Rant: EA/DICE can still save Battlefront – but they have to act fast.

Wherein the snowspeeder represents consumers and the AT-AT stepping on it is EA.

Wherein the snowspeeder represents consumers and the AT-AT stepping on it is EA (lol I’m so good at metaphors guys /s)

Yeah, I meant to post about some other, more interesting stuff after bringing this blog back. And yeah, this might seem like a dumb topic to post about after such a long break. But the drama surrounding this game has me peeved enough to want to weigh in myself. So without further ado, let me get a-rantin’.

As a gamer and a huge Star Wars fan, it goes without saying that I was pretty pumped for the new Battlefront game from EA/DICE, especially with the new movie coming out soon (less than a week as of this posting!). But as we all know, the game’s reception post-release has not exactly been warm. There are lots of aspects folks take issue with, some more technical than others, but pretty much everyone agrees on one thing – there just isn’t enough content to justify the asking price. And charging basically the same price as the base game for additional content – content that debatably should have been included with the price of the base game – is seen by many as borderline insulting.

Now, do I enjoy the game? Yeah, I do. Gameplay-wise, I have no real issues – the game looks great and sounds great, and while the new loadout system is a little strange, I don’t have as big a problem with it as some other players do (there are some things I take issue with, but we’ll get to that a little later). But I definitely can’t overlook what seems like blatant price-gouging and non-consumer-friendliness (I’d even go as far as using the term consumer-contempt) on the part of EA/DICE. And I do regret paying full price for the game – especially in light of the additional issues I’ve experienced since buying it.

This is where things get weird. See, many people braver than me made the wise decision to express their dissatisfaction with their wallets, either by asking for refunds, or not purchasing it at all in the first place. And this is how things should be – it’s the only way companies like this will listen. The problem is, a game like this relies on a large player base to function correctly. So these dwindling numbers have since caused an already-troubled game to go from bad to worse by effectively completely ruining matchmaking – at least on PC. For many gametypes, it is impossible to start a match at all, as there simply aren’t enough players online to fill the needed party size – and even when there are, often matchmaking occurs with what would seem to be zero regard to geography, causing ping to skyrocket for all players when and lag spikes that often times make the game unplayable. I mean, look at these statistics – as of this writing, there’s only about 15k PC players, compared to 30k players on Xbox One and 70k players on PS4. They claim to be working on improving this on PC, but clearly it’s symptomatic of a larger issue – people just aren’t playing. They’re fed up.

Just being disappointed in a game is one thing, but there’s now a far more important issue at hand – the game will be dead and irrelevant by the end of the year if action is not taken ASAP to stop the hemorrhaging and encourage new player growth. 

So why not just let it die, if it’s so disappointing? Why even encourage them to take action? Because I think the game is worth saving – there’s enough heart and soul in the content that is present for me to believe with a little TLC, this could truly be a great game, and one players will flock to. Things look a little dire now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If EA/DICE are willing to show a little humility, offer some sort of olive branch to the community, some way of communicating a consumer-friendly commitment to their player base, they can turn things around. It’s not impossible – we’ve seen this happen before with games like FFXIV, which went from being one of the biggest flops in MMO history to being one of the biggest successes in MMO history. But while that was a major rebuild and relaunch, I don’t even think action that involved needs to be taken to salvage the game. I think there are two essential things that can be done right away that would help get things back on track, assuaging the public’s concerns and hopefully saving this game’s future.


1) Cut the price of the base game (or release an expansion or 2 for free).

I think this goes without saying and is probably what everyone is thinking. Again, what’s in the game is great – this might just be one of the most immersive Star Wars games ever created. But there’s at best 6 hours of novel gameplay before things get old real fast. There’s just not enough in the way of interesting and diverse content for the base game to be worth a whole $60. The additional $50 price tag for future content only serves to add insult to injury here.

So something’s gotta give – either re-price the base game at something a little more fair/enticing, or acknowledge these mistakes by promising additional content down the line at no additional cost – ie, release one or more of the 4 planned expansion packs for free – thereby improving the base game, and making the price tag a little more justifiable. I honestly think this alone might be enough. But not just for appearance’s sake – it’s also the right thing to do. The people have spoken, and the perceived value of the game does not match its price tag. Hell, GameStop even seems to have gotten on the bandwagon early, cutting the game’s price to $40 in their stores – why not just make it official? Make a statement, and promise better customer support and dedication going forward. It’s a good PR move, and it’d bring in more players by making entry more affordable – everyone wins.

Also, I hate the Deluxe Edition just on principle. “Hey, pay us a little more and get these items early that you would have unlocked anyway!” I just don’t understand the logic there – seems like blatant consumer manipulation. But, I realize this isn’t a new thing with videogames. It does makes it all stink that much more, though.


2) Promise better single-player support.

Details on what’s included in the four future expansion packs are sketchy at best, but like the base game, they don’t sound like they’re going to be worth the asking price. More maps, modes, items and heroes are… fine, I guess. But it’s not really what the game’s lacking, and what players are aching for – better single-player.

The single-player on-disc is a joke. It consists of Training, Survival, and “Missions.” Now, the training and survival are fine – the survival is almost really interesting, too – it’s just very boring. But it’s a good feature and is probably a lot of fun to play with a buddy. But the “missions” – what should be the meat of the singleplayer – just consist of several “kill the baddies and collect tokens until you get 100pts” games. It’s really, really bad.

Look, even without some kind of campaign, with singleplayer modes of this style there should be at least be more to do. There are so many game modes in this game – at least simulate all the multiplayer game modes, but with AIs instead of live players. That’s not an unreasonable expectation, right? And surely it couldn’t be that hard to implement.

