The lights are on
Given Battlefield 4's rough launch,
DICE has spent the majority of its time since Oct 29 scrambling to stabilize its servers across five platforms. The
urgency of this workload required an all hands on deck approach,
which meant the typical post-release balancing that inevitably
happens for every shooter was delayed. Now that the server woes are
largely behind us, DICE is finally turning its attention to tweaking
the gameplay. However, the new approach it's taking - polling players
about balancing - may not improve the game at all.
Reading the Battlelog forums, legions
of armchair generals with Battlelog accounts have grudges against
particular weapons or vehicles being too over- or underpowered. These
posts provide great insight for DICE into what the preconceptions
are on the battlefield, which it can then check against the telemetry
data it receives for each match played online. If it finds an
imbalance, DICE can then discuss ways to address the issue.
Sometimes, however, the data rebuffs the claims made by
This was the typical merry-go-round of
balancing conversations for most of the previous Battlefield games.
Now, however, DICE has made the bold step of putting the decision
making for some issues directly into the hands of the gamers. Last
week on Battlelog, DICE put five proposed changes up to votes. In theory, this seems like a smart decision. For years, armchair generals have said DICE doesn't know how to balance its own
game. This new approach provides the community a chance to put their money where their mouths are. If the game is worse off after the changes, DICE can put
its hands up in innocence. After all, you had the chance to exercise
The dangers of this approach are
twofold. First, the voters are given no information to base their
decision upon. DICE has loads of data on these topics, but since
players aren't given access to it they have no way of knowing the
full picture. They must rely on their own personal experiences to
make these decisions. This leads to the second problem - entrenched
Not everyone plays Battlefield the same
way. Some players excel with air vehicles, spending the majority of
matches piloting jets and helicopters raining death from above.
Others prefer commanding tanks and LAVs. A third contingency would
rather forgo vehicles altogether and focus on infantry combat. Given
the different roles players may gravitate toward and lack of hard evidence to sway
the balancing discussion in either way, nothing is preventing players
from voting with purely their own self-interest in mind. If an
engineer doesn't care about driving tanks, of course the FGM-148
anti-tank missiles should receive a damage increase. If a player feels
most comfortable in the cockpit of a stealth jet, then from his or her perspective the 20mm cannons shouldn't be nerfed.
Actively seeking player feedback is wise, but having players vote with only their subjectivity
to provide guidance is could yield unforeseen
consequences. If DICE wants valuable input from its community, better options are available. It could use these polls to solicit feedback, but only use the community opinion as one of many data points in the larger discussion of the balancing. A better option would be to create a player council of jack-of-all-trades hardcore fans
who know the ins and outs of every gameplay system. This group could propose changes, and if DICE were so inclined, perhaps even test them out on a private server to give real-world feedback.
DICE has been making Battlefield games for 12 years, and no matter how entrenched a player is in the game, his or her opinion cannot outweigh the expertise that comes from a team that has produced high quality competitive multiplayer games over such a long stretch of time. Creating a dialogue with a player council would offer DICE a chance to paint a picture of its past lessons learned and provide valuable data-driven
insight, which could then be held up up against feedback. This
transparent conversation would prove the studio is eager to embrace the opinions of the community without subjecting its game to the whims of
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.