a social convention and is therefore more recognised as a Term of Service than ‘I glitched the software then I got banned because I wasn’t supposed to be able to do this thing in a video game that is about doing things that I cannot normally do’.

        2. Preciousgollum says:

          All games are playing with economies to some extent. The main thing is that the economy is usually stacked in the player’s favour, and/or gives you an illusion of hardship depending on whatever genre you are playing.

          However, with Games As a Service model, the above is becoming less the case.

          The issue is that, if a game has any real-world transactions inserted into it, then it is an economy of sorts. If it has other players that are third-party, then it is like a venue or marketplace. You then as a games company have to insure that the valuable items people are grinding for actually have and hold on to a value for as long as it is convenient for the games company.

          Like, basically Games as a Service (GAAS) mess with games because it is altering the balance between Theatre and Accounting. For (GAAS), it is basically a games travel agency that has promised to insure that people have a good time – that can be ‘ruined’ by other people. Therefore, it is convenient for the company to blame the other players, because that’s not covered under the insurance scheme. New types of intermediary business models spring up as a result of this change.

          Games are not passports, although the lines are getting fuzzy.

          Or for theatre: Imagine having to pause halfway through Macbeth to tally up the accounting of the kingdom, mote-tax, and rising Castle prices.

          How can Macbeth AFFORD to be king?

  8. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    This is a possibly-naïve question from someone who doesn’t play looter-shooters, but back in the early days of Destiny when the original and subsequent “loot caves” were discovered, did any of the players who took part in that get banned for doing so? Or did Activision just have Bungie fix the exploit? I think that would inform how I view this particular ban. Because my instinct is that the onus should be on the developer: Players aren’t breaking the game – the game was already broken. If people are fiddling with the code, that would be one thing, but doing something that the game allows for even though it didn’t intend to? Getting banned for that seems a fair bit more dicey to me. In that case, just fix the code.

    I admit that it never occurred to me that a game could do something to physically damage hardware. Apparently, that didn’t occur to Bioware either. I guess it’s not a thing that’s unheard of, but it didn’t appear on my radar until I was reading about this story.

    1. ccesarano says:

      Destiny never banned anyone for loot exploits, nor did they ever ban anyone for boss-breaking exploits. And there have been plenty of players that streamed and shared exploits for cheesing Raid bosses and other such encounters with pretty much every game update, from the initial launch of Destiny to …well, I’m sure there will be plenty found in Season of the Drifter. So whether you’re viewing this as the false accusation of banning for loot exploits, or banning for exploiting a gameplay glitch, both have happened in Destiny and never has anyone been banned for it. If anything, Bungie’s got a reputation for fixing exploits that “benefit” the player while sitting on fixes and issues that harm the experience.

      Regardless, anyone who plays looter shooters has plenty of experience in games like The Division, Destiny, or Warframe where exploits were revealed by streamers and the developers did a phenomenal job of banning no one.

  9. kdansky says:

    I think the rating is completely justified and you are cutting Anthem too much slack. This isn’t some minor indie title where critics should be a bit generous. This is a gigantic blockbuster title with the marketing budget of a small country. If we give The Witcher 3 a 9/10 or 10/10, then Anthem should definitely not be above 5/10, because the former set the bar for what AAA titles can and should do if they want to charge premium prices.

    AAA titles have two advantages over smaller studio titles: Scope and polish. Anthem lacks both to a laughable degree. Yes, the graphics are good, but not great: The art direction is not that good. It’s certainly competent, but not more. The environments are boring, the mechs are generic, and the special effects get extremely repetitive. The game did not release in a stable state, flying controls on PC were unusable, matchmaking is pure chaos, loading screens and menus are embarrassing.

    Then there’s scope. Anthem comes with the “normal” amount of content. A handful of classes, a dozen guns, two dozen enemies, five dungeons, a smidgen of end-game and everything repeated fifty times for filler. If you want to make $100 million game, then that’s just not enough. To be blunt: That’s just not impressive. Tiny indie titles with a five-digit budget have more content! Warframe has like fifty classes, a couple hundred weapons, a dozen tile sets and more story mode than Anthem without even focusing on it. That’s what Anthem was up against, and it did not even put up a fight.

    Anthem is an MVP: Minimum Viable Product. It is deliberately cut short at all corners to sell more stuff down the line. EA did not want to make a game that is competitive to Warframe, because that would have been expensive and risky. They wanted to make a quick buck instead, and it resulted in what is a truly mediocre attempt.

    And no, the microtransactions are not reasonable. The only reasonable amount of microtransactions in a $60 game with season passes is exactly $0.

    1. Hector says:

      Having read the article, I agree with you. I won’t normally say this, but Shamus was wildly wrong. The things he says are great about Anthem may indeed be ok, but they aren’t really special. I can point to any nmber of games with better art. I can point a hundred with better gameplay, or story, or even flying. I’m not going to hand out gold stars because a game studio managed to achieve “really fancy mediocrity”.

  10. Thomas says:

    All Frost engine games feel like they lean way too hard on lighting effects. I find their environments impressive but not fun to be in?

    There’s nothing like The Last of Us where the scenery fits comfortably into the style of the game.

