Final SWBF2 drama llama post (for now)

I just wanted to wrap up this series with a few last thoughts.

As mentioned earlier, I’m not playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 heavily yet since I have so many other gaming irons in the fire. I’ve been doing 1-3 matches each night and a match takes maybe 10-15 minutes. Last night I had enough credits to unlock one of the two most expensive hero units (Vader and Luke Skywalker are both 15,000 credits while Leia is only 10K –where’s the outrage over that? Why are the men more valuable!?). Now it turns out I did splash out for the “Deluxe” edition and when I first started playing I wasn’t paying much attention to what crates I was given. Maybe, I thought, I had a huge jump on other players because of the Deluxe edition.

The good news is that over on the Xbox, I have EA Access, which offers a free trial of new games, including Star Wars Battlefront 2. So I decided to start over. This was the standard edition. I got 3 loot boxes on first login. One was the Daily Loot Box (they give you a free one every day though in truth the rewards inside are pretty minor). Another was apparently for signing up for a newsletter? It was called something like “The Newsletter Crate” anyway. No idea why I got that. And the third was a “Founder’s Crate” and I have no idea why I got that one either.

I played one match of the MP dogfighting mode. I had zero unlocks for my ship so I was flying completely “vanilla” and, here’s a shocker, I still had a blast playing. The dogfighting in this game is challenging but SO fun. When I was done I had something like 3500 credits. That was from the crates I got at first log in, credits from playing the match (something like 300 for that) and credits for various “rewards” I got for playing (you unlock a lot of rewards at first because you get rewarded for stuff like “Playing your first match” or “Winning your first match” and my side had won the match).

In retrospect I think the Deluxe version did give me a boost of a couple thousand credits, so without having gone Deluxe I might have to play another night before I could unlock Vader (that or play more than just a few matches each night). It still is nowhere near what the haters are saying (somehow “40 hours to unlock a hero” has become an accepted fact even though it is objectively very much false).

My last point is this. I wonder about gamers who have spouses, young kids and demanding jobs and who can maybe only squeeze in an hour of play a couple times a week, but who LOVE Star Wars so want to play. These people probably aren’t parked on Reddit spewing outrage. I wonder if they might have LIKED the idea of skipping Starbucks on their ‘gaming day’ so they could spend a few bucks and open some crates, just to speed up the unlock process. Conversely I wonder how the “no pay to win!” set would react to a mode of the game where everyone uses identical gear. In other words, the person who plays an hour a day has the same gear as the person who spends 50 hours a week playing. I suspect some of them would be outraged about that. Being at an advantage because you have more free time to play seems OK (remember, you don’t have to be skilled to earn credits, you just have to show up – you could go AFK and still earn credits), but being at an advantage because you’re gainfully employed and can spend a few bucks here and there is not.

OK I’m done. If I write anything else about this game, it’ll be about the game, not the outrage. I still haven’t started the campaign because Aloy needs me to guide her through The Frozen Wilds. The MP stuff has been a complete blast, though, for me. I’m coming at it from a Star Wars nerd point of view, though. If you want to know if it is a great shooter you should ask someone who plays a lot of competitive shooters.

SW Battlefront II drama llama, stage 2

The story so far.

Star Wars Battlefront came out a few years ago and got pretty mediocre reviews. Complaints were mostly that it lacked a single player campaign and in general there wasn’t enough content to justify a price. The developers released additional content over the next year or so, but you had to either buy a Season Pass or buy the DLC as it came out. Few consumers seemed to do so.

As someone who did buy the Season Pass, I regretted it. By the time the new content came out the player base had shrunk to the point where it was hard to get a game together if you wanted to play in the new content, since so few people purchased.

In the meantime, EA put THREE development teams on Star Wars Battlefront 2. DICE was handling the ground based stuff and was the ‘main’ dev, Criterion was working on space combat, and newly formed Motive was working on the single player campaign. In spite of the fact that so many resources were being devoted to the game, it would of course launch at $60, same as it would have 15 years ago.

