Battlefield 3 Back To Strike At Karkand?

31 May 2011
Battlefield 3 Back To Strike At Karkand? - 5.0 out of 5 based on Battlefield 3 Back To Strike At Karkand? 3 votes
Martin ‘nKM’ Bowman comes out from his study hole to examine Battlefield 3 and what DICE needs to get right to bring him back from Real Life to competitive gaming. It’s been a while since I played a competitive game of anything lately – like many others of my age my online persona has succumbed to the realities of real life; getting my academic house in order, getting my bills paid and spending my rare moments of quality time with the missus. Other than trolling Call of Duty 4 public servers and bantering with the pub heroes out of sheer boredom, I really haven’t considered gaming at all. Some could say I gave up after the efforts of putting Bad Company 2 in the spotlight and achieving nothing of significance for my peers in the Battlefield community. Everyone who watched my forays into gaming journalism knows how disappointed I was to see my beloved FPS series crash and burn under the weight of broken promises and lack of competitive functionality; I watched the once burgeoning competitive BF scene shrink over time to a shrivelled, nonsensical and ultimately disappointing shadow of its former self. Retreating to the relatively stable routine of studying endless Cisco modules and IT systems at University actually came as some sort of a relief to me.
Yet I find myself, on my first day off work in about three weeks, spending a rainy afternoon in Glasgow writing this article for Cadred, gearing myself up for another stab at underlining the importance of a game developer making concessions to a competitive community that threatens to care not a jot about its new Frostbite 2.0 baby. With many other developers bringing out games in the FPS genre with useful competitive functionality such as Brink or Heroes of Stalingrad and many players outlining their intentions to move on, it seems that the ever growing eSports scene may indeed be able to transcend Battlefield 3 without too much of a grumble - except from the most hardened of BF fans who have stuck with BC2, despite the flaws.

BF3 is visually stunning, but it holds little weight with competitive gamers


It is not, however unlikely, a scene which DICE themselves want to lose. Community Manager Daniel ‘zh1nt0’ Matros has been animated in his protestations that the competitive scene is an important part of the Battlefield community and that their needs are very much in the thoughts of the developers. However, those recently departed from the scene exude a rather opposite story – Battlefield competitive players have been let down and overlooked by DICE (and ergo, EA) in favour of an unquestioning console community and a new generation of PC gamers who do not have the experience or foresight to see that these big-budget games are pushed and prodded to make money. A strategy of short shelf-life titles, expansion packs and in-game freebies may indeed entice the less aware of young gamers out there to part with their pennies, but those who wish to push Battlefield in the eSports arena are battered and bruised from previous altercations with the vilified developers; deprived of the tools to help themselves, they have languished and expired. My default assertion, therefore, is that this is not going to change when BF3 hits the shelves in Q3 or Q4 this year.

The battle lines have been drawn in previous debates, a number of features and requirements for amateur, semi-pro and professional gaming that are absolutely required to progress in eSports. Themselves intertwined with community wide benefits such as securing game servers from cheats and exploits; allowing all parts of the community from casual players to hardcore pros, to develop the scene with a certain freedom and security. Longevity in gaming is achieved by providing the consumers with a fantastic product that caters for their needs and is mature enough to stand up against the competition on all fronts, something Battlefield has consistently failed to deliver in my opinion. It is with a mild indifference that many of the old brigades will view the release, amid much fanfare, media coverage and one-sided interviews with those paid to say good things about bad games. We’ve seen the trailers and interviews, and yes, the new engine does indeed look and sound splendid, same as the last one did. But if DICE cannot get the basics right, as I will detail on the next page, then once again we will see a new Battlefield release with much unfulfilled potential - itself another blow to those following eSports who could get their teeth into a new contender.

Battlefield developers need to be willing to open a dialogue with competitive gamers if it has any hopes whatsoever of winning back the thousands of players who gave up their hard earned buying servers and expansions packs for this series since the 2000s. Development is well ahead in BF3 and with less than 6 months to release, it will be interesting to see if anybody actually listened over in Stockholm.

With that in mind, here’s a summary of what’s missing, and necessary, to bring Battlefield back to eSports. Some points are small fixes, some are major features.

Demo Recording:

The ability to record in-game demos of matches for anti-cheat purposes, as per default requirements of professional gaming leagues, is a must. By offering enhanced abilities to server admins, we can keep out cheating and glitch abuse by way of reviewing verifiable demos which are playable in-game. This also provides the community with the ability to record movies of game play, thereby enhancing the interest and longevity of the game as was seen with previous Battlefield titles and is well known in other games.

Without demo recording, we cannot monitor matches for unfair/rule breaking play and check for people using cheats not yet caught by PunkBuster or 3rd party anti-cheat stream, which undermines competitive play completely and makes it unsuitable for eSports.

