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5

EA’s Star Wars “Open-World” Game

As usual in the industry, speculation over a job posting has driven the rumor mill into full production. There’s a lot of chatter about the latest job listing from EA for work on a Star Wars “Open-World” Game.

I recall there being another listing for a similar game around 2013, though I’m not sure anything ever came of that.

The “open-world” component of the posting is most interesting. The fact that EA is making a Star Wars game isn’t news since they’re the only ones with the rights. What does “open-world” mean? I think that’s about as broad these days as saying something like “Multiplayer” or heck, even “star wars game”.

MMORPG? Doubtful. Completely.

Battle Royale or Survival or other type of game? Most likely.

I’ve said and will maintain that no blunder — Battlefront 2 or otherwise — will be enough to dissuade people from hyping a Star Wars BR or Survival game. It’s too hype-able for people to resist.

4

EA Makes Positive Change to Battlefront 2’s Loot Crate System

With just a few weeks before launch, EA is making some pretty magnificent changes to Battlefront 2's highly dramatized and reviled loot crate microtransaction system.

Dare I say it... the changes are quite positive.

  • Epic Star Cards, the highest tier of Star Cards available at launch, have been removed from Crates. To help keep everyone on a level playing field, these Star Cards will primarily be available through crafting, with the exception of special Epic Star Cards available through pre-order, deluxe, and starter packs.
  • You’ll need to reach a certain rank to craft upgraded Star Cards. You won’t be able to buy a bunch of Crates, grind everything up into crafting materials, and immediately use them to get super powerful Star Cards. You can only upgrade the ability to craft higher tier Star Cards by ranking up through playing the game.
  • Weapons are locked behind specific milestones. While a select few will be found in Crates, the rest can only be attained by play. Want to unlock a new weapon for your Heavy? Play as a Heavy and you’ll gain access to the class’s new weapons. 
  • Class-specific gear and items can be unlocked by playing as them. As you progress through your favorite class, you’ll hit milestones granting you class-specific Crates. These will include a mix of Star Cards and Crafting Parts to benefit your class’s development.

That's no moon small list of insignificant changes. That's a major reversal on much of people's big complaints about players being able to drop tons of cash on loot crates and dominate on day one.

Bottom line, you'll still be able to benefit greatly from buying crates, but not until you've played a lot and have earned the ability to benefit from them.

That's a fair trade, in my opinion. Sure, I still don't like loot crates. I'd rather them not be in the game at all. But given what we were going to have, this is a really nice change.

8

EA Wants Games as a Service

Last week EA announced the closure of Visceral Games, the studio currently developing a futur Star Wars game (not Battlefront). The reason they gave was quite fascinating.

Apparently the new Star Wars game was shaping up to be a linear story-based game. So pretty much exactly what I would want in a Star Wars game that wasn’t Battlefront. You may recall this was the game being director by previous Naughty Dog story directory Amy Hennig. Hopes were high for an awesome action-adventure story-driven game.

But since, you know, who would ever want a Star Wars story game, they decided to go in a different direction.

EVP of EA, Patrick Soderlund, said instead of making a linear story-based it to be reshaped “to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

Whatever the heck that means? That’s just gobbledygook gibberish you say when you have no idea WTH you’re going to do with a defunct game and studio.

Alas, the writing is on the wall. EA wants loot boxes and games a service. They want the recurring revenue and microtransaction. And it’s clear that these business models do impact game design.

 

1

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Day 1 Initial Impressions

I'm going to keep these day 1 impressions short and sweet because anyone can download the beta and give it a try, as long as you're not one of those "Steam only on my computer" people.

Battlefront 2 Combat Point Unlocks

Battle Points

That stupid token system is gone! In its place we have a system where you accrue points while playing a match. These points can be spent on vehicles or special characters, which is a way, way better system.

Earning points is fairly easy. In most of my games played I scored somewhere in the middle to 80-percentile (one game I came in first) and was more than able to play any vehicle or special character available.

Scoring points in general (not the same as battle points) seems fairly balanced. I love how playing the objective earns bucket loads more than playing like it's a deathmatch. 

Upgrades

Here's something a bit different. Upgrades to weapons can be crafted with what I think are called crafting points. These points are earned inside of crates (see below). 

Crate System

Ahh, crates. Love 'em or hate 'em. I usually hate them. Battlefront 2 has a crate system where you can open a daily crate or spend points on them (yet another point system for playing the game).

Crates seem to be the biggest form of progression, at least from what I could tell. Crates give you the 'cards' or the big upgrades to your character.

There are already people putting on the tinfoil hats saying they found premium currency in the beta files. Reddit is abuzz with doomsday "omg pay-to-win" stuff. I haven't seen it yet, so I'll ignorantly give them the benefit of the doubt.

Play the Objective and Earn More Points

The beta map we're playing is the same Naboo map they showed at E3 where it's objective based to either destroy the Droid army's vehicle thing or to break into the Palace and secure it. Throughout the level there are objectives to claim or use, and doing so will skyrocket you to the top.

