BioWare Head of Live Service Addresses Anthem VIP Demo Issues

Yesterday at time of writing, saw the launch of the VIP Access Demo for the newest, possibly most highly anticipated live-service game of 2019 (sorry Division 2), Anthem. While troubles are to be expected with any live-service experience, those troubles increase significantly during demos and beta testing phases. Surprising few, Anthem was no exception, as the VIP Demo was a difficult experience for many players, including myself, on the first night.

Earlier this afternoon, BioWare Head of Live Service (this is a real title now people) Chad Robertson posted to The BioWare Blog about how BioWare feels about the issues with the Demo and how they plan to fix it going forward.

Yesterday was rocky. The first day of our VIP demo weekend did not go exactly as we planned, and I want to share what happened.

We’ve been testing the entire game and platform for several months, but there were a few things we missed; real-world play frequently leads to unexpected issues. Before I share details on this and what we’re still facing, I want to dispel one comment we’ve seen: that we under-planned for server capacity. To ensure stability, we intended to manage our servers to match the player population as it grew. Overall, we had excess capacity prepared for population increases, and continue to do so. That said, what’s important is that all parts of the game work as designed to meet players’ needs, and that did not happen in the opening hours.

The post starts by saying that the team at BioWare planned for server capacity and even now still have excess server space for player population. This is an important distinction, as server size has been an issue in games for years, and live-service games feel that significantly more strongly than other, traditional online games. Robertson seems confident Anthem servers will have enough space to accommodate the undoubtedly massive flood of players the game will see on launch day. How true that turns out to be remains to be seen.

Robertson goes on to outline the most problematic issues players were experiencing in the Demo, and how they plan to fix them:

While there are a number of issues we dealt with yesterday, the three primary areas were:

Platform connections – this was caused by the spike in players entering the game when we opened up. Unfortunately, these issues did not present themselves during our internal testing. Investigations are ongoing, and we will continue to apply fixes throughout the weekend.

Entitlements – these are account flags that grant players things like their pre-order incentives and demo access. During the demo weekend, we identified a bug where VIP players with a specific combination of entitlements were being blocked from accessing the demo. We believe we’ve resolved most of these, but have additional cases we are addressing.

“Infinite loads” – this is occurring for some players, particularly when they transition from Fort Tarsis to an expedition. We saw this only in isolated cases during internal testing and believed it was resolved. Unfortunately, the problem is exacerbated in the real-world where differences with player’s ISPs and home networks introduce new behavior.

Today, our top priorities are:

Continue to resolve any reports of issues with login and entitlement problems.

Implement fixes to address “infinite loads”. I want to be upfront that this is a difficult one, and something we may not resolve during this weekend — many players are not seeing this issue and the last thing we want to do is destabilize the experience for everyone.

Improve server performance. We’ve heard reports of rubber-banding and other signs of server latency. We believe we can address this and will be conducting some small-scale experiments to confirm that. We may roll some fixes out this weekend or may wait for the open demo next weekend, depending on the level of risk to the overall service.

Anthem is a going to be a large game, and even its demo is getting hotfixes to possibly take care of some of these issues during the weekend. From the way Robertson spoke, if the issue can’t be fixed this weekend, we can be assured they will be less prevalent during next weekend’s demo. BioWare are putting a lot on Anthem’s shoulders, so it’s understandable that they are committed to doing everything they can to make sure their players have as positive an experience as they can.

BioWare are also remaining positive about the game’s potential stating that the game is seeing “over 300K concurrent viewers yesterday & over 100M minutes watched — those are Fortnite-type numbers!” Robertson also teased an upcoming announcement with new information on the way.

While we have had problems, we have also had many players enjoying the game. It’s been incredibly humbling to see so many people watching along with us on Twitch (over 300K concurrent viewers yesterday & over 100M minutes watched — those are Fortnite-type numbers!). Thank you for your support! Our goal is to get everyone into the demo having fun together.

We believe we’ve created an amazing game and we’re doing everything we can to ensure our entire community can enjoy it. We’re committed to keeping an open conversation with our community as part of our Live Service well into the future. (We’ll also have some cool news to share soon on our plans for the game after we launch — stay tuned!)

Anthem releases on February 22. It’s going to be a big one, so clear your calendars everybody. If you’re playing the VIP Demo or interested in game in general, let’s talk about it in the Forums or on Twitter using #AskPSNation.

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