Altering The Deal: When The Game You Play Isn’t The Game You Bought

Perhaps the best example of the worst changes to a video game made after release that I can think of belongs to the console version of Battlefield 3. Aside from the absolute mountain of balance adjustments made to weapons, vehicles, equipment and just about every other aspect of gameplay, there were two huge changes that personally ruined the game for me.

When Battlefield 3 was first released, the enemy spotting feature could have been argued to be a little too powerful. You could hammer on the “mark enemy” button throughout the game–which would put enemies on every player’s mini-map–and it could often end up marking enemies who you couldn’t even see yet, such as enemies hiding in bushes. If one team was marking enemies and another wasn’t, the team that was marking would have a huge advantage.

Although I personally didn’t mind this, I guess that the developers did, because several months after release, they made a rather large adjustment to the feature. They broke it. They reduced the range, but in doing so they somehow also destroyed the reliability of the feature. There would be many times when an enemy would be 10 feet in front of me with nothing blocking my view, I would hammer on the mark enemy button, and nothing would happen. They broke the feature, and even after several updates later, they never bothered to fix it. I quit playing several months later–soon after the second DLC expansion–and it still hadn’t been fixed. To be honest, I’m not even sure if it’s fixed now.

Then came the private console servers. When I bought the game, everyone used the publisher’s servers, which included reliable game settings. But after several months, these previously reliable servers had been rented out to people who frequently wanted to play one map over and over with a ridiculously inflated score limit. This often turned previously simple and fun matches into grueling affairs that could last for hours. This went on for weeks, and even after it improved, it was still never as easy again to find a standard game with default settings.

Perhaps even worse than any of this, private servers came with private rules, both written and unwritten. Many servers had clearly enforced rules that asked you not to use a specific weapon, or use a specific vehicle. Many of those same servers also had some not so clear requirements that included rules such as:

– If you’re in the vehicle I want to use, you may be removed from the game “to balance the teams.”
– If you use a strategy that I deem to be overly effective and “cheap,” you stand a chance of being removed.
– Only my friends and I are allowed to use the weapon that the server rules say nobody can use.
– If you shoot at me, I will kick you from the game.

Seriously, play any Call of Duty with voice chat enabled for a few hours, and then imagine giving those idiots the power to alter the match settings, and kick people out of the game for any reason. Nothing against all Call of Duty players–I’ve certainly enjoyed playing that series in the past–but you don’t have to look very hard to find people online who should not be entrusted with this sort of power.

But entrusting those people with the power to ruin the game that I paid $60 dollars for is exactly what EA did, turning a previously reliable game into an unpredictable haven of griefing, and essentially handing over the keys to the asylum. Rather than add new servers to the existing options, EA decided that they would prefer to rent their existing servers, which greatly limited your chances of finding a standard game.

Friends have told me that things did eventually get better. Filter options were added to find official servers, and it has also been said that EA was just unprepared for the initial rush of server rentals. But to be honest, this is of little consolation to someone who feels that their game was ruined. As much as I am highly anticipating Battlefield 4, I refuse to buy it until EA announces that this sort of nonsense will not continue.

Like Blizzard and their admission of the mistake they made with Diablo 3‘s real money auction house, I hope that Dice and EA have seen the errors that they made with the console versions of Battlefield 3.