What Battlefield 4 Needs to Get Right, On Console Mostly

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As suggested to me in the comments of a previous post (which one I’ve of course forgotten), someone asked if I could round up a list of all the major bugs plaguing BF3.  While I think the idea of exposing the gritty dirt of all the bugs and glitches is a good one, I don’t see how it could do much good.  Of course if enough people start bugging DICE to fix whatever I mention DICE will probably do something, but BF3 is nearly a year old now.  As far as games these days are concerned, BF3 is on life support and DLC is basically the only thing keeping it relevant.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed BF3 very much and have no plans to stop playing once MoH:WF and BOII release, but let’s be honest here, BF3 is on death’s door.  So, what is my objective here?  Isn’t getting BF3 bug-free worth it?  Of course, but getting a year-old game running 100% bug-free is less important to me than making sure the next game has less bugs than the old one.

But bugs aren’t the only thing that bother me about BF3.

For the most part, I think DICE has done a great job in fixing most of BF3’s bugs.  Yes, it took them forever but most of the major bugs have been or will be fixed soon. Yes, the M26 Dart glitch should never have made it into the wild, but how many bugs has DICE actually fixed?  I’ll guess and say more than 1.  In fact, if your review the patch notes for BF3, you’ll see that DICE has done basically nothing but listen to the community.  If they did something we didn’t like (suppression buff), they revisited their decision.  If there was something we thought was imbalanced, they made an effort to rebalance it (FAMAS).  The patch that just recently released was also “100% based on community feedback,” according to community manager Daniel Matros.Yeah, BF3 was buggy as hell when it launched and there are still a few issues that need to be fixed, but overall, I give DICE an A for keeping their patching process rolling smoothly and fixing issues as they are reported.  Additionally, I’m fairly certain every tweet I’ve ever sent to @Battlefield has been responded to within minutes.  So all you folks complaining about their customer service can take a chill pill.

Bugs aside, I think BF3 has some major issues that need to be addressed in Battlefield 4.  These issues are not things that DICE can fix in BF3, so don’t go ranting and raving at them please.  Please keep in mind that my experience with BF3 has been strictly on console.  I’ve played BF3 on PC, but not for more than an hour or so in total.  Also keep in mind that a lot of these issues stem from the fact that BF3’s dedicated server system makes doing what P2P games do difficult in some ways and impossible in others.  So it’s not all DICE’s fault.

Issue 1: Party System

It would be an understatement to say that BF3’s party system sucks.  Frankly, it’s a load of shit.  For a multiplayer game of BF3’s scale, only being able to join lobbies 4 people at a time is just dumb.  What’s worse is that half the time, my friends end up on the other team or in a different squad.  For BF4 to ride the wave of BF3’s massive success, they are going to have to improve or totally overhaul the party system.  At least 8 people need to be able to play together in a party without having to worry about what team they’re going to end up on.  I’ll admit that the smaller party size helps ensure quicker matchmaking, but I’d rather wait an extra 10 seconds than have to fight the game to put me and my friends on the same team and in the same squad.  On a side note, the default VOIP setting should be team, not squad (wink wink @Battlefield).

Issue 2: Post-Match lobby

While I really do enjoy watching all my in-game achievements and rewards whiz by, it’d be really great if I could actually modify my classes while waiting for the next match to begin.  It’d also be nice to know what map is going to be next.  But the biggest issue with the post-match lobby system is that, well, it’s basically functionless.  Aside from the scoreboard, the post-match lobby in BF3 doesn’t do anything.  This is one thing that COD has gotten right, and in a big way.  The post/pre-match lobby in COD has a lot of functionality.  I can adjust my classes, vote on the next map, invite my friends using the in-game party system, and interact with everyone else in the lobby.  BF4’s post-match lobby is just a scoreboard and load of useless eye-candy to someone that has unlocked everything.  BF4 needs to take a hint from COD and make it so we can create/join squads, invite our friend into our squad/game, edit our classes, and at least see what map/game is next.

Issue 3: Performance

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that BF3 on console runs about as well as a car that’s been set on fire and had cement poured in the trunk.  I’ve played BF3 at 120fps on a PC and while I might have sucked balls at it, I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel amazing to get my ass kicked.  On console, BF3 runs scaled-down maps with inferior textures and reduced destruction, all at an underwheleming 30fps.  While fps might not mean much to you, it means a lot to me.  Fps is essentially the resolution of motion, the more fps, the more detail and clarity you get out of moving objects.  Fps makes a big difference to an experienced player and if BF4 doesn’t run at 60fps or greater on next-gen consoles, I can’t say that I’ll be very happy.  There are some other things about how BF3 preforms that I dislike like visual and auditory bugs, and I’ll admit that PCs are always going to run games better than consoles, but BF4 really needs to up the ante on console over its predecessor to keep the BF franchise competitive.  60fps is a standard benchmark of good performance for a reason.