1st and 3rd Person Spectator Mode (freecam):

The ability to stream live matches to the community is a cornerstone of the competitive scene (see RushTV, QuadV, H2k-TV, ESLTV and many more across the world); 1st and 3rd person spectator mode makes this possible. There are many organisations that use this functionality to bring the competitive game to the masses, and it is the basic feature which allows new games to be broadcast at expos and across the internet for thousands of interested gamers out there. Inarguably, this functionality is helping develop eSports for experienced gamers and for those new to gaming. It also provides server admins the opportunity to monitor suspect game play 'live', thus enhancing the game play experience and providing a solution when anti-cheat measures fail. Combined with demo recording, huge communities have been built in the past for gamers who wish to make game movies, as can be seen with COD2, COD4, Quake series, CounterStrike series, etc. It's important to state that demo recording is not the same as recording with a 3rd party tool such as FRAPS or using a capture card, for those unaware.

Many Battlefield veterans have been lost to other games due to problems with functionality - will DICE get it right this time?

Functionality for competitive play:

Primarily to promote balance, and enhance functionality with customizable features such as a scoreboard with ticket count, round start, round pause, round restart, global messages, 'ready-up' mode, kit/weapon limits, round timer, ticket bleed and the like. Such basic options were standard in previous BF titles and are standard in most other multiplayer FPS (CS, CSS, COD, UT, Q3, ET, TF2 etc). It is important to state that competitive games are on unranked servers for this reason. Giving better support for managing games allows competitive organisations to set out fair and balanced rulesets, allowing more players the chance to play matches with friends and against teams in a competitive environment and fast-tracking the development of the scene as a whole.

Client-side improvements:

Extra options for all players such as: extra options to customize sensitivity of vehicle turrets and helicopter manoeuvrability, option to bind individual keys for picking up kits and planting/defusing bombs (common complaint), key bind for new squad, key bind for in-game weapons/squad menu, better in-game menu behaviour (squad menu should disappear on key-off), possibility of faster kit switches (artificial delays for switching weapons are too long) and complete removal of mouse acceleration would be a great boost. Also, server browser improvements allowing for all-case search strings and better filters are much needed and appreciated. Competitive players are used to performing multiple tasks and thinking ahead in team-based game play and relatively minor improvements such as putting these options back on the keyboard will restore the fluency of game play and be beneficial for everyone playing the game who wants to concentrate on the game instead of constantly looking at the squad menus to switch weapons and squads, as per Bad Company 2.


Simple one this - competitive mods are king. COD4 Promod is a great example of what experienced modders can do for the competitive community.

I would love to be as motivated and dedicated to the cause we have in the old Battlefield community of pushing DICE to give us the features we want. The truth is that for me, time has moved on and there comes a point when you realise that you are repeating yourself and getting nowhere, like the proverbial smashing your head against a wall. I would be absolutely delighted to be completely wrong in my assessment of how this whole charade is going to turn out, and I’ll take it on the chin from all those concerned who could possibly berate me for not giving them another chance.

It's about time DICE stepped back and re-evaluated its attitude towards competitive gaming - we've done enough to warrant our inclusion and our requirements are neither unreasonable, nor unprecedented.

Prove me wrong then, boys. We’re all winners if you do, aren’t we really?

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  • Comment Link klasbo Wednesday, 08 June 2011 12:33 posted by klasbo

    Starcraft 2 is a huge esport because of the streaming possibilities, both live and with replays. This is just absolutely necessary for any proper esport, there's no way around it.

    SC2 also had the advantage of being a 1v1 game, which means it's easier to organize large events (because you need fewer players, and less timetable-synchronizing). This is why a proper in-game clan/team system (not just a generic friends list) is also necessary. Think [link=]Massgate[/link].

    On another note: Good code does not make variables static, and should be able to run no matter what the variables are set to (although it might give strange results). Basically: [i]every[/i] variable (all weapon & character stats, and pretty much everything that is tweaked with a balance patch) should be in a simple-to-modify file(s) (*.con?) that are loaded when the game starts. Bam, instant promod.

  • Comment Link Silvanoshi Saturday, 04 June 2011 08:01 posted by Silvanoshi

    @ Nakam

    Yup, I'm a community representative working on Battlefield Play4Free at the moment.

    @ Nemean

    It certainly doesn't hurt to ask, unfortunately it's not my place to answer those questions atm. Daniel is the man for that, and even at that he's keeping his cards pretty close to his chest atm ;).

  • Comment Link Nemean Thursday, 02 June 2011 21:47 posted by Nemean

    However I hope DICE/EA takes an eye on out on this article and the comments. Since there is a great competitive community behind the old Battlefield 2, who would like to see plenty of old Battlefield 2 features back in to the Battlefield 3 with of course minor/major changes.
    How ever I do have some questions about the upcoming sequel Battlefield 3 (However it is not that I need a answer in a direct way, but I hope DICE/EA will take notice of it):

    Are the Medics in Battlefield 3 carrying light machine guns? Or are they carrying assault rifles. I think lots of people who played Bad Company 2 disliked the LMG when they played medic, and all started playing the Assault/Engineer kit.
    As well as how many grenades will people carry around, and will spam being prevented in Battlefield 3?
    How does DICE look towards the competitive scene, are they also looking into become a great title like CoD4 was?

