Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Frozen Pigs Flying In Hell

For a very, very long time, the game Battlefield 2 has suffered dearly in many ways than one. Even worse so is the attack on ranked servers that try to maintain a place for people to connect on and have some fun. I have not played the game in many months, if not weeks, for I have long moved on to better games that are at least supported. Well, the term support should now be taken with a grain of salt, seeing there's hardly a company that gives a damn on what their customers want.

Having played BF2 and its follow-up, 2142, I have seen some dismal support that hardly came. And when it feels like BF2 was being abandoned in favor of 2142, I have given up on trying to play either of the games. Nobody I know plays 2142 actively and I'm stuck looking for a game to play. Added to this is the shitty support for a simple thing: widescreen. It isn't much to ask for. Yet I have touted time and time again, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, to get the idiots to at least hear out the argument in the most reasonable way. Yet it felt that nobody is even hearing or even bothering to pass the word along. It felt that all I was doing was screaming at a brick wall.

It was when 2142 received a patch that finally got some sort of support for widescreen. But there was still one piece of the puzzle missing. BF2 is still without that same kind of support treatment. And just when people would simply drop the game and move on, which I have done many months in advance, there comes the announcement that a major patch to BF2 will be made to address some of the lingering and current issues with the game. Most notably is the attack on servers that forces the software to crash. And time went on, and on, and on...

I cannot tell you just how frustrated I was at DICE/EA as a company. It's understandable if the company was working on one or two projects at a time. At least it's efficient that way to get things done, if you have enough people to really support handling two projects. But it doesn't seem that way.

When the announcement was made, DICE/EA was purportedly working on Bad Company, maintaining 2142, creating Battlefield Heroes, and now the 1.5 patch for BF2. Added to this is the rumored Battlefield 3 that everyone seems to be pinning their hopes on.

Later on, word got out that they were working on Mirror's Edge. And then Bad Company was released, and the sequel to that will be made. So one project is finished and then another one started. Still counting?

And then there's the graphical revival of Battlefield 1942 called 1943. So how many do we have now? Battlefield Heroes is now a running project open to all. BF'43 is out and a PC port is currently being worked on. And then there's any other maintenance that BF2 and 2142 requires. And Bad Company 2 is in the works. As it stands now, that's 4 different things, where 3 are majors tasks that require more attention. Yet DICE/EA continues to pile on projects after projects.

It was revealed on why it took so long to develop the 1.5 patch for BF2. Their answer was that they didn't have one or two guys working on it. Instead, they used time-limited resource allocation. In other words, the patch only got worked on in a limited time that was given by the higher-ups. That, to me, means they have serious management and resource allocation issues. It's one thing to split off the company into different teams for working on different things (like a PS3 codebase team w/ a unified visual/texture design team). But to give a maintenance patch a limited time for coders to work on, that's just downright stupid.

Assume for a bit that they shoved all of their projects aside. Assume for a bit that once Bad Company was done and Mirror's Edge never existed on paper. That would mean the one major project running at the time was Battlefield Heroes. What then? A bunch of people would then sit down, look at the BF2 to-do list, and start looking into what needs to be done. I theorize that had they never bothered with Mirror's Edge and/or BF'43, they could have finished the BF2 1.5 update in about 3-4 months time after the initial announcement.

Of course, all of this is just in theory, since it took them more than a fucking year to do this. The confirmation of such update was made on June 23, 2008, where a stupid update post was made September 18, 2008, with a winter release goal in mind. That, of course, never happened.

Yet in the time it took them to actually finish the damn patch, they have finished Mirror's Edge, got Battlefield Heroes stable enough to move to open beta status, and released Battlefield 1943. That's 3 fucking projects they have finished, some of which dated back farther than the notion of building a new patch for BF2. Still, it seems that DICE did nothing more than tack on projects after projects to the point where small things received little or no attention at all.

So... September 1, 2009. Over a year has passed since that announcement. The patch is finally out and with it, a lot of content. For starters, Euro Force and Armored Fury, two booster packs that used to sell for US$9.99 each, are now available to all for free. Not only is this a good move but it finally brings all the players together. Before, the maps that came with these booster packs did nothing more than clear out the server. Only a select handful of people would be able to play on these special maps but you'd be left with a fraction of people on the server. It was probably one of the most hated aspect of running a ranked server, as it does nothing more than empty it out quickly. It would go from being populated to empty in less than 5 minutes time, simply because they would all leave to go elsewhere. It doesn't help the server, since it basically bumps people off to other server. And that can potentially lose a faithful player from ever returning.

Another added bonus is the addition of a new map for ranked play. Still, one of the most dumbest aspect to ranked server is the inability to run user-created maps that can be verified, endorsed, or approved for ranked play. Yet while this was seen to work to a certain extent in 2142, there was never a consistent or robust method for which user-created maps can be submitted for approval for ranked play. Because of this, people play the same map over and over and over. There was not enough ranked maps to go around and not enough different content to keep players playing. The booster packs was probably meant as a way to solve this but we all know how that went.

So what do everyone get? A small shot in being able to play something new for a change. But trying to get back to BF2 isn't easy, nor is it all that great. Having played both Call of Duty 4 and World at War, I have come to learn that the bullet system employed in these two Call of Duty games surpasses that to what BF2 is able to do. I have played the game long enough that if you wanted to be able to shoot straight, the most you need to do is simply aim. In BF2, using the weapon's iron sight doesn't necessarily equate to always being able to shoot straight. Quite often the second shot after the first will go astray, a side effect to the game's bullet deviation system. And nothing in the world will get you to shoot straight ever again, even when taking careful shots in aiming at your target. You'd think that if you're laying down prone or taking your sweet time firing off one shot at a time the bullets will always go straight. Not in BF2. In order for the bullet to fly straight to where you're aiming, you have to wait forever. I don't think anyone wants to wait that long.

I have tried to play again. And having been away from the game for so long, I have stumbled trying to relearn all the controls. Yet the one thing that screws me over is the fact that I cannot aim straight after the first shot. Shouldn't the idea of knowing how to aim straight is knowing how to control the recoil of your weapon? At least in World at War, I can control how I shoot by shooting in short bursts, so that I don't lose control of the recoil when trying to shoot at a target far away.

I have mixed feelings on this so-called 1.50 patch. Granted, I'd need time to adjust back to how the game plays and get a feel for the new map. But I just can't stand not being able to fire a weapon straight down the middle when doing careful aiming. One thing is certain, though. Hell has frozen over and the patch is actually out. Who'd knew?

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