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Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

by Penitent
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Original Post

Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

[ Edited ]
★★★★★ Novice

I've always understood that there must be some degree of RNG in an always online gaming experience. It's simply an irrefutable existential fact that people can play through content exponentially faster than it can be created. As such, the only way the model can be sustained is by employing methods that artificially augment content longevity, which is commonly done with multiple difficulty levels and RNG for example (among other things). All these things increase the lifespan of content by getting players to spend exponentially more time on that content than they otherwise would without it. I'm a reasonable person and have always accepted this as a necessary evil of the genre. What I cannot accept is when developers, in deliberate efforts to gain maximum profit from minimum effort, utilize it to absurd degrees to pad out substantively deficient content. And this game in my opinion, even if only unintentionally, has rather conspicuously done that.

As one person said on another site.

"Lol dude rng stats are not a problem for me, I enjoy gambling. [...] I’m gonna go spray bullets with my Vassa’s Suprise that rolled +375% damage now, it feels even better knowing how rare it is to get those stats." - Some noob on the interweb. 

I don't understand how people can't see the problem with this. The Division 1 did the exact same thing Anthem has done, and it was dead (lost 94% of its players) within 3 months. The guy above may like gambling but most people, even if only subconsciously, don't like a system in which power and progression is based upon luck as opposed to work and skill. As I told Massive when the first Division released, both the loot system and basic UI features of WoW, should have been the model from which they started. Indeed, it should be the model to which all other games in the loot genre aspire, because it's kept that game going for approaching two decades. What system is that? Item stats are essentially static but which items drop is random within a specified loot table. You kill certain bosses for certain items because only that boss drops that item, but he is not guaranteed to drop that item that time, because said boss only drops 3 out of 10 items in his loot table per encounter. Items dropped have a chance for an incremental power buff, i.e, a "warforged" item. Again, for emphasis, incremental power buff. Not +375% damage. Basically, unlike Anthem the player in WoW retains a not insignificant degree of control over which items he acquires. When first gearing up, virtually any drops will be useful, but later as the player becomes more powerful he can more selectively seek out certain encounters which increases (though does not guarantee) the probability of acquisition of a particular item.

 

With Anthem nothing like this can be done as far as I can tell. Even The Division, as awful as it was, eventually had mobs that had specified loot tables you could farm in pursuit of specific items. But loot in Anthem has for me been, thus far, completely and utterly random. And as if drops being random wasn't bad enough, the stats on those items is also highly random, making a "planned" progression model (unlike WoW) for the player seeking specific things essentially impossible. You're completely at the mercy of a horrendously unforgiving randomization algorithm. And perhaps nothing in Anthem is killing the fun for me more than this aspect of its design.

 

I've been gaming for as long as there has been gaming, and nothing that's afflicted the medium has ever been more pernicious, than the emergence and pervasiveness of hyper-randomization being used by developers as a crutch for content dearths. It invariably reduces even the most appealing activities to insufferable monotonies, and degrades passion into hopeless perfunctoriness, by exponentially increasing the "grind" to expand the life of (increasingly) diminutive content. It confounds, divides, and turns the player base against itself, as to those it bestows its bounty it's viewed as a benefactor. Yet among those it forsakes it foments a perpetually growing embitterment. Basically, when a player sees someone who put in much less work repeatedly get better gear than them it p*sses them off, and it often just keeps doing so in perpetuity until they resent the entire experience.

 

Unlike Anthem, someone who's been playing WoW for 50 hours and doing content of moderate difficulty, would never be rewarded with more powerful items than someone who'd been playing for 500 hours and doing significantly harder content. And what's one of the primary complaints about this game from people? There's no benefit to doing harder difficulty. You get the same gear from lower difficulty content. Worse, you can get more powerful gear from lower difficulty content than higher difficulty content, because the damage a weapon does for example is highly subject to RNG as opposed to being exclusively determined by the content difficulty from which it was acquired. So, though many perhaps cannot articulate precisely their aversion to the game, no small amount of people are plainly gleaning the fundamentally unfair nature of excessively randomized rewards. It's something the average person finds repugnant on a visceral level. Unfortunately, those who are the beneficiaries of luck are inclined to defend it, without realizing or caring how it affects other people. The person who wins the lottery loves the lottery, but for everyone else, it's just a waste of money and source of continual disappointment.

