Anthem VIP Demo Gets Off To A Rocky Start Issues
Last weekend was particularly important for Bioware, as it was the first time that the public at large would get a taste of Anthem. Unfortunately, the game’s ‘VIP demo’ got off to a rocky start, with connectivity issues and bugs hurting the experience across multiple platforms.
Anthem is an online-focused game with “live” features that shift and evolve according to a schedule, not unlike recent favorites such as Destiny 2 or The Division. What that means is there’s a bunch of different moving parts, many of which are difficult to test inside the studio prior to release.
It got so bad that BioWare’s head of live service, Chad Robertson, wrote an extensive blog post on Saturday running through the demo’s various issues and detailing plans to get them fixed. There are three types of problems players are running into, according to the post:
- 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.
Friday 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.
In all three cases, Robertson said, BioWare is working toward solutions, with the “infinite loading” problem being the toughest to address. It’s “something we may not resolve during this weekend,” he said. “Many players are not seeing this issue and the last thing we want to do is destabilize the experience for everyone.”
A lot of players thought that Bioware had simply underestimated server capacity for the demo. Robertson disputes that, stating that Bioware actually had excess servers to ensure stability. The issues that players faced cropped up from elsewhere.
Anthem’s demo had three major issues- Platform connections, entitlements and infinite loads. The platform connection issue was caused by spikes in players attempting to log in to the game, which is an issue that did not present itself during internal testing due to the more controlled environment. Fixes for this were applied over the weekend and will hopefully carry over into the open demo this week.
Entitlements are Anthem’s account flags, which grant certain players with access to pieces of content like pre-order incentives. During the VIP demo period, a bug caused a specific combination of account entitlements to block players from entering the game at all. Most of these issues have since been resolved, but there are still a few individual cases left to work through.
Finally, some players were hit by an unfortunate ‘infinite load’ bug, where the game would hang on the loading screen until being closed down and restarted. This seemed to mainly occur when leaving Fort Tarsis to head out on a mission. Bioware thought that this issue had already been resolved but swiftly learned that it needed to adjust things to accommodate more players on different networks and ISPs.
Otherwise, the aim is to have fixes ready to roll by next weekend, which is when the Anthem demo will be open to everyone. After that, the team will only have a few weeks left to get ready for the Feb. 22 launch.