At some point EA announced that there would be no Season Pass, but they would be continuing to support the game with new maps and modes well past launch. In lieu of a Season Pass they would generate revenue via micro-transactions. At the time, this decision was APPLAUDED since no one likes Season Passes.

Then the Great Loot Crate Riots of 2017 began. Really it started with Middle Earth: Shadow of War. “OMG loot crates in a single player game, the world is ending.” That was a big deal right up until launch when folks starting playing, having fun, and found that buying loot crates with real money was truly optional. (Curiously Assassin’s Creed has had stuff you could buy with real money in its games for the past few iterations but no one really cared. Not sure what Shadow of War did to draw all this ire.) Today, a few weeks after launch, no one seems to be too fussed about Shadow of War having loot crates. It’s a great game. Great enough that I bought it on both PS4 and Xbox One X.

In the meantime the horde had turned on Star Wars Battlefront 2 with its “pay to win” system (which really is a “pay to slightly up/side-grade your character but if you suck you’re still going to lose” system). There was a lot of drama, gamers were livid and again, the world was going to end.

Someone came up with a system that determined it would take thousands of dollars or thousands of hours to “unlock everything.” Of course every gaming blog jumped on that to create more hysteria and ad-revenue. I don’t really believe those numbers, but what I found really fascinating is that people were acting as if the game wouldn’t be fun until everything was unlocked. It’s a ridiculous concept. Think about a game like World of Warcraft. Imagine if there were complaints about how long it would take to collect every piece of gear in that game. Pretty much the same thing here.

People also act as if the gear in SW BF2 is like the gear in Destiny. As if you spawn with a rifle that does 20 damage but you can pay to get a rifle that does 50 damage. But that’s not really how it works. It’s more like you have a rifle that does a lot of damage but has a low rate of fire and you can pay to get a rifle that does less damage but has a higher rate of fire. For the most part weapons are balanced (or intended to be). There are definitely cards and mods that will give you a slight advantage, but it’s not as egregious as the horde would have you believe.

Meanwhile, the game launched early for some players. It was hard to hear but if you could make your way through the loot crate anger you’d find people saying they were having fun playing. You had to be quick because anything you say positive about the game gets quickly downvoted into oblivion on Reddit or comment threads. In today’s toxic online world, you need to be on message with the horde or your opinion doesn’t count.

EA held an AMA on Reddit and tried to respond calmly to the horde but even then, their answers got downvoted to the point you had to really hunt for them. Gamers didn’t want a dialog, they wanted to be pissed.

Thursday night, on the evening of official launch, EA caved. They announced that at launch they would be turning off the ability to buy crystals, the currency you use for making real money transactions. The horde hated pay to win, and so EA shut that system down. At launch no one can say the game is pay-to-win. The voice of the horde was heard and acted on. They won.

The response? Did you think the horde would be happy? You don’t know gamers. Rather than acknowledge that EA is trying to make things right, gamers immediately started pointing at this line: “The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game.” The on-message horde response to the EA announcement is that this is a BS move that they are making for launch and that they’re just going to turn it all back on again once the anger subsides. The hardcore tin-foil hat sect thinks this was all orchestrated from the start. That EA wanted to make gamers pissed so they could make this change at the last minute and seem like good guys. Yeah, right.

This is why we can’t have nice things. We gamers just have so much hate in our hearts that we’re never willing to give a big publisher the benefit of the doubt. We scream at them for doing things wrong but when they try to make things right, we just scream more. There is no winning once the horde has turned against you.

Maybe 2 weeks from now EA will just re-enable things as they are and you can all tell me what a jerk I am and how wrong I was. I don’t think they will. Prior to launch they’d already drastically reduced the cost of heroes based on feedback from the beta. That indicates to me they’re willing to make real changes. I’m not saying EA is an altruistic company. I’m saying they’re a company that wants customers to stick around and wants ‘long tail’ sales. If they just turn the same system back on, they’ll just have angry customers again and people will walk away from the game.

I think they’ll do exactly what they’ve said they would do. That they “… will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning.” before turning real money transactions back on. And of COURSE they’re going to turn them back on at some point. They’re not going to develop and give away additional content for free without any kind of revenue stream.