    1. Most of the caves in the game are certainly a bunch of neon lights in absolute blackness. Makes it pretty darn hard to tell what you’re doing. And there’s a lot of bloom when the sun is out that can make it obnoxiously squinty to play. I like games with dark nights generally, but I think it was a poor choice in this one.

      I got about 2 weeks of fun out of it (plus more chatting online), so I figure it was roughly worth what I paid for it.

  11. slug camargo says:

    Have you considered the possibility that whenever you say nice things about stuff you jinx them? It might be something of a superpower.

    1. Biggus Rickus says:

      “You’ve paid your last compliment, Jinxor!”

  12. ccesarano says:

    To add salt to the wound, players on Reddit are discovering that damage numbers mean nothing and the Level 1 Defender Rifle is hands down the best weapon in the game. Some of the visual evidence is pretty damning. The amount of damage done has no relation to the numbers that pop up.

    Now, it could be there’s some numbers glitch on that Level 1 Defender Rifle that causes it to be displaying something different than what it’s actually doing, but given that Bioware’s been doing third-person shooters with RPG mechanics for over a decade now, you’d think this would have been one of the things that would be working correctly.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Reading the comments on that thread, the devs say it is indeed a bug with the low level stuff. I imagine it never got seen during testing because no-one used their level 1 rifles after getting anything else.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      From the thread, it sounds like it’s something to do with level-scaling. This raises an obvious question: Why is there level-scaling in your loot-driven MMO!?

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        Because they want players who are just fresh out of the tutorial to be able to join in the final boss fight, of course.

    3. Mephane says:

      Actually it took only a few hours for a dev to chime in, and they mentioned it also in their livestream they had later. Apparently it is only a bug with the starter weapons specifically, not just any low level gear, and they claim the fix is easy and will be deployed with the patch slated for next week. “Damage numbers don’t mean anything” is rather hyperbolic.

    4. Kdansky says:

      As if I needed another reason to hate damage numbers. It’s such a cheap way to skimp on actual hit effects and throw POWER GROWTH!!!! into the player’s face at the cost of utterly ruining the look.

      If I wanted to look at numbers, I’d open Excel!

      And in many modern games it’s nearly impossible to know whether you hit the enemy if you turn the numbers off or you lose other important info with it, Warframe being one such candidate.

  13. Ninety-Three says:

    So speaking of Anthem being a garbage fire, it turns out that the level 1 starter rifle kills enemies faster than max-level mega loot. Like, the mega loot will make bigger damage numbers pop off the enemy, but the trash rifle actually makes their health bar go down faster. Gif of 200 damage bullets killing things faster than 1400 damage ones.

    This hilariously stupid behaviour appears to be because of some kind of atrocious level-scaling system the game has. Why an MMO decided to implement Oblivion-style level scaling is beyond me but holy shit, this game sounds awful.

  14. Joe says:

    I haven’t played the game, and never will. It isn’t designed for me. But the music is awesome! I like me some weird sounds.

    Though from what you’ve said about music over the years, Shamus, I’m guessing you aren’t into it. Ah well, can’t win ’em all I suppose.

  15. Preciousgollum says:

    EA includes defenders that think even the Belgian Government is stupid for wanting to regulate against loot boxes in a Star Wars game… despite it being totally within the power of the govt to do so. They begrudgingly comply with the laws of nation states I.e an entity with power.

    … so I hardly think they’re ‘friends of the gamer’ when it comes to their notions of power and its openness to abuse.

    If they struggle to listen to people with actual power and responsibility, then what makes anybody think they are interested in gamers that generally DON’T have power…?
    (apart from when gamers have the power/ can be used to influence the powerful… for the benefit of EA. Then EA perks up.)

  16. MichaelG says:

    Someone else must have mentioned this, but a quick search doesn’t find any comments.
    “actually the bast weapon in the game”. “bast” should be “best”?

  17. Jenkins says:

    I’m sorry but that glitch making the starting weapon the best gun in a looter-shooter is hilarious. It reminds me of the bug in Andromeda where single-player difficulty settings were affecting damage and health values in multiplayer. I don’t know how you break your code that bad.

    1. Zaxares says:

      I’m really curious to know if that’s because of a genuine bug/oversight (like, if the devs specifically coded the starter weapons to always do a percentile damage of the enemy’s HP because of fears that through the vagaries of chance, you might get some truly pathetic player who can’t even get past the tutorial), or worse, the entire game’s combat is basically just self-levelling enemies so that no matter how powerful your gear is, your opponents always stay exactly the same. There are some old, old RPGs who used this trick, and I absolutely DESPISED it, because it made me feel like I was basically just running on a treadmill. No matter how hard I worked or what I managed to find/achieve, it counted for nothing because my enemies would always have their stats scaled up or down to match mine.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        The current working theory last I looked was that it´s a side effect of the level scaling involved when teaming up with people at a different power level (the game uses one of those systems intended to let you party with your friends regardless of how leveled you are compared to them)

  18. Zeta Kai says:

    “Close the studio, or put another $100M in the ol’ slot machine?”

    OMG, EA is trying to turn the entire video game industry into one giant loot box factory, in more ways than one.

    “The next franchise will be a hit, I can feel it! “

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