When The Division first released I made a lengthy post on their forums providing my observations as a long time gamer. One of my primary complaints about that game was its reliance on excessive RNG and failure to learn from the mistakes, and copy the successes, of prior games. And now here I am again, ironically, making the same observations about Anthem. Why Bioware chose to adopt a loot model that's a proven game killer (e.g., The Division), as opposed to one that's kept WoW going for 15 years, is beyond me. It often makes me feel like the people making games, have never played any other games but those they make, because the problems inherent to what's been done here would be obvious to anyone who had. Why are developers repeating the same mistakes as their contemporaries and predecessors, over and over, in title after title? Why is this happening? Are you consulting gamers when you design games? And if not, why? A few hours with me during the process could have saved you a whole lot of headache, Bioware. It almost feels like these games are being designed and produced by isolationists sequestered from all the rest of the world; because I keep seeing the same mistakes interminably manifesting year after year.

This is not to bash you, Bioware. I love your work overall. Mass Effect is my favorite sci-fi franchise of all time. I even like what you've done here in Anthem to a great degree. The world you've created here, though too sparsely populated and lacking in diversity of tasks in my opinion, is beautiful. The combat is top notch and really fun. I even thought the diminutive story was okay. But this loot system you chose, for whatever reason, is simply caustic in nature. And I'll tell you why.

 

When I was playing The Division, I spent untold hours farming mats (yellow division tech I think it was called) in the Dark Zone (which was a hacker infested nightmare). The rolls on weapons were likewise random in that game. So I got a bunch of these materials to craft a high level gun I wanted with specific (good) stats. I proceeded to craft no less than 200 of these guns. Not one of them had the stats I wanted. I subsequently quit the game. So, as I've said for years, and will say it until I die. RNG is not content; it's merely content simulacra. And rather than being used to a marginal degree to extend content life, it's now far too often being used as a substitute for it. 

So, despite my better judgment, and in acknowledgment of the potential of this game, I'm willing to give you a chance, Bioware. But I have some suggestions you should seriously consider.

 

• There needs to be a consistent baseline standard for items. Item power (e.g., the damage a weapon does) should primarily (if not exclusively) be contingent upon progression, i.e., where/how you got it. NOT CASINO SLOT MACHINE ROLLSSimply put, doing higher level content and killing harder enemies should be what yields more powerful gear, which in turn enables the player to progress to yet more difficult content. The perks (inscriptions) on weapons should be of ancillary importance, and should never be crucial to viability or progression. The weapon/armor/component itself should be what matters in that regard. In WoW all items dropped in a certain level of difficulty have essentially the same core stats. Minor incremental upgrades can occur through "warforged" drops, which have slight stat boosts, or gem sockets which allow the player to marginally boost a stat of their choice. First and foremost this makes balancing far easier by, among other things, preventing wild disparities in the quality/power of items received by people doing the same content. Doing harder content yields better quality items which are balanced for the next level of content. People doing the same content get items of comparable power and quality which is equitable; comparable reward for comparable content completion. Not through randomization, which is not, because it far too often rewards ineptitude and punishes skill.

 

• There needs to be guaranteed rewards for time investment. Not everything has to be guaranteed, but something has to be guaranteed, and that something has to be substantive/meaningful/valuable in the eyes of the player. Not your eyes necessarily.

• Guns, or offensive items, should provide damage stats. Armor/components should provide defensive stats. The two should not cross over. It's counter-intuitive, convoluted, and frankly goofy. You should not be getting shield/armor buffs on a rifle. You should not be getting "luck" on a rifle, or at the very least not at the expense of a primary stat. Either give people charm or talisman slots for things like that, or segregate perks into primary and convenience categories with their own exclusive pools. In other words, the first row is for primary stats, and rolls in that row are guaranteed to be + damage or + crit for example. The second row is convenience stats and rolls in that row are guaranteed to be quality of life stats. One cannot get a perk for the former in the latter's row or vice versa. Or get rid of them altogether, and standardize item power and stats, which would be fine with me and save you all of the headache involved. That way you know exactly what you're getting when another player of the same gear score, or which has the same weapon, joins your party. Because under the current system of hyper-randomization, things like gear score are highly unreliable, which negates its purpose to a significant degree. Again, things that are virtually non-existent in WoW because their model largely precludes such problems.

You've got a great foundation here, Bioware. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel.

 

***EDIT**** (This video has been added here also since most people won't read the whole thread and see my subsequent remarks.)

 

Message 1 of 57 (1,126 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

★ Guide
really nice, hope they see this and think about it a bit
Message 2 of 57 (1,072 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

★★★ Guide

@Penitent 

 

I’ll admit, I didn’t read all of this essay, because after the first several paragraphs, it became clear I didn’t agree with your thesis. I don’t believe BioWare is intentionally trying to inflate their gametime with loot, if you want an example of a company that is, you should spend some time on Destiny.

