In the months since Battlefield 4’s October(!) release date, DICE have kept their heads down. They’ve postponed all post-release expansions to tackle bugs, and remained deeply apologetic for the high profile cock-up that was the game’s launch.
EA have stuck to a largely similar script throughout - but what they won’t do is call Battlefield a failure.
“We did things wrong,” said chief creative officer Rich Hilleman at the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas. “We know that. We’re gonna fix those things. We’re gonna try to be smart about what customers want in the future. But I’m not willing to accept – and I don’t think most of my customers are willing to say – ‘it’s a bad product, I wish I didn’t buy it’.”
From both a sales perspective and a “gameplay” perspective, Hilleman told RPS, Battlefield 4 has been an “exceedingly successful product” on the PC - like a good cake (that last bit's me, sorry).
“I think there was a lot of noise about the game, but some of that is a function of your surface area,” said Hilleman.
And then elaborated: “The more customers you have, the more noise becomes available. I think what we’re hearing is, ‘You made a game we really liked. We would’ve liked it a little better if it didn’t have these problems’. Many of those problems we can fix, and we have and will.”
Hilleman sought to debunk the idea that a lack of genuine beta testing was responsible for Battlefield 4’s sorry state at launch. Detractors have pointed out that the closed beta that ran immediately prior to release featured a weeks-old build of the game.
“I don’t have the numbers off the top of my head, but my impression is that BF4 had more than 10,000 beta testers before it shipped,” he said. “Now, some of the problems we had were related to systems that were not released. Beta testing on an unreleased system is difficult.”
That doesn’t explain the hive-worth of bugs that shipped with the PC version, of course - though Hilleman also pointed to “organisational” issues - some of which have been “fixed already”.
“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,” he went on. “What is most important is to know how to not have the problem next time, and that’s kinda what I’m proudest about.”
Elsewhere, Hilleman said that DICE got to ship the game “when they wanted to” - and noted that the publisher's next big shooter, Titanfall, is made by a “different organisation” with “very firm control of their project”.
Is that reassurance enough for you? Respawn certainly seem to be taking a different, refreshingly traditional approach to their Titanfall beta.