Battlefront 2 Air Combat

Air Vehicles

Air combat on the Theed map is pretty tough. There's not a lot of space to fly around, and I found myself quickly out of bounds. I also struggled to control the vehicles. I think I have to figure out my sensitivity settings because I crashed every single time. I can see how the air battles will be a blast, though.

Overall Gameplay / Feel / Fun

Unlike Call of Duty WW2 -- which couldn't do anything right at all -- I'm definitely sold on Battlefront 2 after playing the beta. 

I had a really great time in the 2 hours I put in, and that's saying a lot since it's just one map.

I found each of the character classes to be enjoyable. The Assault, Heavy, Officer, and Specialist all made sense to me while playing. I though their weapons felt good, shot well, and the upgrades made a different to my gameplay.

I enjoyed the map's objectives and the pacing of the battles, and they felt way better than Battlefront 1.

I think EA has a real winner here, and that's such a relief after how bad Battlefront 1 turned out.

You can play the Open Beta from October 6-9 to give it a try yourself.

3

EA Press Conference: “I Think We’re Winning!”

Oh EA. I really do wonder sometimes who heads up your marketing department, and why you guys do what you do. The EA press this afternoon was one of—if not the—worst E3 press conferences they’ve ever had. The entire event could be summarized like this:

“Do you like cool games? We’ve made some cool games in the past. But since we don’t have anything cool to show you, here’s some Soccer!”

The highlight of the event was Peter Moore’s cringe-worthy, “I think we’re winning,” comment after the early applause.

[su_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/yrIEW7woFFo?list=PLLy6qvPKpdlVdzNAJnoDXmUBlBU6re6pD” width=”700″]

I was seconds away from turning off the overly-dramatized,  gratuitous dudebro sporting fest when they suddenly started playing some Star Wars music. Sadly, and to my dismay, nothing Star Wars can even be expected until late 2017 at best. Even then I can’t decide if it’s going to be any good based on what little they showed. At least some of the developers they showcased are talented — some ex-Naughty Dog people there who can at least tell a story.

EA ended their showing with their usual crutch: Battlefield.They showed trailers and stuff we’ve already seen and said a whole lot about nothing (kinda like the rest of the show). They talked about Zac Effron and Jamie Foxx who were there as nothing more than shills for EA to whore out. Ugh it was all just awkward. I’m excited about BF1, but I’m simply not interested in this kind of display.

The bar is set. Even Microsoft will look good in comparison.

20

EA Support Reaches All-time Low

I had an awful experience tonight with EA’s customer service, and the whole ordeal got me thinking about how much value I place on the entire customer service experience.  Customer Service is NEVER something you should outsource.  I don’t care how expensive it is to your company.  I don’t care if it’s your core competence or not.  Support your products or leave the space.   When a customer like me experiences poor customer service I tell people.  I tell a LOT of people.  I take what could have been an easy, cheap fix on your part and turn it into the most costly and unforgiving experience possible.  Let’s begin.

Problem: The Origin client and website seem to think I am in Europe.  This problem is new as of today.  Graev and I are both having the issue on different accounts and difference computers.  Clearly it’s an ISP/IP issue.  I went to the new support forum thing that’s in beta and their community manager promptly responded telling me to flush my DNS.  Fine. I did that.  Didn’t work.  Community manager told me to use the contact page and speak with an ‘advisor’.

Is this acceptable customer support, EA?  The first ‘advisor’ wanted me to disable UAC and to try buying something in Euros anyway just to test it.  The second guy … screw it.  Have a look for yourself.

EA Customer Service

Halfway through the conversation he just abandons me.  I waited for 15 minutes for another ‘advisor’ to show up.

Here’s the next agent.  This just keeps getting better and better.

EA Customer Service

So now, before I go wait in the phone tree, I’ve come to let you all know that you should avoid buying any product from EA if customer service matters to you.  I will likely cancel the two products I have pre-ordered through Origin and seek another vendor or game entirely.  What an absolute shame.

I have case numbers available upon request.

Customer Service Done Right

I have so much respect for good customer service agents.  They are the most under-appreciated and often most important role at a company. When I receive good customer service I go out of my way to let their supervisors know.  I’ve tweeted and even called some companies to commend their CSRs by name.  I take those annoying followup surveys.  I reply to emails.

There’s a donut shop near my work that will often give me a donut for free when I come in for a Diet Coke; she’ll often just give me my entire order for free.  The cost to them is negligible, but the lady who runs the place does so with a smile on her face and tries her darndest to let me know she somehow cares about my business.  DISH Network and Time Warner Cable have also been amazing to me.  Both of those companies have reps in their customer retention center who not only took the time to solve my problem but got me a better deal on my service.  I’ll stay at DISH because of the woman on the phone, not because of the service.