I just think its sad that the gamer horde seems determined to stay mad even when they ‘win’. I’m not sure what a company can do to disperse the horde, honestly. I’m glad I’m not in the game development business, that’s for sure.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 drama llama

I got early access to Star Wars Battlefront 2 via pre-ordering (I guess?) so I played a bit of it last night. I enjoyed it. I know I’m not supposed to say that and I’m supposed to be outraged about loot crates but meh, life is too short.

Loot boxes are going to be with us for a while, at least when it comes to games from the giant publicly-traded publishers like EA, Activision and Ubisoft. It’s just part of the cycle of game publishing. First it was DLC, then it was Season Passes, now it’s Loot Crates. Would I prefer they not be there? Sure. That said, I prefer loot crates to having to shell out for a Season Pass. In a perfect world we’d spend $60 and the company would supply new maps and modes for free for a couple of years, but is that a realistic thing to hope for, particularly in this age of aggressive sales on games? The only people who are going to pay $60 for Battlefront 2 are the ones buying it at launch. Wait a month and it’ll be $50, wait a couple months and it’ll be $30, but you’ll still be able to benefit by the post-launch extra content. Revenue to pay for that content has to come from somewhere.

For SW Battlefront 1 I did buy the Season Pass and hardly used it since the it fragmented the player base. It took so long to get a game on one of the Season Pass maps that I rarely bothered, and over time I got bored with just playing the maps that shipped with the game and drifted away. So for me personally, I’ll take loot crates and knowing everyone has the same selection of maps to play on.

Then specifically there is the “But these loot boxes are pay to win!!” arguments. Again, don’t really care. Someone is always going to have more stuff unlocked than me. If I’m facing 2 opponents with more unlocks and one of them got them by spending an extra $100 and the other one got them by playing the game 12 hours a day because he lives in his parent’s basement and has no job, does it really matter to me? Yes it does matter in one crucial way. The dude spending an extra $100 is the dude making it possible for EA to do away with Season Passes in favor of loot crates.

I mean, I think EA could have side-stepped a LOT of controversy if they’d gone the “cosmetics only” path for these loot crates, and I get why people would have preferred that, but for me personally the pay to win aspect isn’t going to have much impact on me so I can’t work up much outrage over it.

The one issue I can sympathize with are the folks that are pissed that some of the heroes need to be unlocked. When you first get the game, you can’t play as the more iconic heroes (or villains) and you have to spend in-game credits to unlock them. Prior to launch EA at least reduced the price of them, they’re now anywhere from 5000 to 15000 credits. If you got the game because you really want to play as Darth Vader and then you learn that you have to play for a couple of nights to earn that 15K (or spend additional cash to buy credits) I can understand why that would be upsetting. After my first night of play I had a little over 6000 credits but I did get some loot crates free from playing the beta and some of them had credits.

Personally, I kind of enjoy having a goal to work towards so for me even this doesn’t bother me much but I do think it’s a valid thing to be upset about. Plus, weirdly, I don’t even like playing the heros/villains. I kind of prefer being a regular Clone Trooper or a Rebel or whatever.

There are things I don’t like about SW BF 2, though. I don’t like that they added the scoreboard back (in the beta there was no post-match scoreboard which I thought was a good thing for a Star Wars game that is going to pull in a lot of casual players). I don’t like the loading times, which are pretty awful. I don’t like that the Clone War era droids are so skinny I can’t spot them as easily as I’d like. I don’t like that there doesn’t seem to be a space battle single player mission (though you have to unlock the single player missions as you go — these are separate from the single player campaign — so I could be wrong) because I need a LOT of practice flying these ships.

And that’s about it, really. So far no regrets, but anyway I really bought the game because I wanted to see what EA Motive has done with the single player campaign. I didn’t even start that yet since I’m already juggling so many games (Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Middle Earth, Shadow of War, Forza 7, and .hack//GU Final Recode) but I’m optimistic about it.

