EA and DICE Talk Lessons Learned With “Unacceptable” BF4 Launch: “Led to Some Very Tough Discussions About What We’re Doing”

Battlefield 4 undoubtedly experienced one of the worst launches in recent video game history.

Working through “netcode” issues, balancing fixes, optimization improvements, and other struggles, it took developer Digital Illusions CE over six months to finally get things stabilized and in a more playable state. Now, after eight months of silence from both DICE and publisher EA, we finally get to hear their thoughts on what the heck actually happened and how the company is dealing with it.

In a lengthy interview with EuroGamer, CEO of Electronic Arts Andrew Wilson had these surprising words to say:

“For clarity it wasn’t actually a server problem for Battlefield 4, it was a client side problem. Right now the game is playing extremely well, and people are in there and having a lot of fun. I’m still playing it.”

Instead, Wilson attributed Battlefield 4’s struggles to the studio’s desire to innovate.

“Think about what Battlefield 4 was: 64 player multiplayer, giant maps, 1080p, Levolution that was changing the gameplay design in an emergent way,” he said. “There is a chance there are things you are going to miss through the development cycle. And you end up in a situation we had with Battlefield 4.

For me, the situation we had was unacceptable. For the team it was unacceptable. We have worked tirelessly since then to make sure the gameplay experience got to where it absolutely should have been at launch and we’re focused on that and we continue to deliver value to that player base.

“But when you do things like that you can never guarantee. It would be disingenuous for me to sit here and say, ‘we will never have an issue again,’ because that would mean we were never going to push the boundaries again. And I don’t want to be that company. I want to be a company that pushes to lead and innovate and be creative. But you can start to do things that give you a better handle and a better view about what the potential challenges might be.”

Despite the rumors, Wilson insists that development on Battlefield 4 wasn’t rushed and that time was aplenty. Instead, the challenge lied in working with unfinished hardware when it came to Sony and Microsoft’s then upcoming next-generation consoles.

“DICE had a lot of time this time, Hardline has had three years,” Wilson explained. “Last year was a very unique situation. Not to abdicate responsibility whatsoever – we own it, we are responsible for it and we have worked tirelessly to remedy the situation – but when you are building a game on an unfinished platform with unfinished software, there are some things that can’t get done until the very last minute because the platform wasn’t ready to get done.

“What was happening with Battlefield 4, even as we were pushing all of this innovation, was a lot of it we couldn’t test until really late in the phase. I believe it was unique.”

Wilson continued, saying that there were two possible paths EA and DICE could have taken: “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.”

Wilson, CEO of the publisher behind games like the Mass Effect, Dead Space, and Battlefield series, wasn’t the only one disapointed with the launch of it’s flagship franchise’s newest title.

“Was I surprised at the reaction? No. Were we a bit surprised by the state of the game? Yes. For sure,” said head of DICE, Karl-Magnus Troedsson.

“But that’s why we’ve been working so diligently on taking care of that. It has changed a lot of things about how we go about doing things.

“People in the studio have taken this very personally. It has led to some very tough discussions about what we’re doing. We’re looking forward, we’re not looking backward any more, and saying, ‘okay, what do we take out of this hardening experience and what does that mean for us moving forward?’

“We’ll talk more about that in the future but there is definitely a lot of lessons learned.”

With Battlefeld Hardline on the edge of release, just four months away, it’s good to see that a lot of the changes in Battlefield 4’s Community Test Environment program are making their way into Visceral’s shooter, but will it be enough to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself? 

What are your thought? What’s your takeaway from the words spoken by EA CEO and DICE studio head? Are they sincere? Let us know in the comment section below! 

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