EA seems to be stuck in a constant loop of releasing games to displeased fans, struggling to fix them, and then promptly declaring that they will simply learn from their mistakes. This doesn’t seem to be changing, either. In a recent interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Rich Hilleman, EA’s chief creative officer, provided some concrete details as to how the company plans on fixing their track record of launching broken games.
Following the troubled launches of both Battlefield 4 and SimCity, EA has cemented their reputation as a company that simply doesn’t care about its customers. Interestingly, it seems that this attitude may be the result of skewed perceptions. Hilleman was asked directly about both games’ horrendous launches and he replied, “I’m not sure I accept your premise. Battlefield 4 has been an exceedingly successful product on both consoles and PC. From a sales perspective, from a gameplay perspective.”
EA’s mistakes seem to repeat themselves because they aren’t viewing their game launches as failures at all. They see the sales numbers, not the broken keyboards from connectivity issues. EA notices how many of us still play, or attempt to play, even though the game is in a state of complete disarray. Fixing the game post-launch is a fine solution when we continue to throw money at them in spite of EA’s track record.
When asked how the company plans on improving their testing processes, Hilleman responded:
“The obvious and glaring issues – the ones we heard most about from our customers, the ones that matter most to them – we’ve really gotten on top of those and they’re fixed. What is most important is to know how to not have the problem next time, and that’s kinda what I’m proudest about.”
It’s interesting that the one thing EA is proud about discovering is that games shouldn’t ship with glaring issues. Now, maybe I’m wrong, but I never thought that shipping a playable game was a revolutionary thought.
Of course, it could be that the Battlefield 4‘s team just didn’t have enough time to iron out all of the game’s bugs and glitches. When asked about the possibility of extending development time for studios, Hilleman stated that:
“I don’t think we really pulled it out of their hands. But the process changes dramatically every time. If you were to take a look at the process behind a gen three launch and a gen four launch, it’s 80 percent different. So the next major number release for Battlefield will likely have an 80 percent process change, because time has passed. So that’s why I talk about changing for the future, not changing for mistakes we made last time. If I reproduce what I did this time, it’s guaranteed to be 80 percent wrong anyway.”
Regardless of constantly evolving processes in game development, the focus of any company in the industry should be to ensure that the final product is polished for launch day. Changing for the future is great, but when you never learn from past mistakes and never deliver on the promise of the future, then there really shouldn’t be any trust left.