Anthem: BioWare dev talks loot, weapons, and endgame

The Anthem VIP demo had a pretty rough start last weekend. Players were not able to login, they were getting stuck in an infinite loading screen, and were unable to connect and play with friends. Developer BioWare is aware of all the issues and is working to make sure everything is in shape for this weekend’s open demo.

When we played the demo earlier this month we didn’t experience any of those issues, but we did have some questions.

We caught up with Scylla Costa, a producer at BioWare who worked on Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and now Anthem. We talked about the game’s loot and progression systems, weapons crafting, and what players should expect after they’re done with the campaign.

GameCrate: Playing the game, there different types of loots drops. You have health and ammo, and then mystery loot called Common Items, Uncommon Items, Rare Items, etc. They’re all different colors too. Can you explain how the loot system works in the game?

Scylla Costa: We have different progression goals for you as you're playing the game. Let's say you were between a level one and a level 10 when you're starting the game. When you play an expedition you’re going to get loot drops relative to your pilot level. So if you're level 2 you're probably going to get gear that’s like level 2 to level 3, level 4 gear. Usually common or maybe one uncommon here and there, as you’re getting closer to level 10, you're going to start having the Uncommons and maybe a rare one is going to draw.

Once you are between level 10 and 20, you're going to be chasing the rare ones or even maybe an epic drop, which are purple loot drops. And those drops are usually weapons. They can be weapons, they can be gear pieces as well. Once you level up your pilot, you're going to unlock other parts of the suits also.

For example, you have to gear slots in the beginning. Later on, you're going to have the third gear slot, which gives you more utility in the combat as well. You’re also going to have different components that you can use in your exosuit too, to improve the stamina or maybe fly longer, things like that.

You can change the way your loadout works and for the same javelin suit, make different loadouts and play very different. You can have a Colossus suit that is like kind of a tank that has the third gear slots as an aggro utility that makes all the enemies go to you and have a flamethrower for close combat. You can also have a Colossus loadout that is equipped for the artillery with a cannon that can shoot from far away and have a sniper rifle, which deals high explosive damage. So depending on your play style, you can play within the same Javelin many different ways.

GC: Once a mission or expedition is over, then you get to see what type of Uncommon, Rare, or Epic weapon or gear piece, right? You don’t really know what you have or can’t equip it when you pick it up.

SC: Yes, as a player you only know what you got, like a gear piece or a weapon, you don't know what kind of weapon it is, what specific weapon it is, until you finish your expedition, that's when we resolve that item for you.

GC: I also noticed that there wasn’t an option to upgrade weapons, if you find one you like. So do you just kind of hope the weapon you like just drops again but at a higher level to keep up with your character level?

SC: You get more weapons and more gear in the beginning but after that we're going to give you the ability to start getting blueprints for you to craft your own weapons. So completing challenges you get the blueprints of your favorite weapons and gear, then you can use them to craft new items at your pilot level.

Later in the game, you're going to have the ability to also put inscriptions in those weapons or gear you’re crafting so you can select what kind of extra damage or extra whatever utility you want to put on it. So we're going to give you different ways for you to chase new items as you play the game.

GC: I saw the option to salvage some of the items that you pick up. Does the salvage materials go towards the crafting?

SC: Exactly. So when you salvage the items, you're going to get the weapon parts which are some of the material resources that you need to craft more items. You're going to get the ember, high ember, rare ember, or epic ember, depending on the kind of weapon that you're salvaging or gear piece that you're salvaging. And so basically what we want, the loop that we want you to go through, is like every time you play you're going to get new loot.

If you get better loot and you're playing with the new loot you can salvage all the old loot that you have in your inventory. Then you have these new parts that are resources for you to craft new stuff that is going to be better than the gear you have. So it's kind of a loop that we always have the player rewarded for playing more of the game.

GC: When you enter a mission, you’re kind of stuck with the two guns and exosuit gear that you started with. There isn’t an option to switch to maybe a sniper that you left in your inventory. Why this design choice?

SC: Yes, that was a design choice. We want all players to have two guns when they go into the battlefield, when you go into an expedition. You have two guns and you need to make that choice beforehand, depending on if you're playing alone or if you're playing with your group of friends. Let's say that we are both playing together and I go like “hey, I'm going to take a sniper rifle” and then maybe you’re not going to take a sniper up. You’re going to take a shotgun so you can be the one closer to the enemy and I’m in the back. And also depending on the expedition that you’re going on, some enemies may be more resistant to, let's say acid or there they have resistance to fire, or something like that. So it’s probably not a good idea for me to take that kind of a weapon or that kind of a gear pieces.

We want players to strategize a little bit. Maybe the first time you try an expedition and you’re like it's not going to work and it's like well, you know what, let's try it again, but let's take a different kind of weapon.

You kind of have to think about the expedition, all the beats of the expedition. How you’re going to get through, it’s kind of a puzzle.

GC: Anthem’s Free Play is a big part of the game’s endgame. What kind of things are you guys going to be doing there to keep bringing players back to the game?

SC: When you go into free play in Anthem, you have the ability to play by yourself or with a squad. You can find up to three people when you're doing that. So four people on the same Free Play server, right, so you're going to a dedicated server with at most four people playing there.

Once you're in free play you can find world events, you can just explore the world and you can get crafting materials. You can find those crafting materials or you can find world events, they’re all Dynamic events that happen, so you may decide to interact with them or just not engage at all. If you do not engage them, a radio message will go out saying you “okay, I'm going to send some other Freelancers to help those guys out there.”

Whatever is happening in the world, if you do interact with them, you get a reward for completing the event, as well as XP. Therefore, your XP is going to level you up, which is going to help with the loot, because now you got better loot as you level up.

Also in free play, you're going to have a better chance of getting crafting resources, which is going to help you to get better gear and better weapons.

GC: So are the activities the same thing over and over again or is there some variety?

SC: It's definitely different and Anthem is a dynamic world. So you may find different creatures during the day or during the night. For example, creatures may have different abilities depending on the time of the day or depending on the weather. If it's raining you can find that you can fly longer because the rain is cooling off your jets. You can also maybe use electricity with water to create more damage against enemies.

So there are different combos that can happen and we can change the weather and the way that the creatures behave because of because of the weather. And we can even create new weather states that will allow different things to happen. For example, if we have like a new weather state and maybe some special creature shows up more often than usual.

GC: Along with the Free Play, what other endgame activities do you have planned or what else will you have players chasing?

SC: We think the chase changes a little bit from Level 1 to 10, 10 to 20 and 20 to 30. So usually level one to ten you kind of like trying to unlock it all.

You're going to unlock like two Javelin suits by then. You unlock new Javelin suits at level 2, 8, 16, and 26. So when you have your second javelin suit, you're going to start getting your first rare items like the blue loot drops. And from level 10 to 20, you're getting the epic loot drops. Your goal then is to start crafting better weapons and gear because by now you have the blueprints and you're doing the stronghold activities, which give better rewards.

Then finally when you complete the main story of the game, you're doing the end game from level 20 to 30. You're doing more strongholds which are really difficult. There are three difficulty levels there and leveled also at level 30, so you get better rewards as you play higher difficulty.

Then of course, you have the free play which is going to give you resources. And we also have the contracts. You have generic contracts that are repeatable that the agents are going to give you along with the legendary contracts which you can play in the endgame. They're very different contracts and give you really nice rewards.

We want the player, once you get to that 20 to 30 level, trying to get the master work weapons and gear to create that awesome loadout. And once we go live, then we're going to add even more goals for the players.

Anthem launches on February 22 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.