Wednesday, January 27, 2016

EA's Battlefront Update: Legit, PR Bullshit, Damage Control?

Hello and welcome back again! Thanks for stopping by. Brand new Star Wars Battlefront news just released, and oh boy is it good-ish news. I'm trying to be hopefully optimistic, but with the shit stain that EA keeps leaving in my life it's going to be hard to do. I have not hidden my feelings about this game. I have been more than disappointed. As an interesting side note, I did not lock down my PSN account, and over the weekend, myself and my 5 year old became the owners of the Season Pass. Although this was my fault and I do not expect any refunds, I am now $115 deep in this... So I'm going to keep posting on it, and calling out the bullshit when I see it, and give praise when it's deserved. With that said, this post and any future posts about Battlefront and it's Developer/ Publisher will be subjective, but I will present logical & possibly inflammatory arguments to support my opinion. You'll also see several times in my posts that I refer to EA and DICE interchangeably, and that's because EA owns DICE and so as a concept they are the same thing. So let's not delay any further and jump right into the post. 

Battlefront is finally getting an update today, and EA is being a little more transparent. All of the details are outlined on in a post titled "The Road Forward" written by Sigurlina Ingvarsdottir; Senior Producer for Star Wars Battlefront. And with this update comes a bit of renewed cynical optimism for me. I'm honestly not sure that EA/ DICE can save this title, as they are going to be restricted to what the engine can do. Also at this point, any of the changes asked for by the community are completely dependent on EA's ability to listen to it's audience.

First we'll start with the really bad. If you remember in last weeks Midweek Breakdown, I had mentioned that Battlefront Community Leader; Sledgehammer70, had congratulated the community in smashing the Christmas Holiday Community Challenge. He was so pleased to tease us with a special gift for the community, in the following post made on the Battlefront Community Page:

"Just before the holidays, we kicked off the first Star Wars Battlefront community event, where we asked you to play 500,000 hours as Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. 

Today, we’re happy to let the community know that you smashed the 500,000 hours played mark, playing over a total of 1.2M hours as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo between START and FINISH. Most impressive.

This achievement is worth a special reward that directly ties to Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. What could this reward be? In true Jedi fashion, it will be revealed in the coming update this month. You will want to look to Hoth to show the fruits of your labor once the January update has been released. Stay tuned to our official channels for more details."  

This tease left many in the community to speculate that the gift would be playable tauntauns. Well the wait is over. The update is coming today, and do you know what these def bastards gave us? Mother fucking Luke and Han themed outfits when playing as either on Hoth! Fucking really?! You know and I both know that the tease was masterful execution of PR bullshit.

To be fair though, there are more updates being released today. (Link to the release notes at the bottom of this post.) Along with some pretty significant balancing tweaks, we're also getting some well needed spawn adjustments. We can also now play Blast, Droid Run, Drop Zone, Hero Hunt, and Heroes vs Villains multiplayer modes on Raider Camp. This is the same map used in Tatooine Survival. EA also made the following promises in their announcement:

"In February, we will continue to add more free content for all players, including a new Survival mission on Hoth, and a brand-new Hoth multiplayer map that will support our larger game modes including Walker Assault, Supremacy, Fighter Squadron and Turning Point. Speaking of Turning Point, we are also excited to make this popular mode available on all maps that currently support Walker Assault and Supremacy in the February update.

In March, we will be adding another exciting new multiplayer map on Endor that will support Walker Assault, Supremacy, and Turning Point, and an additional Tatooine Survival map."

So it looks like we'll be getting a bit more free content. I believe these kinds of changes are great steps in the right direction. And I will even thank EA and DICE for do these things. But wait there's still more...

The other major parts of today's update have to do with adding private match functionality, Community Events, and Daily Challenges. I currently do not know how well or even the mechanics of private match making. I have so far been unable to find information on the number of players allowed, or game mode restrictions. I know people have been asking for it, but it does little for me as most of my friends have abbandoned this sinking wreck due to hollowness of the game. It's probably safe to say they won't be coming back just for private matches, a few maps, and some added balance.

Community Events and Daily Challenges are a whole other beast. Honestly this announcement makes me think that DICE/ EA are not really in touch with the realities of gaming. Especially when we look at what the follow section of their public announcement says:

"The introduction of Daily Challenges and Community Events. These are designed to rally the Community around certain goals and objectives, giving players the chance to earn credits and unlocks even faster. We'll have more news regarding Community Events and Daily Challenges in the days ahead."

