For everyone experiencing in Battlefield 4 major lag, crashes, bugs, death behind otherwise solid walls, I feel your pain. And communities are quick to jump on developers for “This game needs more development time!” or “Fix your shit, DICE!” While such requests are valid and worth considering, there’s a reason for the problems Battlefielders are having. Trouble is, no one’s really dissected why. Until now.
If you’re unfamiliar, Symthic.com is a great place for gun stats and generally intelligent discussion on the mechanics of popular (mostly shooter) games. With the release of BF4, questions of sloppy coding and network infrastructure abound. One user calling himself “fhlom,” who is himself a game developer, has come forward to try and explain why BF4 has so many issues. He does a much better job of explaining the tech stuff than I ever could, so hop on over to Symthic to read the full post and his Q&A that follows.
A few thoughts
I will say that much of what he lays out isn’t necessarily something DICE could test on a grand scale, even with the beta. The ratio of people who played an early version of the game to those who simply bought it is a huge factor. At least 10:1 in favor of the final release would be my conservative estimate. And if several tens of thousands of people played the beta, then that’s at least several hundred thousand extra pools of data servers are now required to handle.
Do these explanations and assumptions condone a sloppy release from a studio with the means to test it? Yes and no, I’d say. On the one hand, there’s only so much preparation a studio can do before release day comes, and creative works of any kind are never actually “done” in the truest sense of the word. Novels, films, musical albums, and especially games, are “publishable” instead of “done.” One advantage games have is post release support. You can’t re-edit a movie, for instance.
So I think DICE, pushed by their own internal deadlines and those of their customers, and of course EA, chose to release a game they more than likely knew needed work because there was enough demand to do so. With any large title these days, I’d think it impossible to truly grasp what kinds of bugs pop up once a product is released to the masses. We like to say that developers should “see this shit coming,” but they have more on their minds than looking at every little crack in their otherwise perfect vase (pardon the metaphor). Some errors are more glaring than others, sure, but the point stands.
On the other hand, do I think DICE knew there were crashing issues, balance issues, coding issues? Of course I do. They aren’t stupid. And they are responsible, at least partly, for the backlash they now receive. By the end of its life cycle, BF3 ran as well as it ever did, close enough to spot on as the series had ever been. Like the Symthic post says, it’s possible those fixes didn’t get pushed forward into the new iteration of Frostbite, and while I think fhlom is somewhat apologetic out of sympathy, I won’t be.
DICE knew what the numbers for their game were, I’m sure. I’m sure also they knew the pre-order amounts and had calculations for possible sales day one and beyond. Having worked in the product delivery sector (read: retail/GameStop), I know the game itself has likely been in its current “complete” state for a while. I’d like to think some of the patches BF3 got could have been implemented in that time or, more likely, that’s being worked on now. I don’t blame DICE for wanting to push their product so they can work on content to follow, I just wish they could’ve spent a little more time polishing.
Again, I know full well that there are steep deadlines in place, and that once those loom, certain things get pushed way down on the priority list. Maybe, just maybe, there was a huge bug/crash/glitch in the build of Battlefield 4 that directly precedes the one we’re playing now. Imagine that maybe this bug was so damning for their game that DICE absolutely had to fix it and, though they did in time for release, these “lesser” issues didn’t get the full treatment. And that’s just one of an infinite number of possible scenarios that’s caused our current BF4 woes.
All this said, I’ll repeat myself one last time. DICE probably knew what they had was less than stable and most likely did everything they could day one to remedy the issue. They continue to attempt just that, as they’ve demonstrated with continuous patching in the days following release. Some of the problems are inexcusable, others understandable. What we all need to remember is, the game is still young, and its lifecycle barely begun. There’ll much more time to enjoy if we can get past these minor frustrations.