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Anthem VIP Demo: BioWare says it knows what the problems are, is working to fix them

Server capacity was not the issue, but others still must be addressed

Anthem - two players shooting a Scar BioWare/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

What’s going on with Anthem? Why can’t I get into this “VIP Demo”? BioWare’s head of live service sought to answer those questions and reassure players that the studio knows exactly what the problems are as it works to resolve them.

There are three main problems, Chad Robertson wrote yesterday evening: The spike of players entering Anthem’s demo on Friday; problems with some accounts being blocked from the demo because of how they had been flagged internally, and “infinite loads” caused by some interactions between internet service providers and players’ home networks.

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.”

The problem with account flags is tied to their entitlements — that is, things such as access to the demo and pre-order bonus content. “During the demo weekend, we identified a bug where VIP players with a specific combination of entitlements were being blocked from accessing the demo,” Robertson wrote. “We believe we’ve resolved most of these, but have additional cases we are addressing.”

The problem caused by players surging into the demo on Friday is not because of server capacity, Robertson said. The issues that spike caused “did not present themselves during our internal testing,” he said. Fixes for these issues will be applied throughout the weekend.

“I want to dispel one comment we’ve seen: that we under-planned for server capacity,” Robertson said. “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.”

But Robertson acknowledged that the game did not work as designed to meet players’ expectations, whatever the specific problem may be.

Anthem, BioWare’s open-world MMO shooter, is due to launch Feb. 22, 2019 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Friday it kicked off an early access demo for players who had pre-ordered the game or subscribed to Electronic Arts’ two premium Access services. Almost immediately, many had problems either getting into the game or launching a mission from the hub world. The surge also seemed to affect getting into all other Electronic Arts games and services.

The game’s official Twitter feed said late yesterday that players on all three platforms “should not have issues accessing the VIP demo” though engineers were still “working hard to resolve some known issues.” From what I was able to observe, this is technically correct. I had no problem accessing Anthem and walking around the Fort Tarsis hub world. But trying to launch my first expedition resulted in the infinite load problem described, and I gave up on that after three tries.

The “VIP Demo” was offered as an incentive for pre-ordering the $59.99 game or subscribing to EA’s Origin Access or EA Access programs, which are $4.99 a month or $29.99 a year. That offers one week of play ahead of the demo’s free launch to the rest of the public on Feb. 1.

The Javelin vinyl VIP Demo players will get when Anthem launches in February.
BioWare/Electronic Arts

Robertson did not say anything about extending either the demo or the VIP period in light of the problems playing Anthem. But players who were entitled to the VIP Demo will get an additional armor skin when the game launches. Robertson said that Anthem has still had “many players enjoying the game,” and said it was “incredibly humbling” to see more than 300,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch, and more than 100 million minutes watched. “Those are Fortnite-type numbers!” he added.

“We believe we’ve created an amazing game and we’re doing everything we can to ensure our entire community can enjoy it,” he said.