    My native language is Dutch, sorry for grammar issues.

  • Comment Link Nemean Thursday, 02 June 2011 21:37 posted by Nemean

    I just text messaged Ston3r about Battlefield 3 and what he thinks about, if it will be playable as a competitive title. I myself played Battlefield 2 for a long time, as well in public as in ESL and CB. Currently I am playing for vitalGaming and still waiting for the true sequel for Battlefield 2. Which is why I am (of course) posting here.

    I totally agree with Nakam, he has always had a great point of view regarding the eSport. And I pre-orderd my copy from the EA store already, since I have every copy of Battlefield at my home and wouldn't miss this one.

    I could imagine it might be able to implement options for people like for example in Hardcore mode, people have no cross-hair and health/hit-boxes are adjusted. Which means DICE could (I am not saying they should) be able to make a special mode for players who like faster action.

  • Comment Link Nakam Thursday, 02 June 2011 12:34 posted by Nakam


    That's no problem - understandable!

    I will need to get the rush-zone guys to fill me in on what it is you do (at EA I believe?) - and if you could PM me your email that would be great, thanks :)


  • Comment Link Silvanoshi Thursday, 02 June 2011 11:58 posted by Silvanoshi

    As for Cologne, I more than likely won’t be there and I more than likely won’t have time to complete my write-up before then (I’m not normally this busy, there are just some pretty crazy things going on atm :P) , but I’d would most certainly be interested in what you have to say. Be sure not to hold back on Daniel though ;). The write-up isn't going to be a big deal at all, it’s just something I wanted to pop up on a blog to hopefully help the scene, as well as to see what people think. But whenever I do get around to writing it, I’d love to use it as a tool to discuss with individuals their thoughts about the scene and how to promote it. Perhaps I’ll send it around to a few of you guys before publishing it. That has the potential to make it a bit more effective for sure.

  • Comment Link Silvanoshi Thursday, 02 June 2011 11:57 posted by Silvanoshi

    @ Nakam: No problem, thanks for writing such a great piece. I’m always happy to see an article that generates discussion and has productive goals.

    I’m pretty busy at the moment, and likely will be for the next few weeks so trying to meet up on Skype might be difficult. If you email me though, I can check on that when I have time and respond to you as soon as I can. I’d love to read what you have to say in a bit more depth.

  • Comment Link Silvanoshi Thursday, 02 June 2011 11:55 posted by Silvanoshi

    There’s no doubt in my mind that BF3 will knock MW3 for six in terms of the quality of the game.
    @ sT0n3r: Don’t be silly you’re more than capable of letting us know what you think through text. Think of the little net kiddies I deal with on a daily basis, I’m sure I’ll be able to understand what you want to say XD.

    No problem for stopping by though, I thoroughly enjoy chatting to mature, enthusiastic PC gamers that have level heads on their shoulders and are happy to discuss the state of games and the industry in an open minded manner. It’s not too often you find that on the interwebs :P.

  • Comment Link Silvanoshi Thursday, 02 June 2011 11:53 posted by Silvanoshi

    Heheh, I’d be interested to see some stats on post purchase profitability for TF2, HoN and BlOps too. The one thing I would say on this point is not to underestimate what people are willing to pay for. There are many many people to whom money in their wallet seems to be some sort of inconvenience :P.
    As for DLC in BF3. That is somewhat compartmentalised in that you will have a relatively small team totally focused on DLC whereas the majority of people work on the main game. I wouldn’t worry specifically about DLC taking people away from the core game, there are a lot of people at DICE after all ;). In general it’s not the easiest to make big, and sometimes even small changes to a game post-launch. If you’re thinking about BC2 in particular, the engine and everything required to create an update was somewhat unwieldy. FB2 should help at least a little bit in that regard for BF3.

  • Comment Link Silvanoshi Thursday, 02 June 2011 11:52 posted by Silvanoshi

    @BearH: I completely agree :).

    @Ghostchanter: Yup, you are right. Although selling a boxed product and leaving it at that does work...the industry is moving toward the "Software as a Service" model. Many people within the industry want to be able to extend the life of a game by bringing more content to it post launch. Baby steps have already been taken into SaaS in the form of patching and DLC releases. Arguably this is somewhat of a crude way of doing things but over the next few years I expect to see quite a bit of experimentation done in this area, which will eventually lead to a more organic experience. Activision's CoD Elite is an…interesting…. example of experimentation with SaaS in the FPS genre.

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