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EA’s attempt to explain the rocky Battlefield 4 launch wasn’t good enough

Friday, 20th June 2014 16:15 GMT By Dave Cook

Battlefield 4′s launch issues were a cause of great frustration and dismay for fans of EA’s series at release and beyond. Company CEO Andrew Wilson recently called the situation “unacceptable” and offered an explanation. VG247′s Dave Cook reckons his rationale is weak.

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”I personally find it hard to believe that over ambition was the sole cause for the game’s launch woes, but concede that maybe DICE was trying to cram too much in there. It happens, deadlines get missed and things quickly fall apart.”

Note: this is an opinion blog.

Rubber banding, squad issues, irritating lag and confounding one-shot deaths were just a few of the prevalent issues that plagued the multiformat release of Battlefield 4 last October.

Angry gamers and bloggers called out the shooter as unfinished on social channels, the game’s DLC slate was delayed to allow more time for tuning – much to the dismay of season pass holders – and law suits were filed to investigate claims of corruption.

There have been better launches.

But here we are some eight months later and Battlefield 4 has largely righted itself, and although no game is 100% without flaws or bugs, you have to admit that it certainly performs much better than that mangled original build. I cannot take that away from DICE. The team has listened, learned and did its best to fix the problem. That is great to see.

What happened? Well, in a recent interview with Eurogamer, EA CEO Andrew Wilson blamed the rocky start on over-ambition; the fact that developer DICE was simply trying to cram too many new mechanics and content into new software on untested platforms like PS4 and Xbox One. He called it “unacceptable.”

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Let us not forget however, that both consoles now have similar architectures to PC, a format DICE has worked with for years now. I personally find it hard to believe that over ambition was the sole cause for the game’s launch woes, but concede that maybe DICE was trying to cram too much in there. It happens, deadlines get missed and things quickly fall apart.

”At launch Battlefield 4 was an expensive, mangled wreck of a game that looked utterly dog-eared on last-gen formats, and let’s not forget those paying for Premium who had to put up with months of being dicked around.”

Wilson effectively stated that technical incompetence was not the issue, but added that Battlefield 4′s crippled state came from the client side rather than its servers, which makes one assume that the game was perhaps rushed to coincide with the launch of Sony and Microsoft’s new machines. This certainly ties in with the over-ambition claim, doesn’t it?

This sounds a little more likely to me, as Wilson himself added that EA wants to give DICE more time to squash bugs in its games moving forward, and made repeated mention of learning from mistakes. It’s possible, then, that DICE was rushed during the game’s development, and came up short when it came time to test.

However, he denied that EA rushed the shooter to meet those new-gen launches, and even took the opportunity to take a thinly-veiled swipe at Battlefield’s rival Call of Duty, with its annualised dev cycle and release dates so rigid that animals are known to set their hibernation to them.

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Wilson said, “You could go down the really conservative path, which some people did in the industry, and your game didn’t have any of those problems, but you also got the feedback of, it just feels the same as it used to.

“Or, you could push the boundaries and end up in the situation we ended up in. Neither is good. But I would like to be in the company pushing the boundaries.”

I don’t understand Wilson’s rationale and cheap pot-shot here at all. Is he saying that Activision and its blanket Call of Duty studios are being conservative by releasing a yearly game, and refraining from innovation? Well, that wouldn’t be the first time teams like Infinity Ward and Treyarch have been accused of being lazy.

”I don’t doubt that customer faith, loyalty and appreciation are key to DICE or EA to some level, but the way Battlefield 4 felt rushed to meet other targets – be it shareholder demands, retailers or the console launches – simply doesn’t fly.”

It’s not a sentiment I share, given how little time these companies have to produce a triple-a product. Are the Call of Duty games innovative? Not really, although their developers are anything but lazy given the brutal dev cycle imposed on them, and you know what that so-called conservatism has allowed for year-in, year-out? Games that people paid up to £50 for that actually worked like a fully functioning product as promised.

Call of Duty: Ghosts, Black Ops 2 and the like still needed patches post-launch, and they hardly break the mould, but they actually worked to a satisfactory level. Battlefield 4 in the majority did not.

