Bowlby's log, supplemental. 'Battlefield Heroes' has issues, but what exactly are they?

July 6, 2009 § 2 Comments

This is just a supplement to explain some of my initial thoughts surrounding Battlefield Heroes. As I said, the problem is where the technical issues plague upon certain design decisions that DICE has made. DICE decided to make the game a third-person shooter with RPG character elements. So, you’re character is unique to you, has a name, levels up, is specific to a class and team.

None of this is an issue except that there are some quite real problems with the matchmaking service DICE has put in. That’s right! There’s no server browser, per se; there’s only matchmaking. What this means is that you can get thrown into a laggy server or an uneven match and, what’s more, you can’t do anything about it, because of the way the character system is set up. For instance, if one team is outnumbered by the other you can’t swap sides in game, because your character is fixed to a certain team; also, let’s say that matchmaking dumps you onto a team with too many Commandos and not enough Gunners, and you’re a Commando. You can’t suddenly swap classes in-game to readdress the balance because being a Commando is specific to your character.

There’s also another more fundamental issue surrounding an experience based levelling up system, and that’s that it rewards players for persistent play rather than skill. If the matchmaking system worked properly then people of even level would be able to compete fairly. As it stands, teams can be uneven in terms of experience.

And there’s the problem of hitboxes and general lag which can make infantry versus infantry combat half a case of random luck.

But here’s the thing to bear in mind: all of these things are technical issues and they can be fixed. Underneath it all Battlefield Heroes is a really enjoyable game to play. There’s a lot to recommend: the classes are nicely balanced and the abilities each has are varied and interesting; the maps, while there aren’t many of them, are well designed; the art direction and general sense of humour is great; and, most importantly, the vehicular combat is fantastic. You see, I’m still playing Heroes and enjoying it; I just wish they’d sort these things out.

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§ 2 Responses to Bowlby's log, supplemental. 'Battlefield Heroes' has issues, but what exactly are they?

  • Quest says:

    You hit some of the biggest problems I’ve seen in the game so far.

    The lag is probably the most easily fixable problem, but the “skill matching system” doesn’t seem to work at all. “Conquest points per game” would be a better metric for matching evenly skilled players.

    Something random I noticed; the devs obscure a lot of data from you (ping being a good example.) Maybe they’re trying to make the game more casual friendly, but for anyone coming from an FPS background it’s a bit aggravating.

    As an interesting side-point, the devs were messing with voice chat at some point in development. Some of the log files in the install folder mention it, and I think VoIP would add a big team strategy element that is missing from the game. As it stands, team cooperation happens haphazardly, like a bunch of ants stumbling upon a common enemy.

    Your final assessment is correct, though. Despite the game lacking polish in some areas, it’s a bunch of fun and the RPG elements are majorly “compelling.”

    • yangchu says:

      I also noticed the lack of a ping display. I think you are right in your assertion that it’s to make the game less imposing to the casual player, but, in that case, why didn’t they just do what Valve did with Left 4 Dead and put in a small colour-coded graph display next to the player’s name? I have a suspicion that they don’t want people to know the latency because, at the moment, it isn’t that good, and they don’t want people to be turned off by that.

      I didn’t know about there being VoIP in the files, which is interesting. Maybe they haven’t got it working right or don’t know how to implement it yet? It is a bit of mystery.

      Also, I think that matchmaking is always doomed to fail because you’re having to rely on server populations that – I imagine – aren’t evenly spread across in terms of skill. Further, adding a server browser wouldn’t take anything away from the game; it would give the pro-FPS player more options, and I’m all in favour of player choice, not less of it.

      Thank you for your interesting comments. 🙂

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