First thoughts on Battlefield 1’s closed alpha

I’ve played the closed alpha of Battlefield 1 for a few hours now, and have been asked several times what I think.

I’m going to post up a much more in-depth article in a few days, but for now here are my initial reactions.

It’s fun. It’s actually a lot of fun. It feels like DICE have tried to roll up a game of BF so that it’s one, continual “only in Battlefield” moment. The single map in the alpha is quite small, with a lot of vehicles to get around. There are many static emplacements as well to help with dealing with vehicles, and they’ve introduced a lot of small things to encourage squad play.

It is still an alpha though. And although it runs on both my desktop, and laptop, it has had frame-rate slowdowns and other issues. That’s fine – it’s an alpha, and DICE should be looking for these things to happen so they can fix them. They only become an issue if they appear in the open beta and beyond. I’ve not seen any sky-rocketing vehicles like in the BF3 closed alpha when the APC would sometimes launch itself into the air if it went over a rock at the wrong angle.

The WW1 style is quite refreshing, the UI is rather delightfully simple and utilitarian, and “we have lost objective duff” is going to take a very long time before it grows old. The game needs some work, for example it’s quite hard to figure out when you’re in a CP zone, and the Q-button feels a little clunky, but that will come.

Overall it feels like DICE stripped out a lot of the useless stuff from BF3/4, worked on the areas where the game was weak, and aimed to make the player far more responsible for his/her success rather than just aim – target lock – shoot.

So yeah, if you liked BC2/BF3 or BF4 then you’ll likely like this. If you didn’t like those games, and want something created in the BF1942/BF2 mould, then sorry – you’re SOL. This game, at least in this closed alpha state, is an improvement on the BF3/4 formula rather than a re-imagining of those earlier games.

If you’re prepared to look at Battlefield 1 as its own game, rather than a descendant of BF 1942/2, then you’ll probably enjoy it.

And no, I don’t see it being a serious eSport, although Global Conflict and similar organised tournaments should be able to use it.

Here is some uncut gameplay. For comparison to the BF1 alpha, I’ve added a video from the BF3 alpha afterwards so you can see the differences.

And here is the BF3 alpha footage for comparison:

Developer Interview: Alexander Bergendahl, SNOW

SNOW is a game which was originally launched on Early Access October 10th, 2013. It recently transited to a F2P model and entered a beta state. If you’re not familiar with the game, here’s something to whet your appetite:

The CEO and Game Director for SNOW, Alexander Bergendahl, was kind enough to answer these questions via email. A quick shout-out to Alexander for taking the time to provide such in-depth answers.

1. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in Poppermost Productions?

Alexander Bergendahl: I am the CEO and Game Director at Poppermost. As a CEO I manage the day-to-day of the company, hiring, meeting with our shareholders and partners and anything else that falls on my plate. As Game Director I work with all teams to maintain a unified vision in the game as well as manage the production of the game itself. I also try and take part in as much testing and community conversations as possible.

 

2. How did you come up with the name Poppermost?

AB: Poppermost is a very subtle Beatles reference. The best way to explain it is with a YouTube link:

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Developer Interview: Chris Mallinson, GRIP

GRIP is an exciting, futuristic racer launched on Early Access on February 2nd, 2016. Here’s the launch trailer to get you in the mood:

Chris Mallinson, Game Director on GRIP, was kind enough to take the time to answer a series of development-related questions via email.

1. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you joined the gaming industry?

Chris Mallinson: I was actually a roofer and home renovator before starting the development of GRIP, so this is my first experience in the industry. But I did take a college course in 3D graphics when I was younger, and have some UT2004 and HL2 modding experience. Other than that though, I’m a greenhorn

 

2. The lead up to an Early Access release is extremely stressful. Would you say the team has settled back into a regular routine, or are you still in all-hands-on-deck mode?

CM: We’ve settled a bit, but it’s still very much all hands on deck. We want to push out updates pretty frequently, so the pressure is still there. I don’t hold normal working hours, I can tell you that much

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Is Steam’s Early Access a ticking time bomb?

The Advent of Early Access

Steam introduced the Early Access program on March 20th, 2013. The introduction was heralded as a new age for indie developers. Now we could sell our games directly to our customers, doing for distribution what Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the other crowd-funding platforms had done for seed investment.

But there was a problem.

Early Access games are purchased by the public, and how many members of the public have sufficient knowledge and experience to look at an Early Access developer in order to judge whether they’re capable of completing the game as promised? The answer is not many.

Recognising this, on November 17th, 2014, Steam updated its Early Access guidelines to encourage buyers to buy Early Access games for the gameplay available now, instead of the features promised by the developers. And it stated, amongst other things, that developers should not enter Early Access if they were relying on sales through Steam to fund completion of their game.

All well and good, but that was closing the stable door after the horse had well and truly bolted.

The First 50 Games

I decided to go through the first 50 games released on Steam Early Access, according to Steam Spy, and used an initial filter of games that have not been updated for 3 months to flag a game for further study.

I put together this very simple spreadsheet based on that trawl (NB Interstellar Marines was removed to avoid a conflict of interest as I worked on that project):

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10MV_P9DCvYP9NskscKdo5vXrRDDouySSZyqit9A8y7A/edit?usp=sharing

This sheet indicates the following:

  • 20 games (40%) have not had an update in the last 3 months
  • 9 games (18%) appear to be dead
  • 3 games (6%) are confirmed either dead or removed from Steam (Dead Linger, Victory: The Age Of Racing, Centration).

It’s interesting to note that 4 games (8%) have been “mega” successes (Space Engineers, Starbound, Rust, DayZ). There is probably a strong argument to add 7 Days To Die as a 5th member of that list.

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Developer Interview: Nick Popovich, Slime Rancher

Nick Popovich is a co-founder of Monomi Park, the studio behind the successful Steam Early Access game Slime Rancher. Nick was kind enough to take time to answer questions about the development of Slime Rancher and its success on Steam:

1. Can you give an indication of the current composition of the team, and given the success of the release of Slime Rancher do you have any plans for expanding the team?

Nick Popovich: The team is currently two people, plus a contractor for audio, Harry Mack. We may expand the team, but we still plan to be very small. I’m used to small teams.

 

2. In terms of community management, will you be appointing more community-mods for the forums, or will you have team members devoted to this?

NP: Likely a bit of both. A dedicated support person is on the way.

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Cool Dual Gear News

A few weeks ago I posted this article about Dual Gear, an interesting new mech game which is in development.

To coincide with their Indiegogo campaign, which you can view by clicking here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dual-gear-mecha-turn-based-x-action-game

they have released an alpha demo of the game (thanks to MrFlou for the heads up!). You can download the alpha from IndieDB via this link:

http://www.indiedb.com/downloads/dual-gear-pre-alpha-demo-050

Do be aware though that the download speed seems quite slow right now, and their website appears to be down as well at the time of writing.

Look out for a report on how well the demo runs, and whether or not you should consider backing the Indiegogo campaign, in the near future.

And while you’re waiting, here’s 18 minutes of mech pr0n: