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Entries in Battlefield 3 (13)


Battlefield 3 Is The Worst Best Game I've Ever Played

Seriously. Is there a reason why a console gamer should have to care about ANY of this?

Battlefield 3 multiplayer is awesome. It looks awesome, the gameplay is awesome and the maps are awesome. It is also the absolute worst multiplayer experience I've ever had in a video game. And for those of us who tried playing Gears of War 2 multiplayer, that's saying something.

For a great overview of how EA completely messed up the multiplayer launch of Battlefield 3 (as well as all of the other multiplayer Battlefield games in the franchise), definitely check out Ben Gilbert's great editorial in Joystiq last week. The back-end server stuff clearly has issues, and although EA rolled out a server "upgrade" a couple days ago, finding a game during peak times can still be very difficult, especially if you want to play with friends.

But even if the servers were working perfectly it would still be the worst multiplayer experience I've ever had. Why? Because of the utterly baffling front-end design that users are required to navigate in order to get into a game with their friends. Battlefield 3 is a game that is so beautifully designed and well thought out in so many respects and it's hard to fathom how the user experience of matchmaking could be so terrible.

Actually, it's not hard to fathom, because it seems like it was designed by engineers who are used to playing games on the PC. For the most part console gamers aren't used to having to "browse servers" or "bookmark servers" that they might enjoy playing on later. In my opinion this is how matchmaking works best on a console:

  1. You and your friends get into a party together and decide to play the same game.
  2. One person is the leader and they initiate matchmaking.
  3. Everyone in the party is put in the same game on the same team.
  4. That game is populated with players of a similar rank, so the gameplay isn't one-sided.

This is essentially the multiplayer matchmaking experience of Bungie's Halo franchise, and compared to Battlefield 3 it was flawless.

Currently in Battlefield 3, if you want to play a game with more than four people, one person has to go to the server list, wait to find a server with a game that has enough openings for your entire party, then jump into that server and invite his friends. Then the friends have to jump into that game as quickly as possible before other people join and fill up the game. If you've got more than 5 people, someone almost always gets left out, and it's profoundly frustrating.

Without outright acknowledging the bad design, EA seems to realize the matchmaking experience is frustrating their console gamers. Yesterday on the Battlefield Blog they posted a "Quick Guide to the Battlefield 3 Server Browser" which is basically a walk-through of the completely obtuse Server Browser screens. If you've got to publish directions on how to navigate the matchmaking process, you've failed.

There are other big failures too. If you accept a game invite from a friend who isn't currently in a game, it will place you in that person's squad, but it won't send you automatically to the squad screen (the pre-game lobby). Then, once in that squad, one person (the "squad leader") has control of the matchmaking, though there is no way to know looking at the list of names who exactly is the squad leader. And then, once that player uses "Quick Match" to start a game, the squad is, more often than not, broken up.

And the concept of playing in a game with players of similar skill level seems to have been completely thrown out the window. If you want to play in a game with more than four friends, you have to pick a server with openings. In my experience those servers are full of shut-ins who have been doing nothing but playing Battlefield 3 since it launched. Players shouldn't have to choose between playing together with their friends or playing in a game that is evenly matched. It all seemed so simple in the Halo days.

I know launching a multi-million dollar video game with millions of players all demanding perfection isn't an easy thing. I get that. But if EA had just spent a fraction of all the pre-order money on a couple of user experience designers and some independent user experience testing before launching the game, things could have been a lot different. Or better yet, maybe they just should have hired someone from Bungie to explain how to do it correctly on a console.


Battlefield 3 Multiplayer Beta First Thoughts

The free Battlefield 3 Multiplayer beta opened up to the general public yesterday and after many attempts I was able to get into a few games to try it out. Demand must have been incredible because connecting to a game was really difficult (my suggestion is to just keep trying until it works). But it's a free beta and these things are to be expected, so ignoring the connection issues I thought I'd write up a few of my thoughts on the experience.

First, let me give BIG kudos to EA for making this available to the general public for free. Usually you have to pre-order the game or buy another completely different game in order to have access to the beta. Not with Battlefield 3, and I hope the strategy works. I'd love to have access to betas of other upcoming games, though my suspicion is that a free beta is a pretty good indicator of how confident EA and DICE are that this game is going to be successful, and a lot of other games probably wouldn't be as confident.

The game looks great, and I don't think a first person shooter has ever looked this good on the XBOX 360. The gameplay is largely the same as Battlefield Bad Company 2, with some noted improvements. They've changed out the fighting classes, giving the Assault class a med kit and replacing the Medic class with a Support class that carries ammo. I was initially able to get the most kills with the Support class, but all of the classes seem much more well balanced now. The Recon class has a sniper rifle but it feels more like a true Recon role than a sniper. And the Engineering class doesn't dominate quite in the same way it seemed to in BFBC2.

The other notable gameplay improvement is the ability to lie prone to get a shot or (more likely) duck out of the way of flying bullets. It feels weird to do initially, and I think it's one of those things that will take the longest to get used to. However, it also has the best chance of being the thing that I'll enjoy it the most of all the new features.

One odd change seems to be that the weapon upgrades you get (sights, etc.) seem to be specific to that gun. If you've earned the ACOG sight on that Russian assault rifle, it doesn't also transfer over to the M-16 on the American side. I suppose this encourages players to use all sorts of weapons, but I think having to slog it through iron sights on some of these guns will be more of a pain in the ass than anything.

