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Thursday 30 June 2005

EA are your friends [Lurks]

When EA took over DICE, makers of the Battlefield 2 games, this was a bad thing. Previously they just published the games and so we had a situation where a game developer was making the vital choices about the sorts of things we care about like multiplayer features. Of course maybe EA could have left it alone, shoved hands in air and said "Hey buddy, you know what you're doing"? Nah.
Of course the first thing we get is unskippable intro animations. EA has history of this. This is a pretty minor issue but it probably demonstrates more clearly than anything else that EA isn't about your convienience or enjoyment, they're about their brand and profit. Which, I guess, isn't a surprise from a corporate giant unless you're some lefty communist freak - nevertheless a good many companies manage to do the right thing because they have internal checks and balances.
Picture the guy in a suit at EA HQ. How much do you think he cares that you have to sit through the stupid spinny EA, DICE and NVIDIA logo animations every single fucking time you load the game? Let's just say he's sleeping safe at night because, let's face it, this guy doesn't play the game.
Onto more serious stuff; there's just no doubt at all that BF2 has been rushed out this time. Only conquest mode, what's that about? No single player campaign at all, hell not even the sort of controls you had over setting up an instant battle as before. And Jesus H Christ, what the hell is going on with this partnership with the other evil corporate bad boys of multiplayer gaming, Gamespy? I now need to fuck around to send up two accounts just to play the game online? That's just ridiculous. Why do they need my full name and email address? Who the fuck do they think they are?
Christ, it doesn't even work right. It seems that one of the registrations you do has something to do with the gamespy account (of course they don't tell you this) and you're left groping in the dark or otherwise using some old backup email address to create a new account. What a load of fucking shite.
EA also did an 'exclusive' deal with multiplay to provide Battlefield 2 rented servers. This obviously as part of a marketing deal to coincide with launch activities at the next i-series LAN party. Of course this decision had nothing at all to do with, you know, any fucking exhibited history, competence or size of existing operation in running rented servers. Fortunately everyone appears to have ignored this 'exclusive' deal and done it anyway - at least Game2XS has.
However it appears that only official EA servers are ranked. What the fuck is that about? Means that the official ranked servers are packed to the gills and unranked servers are empty. Suddenly the exclusive deal with multiplay makes sense, probably this is the only way to get a server of your own ranked. This is just plain fucked.
Of course now these scumbags have my address, despite the fact I certainly did not tick the boxes saying they could spam me, they did it anyway. Which is annoying enough but they actually had the gall to describe themselves in this email as "Your Friends at EA".
You are NOT my friends. You are NOT friends of gamers. You ARE friends of shareholders and that is the alpha and the omega of it. Feeling suitably churlish, I even replied to it saying "You are not my friends". Of course I got a nice automated HTML support email back - which is, after all, what your friends would do.


  1. Whilst I share your dislike of EA for their unethical approach to marketing, I feel that some good has come out of the DICE acquisition.The ranking system that comes with the ranked server concept is first class. It provides an MMORPG style levelling experience within an FPS game, and it actually works. The kit unlocks actually provide players with a challenge to work towards and players are putting in the hours to get the opportunity to unlock the superior weapons and earn medals.I am a couple of hours of play off my first unlock, apparently all but the first and last ranks give one kit unlock. I'm planning on getting the G3 assault rifle, which is more accurate and powerful that the default assault rifles. I'm also trying to get my Basic Knife Combat Medal (10 knife kills in one round)Anyway, my point is that none of this would be possible in the PC world with an FPS game unless a company like EA throws its weight at the ISPs and server operators.Some info on the ranking is here....

  2. I agree that the hosting ranked servers only at Multiplay is obviously a commercial decision more than anything else - but bear in mind that this means the code on ranked servers is guaranteed to be "square". No cheaters, servers setup to give home clan the advantage etc.You are also free to run an "unlocked" server by modifying a couple of files if you like...And your comment about the size/history of Multiplays server hosting skills is a little... extreme. They've now got up around 350 servers for listed games, and quite alot more for minor/non mainstream games. They've recently got their own cage, have direct links to peers within LINX etc.
    Other than Jolt I don't know of anyone at that size/capacity?
    Besides those comments I pretty much agree with what you are saying about the game itself - and it's worth noting that Dice were aiming for a September/October release in time to build up for Christmas, but EA pushed the release forward to now.

  3. There are shedloads of ranked servers in Oz.
    Gamearena (Telstra) runs 30+ ranked servers and also runs some EA branded ranked servers. Internode runs 20 ranked servers and the third largest ISP also runs a stack of ranked servers.
    There tend to be a fair few yanks on the Oz ranked servers, I guess the ranked servers in the US are chockers.
    Is Wizzo's mum still the face of Multiplay?