So while other parts of the Internet are occupied with sending death threats to Battlefront 2’s community manager and calling for a boycott of the game, I’m just over here playing it and having fun. Sorry Internet, I’m just not that into you any more. In a time when Hawaii is taking steps to prepare for having a nuclear bomb drop on them, I just have to pick my battles when it comes to what to be stressed out about. Loot crates are WAY down on that list.

A few quick thoughts about the Star Wars Battlefront 2 multiplayer beta

Because I am a sucker, I pre-ordered Star Wars Battlefront 2, so I got into the beta on Wednesday (it’s open to everyone starting Friday). The first game took a beating but honestly I had some good fun with it for a while, but mostly I was interested in #2 for the single player campaign from Motive. I pre-ordered because I dunno why. Retail therapy when I was down or something.

Anyway I did and played the beta a few hours last night (of the Galactic Conquest mode…everything in this post is about that mode which is, for me, the reason to get the game aside from the single player stuff) and took zero screenshots so sorry about that. I did want to list some of the changes and things I liked in this game. Hopefully they will stay the same into launch but I’m pretty sure the online e-peen gamer jerks will be raising a stink about the first one and I fear EA will change it.

So what’s the first one? At the end of a match there is no ranking of players, at least that I could see. You get a screen where someone is awarded MVP and someone else gets called out for having the biggest kill streak or the most kills, but it’s all positive reinforcement. Then you get your own stats showing how much exp you earned. But you’re never told you came in 19th out of 20 players.

I LOVE this and it seems like a perfect system for a Star Wars game that is probably going to attract a lot of casual gamers who will frankly suck in MP (that’s me I’m talking about). Playing MP games when you’re bad is frustrating enough without having your nose rubbed in it at the end of the game. You are still told how you did, but the fact that you struggled isn’t advertised to everyone else playing. I really appreciate this feature and it kept me in the game a lot longer than I otherwise would have stayed.

So that’s the first thing.

The second is how you respawn. SWBF2 rewards working as a team. You get more exp for doing things alongside teammates than if you did the same things on your own (or so they say, I couldn’t measure it). When you respawn, they hold you back for a few seconds and then spawn you in as a group of up to 4 people. If no one else dies, you don’t have to wait forever. After a few seconds they’ll still let you spawn in alone, but generally they try to release you in ‘squads’ of people. Again, a godsend for those of us who suck since what I do is follow another player and try to back them up.

Third thing is classes. There are now 4 classes: Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist. I played all four (there are daily goals and for yesterday one of them was to play each class for 10 minutes, which is pretty much a round). Assault is your basic grunt, I guess. His default skills are grenade, a short-term shotgun and a tracking dart that is supposed to help ID the enemy. Heavy is an armored dude. He has a grenade, a short-term Mini-gun and a Shield. Officer is a support class. He has a grenade, a buff to reduce damage to nearby friendlies, and a turret. Finally Specialist is the sniper of the team. He has a grenade, a short term stealth mode with a mid-sized gun, and thermal binoculars that can tag enemies and sees them through walls.

These are all the default skills but you can use “cards” to modify/replace them. I found I really liked the Heavy since I could lean into my ‘spray and pray’ style of gaming.

Fourth thing is specials. In the first game you’d find Icons in the battlefield that you could grab to pilot a tie-fighter or become Luke Skywalker or whatever. Regular players knew where these were and casuals like me rarely got to them. In SWBF2 you earn a currency during play, and when you save up enough you can just buy one of these specials when you spawn in. It means I won’t get to be a Hero (5000 credits) very often but I could fly a ship or be a buffed up unit at least once per round (anything from 500-2000 credits). At least it is in my control.

Disclaimer: All of the above is going from memory, which in my case isn’t 100% reliably. Caveat emptor!

All in all I had fun. The one map in the beta is Naboo where you’re either a Clone Trooper or a Droid (“ROGER! ROGER!”). I really liked being a droid because I felt vaguely silly and having droids gunned down by the dozens felt ‘normal’ to me.

I drifted away from the first game as the DLC dropped since it fractured the player base and made it hard to find games to join. This year EA has pledged not to do that. All the DLC maps and stuff will be free so everyone should be able to play in everything. I have to admit I’m really looking forward to MP in this game now.