Battlefield 4 looked so pretty in its 17-minute gameplay unveiling at last year’s Game Developers Conference. EA’s presentation though, completely missed the mark in showcasing anything really new or innovative or highlighting the franchise’s signature multiplayer, but the game looked good. Looking back, that reveal was very telling.
The game released in a rush just in time for the holiday sales season alongside the also-rushed PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, running on a [number + 1] game engine as a [number + 1] game installment in the Battlefield franchise, but it wasn’t ready. Like SimCity before it, Electronic Arts wasn’t well-equipped for the online-only game. Missing features and another forgettable single player campaign aside, the multiplayer – like BF3 before it – launched in what we’d describe as a beta state. To this day, four months after release, BF4 isn’t where it should be. But don’t forget to pay more money for a Premium subscription so you can get hands-on first with this month’s Naval Strike DLC!
It’s very telling of the times, where crowdfunded games and early access titles make as many headlines as triple-A franchises and players get used to playing games that aren’t finished or polished. But for big budget Battlefield, from Electronic Arts, it’s only making matters worse for a game maker who for two years in a row was crowned The Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America.” To that honor, EA’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore responded:
“I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn’t meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity. We owe gamers better performance than this.”
When are they going to deliver? Medal of Honor was released and EA reps followed up by saying it didn’t meet their own quality expectations. So why did they release it as such? And worse, why did they do the exact same thing with its sequel, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, where again, it didn’t deliver. That franchise is now dead again.
For BF4, it launched with a long list of issues on day one, followed up by frequent bouts of connectivity errors for some players, depending on the platform, and all of this was followed up by a series of lawsuits against EA for statements made to shareholders about the quality of the game, resulting in some analysts warning that the Battlefield brand had been tarnished. Some of this was overblown since many players were able to play the game without most of the issues, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any, and EA is making efforts to get players happy with the game and playing it more, hosting fan appreciation events throughout February.
Yesterday however, DICE posted an official statement regarding “netcode issues” where they finally addressed some of the problems players are still experiencing with the game, promising that it’s a “top priority” to fix them. It’s not a top priority though. The game released in October 2013 and it’s now March 2014. Why did the game release with so many issues that after four months, are still being worked on? Titanfall, EA’s next big online shooter, releases next week, and their previous game still isn’t quite up to snuff. Of course, Titanfall comes from a different developer in Respawn Entertainment who may not (read: hopefully not) be as rushed as some alleged insiders claim DICE was in getting Battlefield 4 out the door.
That being said, DICE is addressing the issues, have fixed some key ones already, and are working on a few others. Head to the official Battlelog post for full details but here’s what they’re working on currently:
What we are Fixing or Investigating
We have made several server optimizations that have decreased rubber banding for some players. To further address the issue, there are upcoming fixes for packet loss and a customize screen bug, both connected to the rubber banding issue. Furthermore, we will continue to collect data to pinpoint exactly when and why rubber banding is occurring.
Kill camera delay / Player death sync
On some occasions, the kill camera would trigger before the game client displayed the last portion of damage being dealt, giving players the impression that they died too early. There were also issues with blood effects, damage indicators, and the health bar in the HUD being out of sync. A fix for this will be included in the next game update.
Players have been asking whether the tickrate — how often the server will update the game world — in Battlefield 4 will be higher in the future. Though we haven’t got any immediate plans to increase the tickrate at this moment, we are exploring the possibilities of raising the tickrate on specific servers.
No registered damage
We are aware of the bug where players have been firing at their opponent and not doing damage. In the February 13 game update for PC, we added a piece of code that enables us to specifically track instances where this would occur. We are currently looking at when this issue is triggered, and what causes it. The data that we receive will help us to further improve the firefights in the future.
Instant death while sprinting
At certain occasions while walking or sprinting, a player could get catapulted at high speed which would cause death if any object was standing in the way. This was caused by a mathematical error in the character physics code, and we have a fix prepared for an upcoming patch.
In addition to these items, there are also fixes coming for issues with Levolution being out of sync, shots appearing to be fired in the wrong direction, and vehicles outside the infantry area not taking damage when fired at. Also, we have introduced new in-game icons that will help you, and us, to troubleshoot network related problems that could cause an inconsistent multiplayer experience.
Eventually, all of these will be fixed and Battlefield 4 will be that much more polished and better for it. In December, DLC was delayed so DICE could focus on addressing major problems with the game. In reality, it was more of a PR move than a shift in development. The ‘China Rising’ and ‘Second Assault’ expansions are already available and this month comes the third of five in ‘Naval Strike’, DLC that EA has been promoting over the last week. Here are the details on Naval Strike which adds a fun new mode that Battlefield 2142 fans will appreciate:
Battlefield 4: Naval Strike – KEY FEATURES
- 4 all-new multiplayer maps set in the South China Sea
- Lost Islands
- Nansha Strike
- Wave Breaker
- Operation Mortar
- 5 weapons all-new to Battlefield 4
- Introducing the amphibious hovercraft vehicle
- 2 additional gadgets
- 3GL (3 grenade launcher) attachment for the Assault class
- Anti-Heli Mine; an aircraft disabling projectile for the Engineer class
- Carrier Assault game mode which is a re-imagining of the classic Battlefield 2142 Titan Mode
- 10 new assignments with unlocks for each
Don’t forget to opt into Premium so you can play it two weeks early! That way you’ll also get the two remaining packs, ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ and ‘Final Stand’, which have yet to be detailed.
For the remaining DLC, DICE’s main Swedish studio won’t be working on them. DICE Los Angeles will be handling the last two packs according to a dev on Reddit. That likely means, DICE’s BF4 team is being shifted entirely to other projects – like the next Mirror’s Edge and the Star Wars: Battlefront reboot which can’t afford to be subject to the same sorts of launches BF3 and BF4 endured. On the flipside, if DICE’s main studio is doing less work on BF4 we’re unsure if that affects updates on the main game.
Needless to say, all of this news combined makes us very concerned and skeptical for the rumors of EA trying to pull even more of a Call of Duty in annualizing the series, with rumors of a police-themed Battlefield spinoff coming this fall, possibly in development at Visceral Games.
Does EA need to slow down on their releases and deliver on their promise of quality or have their triple-A games met your expectations?
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.