  4. Billox said:

    Anyway, my point is that none of this would be possible in the PC world with an FPS game unless a company like EA throws its weight at the ISPs and server operators.

    Well hang on a goddarn moment. There's absolutely nothing about EA's involvement here that was necessary adding this nifty ranking stuff in to the game. Epic have been doing ranking stuff for many years and it allowed you to opt in and out of it depending on how competitive you are.
    Afty said:

    nd your comment about the size/history of Multiplays server hosting skills is a little... extreme.

    Okay, I'm going to give you that one and go back on my comments there as blatantly bollocks. I didn't know Multiplay were that involved in that sort of thing - I just saw the commercial/marketing angle there and called it evil off the back of that. In fairness too, Jolt have long had no love of the 1942 server implementation and actively shunned the game so perhaps they burnt their own bridge there?
    Rushing the game though... what a disaster. It can't do them any favors either. I'm not exactly a multiplayer gaming newbie but I find the features in the game quite daunting so far. It would have been nice to have spent a couple of evenings going through a nice single player campaign and get prepared for the online experience. Accessibility is really what makes or breaks a game these days.
    On the upshot though, I will say this. After cruising around on a few maps last night with the EED brigade ... it's pretty damn clear this is getting pretty damn close to the game we've all be waiting for. Bombing along in a jeep the hairs raised on the back of my neck. We've been waiting a long time for this game, which is why it's so fucking frustrating that EA shove it out early.
    The sort of patch-o-rama culture is one thing but they're not going to go back to it and patch in a single player campaign are they?

  5. The ranking in BF2 is quite different from anything before, such as your example of the epic UT series.
    The difference between ranked and unranked servers in BF2 is analogous with the difference between offical MMORPG servers and privately run "shard" servers.
    Normally with an MMORPG, the publisher/developer will actually host the "ranked" servers themselves, with an FPS this is obviously not feasible without the assistance of local partners in various countries.
    It's as if EA are actually hosting the servers themselves. They have strict guidelines for the server settings, any changes or mods and the server isn't allowed to be listed on the master. For example, if a server admin running a ranked server edits the scripts to allow players to use locked weapons without first attaining the necessary rank, the server is instantly delisted from the master and blocked from uploading stats.
    You wouldn't get away with running your own WoW server to level up then take your character to a public WoW server and use your new level to trounce everyone with. The same holds true with EA's grip over the ranked servers in BF2, despite the fact they're operated by 3rd parties.
    Sure, the number of publishers that *could* have set up a global ranking system such as this is extensive, but BF2 is the first game to do so and EA were responsible.

  6. I think that's a pretty flawed analogy. UT ranking could be enabled on servers and the servers would similarly only rank on official game types/settings etc. They would send details to master servers, just like EA is doing. I'm going to ignore all the comparisons to WoW because that's just too out there to be used as a meaningful comparison in my view.
    You seem to believe that EA is allowing only official people to run ranked servers because this is a security issue, that the server settings (simplicity itself) or server code can be compromised to allow cheating and so on if they don't do that. There's an argument to be made there on the latter point but I think you're giving them more credit than they deserve. They're doing it to take ownership of servers run official as part of a co-marketing campaign with their partners. They're not doing this just to feel warm and fuzzy about this great new unlock/ranking/MMO-like concept. It's just a convienient mechanism to allow their end-game goal.
    Your conclusion here is also that EA are responsible for doing this. How do we know that? It may well have been DICE that were working on all of this well before EA bought the remainer of their stock. I'm not even sure I like the idea of the whole thing at all really.
    Going back to the flawed MMO comparison; a level 60 guy with all the spells and tools at his disposal does not go on a server and play against a level 1 guy with fuck all. In MMO games, the level 1 guy isn't worth touching. You don't group with them, you don't fight with them, there's mechanisms to ensure people of similar levels and abilities play with and against eachother. BF2 isn't doing that. If you're some uber ranked player, great you just got a G36 and now you're owning even more. That whole game concept has been proved as being unfun for many years now. Even creaky old CS starts to claw your team back money to buy gear when you're on a losing streak.

