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Opinion – Ambition Isn't The Problem With Battlefield 4, It's The Execution

At E3 last week, we spoke with DICE general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson about the problems that faced Battlefield 4 for six months following its October 2013 launch. We expected to hear about server problems (of which there certainly have been some), but according to him and EA CEO Andrew Wilson, that’s not the root of the problem.

In an interview with Eurogamer published this morning, Wilson identifies big ideas as the problem. "Think about what Battlefield 4 was: 64-player multiplayer, giant maps, 1080p, Levolution that was changing the gameplay design in an emergent way," he said "There is a chance there are things you are going to miss through the development cycle."

The problem with this assertion is that DICE has made big games before. Battlefield 1942, which launched in 2002, featured 64-player multiplayer on technology drastically inferior to the new-gen consoles. Giant maps are a hallmark of the Battlefield series. Native 1080p resolution wasn't achieved on any of the four console platforms (Battlefield 4 is 900p on PlayStation 4 and 720p on Xbox One), and "Levolution" is a marketing buzzword.

When we spoke with Troedsson, he too admitted that Battlefield 4 has had a number of issues. “We definitely acknowledge that we had some problems with BF4,” he said. “Let’s start there and get that out of the way.” 

He also said that some of the issues pertained to launching on multiple platforms. The real issue with Battlefield 4 though stems from the game that sits on your hard drive, and not the online connectivity (though that has certainly had its share of issues). “What the actual problems were, several of them were technology related,” Troedsson said. “They were more on the client side than what we had before. I will go that far as to say that much. What we had in BF3 was more server challenges; this was more on the client side. Fixing the client is a little bit harder than server-side, because we can update the servers in the background.”

I don’t believe that “ambition” is a reason that Battlefield 4 has problems. Certainly, when the game is working, it looks and performs well. However, others were able to get their titles out in the same timeframe on as many platforms. This is a problem with execution, not with ideas.

Owning up to problems is exactly what EA and DICE should be doing right now. Sugarcoating them in talk about ambition and elements that aren't even new to the series, as CEO Andrew Wilson did in his interview with Eurogamer, rings hollow.

For more from E3 on Battlefield 4, we spoke with Troedsson about possibly embracing an early access model. He also talked to us about the relationship between Visceral and DICE and how the work on Battlefield 4 and Hardline helps both games.

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