BioWare’s Jonathan Warner believes that “flight is one of the big things that set us apart”.
The release date for BioWare’s Anthem inches ever closer. Those who pre-ordered the game or subscribed to EA/Origin Access will have a chance to try the VIP demo later this month. But the majority of potential players will be experiencing the game’s flight and enormous open world when it launches in February.
Speaking of, the game’s flight is a pretty integral part of the experience. Everything we’ve seen, from hovering to soaring through the skies, has looked pretty natural. So of course, getting it just right turned out to be a huge task for BioWare. In conversation with Jeux Video, game director Jonathan Warner, lead producers Ben Irving and Mike Gamble, and executive producer Mike Darrah talked about the vision behind the flight.
Gamble says,”The first big idea was heroic combat. As a superhero you’re always moving forward, you dive into action and do amazing things. The question was then what was superhero enough in our eyes without breaking the game. We found the answer in the first month of working on Anthem’s concept.
“Player controlled characters must be able to fly. Everyone loves it and it’s one of the oldest dreams of humanity. The reason why chose flight is because it’s at the core of the superhero fantasy. If you want to feel like a superhero what’s the most important thing? Flight! The possibility of going at high speed and see things from a bird’s eye point of view. Therefore we had to successfully make flying work and started to focus on it from the very beginning.”
Warner noted that using flight in a game about loot was a scary proposition. “It is something we wanted from the beginning, but we fought with it at some point because we were scared that people might miss loot. In a ‘shooter looter’ players are always looking for loot.”
There are also the issues of players potentially breaking the game with it, as per him. “The flight ability is extremely dangerous in a video game because players could use it to ‘break the game’, go off the limits defined by the level designers, or use it to avoid zones and thus miss an opportunity to get loot. Combat designers, level designers and motion designers all had to work together to make sure they would create a flight ability that was fun and harmless to the game.”
“There were so many problems,” said Irving. “We had a lot of talking about blocking flight during combat, but it ended up being pretty boring because flying was too cool. After that, we thought about enemies being unable to attack at long ranges, which created behavior where flying was making you win the fight instantly. Then we had to put some limitations on flying time to make the game work.
“Several iterations of enemy behavior were made with more range and more ways to put you down in order to force you to think and play more tactically.”
However, Warner believes that flight will ultimately set the game apart. “I think that flight is one of the big things that set us apart because it allows us to think the world in a different way. Instead of considering the space as a flat surface we consider it a volume in which you can freely move. The game becomes more interesting at every moment, you are constantly making small decisions like ‘Where do I fly? How do I go there?’”
Anthem will be releasing on February 22nd for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Origin Access Premier subscribers get it one week early on PC for $14.99 per month. For a better idea of how flight works in Anthem, check out the latest footage from IGN below. It showcases Freeplay Expeditions and content like Bosses, World Events, and more.