 

i think the problem here is mainly BioWare is in uncharted territory for them, and they simply haven’t figured out how to make a great loot system yet. Either way, it doesn’t really matter to me, because I’m not playing the game for loot alone. I play it because it is fun to play, despite the issues and bugs, unlike the other game I mentioned, that isn’t fun at all.

Message 3 of 57 (1,034 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

[ Edited ]
★ Guide

I bet they would ignore this post but I think the industry needs more people like you...

 

After I was stuck at GM2 for 100hours without any progress. The time has come when friends start to compete with each other who's the luckiest guy. Aimlessly and brainlessly playing the same missions again and again, with similar environment. Pure luck, no skill. This is just ugly.

 

Not to mention there are bugs, though handful, more than enough to disrupt your fun streak.

I don't mind brainlessly grind a game 10hrs straight given that day is not a working day. But whenever the game prompts me a new bug or make my game restart, my brain wakes me up and whisper "why do you even spend time in this so called game"

Message 4 of 57 (1,032 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

★ Apprentice

Pure luck leading to better outcomes (and it can in life) also leads to some bad behavior in us primates. I would suggest the devs look at the research of Paul Piff at Berkeley. There are some articles, and a TED talk, google should find them.

 

His results are interesting, but as a more applicable thing is how he sets up his experiments. He uses games with the outcomes primed by extreme luck/ advantages. This would be the same scenario as Anthem would have where one player was lucky with early drops and another was not. I think they should read his study and see how that then plays out socially. It certainly explains some of the community fragmentation in MMOs. Perhaps they are already aware, and I mention this mainly since this particular studio has in the past cared about the social and community ramifications of their design choices. Paul Piff's work is interesting in that light.

 

A different thought I want to touch on is that there are other progression paths rather than straight statflation. There is the build diversity thing. This can keep the game fresh by mixing up the meta with items and changes (GW1/PoE fantastic here). Also having a variety of builds makes a fun gameplay loop have more legs since you are doing it differently (GW2/PoE/D3). I notice the game already has the UI part  there to store multiple build loadouts for each javelin.  I know the dev that did the loot rebalance on D3 chimed in, but one item that helped D3 that he didn't mention (perhaps assuming everyone knew) was the goal of some drops that work as "this changes everything" in regards to opening up a complete new build. Right now you do have a collect all the cards so you can have a wider option for your limited play slot (GW1 skill chase). Of course, in GW1 you knew where to chase each skill, here you grind and pray. I know the aRPGs and GW1 and 2 have done a good job of giving players a reason to take another spin by rebalancing existing skills (and changing the meta) at regular intervals as well as the more loot-based ones (PoE/D3) using the random rare loot item opens up a whole new can of builds. Right now I see some UI and a little game play to support that in Anthem, but the loot structure doesn't seem in line with it.

Message 5 of 57 (987 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

[ Edited ]
★ Apprentice

Unlike other games, Bioware reached out to us and asked us how can they fixed the loot based on our opinions. That is already better than other games. As I stated in that post that Bioware can fix the loot issue simply by increasing how loot is awarded in M2 and M3 content. M2 should have a 50% chance to drop legendary items and M3 should always award legendary items when completing contract or a stronghold. Simply adjusting the loot table for those harder difficulty will resolve the issues many see when running M2 or M3 content. 

 

Other things I added was components lack of 4 inscriptions; adding 2 more inscriptions to Masterwork and Legendary for components will help improve how we view the inscriptions we get. The other thing is updating the armor and shield for Universal Components, etc... 

 

This isn't Bioware first rodeo with rng for a multiplayer game, they do run Star Wars online game; however, it is their first attempt with a loot shooter from the team that brought the first three ME games. Besides that the game is also using the wonderful and overpowered Frostbite engine that seems to cause some issues for Bioware. 

 

Things are not all rosy but they also could be worse, Fallout 76 worse. 

 

Bioware is still in month one for Anthem yet almost all post I see are players needing cheese for their wine because they are not getting the gear they want as fast as they want it. Give Bioware time to adjust; they seem to want to fix the loot and hopefully they do. 

 

 

Message 6 of 57 (975 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

★★ Apprentice
I don't know if I agree with all of this, but I definitely agree that at the very least the loot drop algorithms need to be improved a fair bit.

Personally I don't mind the presence of RNG so long as an acceptable percentage of drops have acceptable and fair properties commensurate to the difficulty of acquiring them.

But I DO mind when the RNG wastes loads of my time on trash I won't ever equip.

I'd like the loot system to be aware of and incorporate my playstyle into what it drops. At the very least learn player preferences and modify drop rates of different item and weapon types accordingly.