I want to feel like you care about me giving you my money.  I may pay you $60 for a game, or $15 a month.    That seems so insignificant compared to the big picture, but if you treat one person poorly, like EA treated me, you can bet it’s not just an isolated incident.  It’s indicative of a larger problem — one that will ultimately cost your company way more than had you just implemented what it took to put your customers first.

8

Titanfall Review and Giveaway

Graev and I have been pretty excited about Titanfall ever since we played the beta.  We both consider ourselves to be ‘average’ when it comes to first-person shooters.  We’re never going to top the K/D ratio charts or consistently lead a team to victory, but we enjoy the action and get-in-get-out fun from your everyday gamer perspective.

Your options are vast in today’s marketplace.  Call of Duty and Battlefield dominate the FPS space with consistency.  Is Titanfall a contender?  Should you spend your money and give it a ‘shot’?  Read on for our complete thoughts on Titanfall and a chance to win some free stuff!

Overall Gameplay

Gameplay in Titanfall is uniquely intense without ever subjecting the player to a lapse in action like one might find in Battlefield.  The 15 available maps are on the smaller side, but with only 6 players per side and a squadron of AI controlled grunts it somehow manages to feel ‘just right’.

Leaping through windows, jumping rooftop to rooftop, wall-hanging, jet packing around, sprinting, cloaking, hanging off enemy and friendly titans, and leaping into the waiting arms of your titan — an experience you simply have to experience at least once in your life — are all enough to make any match satisfying.  The opportunities to use the map to your advantage while doing all of the above are incredible and easily a distinguishing factor between the novice and experienced players. Continue reading

8

Star Wars Battlefield

Now that EA has exclusive rights to publish Star Wars games, I hope they take full advantage of the license.  Not that I expect a whole lot from EA with an infamous track record like theirs, but I still believe they have tech, talent, and precedence to leverage in favor of some really good Star Wars games.  The one I’m waiting for is Star Wars Battlefront in the Frostbite 3 engine.  I want to see Star Wars Battlefield.

star wars battlefield

Imagine the Frostbite 3 engine with destructible environments. Imagine being able to fly an X-Wing out of a hangar aboard a Mon Calamari Cruiser, dog fight with a TIE Figher, then nose dive through the atmosphere of a planet to join a war being waged on the ground with AT-ATs laying siege to a Rebel base. Maps could take place throughout the Star Wars timeline, with vehicles, weapons, tech, and ‘classes’ providing an enormous breadth of choices and possibilities.

Battlefront was always an amazing idea with underwhelming execution.  Battlefield is always an average idea with incremental execution.  Combine the two and you’ll have an amazing idea with an incremental execution which may just revive and perfect both franchises with one stone.

Anyone else have any cool ideas you wish EA would explore now that they have a force-grip hold on one of the most amazing licenses in the galaxy?

Update: Apparently it has been said already (like a day or two ago) that there’s a good chance this will happen.

“The opportunity to do a new Battlefront, for example, which is one of the very popular Star Wars games, or some of the other traditional games that were made, is very exciting.”

And here’s a video of what they DIDN’T do with Battlefront 3…

40

Price is NOT the Issue

I find it pathetic that price has become the scapegoat of failure in the gaming industry.  I’m positive that any executives, developers, or anyone making a statement about price being an issue is being deceptive;  I find it impossible to believe they’re all that stupid.  Anyone with an ounce of training in marketing, economics, business management, or even common sense, knows the principles of delivering value.

If your game sucks and isn’t worth $15 a month, that’s not a price issue!  That’s a quality issue!  Peter Moore says that price was always the issue, and people stopped playing SWTOR because they felt locked in at $15 a month.  Wrong, sir!  Wrong!  People stopped playing your game because it wasn’t worth $15 a month, not because they didn’t want to spend that money.  Those same people would happily pay that, or more, for a game worth the money.

This argument that price is to blame is like saying there is never an excuse for a poor quality product.  But Peter Moore and other people spinning the issue of price don’t want you to look at their product.  They want you to look at their competition still charging a price tag, get you to believe the market is changing, or see anything but the true reason why their game failed.  Not all of us are falling for your attempts at misdirection, you clever little magicians.

What happens when every game is free and you can no longer blame price?   There’s a reason why competing on price is a failed strategy.

Stop selling us on free to play and start selling us on your product.  Go all the way back to your first sales class where they taught you that people buy benefits.  They don’t buy advantages, features, or in this case excuses.  What’s your point of difference?  Where is your game’s value?  Blizzard still charges $15 a month for WoW because they are not competing on price. $60 boxes still release every Tuesday, and some sell multiple millions.  Be unique, develop a reputation, improve, or find some way to differentiate.  There’s a reason why people line up every year to buy the next overpriced Apple product.

Ten years ago, when my money was worth far more, I paid a monthly fee.  Since then I have never once questioned paying a monthly fee for a product worth that money.  The only time I ever question paying $15 is when a game is no longer delivering a value worth that money.     Give people a reason to spend their money, and they’ll happily spend it.

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