Anthem's Loading Times Are A Real Problem

On Saturday night, I logged into BioWare’s new game Anthem and loaded up what I thought was a mission called Finding Old Friends. Instead, I got to play an entirely different mission: Finding Old Friends On Facebook While Wondering If Anthem Will Ever Actually Load.

Anthem, which came out February 15 in early access and launches for real on February 22, is riddled with bugs and issues, some of which may be fixed in the day-one (read: day-seven) patch. Perhaps the most prevalent issue is the loading times, which have been absurdly long for many players, myself included.

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After sitting through a number of painful loading screens in previous missions, I finally pulled out a stopwatch for Finding Old Friends. The period from hitting the launch button to entering the game took an excruciating two minutes and 24 seconds. But that wasn’t all. By the time I got into the game, my other three squadmates had already gotten way ahead of me, so I had to watch yet another loading screen as the game yelled at me for lagging behind and teleported me ahead to catch up.

Then, after shooting some aliens and watching a mid-mission cutscene, I watched a loading screen pop up for another three minutes or so before Anthem decided it’d had enough and booted me from the game entirely. That was about the time I decided to shut down my PC and go take a few stabs at Martyr Logarius.

This is a problem that BioWare says it’s fixing in Friday’s patch, which isn’t much comfort to anyone who dished out extra for one of EA’s subscription services to play Anthem a week early. It also makes me think of an amusing anecdote.

Last January, in a piece about the severe pressure that BioWare was feeling on Anthem, and about how the studio had rebooted and paused Dragon Age 4 as a result, I reported that the game had been delayed from fall 2018 to early 2019. I wrote that, as BioWare sources had told me, the fall 2018 window was “never realistic” due to Anthem’s rocky development. Shortly afterwards, EA confirmed that delay in an unusual fashion. On a quarterly earnings call in February 2018, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that it wasn’t actually a “delay” because actually, the game would’ve been ready—they just wanted to move it away from Battlefield V.

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“Regardless of how it’s being portrayed, we’re not looking at that as a delay,” Wilson told investors. “The date is chosen by portfolio balance, not product readiness.” And, wrote the Wall Street Journal: “The company denies a report in videogame site Kotaku earlier this month claiming the change is due to development being behind schedule... ‘It’s not a delay,’ EA’s finance chief Blake Jorgensen tells the WSJ. ‘People are trying to create a story.’”

Now that it’s February 2019 and Anthem players need to wait for a day-one patch to fix critical game-breaking issues, those EA executive comments sure are fascinating.

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