Bioware's next game promises to create a compelling single-player story inside a multiplayer world. Anthem has lofty aspirations, but it's not the first time that Bioware has tried to combine these two very different ideas into a single game title. Star Wars: The Old Republic took the classic Bioware RPG format and tried to adapt it into an MMO, letting multiple people take part in what would normally be a single-player style campaign. While the idea had promise, it met with mixed results at best. This morning, during a press conference at PAX West, I asked Anthem lead designer Mike Gamble what lessons Bioware learned from The Old Republic that helped the studio improve these concepts for the upcoming game. He revealed that the previous effort helped the team decide what not to do with Anthem, specifically, don't let multiple people help dictate where the storyline goes. According to Gamble...
The ability to have voting based on which choice you make, we wanted to move away from that, based on that existing system and that's why the whole 'Your Tarsis,' I make my decisions, you don't affect me, I don't have to be cool with your choices, I just want to do what I do. Yeah, we did definitely learn that.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic quest lines would unfold in traditional Bioware structure, where you could make different dialogue choices that determine where the story goes and how characters interact with each other. However, since it was an MMO, you could go on these quests with multiple people and each of them would be able to make their own dialogue choice, with whichever choice that received the most votes becoming what was actually said. As such, you could see your storyline go off in directions you might not like because your friends, or complete strangers, all chose something other than what you wanted.
While Star Wars: The Old Republic has been able to continue on with a fairly strong player-base, it mostly found its footing only after abandoning the more MMO aspects of the game and focusing instead on single player stories like the Knights of the Old Republic games that inspired it.
Instead, Anthem is actually broken up into two parts. Fort Tarsis is your home base where you will meet characters, interact with them, and make decisions that influence how relationships will change over time. This area is a single player only experience, so you get to determine how things progress. When you go out on missions, the game becomes multiplayer and you can join your friends or strangers to complete objectives together. However, no decision making is made in this part of the game, so after the mission is over, all the players go back to their own version of Fort Tarsis and react to the results of the mission in their own way.
Essentially, in order to make the game feel like both a single-player and multiplayer game, the two parts have been divided cleanly in half. While this will certainly fix some of the problems that faced Bioware's MMO, one wonders if the game will really feel like it exists in the multiplayer world Bioware hopes to create. We'll find out when the game is released February 22, 2019.