Flying in Anthem was not always something BioWare developers agreed should be in the game.
In Kotaku’s big expose on Anthem’s troubled development, it was revealed that a major feature that we think of now as a core part of the game may never have made it.
That being the ability to fly in Anthem’s world. According to the report, Anthem went through several big design changes, and flying was added, removed, and re-added multiple times throughout the game’s years-long pre-production phase.
Initially, flying “felt like gliding”, with BioWare often struggling to make it fun. Some earlier designs also envisioned it as an ability for just one of the game’s exosuits.
Some developers felt allowing players to fly would take away the need to explore and discover the game’s world, while others lamented the technical challenges that come with implementing the feature.
It wasn’t until Patrick Soderlund, former head of EA studios, was very disappointed in a demo BioWare had shown him in early 2017 that the team decided to add flying back in.
The feature became part of a new demo designed to impress Soderlund, which ended up taking “six weeks of pretty significant crunch”, according to the report. Unsurprisingly, the executive was very pleased with the updated demo, and it’s that reaction that cemented flying as one of Anthem’s greatest assets.
The rest of the report is a fascinating, if saddening look behind the curtain. It’s well worth reading.