The biggest problem I have with the beta though is a simple thing from BFBC2 that I would have bet money they would have fixed in Battlefield 3. In the Battlefield 3 beta a player still isn't able to quit the game in the "lobby" in-between rounds. You can't even quit while you're selecting your load-out, you have to wait until you spawn. Don't the people who make the game play it socially too? Usually you want to finish a game before you quit, but with Battlefield you have to wait until the next one starts before you can quit. Sitting in the lobby waiting until the next game starts so I can then quit the game is very annoying. It seems like such a simple thing that they could fix, and I can't find a reason why they wouldn't change it. In fact, I can think of a ton of reasons why they should.

The Battlefield 3 beta is fun, and even if you don't think you'll be buying the game it's definitely worth a download. It's a free way to play what is likely going to be one of the top shooters on the XBOX 360 ever. Just have some patience trying to get in.

Battlefield 3 Beta []

You can also pre-order Battlefield 3 for $59.95 from


99 Problems But Battlefield 3 Ain't One

Did anyone else see this ad on TV during NFL games this weekend? I remember enjoying the TV ads for Gears of War 2 (the GoW3 ads were a disappointment to me), but this is awesome. EA, if you're trying to get me excited for Battlefield 3, then well done.

Oh, and don't forget the multiplayer beta is open to the public this Thursday.

Battlefield 3 / Jay-Z -- "99 Problems" Full-Length Gameplay TV Ad []


Learning Curves

Chris thinks I’m going to buy both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3.  He’s wrong.  Why?  The learning curve of online play.  I don’t have time to become competent at both games – and therefore I won’t enjoy them both.

I’m a longtime online gamer, all the way back to Quake 2 on the PC.  This was back in the day before headsets (and even high-speed internet), and I remember typing furious messages and smack to other players between frags.  With the advent of Xbox Live and some great multiplayer games I quickly became addicted to gaming competitively over the internet.  

I’d like to think I became competent at all of the Halo games (Halo 2, 3, Reach, ODST).   They all had a similar control set, similar strategies and familiar weapons.  When each new game came up, I’d jump online and be competitive right away.

When the other Gentlemen got MW2, I figured I’d try it as well.  Online reviews were extremely positive. I played the campaign and enjoyed it.  I jumped online and immediately got thrashed.  And then got thrashed again.  And again.  And then about 20 more times before the game went on the shelf.

I found the learning curve to be too steep for my liking.  First, I had to learn a new control set (why game makers can’t standardize, I’ll never know).  Fair enough.  Then I had to get used to the fact that everyone knew the maps better.  They knew the good firing positions, choke points and respawn locations.  This isn’t as important as Halo – where getting to the sniper rifle or rocket launcher first can mean the difference between winning and losing, but it makes a difference.

The most frustrating parts were twofold.  One, there was no in-game help and guide whatsoever.  Campaign games (including MW2) typically walk you through simple controls and strategies to get you familiar with the game.   Most multiplayer games (MW and BF in particular), on the other hand, throw you right in the middle of the fray with no assistance at all.  Fly that helicopter?  Good luck.  Each one flies a little different.  What does this upgrade mean and how do I use it?  Look it up online.  Secondly, the skill tree rewards players who play more – players who play longer and therefore level up get body armor, better weapons, cool upgrades like a scope for your rifle.   I’m already getting my butt kicked, and someone drops an airstrike on me?  How’d he get that?  Not only is your competition better than you, they’re better equipped.

I experienced the same learning curve with BF2.  For whatever reason – patient friends, less sleep deprivation, more time to play - I was able to overcome my noobness and I’ve come to really enjoy the game.    I’m preordered BF3 today, and I’m looking forward to some great online play.  I know it’ll be frustrating at first, but I’ll suck it up and fight through it.

Do I want to go through the learning curve this twice?   Not a chance. 


Too Many Great Games In Fall 2011? I Don't Like It, But I Get It

I wanted to write a quick response to Jason's great post last weekend about how, after the months and months of no new releases of any great console games (Portal 2 being the only real exception I can think of), we have loads of great titles all coming out between now and Christmas.

In many respects I agree with Jason. We've been having a lot of fun playing Battlefield Bad Company 2 (terrible name by the way) but it's a really old game. I'm psyched for Battlefield 3, but by the time it comes out I'll have only had my hands on Gears of War 3 for a few weeks. It would be way better to have more time with each. And in spreading out the titles there is a chance that I'd end up buying more games.

But what it all comes down to is the holiday buying season. Jason and I (as well as most all avid gamers) are extreme cases. We're going to buy these games anyway - they don't have to worry about getting our money. BFBC2 is a perfect example. We didn't play that game when it first came out because we were playing GoW2 horde mode for hours-on-end. But in the summer of 2011 - almost two whole years after it came out - we bought the game and (thanks to Stats Verse) we got really into it. For everyone else - the people who are more casual with their console gaming play - they are going to pick one of these games. And they are likely going to get it for the holidays so it's important to have that "new" game released during (or shortly before) the holiday season.

The movie industry staggers its releases as Jason says, but they have one big advantage over the video game industry. Even though the time, money and effort it takes to create a major video game is absolutely comparable to a major motion picture, the amount of time it takes someone to consume that content is vastly different. With a movie, after two hours it's over. You've seen it, loved it or hated it, and are ready to move on to the next blockbuster. A video game takes hours and hours to play, and often it takes many hours to just be able to figure out if you like it or not. Staggering release dates for movies means one per weekend which is pretty easy to do over the holiday season. For video games staggering releases while keeping everything in the holiday season is almost impossible.

And don't let Jason fool you. He'll end up buying them all anyway.