  7. I'm finding the ranking system intruiging and very challenging. I think position-wise I'm ranked about 16,000th or something - it's irrelevant.
    It's all about the rank (military rank). You unlock one weapon at a time at each rank increase on a class basis (medic, sniper etc)
    In any one spawn you have no greater advantage than a player who is at the first rank where an unlock is available, Lance Corporal (1000 "points" - kills/caps/assists, cumulative total score). You can choose to spawn with the unlocked weapon or the default one. Having a greater choice of weapons gives you greater versatility, teaming up with a competant player who is using a new character who has no unlocks does not make for a bad experience.
    My rough guesstimates are that about 50% of players haven't gone up from the base rank of recruit (private?), about 30% are at Private First Class and the remaining 20% are at Lance Corporal - the first rank that yields a weapon unlock. I haven't seen anyone higher than this on a server yet.
    Yes, the comparison with MMORPG ranking is flawed, comparing the ranking of Everquest to that of WoW is flawed as well. Comparisons can be drawn but they are not the same.
    The ranks are exponential, much like an MMORPG. Unlocking the first weapon can be done in a week or two with a couple of hours of play a night, getting your second unlock is I think 5000 points. Most players are unlocking the .50 cal sniper rifle (single shot kill) on their first unlock, I find I'm getting killed by it much more often that the default sniper, but I'd rather a more effective assault weapon as my first unlock, although I think the grenade launcher is sacrificed.

  8. Ranking systems aside, I take up Lurks' Baton of Beef regards the Gamespy (presumably their Arcade product) and duplicate registration aspects of the game.
    For aeons, games shipped with a registration card inside which if you filled out, gave you various inane privileges (usually utterly worthless) but at least the decision to do so was yours alone and there was no requirement that you did it.
    These days, data scraping the living crap out of your user base seems par for the course; a marketing man's wet dream if you like. Frankly it pisses me off - I don't want Gamespy Arcade, its shit thankyouverymuch, and I certainly don't want any personal information shooting off to the publisher for future spamming purposes.
    I've paid the RRP for the game, and as of a few hours ago, dropped nearly £700 on a new machine to actually play it to 'da max' (hopefully)... EA have had their cake, now piss off and eat it and stop asking for more!

  9. Oh come on! You bought their game. It's only fair they know your favorite colour. Their partners need to be able to send you adverts that help you seperate the wheat from the chaff.

  10. I haven't been able to get a decent game on a ranked server yet. I did some poking around on the forums & it turns out that there's a very large number of players selfishly idling on the ranked servers. This may be just so they can guarantee a slot every night (or do you get rank points for just being on the winning side?), I dunno. One think is sure, that this is yet another gaping hole that needs to be patched quickly. I just have to add that I really, really can't believe how they could mess up the in game server browser so badly. It's runining the experience for a large number of players.

  11. You don't earn points for simply occupying a slot on a ranked server. It looks as if the exclusive deal with Multiplay and EA in the UK is very much counter productive.
    All the ISPs are getting a slice of the cake here in Oz, and it's thriving. The servers are packed all day and all night but getting on isn't difficult.

    Looking at the servers in the UK at the moment, there seem to be about 100 of them. About half are clan servers being provided by Wizzo Co Ltd, and they're pretty much all full at 3pm on a weekday :(

  12. The ISP I work for run ranked servers, and I suspect the other ISPs in Norway do the same.
    Still undecided if I like the feature that it auto-connects you to a ranked server when you load up the game (it puts me on my ISPs servers, so latency is nice and low). What I do hate is the server browser/menu system. Come on, I press esc to enter the menu and it has to load it? Wtf is that about?
    And the intro movies, why!!?!?

  13. With respect to the intro movies, if its like other BF titles you can append arguments to your shortcut and have it bypass them.
    Course, I wouldn't put it past EA to have removed that :)

  14. I renamed the entire movie dir "movies.bajs". It rules.

  15. Joining BF2 from ASE(caveat)I'm at work so unable to test this, I'll update when I've tried it...(/caveat)ASE will browse BF servers & start the game, but BF2 dosen't support command line joining so you still have to connect by IP or the crap browser. To get a bit of a work around try this:Create yourseld a batch file called something like launchbf2.cmd and put this in:@echo offtype c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts | find /V "BF2" > c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\ pcopy c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\ p c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hostsecho %6 BF2 >> c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts"e:\Games\Battlefield 2\BF2.exe"Changing the path for BF2.Now change the start progam for battlefield in ASE to point to your batch file, passing in the server's IP address.Refresh & join from ASE, when BF2 starts log in, go to the browser & join by IP, just putting in BF2. You should connect to the server you selected in ASE.Cack handed yes, but still better that the in game browser.Edit: This almost works, but ASE passes port:ip. which is an invalid entry for the hosts file. I would write a small C prog to split off the IP but I don't have a compiler installed at home. Maybee Monday when I'm bored at work :)Edit 2: Looks like someone beat me to it

  16. Leaving all the other EA shit aside, making the game XP only is plain lazy. (its also stupid, as they rule out 25%+ of PC users straight off the bat)

  17. Eh? You what? Those 25% of PC users who are running their DX9 compatible cards on Win9x?