But I think many players do want some kind of campaign mode – and I do too! Something that takes all the maps and game modes in the game and weaves them all together with a loose narrative to create a unique single player and/or co-op experience. Battlefront 2 had something exactly like this back in 2005, and while it’s not the greatest campaign mode in the world, it’s still done in a unique way that showcases all the game’s different game modes, and more importantly, ensures the game still has replay value now that its online servers are gone for good.

What makes this that much more painful is the little cutscenes and scenarios seen in some of the singleplayer modes, Survival in particular, are actually really good. They demonstrate DICE is actually rather adept at the sort of minimal storytelling that would have made a full campaign mode feel really, really exciting and fun to play – if they had just made an attempt at all.

Even if the price tag remained at $60, having something like this added to the game in the future free of charge would make it all worth it, in my opinion. So it would be great if something like this was included in one of the future DLC packs rather than what it seems to be at the moment (just more of the same). But why wasn’t this included in the first place? I realize implementing a full campaign could be a little tricky – and I imagine they were under pressure to finish the game before The Force Awakens released – but would just including more game modes with AIs really have been that difficult? I can’t pretend to understand what building a game like this actually entails, but I really can’t imagine it would have been – there’s not even any actual content being added.

Compare this approach to Splatoon from earlier in the year – it coupled its fun but admittedly a little one-note multiplayer with a wacky and unique single-player campaign – which the game didn’t even draw that much attention to. But it should have – it’s a blast. Plus, new maps and items are released in content updates every so often completely free of charge. It’s a completely different attitude, and one that shows a little more respect to the players.


Other nitpicks

Though in general I do enjoy the game, unlike a lot of people, I do have a few other nitpicks – things that I don’t necessarily think are as grave as the issues mentioned above, but still bug me a little.

  • Replacing classes with custom loadouts is fine – more modern, I suppose – but the actual implementation causes some major gameplay issues. See, unlocking new items as you level up makes sense, and is certainly not a novel or unusual game idea, but the problem is the items you unlock as you level up are objectively better – there’s no real balance or adjustment. As a result, multiplayer is extremely unforgiving towards new players, betraying the supposed intent to make the game more welcoming to casual players.
  • I do miss classes for reasons other than that, though. The player model used to mean something – what kind of armor someone was wearing gave you a better idea, from a distance, of what their loadout was, and how you should plan your interactions with them. In its place is an essentially useless character customization system that only serves as bragging rights for skilled players. Plus, there’s a cool new Imperial Shock Trooper design that we barely get to use (and only in a specific game type), so it’s kind of a bummer.
  • What’s up with the voice acting? Vader in particular is pretty terrible. But here’s what I don’t get – Star Wars Rebels, a children’s TV show with a budget we can pretty much safely assume is much smaller than Battlefront’s, managed to get James Earl Jones himself to reprise his role as Darth Vader this year – and it was pretty cool. So what happened? A Vader impression isn’t even that hard to pull off with the right processing – but this is the best they could do? And with such cringe-worthy lines as “NOTHING CAN STOP MY LIGHTSABER” …? Actually, that actor has done Vader before, too, and it’s been fine (Chad Vader is actually pretty great) – so what went wrong? And while I’ll admit I don’t see McDiarmid or Ford lining up to do anything like this, Fisher and Hamill are no strangers to voice acting – they’ve both freely lent their voices to parodies and the like on multiple occasions. So with a big-budget production such as this… what happened? Temeura Morrison’s presence makes things seem that much stranger. Why just him?
  • I often can’t tell the rebels apart from troopers. Since the game makes helmets optional for stormtroopers, and since the rebel outfit on many maps is often just white-colored, they can often look pretty much identical at first glance. Just seems like a pretty big oversight for a game like this. And on that note –
  • OK, so if the base costumes adapt from map to map (which is actually pretty cool), why don’t they all? How come there’s no snow-shocktrooper or snow-scout model? Seems inconsistent.
  • Vehicle tokens? Really? What, were you afraid of players catching vehicles spawn randomly and it looking too goofy or unrealistic? What, and hovering, spinning tokens aren’t? Or were y’all just too lazy to include animations for players getting in/out of vehicles and having them take off/land? C’mon guys, Battlefront 2 did this and it was fine. It actually looked cool and made things more immersive.
  • A lot of people are bummed about Clone Wars era content being gone. I was at first too, but now, I honestly don’t mind this – as long as Sequel Trilogy content is eventually included in the game down the line. I’m crossing my fingers that this is what some of the “new content” is going to be – the timing would make sense, as they would all follow the movie’s release. It seems like the inclusion would be pretty seamless, since player models adapt to the maps anyway – you would think it’d be as easy as just giving the rebels/troops their TFA look for that particular map, right?
  • Lack of splitscreen on PC is a joke. Why single it out like that? I get that the average PC player is playing solo, but why not include that feature for an advanced user who knows how to figure that kind of connection out and wants to use it as a replacement for a console? Not to mention it seems the only splitscreen content even available for the console game is just the singleplayer content with a Player Two – ew.


Closing remarks

One of the most infuriating things in the world to me is when companies do not acknowledge mistakes. Honestly, why not? In most cases, this humanizes the company and helps restore trust. By not acknowledging a mistake, the impression a company can give is that it just doesn’t care. I’d really hate for that to be the case here – and as this is the first major SW game release post-buyout, it’s a really bad time to alienate the audience. You need the audience’s trust in this new leadership now more than ever, or you risk seriously damaging the success of all future releases. Surely the numbers indicate this is not a mere coincidence – your audience is not happy.

Star Wars has had a rich and storied history with gaming before the Disney buyout. Whether or not that history is maintained or tarnished will depend on EA/DICE’s next actions.

Don’t ruin this, guys.

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