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At launch Battlefield 4 was an expensive, mangled wreck of a game that looked utterly dog-eared on last-gen formats, and let’s not forget those paying for Premium who had to put up with months of being dicked around and having their privileged DLC delayed to make up for critical issues. Issues that should have kept the game from shipping in the first place.

Around Battlefield 4′s launch I saw several gamers stating that EA should have postponed the title to fix those problems. Logistically, that would have been a nightmare, seeing as there was likely money tied up in all tiers of the retail food chain – from store pre-order incentives, that Microsoft-EA partnership, advertisers and more.

”Along the line I got the feeling that someone at a higher pay-grade, or with a louder ‘voice’ drowned out all reason then shifted focus on profit and capturing that peak market time while it was hot with new-gen fever.”

Another high-profile title, Watch Dogs, was delayed in the eleventh hour last year and its developer given extra space to address whatever problems plagued it at the time. That probably cost Ubisoft and Sony – who were in bed with the title – a great deal of money, or at least a few Christmas cards come that December.

There are problems with Watch Dogs that have since arisen on PC, but the point is that EA should have followed suit and put the consumer first by delaying Battlefield 4, thus giving them a working product worth the asking price, instead of bowing to other pressures.

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I don’t doubt that customer faith, loyalty and appreciation are key to DICE or EA to some level, but the way Battlefield 4 felt rushed to meet other targets – be it shareholder demands, retailers or the console launches – simply doesn’t fly if true.

It should never have launched in October 2013.

My final observation is that the DICE of last Christmas seemed like a studio stretched thin to near-breaking point, if we’re to believe it had Battlefield 4, Mirror’s Edge and Star Wars Battlefront on the go at once. That’s also unfortunate if true.

I do not believe for a moment that DICE purposely manipulated gamers or wanted to ship a fractured product win Battlefield 4. I have too much faith in humanity to believe that, but along the line I got the feeling that someone at a higher pay-grade, or with a louder ‘voice’ drowned out all reason then shifted focus on profit and capturing that peak market time while it was hot with new-gen fever.

What’s more important: Profit or customer trust? Some times it’s hard to see where the needle lies.

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16 Comments

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  1. SlayerGT

    For him to admit it..surely there must be compensation coming our way? Oh that’s right, we did get battle packs…

    #1 1 month ago
  2. PEYJ

    I know it’s off topic but I can’t find any right “accesspoint”; how do I delete my account?

    #2 1 month ago
  3. aseddon130

    The launch wasn’t that bad, I got a good chunk of my Christmas and beyond into battlefield on xbox one, with a few annoyances but nothing major really.

    The rocky launch hasn’t put me off getting future battlefield games but battlefield hardlined couldn’t be any more generic if it tried, that’s why I’m skipping it this year. I’ll stick with halo MC Collection and Titanfall for my shooter needs

    #3 1 month ago
  4. AmiralPatate

    I don’t believe Mirror’s Edge and Battlefront were a strain on DICE’s resources. First, it’s a big studio. Second, ME and SWBF were shown not even in an alpha stage at E3. It looks more like proof of concept/engine test than anything actually playable. So I don’t think the development team was focused on anything else than BF4.

    But it’s not unexpected when you know DICE. They always at problems at launch as far as I can remember. BF2142 had problems, BC2 had problems, BF3 had massive problems, and surprise, BF4 also had massive problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hardline repeated the pattern. There are also some bugs that are now features. Like clipping your legs through a thin wall. That date as far back as 2007 and BF2142, if not older.
    It’s like they are incapable of polishing a game before launching it. So surely BF4 was rushed. But even with additional time I’m sure it wouldn’t have been smooth sailing anyway.

    #4 1 month ago
  5. sebastien rivas

    Guys go play Bf4 right now, you have quite a few servers that just kill players with bans for hacking by the shovel. There is a single minute without at least 10 bans for hacking on ACG.

    Maybe others are finally folllowing

    #5 1 month ago
  6. sebastien rivas

    Now as for the article, it is always nice to hear points and excuses… sure.
    But in my experience the deadliest were fucking EXPLOITS and also HACKINGS and that is what made me turn my back on DICE.

    Don’t give me the eternal hacking bullshit like it’s part of the game, or, it’s bad but there is nothing we can do etc….

    Now I know the truth. Actually lots of players were hacking. I mean LOTS OF PLAYERS. I should have made a video on ACG or guys just go there right now and you will see for yourself something that should have been done since week 1. Ban for hacking by the shovel per minute.’

