Star Wars Battlefront II Creators Face Angry Fans
Star Wars: Battlefront II has had a rocky few days since going into EA Access, as fans have discovered that the progression system in the game feels designed to force them to spend money to get to the things they want. In what has been touted as a celebration of the Star Wars series, locking up key characters like Darth Vader beyond absurdly high credit counts rubbed many fans the wrong way.
In an effort to try and smooth this over, EA has been reactionary, adjusting the in-game economy to cut costs to a quarter of what they were, but also proportionally adjusting rewards for the currency. This led many fans to get even angrier, resulting in an all-day wave of disapproval and outrage on social media site Reddit.
For whatever reason, EA decided to face this head-on, and held an AMA (Ask Me Anything) forum with three of the game's designers today. While the moderation team made it clear that overwhelming hostility would cause the AMA to be pulled, the three developers stood in front of an ornery fire squad to answer questions pertaining to the game.
"My job keeps me incredibly busy, and, often times, I just want to come home and relax against AI," said user AsexualAmeba. "I’ve noticed that the amount of credits is capped per day in arcade mode to 500. With crate’s current cost, I would have to max the system out for eight days in a row to afford just one crate. Do you have any plans to change up the arcade values so more casual players like me could afford more than 2 or 3 loot crates a month?"
Paul Keslin, multiplayer producer at DICE, replied. "As we want to let players earn Credits offline via a more relaxed game mode, we needed to also find a way to make sure it wouldn't be exploited in a way that would impact Multiplayer. Because of that, we made the decision to limit the number of Credits earned to stop potential abuse. We will be looking at data continually and make adjustments to make things as balanced as possible."
"What is the reasoning behind loot boxes affecting gameplay instead of just having cosmetic loot boxes? Is it too late to change the system?" asked PachtyTheDino.
"Nothing is too late," answered Dennis Brännvall, Battlefront II's design director. "As you've noticed, we weren't able to get the customization system into the game in time for launch. I'm actually having artists and designers walk up to me today showing me cosmetic stuff they really want to get out there. I think we have probably the best looking Clone Troopers ever made and I know players really want to customize them (I know I do). I can't really commit to a date just yet, but we're working on stuff and I believe it will change the game tremendeously [sic] on all levels."
On the issue of how long it takes to unlock rewards in the game, executive producer John Wasilczyk chimes in. "We've seen the speculation about how long it takes players to earn things - but our averages based on the Play First trial are much faster than what's out there. But as more players come in, that could change. We're committed to making progression a fun experience for all of our players. Nothing should feel unattainable and if it does, we'll do what it takes to make sure it's both fun and achievable. As we update and expand Arcade mode, we'll be working towards making sure that players can continue to progress without daily limits."
"The goal with star card class level requirements, initially, was to make you go wide in the type of cards you get before you go deep in specializing which ones you want to upgrade," Keslin explained. "That said, we're hearing loud and clear that you'd prefer a system where playing a class or a character specifically will upgrade its level instead, so we're looking to make that change as soon as possible."
While the developers are readily acknowledging the issues, they are not committing to any details quite yet.
"Even among game journalists," user hanburgundy asks, "the progression system sticks out as the clear sore point in what otherwise looks like a very well made game - to the point that for many it is souring the whole experience. Are you considering radical changes to this system? Is there anything you have decided you won't change?"
"I think this concern has come through loud and clear," says Wasilczyk. "We're going to continue adjusting the crate systems, content, and progression mechanics to hit a point that gives players a great, balanced experience at all skill levels. We're working on expanding the number of ways that players can progress, putting more control in their hands and providing more options and choice in the way people play. There's not much in the game that we wouldn't revisit to improve the game for as many players as possible."
To which one user simply responds "So vague it hurts."
When asked about how EA and DICE plan to repair the bridges burned with the fanbase, Keslin's answer was simple: things like this AMA. "Jumping into this AMA is just one of the ways we want to start to repair the bridge to our players. Lots of people told us that we shouldn't do this as it wasn't going to go like we hope it would. That said, we are committed to continuing this dialogue even if we need to face some harsh feedback. We welcome the discussions and criticisms, we're not just here for the praise (although it is nice to hear!)."
Brännvall stated that he did not feel loot crates were an overall bad thing when implemented well. "I think crates can be a fun addition as long as you don't feel forced to engage with them in order to progress," he explained. "I feel that's where the issue is with our game right now and that's where we'll look to solve as quickly as we can. We're looking to add additional ways to progress your favorite character or class, while allowing crates to be a fun thing for those who want to engage with them."
"Microtransactions are there for player choice, but won't be a requirement to play or succeed at the game," he emphasized.
Brännvall was also asked about the credit limit present in the game's arcade mode, stopping players from earning credits with a cooldown timer for double-digit hours. "As we want to let players earn Credits offline via a more relaxed game mode, we needed to also find a way to make sure it wouldn't be exploited in a way that would impact Multiplayer. Because of that we made the decision to limit the number of Credits earned to stop potential abuse."
A follow-up post asked him how this makes sense when you could just buy lootboxes, but Brännvall did not reply.
Ultimately, the AMA ended with very few concrete answers or plans for the future. DICE clarified that they plan to adjust the credit totals to account for performance in matches above the current 20% it now stands at, but beyond that, fans who were pinning hopes on this AMA to assuage their fears were left in the cold.
The developers were drowned in a tidal wave of downvotes for their answers, making it so many could not be seen unless specifically searching them out. Whatever they were hoping to get out of this Q&A session was likely not achieved.
The most upvoted question had not been answered, with many users pointing out that it would never be touched.
With currently 13,700 upvotes, user The_Year_of_Glad wrote:
"Thank you for agreeing to answer questions. 1) Do you believe that DICE's brand has been damaged by its association with EA, as a result of this controversy? 2) When you yourselves play games, do you prefer to play ones with microtransactions and associated mechanisms like loot crates, or without them? 3) What, in your view, is the most effective method by which gamers could convince a large company to stop including microtransactions and associated mechanisms like loot crates in the games that it sells?"
The first reply to the question is "They are never in a million years going to answer that."
You can read our review for Star Wars: Battlefront II here.
The AMA turned out to be as bad an ideas it seemed, as evasive answers and insistence on sticking to the same phrasing and sentiment of constantly monitoring the situation over concrete plans only enraged players further. The game is Star Wars so it should do fine, but EA basically messed up every PR opportunity they had in the last week and only made it worse.