Sinister Soups Serving Musings On Game Development and Play

8Mar/100

How To Ruin A Perfectly Good Game

I'm a big Battlefield fan, in fact, the Battlefield series is probably my favorite series of first-person shooters. I've always preferred them to other offerings due to their huge open outdoor levels, large-scale engagements, vehicles, and squad dynamics.

There hasn't been a decent PC entry in the series for a while, or at least, the last one I played was Battlefield 2142. So I was pretty excited about the newest game, Battlefield Bad Company 2, which not only has the features of earlier PC Battlefield games, but also adds destructible buildings to the mix. I preordered it, played the beta a bit, and started playing the real deal with some friends last week.

It's a damn fun game. The core shooter mechanics are solid, there are a great number of weapons and gadgets to unlock for each of the four classes, and the squad gameplay is more satisfying than ever, particularly since you can now spawn on any of your squadmates after you die.

Unfortunately, as fun as the actual game is, absolutely everything surrounding the game experience is completely horrible. The number of bugs and outright broken features I have encountered while trying to play this game is mind-boggling.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of the worst offenders.

The Server Browser

The server browser is terrible. Every time I open it, it takes forever to actually populate with games, although I can cancel the updating process to get a partial list more quickly. Attempting to use any of the filters to find a server to my liking (such as filtering for servers with Seattle in the name, or ones that are neither full nor empty) causes the list to immediately go blank and never recover unless I refresh the whole thing again.

It doesn't help that the server history and favorites features are broken. My history tab shows five servers I played on a week ago, and no matter how many new servers I go to, they never end up in history anymore.

The favorites tab is useless because my History is broken, so I can't favorite servers from there, and for some insane reason you can't favorite a server while you are playing on it, so the only way I could favorite a server would be to find it in the browser (which I can't filter) and favorite there before ever playing on it.

The only way for me to consistently find decent servers to play on is therefore the friends list, where you're supposed to be able to join the servers your friends are playing on.

Unfortunately, the friends list is buggy. When you attempt to add someone as a friend, chances are they either will never get the request, or they'll get it days later. Even after finally getting someone added, I've encountered a situation where even when my friends are online (and I can see they are in-game in Steam), the friends list says they are offline.

Thankfully, somehow, even though they are "offline" I can still join the server they are playing on. Go figure.

Voice Chat

I think voice chat was outright broken until recently, and now it sort of works, but the few times I tried to use it, people who tried to speak would break up so badly that I could only make out one out of every five or six words.

In a game where squad tactics are a big draw, this is a huge problem. I've taken to using the independent Steam voice chat when playing with friends, which means we can't communicate with any random people who might join our squad, and our overall effectiveness, and the fun of the game, are significantly reduced.

Crashes

The game crashes all the time for me. Sometimes it's a crash to desktop, without any warning or any repercussions, I'm just suddenly staring at my wallpaper, and forced to restart the game and hope the server my friends are playing on hasn't filled up. Other times, it will freeze, and leave me staring at a blank screen until I go to process manager and kill it.

It's such a shame that these fundamental issues make it so hard for me to join a decent game or keep playing once I do. Like I said, the game itself is a ton of fun, and even despite all the problems, I spent a good number of hours this weekend honing my rather poor shooter skills.

Bad Company 2 is a case study in how not to release a PC game, this kind of stuff is killer, turning off huge numbers of people who aren't as resilient as I am. Who cares how good your game is if a ton of people who paid for it can't even play it?

On top of that, a lot of this stuff is based around problems that should be solved by now. It's 2010, and the number of shooters that have managed to ship with working server browsers must be in the hundreds by now.

If EA and DICE couldn't fix these problems themselves, they shouldn't have tried, they could have gotten Steam integration into the game and let Valve solve their problems for them.

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