    And hoooo suddenly my KDR is not 6/35 anymore. Sometime it goes more kills than deaths, sometimes more death than kills but not in bullshit results I fucking endured in BF4 since get go!

    #6 1 month ago
  7. fengato

    As a PS4 player who goes for smaller game types (32 players max) I had very few issues with the game. I experienced the TDM sound bug and the campaign save bug. Aside from that it was smooth sailing, with no rubber banding or unusual lag if conquest was avoided.

    Nonetheless, Andrew Wilson is full of shite. The main issue was not on the client side -the truth is that the EA servers were simply not up to delivering 64 player matches properly – that’s why the upgraded them. The Asia servers (higher spec) also were rubber band free.

    it is indeed an ambitious game that requires server resources that other games can do without (bullet physics, vehicles and 64 players come with a cost.) it’s just sad how they dealt with the issue, as I find the gun play to be incredibly rewarding.

    lots of people want to jump on the hate BF4 bandwagon – they’re missing out on the best multiplayer game from the current gen.

    #7 1 month ago
  8. viperatedrko

    It’s EA’s own fault and they know it’s their own fault. They rushed DICE to release BF4 prematurely just so that they can face competition with COD Ghosts. It’s no wonder they were rated worst company TWICE.

    #8 1 month ago
  9. DarkElfa

    @sebastien rivas Banning actual hacks is just the beginning though, what about things like traffic shaping or evil controllers? What about imbalances caused by tard weapons like airburst?

    #9 1 month ago
  10. sebastien rivas

    it was good whie it lasted but now its back to the same old BULLSHIT.

    #10 1 month ago
  11. sebastien rivas

    @DarkElfa

    What many consider imbalance I consider asymmetric balance.

    Ok you can carry only 1 weapon at a time, sure you can switch but Dice ideal is good on that one because you can carry only 1 weapon at a time!
    Although perhaps as many felt it. Mechanics are really not well done in some particular areas.
    Perhaps for example Air Bust has too many ammo, or perhaps, it fire up too often/too fast, or other issues.

    When it comes to mechanics, I am a firm believer of Intelligent steps and study but Don’t Kill anything just to please because this is this the worst you can do to the heart of a gamer.
    Although on the other hand, I am quite old so I do not know if younger generation mentality is all in fairness or let me be number 1.

    #11 1 month ago
  12. VTchitcherine

    If EA wanted to be truthful, they would blame themselves for enforcing what was indisputably now a terribly harmful deadline to beat COD: Ghosts to retail. I think DICE are ultimately as much victims of publisher mendacity as the consumers are, their playtesting would have surely shown a vast array of issues and I don’t even want to contemplate the development crunch they must of undertaken trying to get the game stable before the deadline which would’ve meant days and nights at the office.

    Also horrible is the decision to produce Hardline, the beta was the least enjoyable experience I’ve had with a BF title and I’ve played various titles in the series since 1942.

    #12 1 month ago
  13. GrimRita

    The annual ‘post-mortem’ from DICE and EA. I’d have more respect for them, if they just admitted they wanted to steal a march on CoD by pushing this out early.

    But every year its the same old hollow words followed up by some new mistakes next time. Thank god, I don’t buy this any more

    #13 1 month ago
  14. OrbitMonkey

    EA think that by getting Battlefield out a few weeks before CoD, they’ll *steal* gamers away.

    Gamers play a buggy rushed mess & trade Battlefield in for CoD anyway.

    If EA let Dice do their job & release when ready, bored gamers would be trading in their same old CoD for shiny new Battlefield.

    Maybe :)

    #14 1 month ago
  15. stretch215

    Bf4 may have launched broken, but I bought it with my ps4 in February so by then it was running fairly smoothly. I’d still rather play a buggy bf4 than cod: ghosts 10 times out of 10.

    #15 1 month ago
  16. docj067

    I bought the 360 and PC versions at launch. PC was much more stable and just had to deal with dying behind corners and one shot kill type bugs. The 360 was horrid, constant freezing, lag, audio glitches, spawning with no weapons…the list just goes on. I am one of the many who will be doing a lot of thinking before pre-ordering anything in the future.

    #16 1 month ago