We love Battlefield 4 here at Dealspwn.com. Just last night, Matt, Carl and I settled down for some Conquest Large action on PC, bringing our unique 'headless chicken' brand of negative K/D destruction to Lancang Dam. I hunted squads of snipers with carbine fire and thumped RPGs into APCs, Carl kept us in the fight with his trusty defibrillator like an absolute hero, while Matt... well, Matt couldn't sustain a connection for more than a couple of minutes on the rare occasions that Battlelog actually worked. Before eventually quitting in unbridled and thoroughly understandable rage.
It's a familiar story that will ring true for any number of Battlefield 4 players, since DICE's shooter released in an abjectly awful state last year and still needs plenty of work in the netcode department. Which, frankly, has us a little worried about the impending launch of Titanfall in two months time, even though we can't wait to play it.
EA are keenly aware of this, having come under fire from gamers and investors alike, and have promised that they've learned from their mistakes. Frankly, they'd better have, because this time there's much more on the line than just an established brand's reputation.
Speaking in a recent investor call (as transcribed by Seeking Alpha), EA's top brass were quick to address some of these concerns.
"When Battlefield 4 launched it was a very complex game," EA Games' Patrick Söderlund argued, perhaps mistaking the word complex for unfinished, "launching on two entirely new console platforms as well as current-gen and PC. We were pushing innovation heavily and delivering 60fps gameplay for 64 players plus the ability to connect via mobile tablet as a commander into the product, coupled with some very innovative features in the gameplay side.
"Based on our pre-launch testing, our beta performance, we were confident the game was ready when it was launched. Shortly after launch, however, we began hearing about problems from our player community, and the development team quickly began to address the situation."
Söderlund believes that two months of intensive patching has increased the stability of the game across all platforms, which is true to some extent, and suggests that EA have learned from their errors.
"How are we learning from this?" quoth the EA Games boss. "The challenges that we've faced with Battlefield 4 were different from anything that we've seen before with other games. There were different issues that only manifest [their] scale in the post-launch live environment.
"We're taking multiple steps to evaluate what occurred and incorporate those learnings into our development process for future products, so we don't experience the same problems again. "I would close on the fact that Battlefield 4 remains an amazing game with massive innovation, and we're confident that gamers will be logging-on to play for a long time to come."
Though we're not entirely convinced that Levolution equals innovation (and are still annoyed to see EA applying glib marketing speak to a situation that would have been better served by a contrite apology) it's good to see that "future products" will perhaps benefit from Battlefield 4 and SimCity's shambling release.
Future products, of course, referring to Titanfall.
Now, it's worth noting that Titanfall is a very different game to Battlefield 4, especially in terms of the player count. Matches support a maximum of twelve players compared to sixty-four, which will presumably make for an easier time polishing the netcode. With a "beta" -- read, "basically a hype demo and stress test" -- tipped for next month, Respawn Entertainment should be well-placed to deliver a rock-solid multiplayer experience at launch.
However, they absolutely have to do so, since the stakes have never been higher. Titanfall is a brand new IP and a potential flagship brand years in the making, meaning that it absolutely has to deliver day one, hour one, minute one, with no margin for error. The hype train has reached top speed, and as such, the slightest leaf on the track could potentially derail it, with plenty of naysayers just itching to stick the boot in. EA are already tipped for another 'Golden Poo' award, after all, and another botched launch could be the straw that breaks many a consumer's back.
More to the point, it's not just Respawn and DICE with everything on the line. It's Microsoft.
Titanfall is one of, if not the, biggest Xbox One exclusive on the release calendar. It's the flagship for Xbox Live's "cloud power" and dedicated servers that their gushing executives have barely shut up about, the first real test of whether months of jargon will actually equate to real tangible benefits for gamers. The reputation of the Xbox One itself hinges on Titanfall, which needs to prove unequivocally that their next-gen console can deliver a truly next-gen gaming experience. Legions of fans have already pre-ordered the game and are ready to get involved, while fanboys on both camps are donning their flame-retardant jackets. It's crunch time, and the Xbox One has risked everything on Titanfall living up to our heightened expectations.
We hope that the beta will come and go without incident, followed by a launch that makes SimCity and Battlefield 4's formative months a distant memory. We can't wait to play it -- in fact, it's our most anticipated game of 2014 -- and Matt's hands-on preview has us champing at the bit. We're so ready. So very ready.
But if the worst comes to the worst, EA needs to consider pushing back the launch long enough to ensure that it works, and guaranteeing that players can jump straight into a finished, functional game. Us gamers are prepared to wait, after all, we praised the decision to push Mass Effect 3 back. Else, like Battlefield 4, a superb game ends up overshadowed by flaws that never should never have been, and arguably damaging the brand despite its core quality . Turning both EA and an entire console into a laughing stock in the process.
Hopefully it won't come to that. We're prepared for Titanfall... and we've got our fingers crossed that Titanfall is prepared for us.