The CEO of EA, Andrew Wilson has described the launch of Battlefield 4 as unacceptable and has detailed the new process it of launching games so it never happens again.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Wilson and the GM of DICE, Karl-Magnus Troedsson tell of what happened that caused all the woes in Battlefield 4's launch and eventually made DICE hault all production on future products and expansions.
"For clarity it wasn't actually a server problem for Battlefield 4," EA boss Andrew Wilson told Eurogamer. "It was a client side problem. Right now the game is playing extremely well, and people are in there and having a lot of fun. I'm still playing it."' Wilson then went on to say the game suffered because of its ambition. "Think about what Battlefield 4 was: 64 player multiplayer, giant maps, 1080p, Levolution that was changing the gameplay design in an emergent way. There is a chance there are things you are going to miss through the development cycle. And you end up in a situation we had with Battlefield 4. For me, the situation we had was unacceptable. For the team it was unacceptable. We have worked tirelessly since then to make sure the gameplay experience got to where it absolutely should have been at launch and we're focused on that and we continue to deliver value to that player base. But when you do things like that you can never guarantee. It would be disingenuous for me to sit here and say, 'we will never have an issue again,' because that would mean we were never going to push the boundaries again. And I don't want to be that company. I want to be a company that pushes to lead and innovate and be creative. But you can start to do things that give you a better handle and a better view about what the potential challenges might be."
Wilson said EA is now providing the developers more time to test their games.
"You can lengthen development cycles," he said. "You can give a much longer timeframe between final and launch to get a lot more testing on the game. You can change the development process whereby you have more stable build requirements throughout the entire set of development. You can start betas earlier so you get it out in the wild earlier with more people banging away at it. We have changed development processes, we've changed development timelines and we've changed testing processes and beta processes, all with a view to not have the issues again."
EA was also accused of rushing the development of Battlefield 4 in order to hit the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but Wilson has denied this, stating DICE had plenty of time and saying that the real challenge was creating a next-gen console launch title.
"DICE had a lot of time this time," he said. "Hardline has had three years. Last year was a very unique situation. Not to abdicate responsibility whatsoever - we own it, we are responsible for it and we have worked tirelessly to remedy the situation - but when you are building a game on an unfinished platform with unfinished software, there are some things that can't get done until the very last minute because the platform wasn't ready to get done. What was happening with Battlefield 4, even as we were pushing all of this innovation, was a lot of it we couldn't test until really late in the phase. I believe it was unique."
Battlefield 4 was particularly troubling as it damgaged the studio's reputation.
"Was I surprised at the reaction? No. Were we a bit surprised by the state of the game? Yes. For sure," DICE boss Karl-Magnus Troedsson told Eurogamer. "But that's why we've been working so diligently on taking care of that. It has changed a lot of things about how we go about doing things. People in the studio have taken this very personally. It has led to some very tough discussions about what we're doing. We're looking forward, we're not looking backward any more, and saying, 'okay, what do we take out of this hardening experience and what does that mean for us moving forward? We'll talk more about that in the future but there is definitely a lot of lessons learned."
As a result of the trouble with the launch of Battlefield 4, EA has learned from their mistake and released the Battlefield Hardline beta five months before launch in October 2014.
"How stable is the server? What state is the client in? That's one example of a thing we changed based on what happened with BF4," Troedsson said. "Naturally this is a focus for us moving forward. It's not something we take lightly in any way. It would be wrong of us to not take it seriously when we launch the next game. But we are in such a good position right now. Battlefield 4 is stable. It's a good experience. All those fixes are going straight into Hardline. Most of them are already in there. We have a lot of people still working on BF4. Everything is going in the right direction here. But yes we absolutely have this as a focus for us. Launching this game needs to be different than BF4. Launching this game needs to be different than BF4."'
Hardline has received much criticism from people who felt wronged with the horrid release of Battlefield 4 as well as the possibility that DICE will stop supporting the game with the release of Hardline. This, however, causing Troedsson to make a blog post on the Official Battlefield Blog to announced DICE's continued support for the game after Hardline launches.
"Part of it is because now we're shipping a game just a year after the other one, annualising as some people say, so I wanted people to understand that doesn't exclude our support or focus on the former title," Troedsson told Eurogamer.
Troedsson went on to say that DICE plans to move Battlefield away from "serial" development, when one game is released, updated and supported, then another Battlefield game is released two years later and all players are expected to move across. Instead, DICE wants a "parallel" development, where multiple Battlefield games are supported at the same time.
"Just because the next one comes out, doesn't mean we should stop taking care of BF4 with updates, balancing, and if any new issues come up we'll fix that. If somebody is currently playing Battlefield 4 and having a great time there but they say, I'm not ready to switch, I'm still busy getting the highest rank or unlocking everything, that's fine. I'm happy as long as they're playing a Battlefield game. Naturally I would like them to play both, but if they won't do that I'm happy if they play one of them."
Tredsson and Wilson went on to deny the fact that Battlefield has become an annualised series. Eurogamer then asked about the possibility of "Battlefield 5 releasing next year, for Troedsson to say, "Well, I wouldn't assume that, but you might! We'll have to wait and see what happens in the future. The latest games we have launched have been in the window we're talking about now for this game as well, but we'll see what makes sense in the future and what kind of ideas we come up with."
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