If you want to know what I mean, let me describe my loadout and what my drops most regularly are:
MW Ranger
Components are all fine, one of them is Legendary (albeit its effect is kinda pathetic, allows me to hover longer or something, and the actual effects are pointless).
Thunderbolt of Yvenia, rolled with %175 damage which prior to this patch was almost a requirement for any weapon on Grandmaster if it were to be useful.
Divine Vengeance or whatever it's called, recently got this, works fine.
Last Word grenade, similarly amazing.
MW venom darts rolled with an extra charge (which amusingly manifests as TWO extra charges)
And a Bulwark Point
So that's what I have equipped. One legendary component and everything else but Support is MW.

Now here's what typically drops from the MW or Legendary pickups:
Argo's Mace is by far the most prevalent and least useful.
General's Favour component drops very often as well (I do actually use this though)
The MW frost grenade.
The MW seeker grenade.
And I have gotten the SAME legendary heavy pistol twice now, of my total 3 legendary drops. This pistol doesn't at all fit my play style of combo-ing and firing iteratively in bursts. It can't break down an enemy shield without exhausting 2 clips of ammo at least, and even with the legendary/mw effect on it (does 75% more damage after dodging for 10 seconds iirc) it just isn't competitive with Thunderbolt of Yvenia or Divine Vengeance.

And to put in perspective the sheer sadness of those drops, I've easily had Argo's Mace drop 15+ times, everything else listed save for the legendary would be around 6-12 times. Meanwhile I'm still missing a MW assault rifle and a MW marksman rifle, preventing me from completing the mastery challenges for both weapon types.
Message 7 of 57 (963 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

★★ Apprentice

I'm not going into this again, Anthem is flawe ... i have gone too far, well, i will just use some wise words i was told not long ago :

 

It is Anthem's destiny to be the source of division for some time.

Message 8 of 57 (961 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

[ Edited ]
★★★★★ Novice

@snippytheminer wrote:
I don't know if I agree with all of this, but I definitely agree that at the very least the loot drop algorithms need to be improved a fair bit.

Personally I don't mind the presence of RNG so long as an acceptable percentage of drops have acceptable and fair properties commensurate to the difficulty of acquiring them.

But I DO mind when the RNG wastes loads of my time on trash I won't ever equip.

This is basically about what I'm complaining in my original post. Playing this game doesn't feel rewarding, in terms of loot dispersal, because it's far too random and independent of your time investment and personal skill level. It's not rewarding your time and skill as it should because it's basically just a lottery system. All that's required is that you be there when the box is opened. 99% of the time you're going to get completely worthless trash, but the developers in this game like every other game of this sort, justify this by claiming that trash is "something." Imagine if I charged you ten dollars for a .5% chance to win a flatscreen TV, and a 99.5% chance to win a handful of stuff I grab out of a trashcan. And when you complain about getting a banana peel with mold on it, I tell you you were not ripped off, sir, because you got "something" for your money. Understand and you will understand how hyper-randomization loot models work. They're not intended to make the game better, they're intended to allow it to be worse, yet remain profitable (by feeding addiction instead of offering a legitimate product or service).

I'm not saying Bioware offered no product here, because they did. This is not, despite what many online are saying, a poorly made game or something for nothing scenario. But I do think they relied on RNG far too much to pad out content droughts. And the result is obvious from the community response. Most people, unlike the guy I quoted previously, want to feel like their progression is a result of their own determination and skill. Not people being randomly rewarded. As for Bioware, they're not some upstart, small time game maker. They know what they're doing. This was a decision someone made. Whether out of ignorance or deliberation this was by design. And again, it's frustrating how developers keep making this same decision over and over (e.g., Diablo 3, The Division, etc.), when there's so much evidence illustrating it's a bad idea. I mean, one of the developers of Diablo gave a lengthy speech a couple of years ago explaining how they had to completely redesign that game's loot system, because it was basically just hyper-randomized excrement. And the decision to change that system literally saved that game.

 

Allow me to explain further with the assistance of an illustrative aid.

 

WoW stats.jpg

 

In WoW a weapon or piece of armor typically has 4 stats. Two primary and two secondary. For a melee class like me the primary stats were strength (how hard you hit) and stamina (how much health you have). These two stats will always be present on items for your class and will always be static on that specific item. Everyone getting this item will get the same core stats (unless it's a "warforged" item which would be like 5-10% better than the normal item). The number for these stats goes up in higher difficulty content. So in this image the item has 121 strength, but in the next level of difficulty this item might have 135 strength for example, and so on. So no matter what, if you're doing harder content than before, that item will by default be useful to you (because it increases your overall power). The two secondary stats are less important than these two stats, but still important, and include things like haste, mastery, crit, versatility, etc. These stats are weighted differently for each class, so that specific stats are more valuable for some than others. My two best stats are haste (increases speed of attacks and cooldowns) and mastery (increases chance to block and the amount of damage that's blocked). So I'm taking any item that's an upgrade of my two primary stats, but I am seeking items that are both primary stat upgrades, AND have my two best secondary stats in particular. This is what keeps you playing. You're going to get items that are primary stat upgrades, but do not have your ideal secondary stats, so you keep playing the same content to get those "best in slot" (BIS) items.