Additionally, everything I’ve heard regarding the PC version of BF3 seems to indicate that it is a crash-fest.  While I agree that games constantly crashing is beyond annoying, I think the issue has way less to do with the game or DICE than it does with the fact that EA basically forced the Origin platform on DICE.  Origin, for lack of a better description, is a boat-load of shit.  Most games that require it to run are prone to crashing, so it’s no surprise that BF3 suffers as much as it does from shutdowns.  Essentially, EA needs to overhaul Origin and DICE needs to examine possible fixes for the crash issues so BF4 doesn’t have the same issue.

Issue 4: Hacking (PC)

From what I’ve been able to gather from watching PC players and reading up on the epidemic of hacking BF3 players have been subjected to on PC, I can only say that if hacking isn’t dealt with better in BF4, BF on PC is going to die.  Right now, hacking, or “scripting” is basically destroying DayZ’s momentum.  Granted, DayZ is just a free mod and a real DayZ game is just a few months away from release, but hackers and script kiddies have soured the DayZ experience to the point that a lot of the people have stopped playing it.  That’s going to hurt the standalone DayZ’s sales, which is going to hurt the future of DayZ.  Hacking in FPS games is high on the list of shit gamers hate dealing with and if DICE and other game developers can’t stop hackers from polluting the online experience, the lifespan of their games is going to drop off much faster than it does now.  Rockstar has the right idea in forcing hackers to play against each other and segregating them from legitimate players, but the ability of people to hack online games needs to be addressed, head on.

Issue 5: Bad Players

For my final complaint, I’d like to make it clear that I am routinely astounded by the lack of skill the average player of FPS online games seems to have.  Back in my day, if you were 18 or younger, you were basically assumed to be a beast at gaming.  Kids used to rule gaming and today, it seems like they’re just fish in a barrel.  Maybe a decade of experience and the intelligence that comes with being a college-educated 25 year old gives me a slight advantage over most of the people playing COD and BF3, but holy shit do most people suck at these games.  I can’t even begin to describe the level of stupid I am subjected to when I play online FPS games.  Most people can’t aim for shit.  Just about everyone runs in whatever direction they happen to be facing when they spawn, regardless of what’s happening on the rest of the map.  Playing the objective seems to be the opposite of playing the objective.  The mini-map might as well not exist.  And I’ll be damned if 2/3 of all players can’t fly a helicopter to save their life.

BF3 isn’t as easy to get kills in as in COD.  The maps are bigger, there’s a lot more going on between all the vehicles and additional players, and the guns aren’t nearly as death-laser-accurate as the ACR 6.8.  But that’s no excuse for how bad most people seem to be at BF3.  On the rare occasion that I run into a competitive group of players, they’re on the other team and stomping my team’s ass.  Despite how well I do, it seems like I lose more often because of dumbass teammates than anything else.  So, it’d be great if BF4 had some more options for matchmaking, like a “don’t put me on a team of trolling derps” matchmaking option.  How do you determine who’s a trolling derp for a brand new game?  Well, as time goes on, people should get better at the game.  If they don’t, then they get matched with other equally-unskilled players.  Think of your stats and how often you’re rewarded for playing the objective like a measure of how good you are.  If your numbers improve week-to-week, you are getting better.  If they aren’t, you’re doing something wrong or don’t have the skills to be a good player.  I want to play against players as good as I am and I think skill-based matchmaking will resolve a lot if not all of my player-related issues with the BF franchise.  It will also improve the lifespan of all FPS games by making it easier for players late to the game to get better at it instead of just always getting stomped by the people with tons of experience.

To wrap it all up, BF3 has laid the groundwork for the future of the BF franchise.  For BF4 to be a success, BF3’s issues have to stay BF3’s issues.  Issues carrying over from one game to the next is what’s been holding COD back since WAW and it’s a big part of what kills franchises.  If BF4 can improve the BF experience and address BF3’s mistakes, I think it has the potential to wrest the crown of the king of games from COD’s massive hands.  If not, oh well.  Overcoming the challenges of next-gen console development is going to make or break a lot of games and franchises for Holiday 2013, hopefully BF4 isn’t among the bruised and broken come 2014.

What are your thoughts?  Are there any issues you think DICE needs to address for BF4?  Also, don’t bring up your desire for MOH to not exist or their being a sequel to BF:BC2 instead of BF3 in 2014, shit ain’t happening.

If you want DICE to hear what you have to say and can be constructive and form a strong/intelligent opinion, get in touch with them on their twitter profile.

Thank you for reading.

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