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Entries in Matchmaking (1)


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.