Again, this also makes balancing far easier. Since items have a consistent baseline power level, you can design the next level of difficulty around the cumulative power of those items. Players with a certain item level will be capable of a maximum of (x) dmg, for example, and you will never have Player A doing (x) dmg, but Player B with the same items doing +300% more damage to the same enemies than Player A, because Player B got two random +150% dmg rolls on those items. (Figures for illustrative purposes only and not meant to be precise.) 

 

I probably don't do the best job of explaining it. But basically, the player has some actual control of what they get in WoW. There's an element of randomization, but it's not so excessive that you're completely at the mercy of the algorithm. There are also things like loot coins that allow you to increase your chances of getting specific items. So, any time I start playing WoW again, one of the first things I do is look up all the boss loot tables and make a list of my BIS items and what bosses drop them, and I only use my coins on those boss encounters. You can also trade drops with anyone in your group when that boss was killed. So if you have that item already, or another you prefer, and someone has an inferior item you can give it to them or vice versa. The point being WoW, though you can't negate it completely, provides you with multiple ways to get around the RNG to a degree so "bad luck" doesn't become too punishing and sour the entire experience. It should also be observed that even when Blizzard deviated too far from this model (Diablo) people hated it and they almost killed their game.

 

 

^^^ This presentation cannot be shared enough with developers. (This is an abbreviated version that emphasizes some of the more pertinent points. The original is over an hour long.) And despite having been shared rather liberally since it occurred, these exact same problems keep turning up in new games again and again. 

I've played WoW off and on for 15 years. And one of the things that has consistently pulled me back to it is its UI features and loot/progression system. They simply nailed the formula, and this becomes really apparent to you as a WoW player, when you quit WoW for another game. Because when you do that you encounter what you get in Anthem. A game in which I'm basically just wandering around aimlessly at this point with no clear direction for progression because everything is random. Rewards are to a great degree, and therefore progression in proportion, the result of "luck." You're either lucky enough to get an item that makes you strong enough to do the next level of content or you're not. And it's awful.

 

So, some of you folks can "disagree" with the premise of my post all you like. You're simply wrong, and Joshua Mosqueira and Diablo 3, proved that you're wrong. As for Bioware, if you want to save your game, look to WoW. Adopt a proven model that's produced long term sustainability. Make the changes you must as quickly as possible. Because too much RNG = death.

Message 9 of 57 (879 Views)

Re: Observations of a long time gamer on Anthem.

★★★★ Novice

This is just one, random player's thoughts but reading all these loot posts has me very confused.

 

I don't understand how people can compare Anthem loot to WoW or even ask for gearing process like WoW's. Are you all asking for all of your gear to be trash each chapter and start the hearing process all over?

 

Are we asking them to completely invalidate all of the progress you made each new chapter? That is the WoW gear progression. Let's not forget the 40 man raids that dropped one piece of loot for the entire raid.

 

My own personal feeling is that the loot is currently about right. Legendary pieces drop rate is ok.  They feel rare and they should be.

What they need is a more limited inscription roll pool, using only major inscriptions instead of rolling minor ones like +1damage or some other nonsense or they need to add a way to craft them via mission or other mechanic in game.

 

The inscription poools for masterworks need to follow a similar pattern with higher inscription rolls than minor ones as a mid option between epic and legendary.

 

I am also one of those people that enjoy having some way of generating gear without killing stuff, i.e. crafting.

 

The dev's took a step in the right direction with the masterwork embers reduction for crafting, that is how I have gotten almost all of my current masterwork gear with decent rolls and almost all of that crafting was done via free roam farming embers or just running instances for deconstructing masterworks.

I would even love to see a mechanic for crafting gear with selectable roll ranges with a % chance to succeed in targeted crafting.

 

 

There can definetly be improvements to loot drops. Not loosing loot to crashes for one, adding deconstruct filters for mass deconstructing etc. but 50% drop rate is not one of them as far as I am concerned.

 

We should not be easily running Grandmaster 2 or 3 content two weeks after release, that's just stupid for a game like this and makes the long term commitment a non starter.

Message 10 of 57 (834 Views)

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