Just let that sink in for second... If you've played Battlefront for any extended periods of time, you should realize that at some point credits become useless and stop adding any depth to the game. After unlocking ever gun and ever Star Card, the only thing to spend credits on are skins. As I and many other reviewers have pointed out, the skins are lazy and add nothing to the game. Many people have even argue that they may even take away from the game, as most of the alternative skins simple remove the helmet from the stormtroopers, and this is not ok with many a Star Wars fan. 

So we've established that more credits are kind of meaningless in the macro-scope of the game. Then if history repeats, and we assume that community rewards for completing challenges and events will be more character skins. So this equation would then apply:

 More Credits + More Skins = 0 Net Gain

This is speculation at this point. But it feels par for course when it comes EA and its subsidiaries, and is absolutely the dumbest way to reward people play for playing the game. It adds no depth or substance to the core game, and only pisses of those of us who purchased a over hyped product with high expectations. This shallow attempt at appeasement, will only further decrease interest. Thus setting up a scenario where EA cuts its losses and stops truly supporting the title.

The final bit of news released with the update announcement was details about the Season Pass DLC. As expected the DLC will be released quarterly, with expected releases in March, Summer, and Fall of this year, and one more release sometime in early next year. The following list and descriptions are taken directly from the update post:

"Star Wars™ Battlefront™ Outer Rim (March 2016) - Fight among the factories of Sullust and battle within Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine
Star Wars™ Battlefront™ Bespin (Summer 2016) - It's hunt or be hunted in this action-packed experience set in the Cloud City of Bespin
Star Wars™ Battlefront™ Death Star (Fall 2016) – That’s no moon! One of the most iconic locations in the Star Wars universe makes its debut in Star Wars Battlefront.
Star Wars™ Battlefront™ Expansion Pack 4 – Title TBA (Early 2017) – We will have more details to share about this exciting new expansion pack in the coming months."

Many of these changes seem to indicate that EA and DICE are listened; at least some what listening to the community. But they've had since November to address these issues and have not. So why now? Is it because the swell of Christmas noobs that have beaten down the forums with complaints? Is it because of the hordes or vocal and disappointed reviewers? IDK...

EA ends their announcement with the following:

"At DICE, we're passionate about what we've created with Star Wars Battlefront, and are committed to supporting not only the game but all of our fans over the months ahead. We can’t wait to keep traveling through the galaxy far, far away, with all of you."

The above statement just really rubs me the wrong way. Yeah it's a great sentiment. It makes people feel warm and fuzzies. But, after personally witnessing at least a decade of EA's consumer abuse. In their slowly escalating extortion campaign of releasing what can only be described as underwhelming and incomplete titles with pay for DLC. Each proceeding title worse than the last, in content and in sales. It really just seems like EA and it's subsidiaries are seeing just how far they can push the line before gamers revolt.

So here are some parting thoughts for EA/ DICE: How many people in the Battlefront community have to tell you that they want substance, not skins? How many people have to complain about your lack luster performance before you supply their needs? And honestly you wouldn't be so bad if your marketing hype machine wasn't so good, and your business model so opaque. Again, I'll admit that you took baby steps today, but is it that you cannot provide for the wants your fan base due your inability to deliver? Or does your failure come from some morally abstract authoritarian concept that you alone may be the gatekeeper of the needs and wants of your customers? I'm personally leaning towards the latter. Your names have become synonymous with a concept of everything that is wrong with the gaming industry. If I'm wrong prove it! Own your mistakes, make good on your hype, and earn back the respect of not just your customers but the greater gaming community.

At this point, I'm a bit more hopeful. However, I'm not holding my breath. EA has screwed the pooch so far,  I can't expect much more for the fixes. And with that I'm done for now.

Thank you guys for stopping by. I really appreciate your suppose. So what do you think. Am I over reacting? Should I take it a bit easier? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or in the comments sections below. Please share, and as always, I will see you later. And as I said earlier you can expect more Battlefront content in the future. I'm going to beat this dead horse until it becomes a horse zombie, and starts trying to change other horses into zombie too. (Well that an excessively convoluted metaphor, but I think it works.)

-Chali Baicunn