The Good Side and Bad Side of Dice

A couple of years ago, which is powered by the Revive network, provided a way to play Battlefield 2 after the central GameSpy servers went down. Now, you can download the entire game, including expansions, for free from, and play as much as you want.

But there’s more ūüėČ

Just over a week ago, they released the full version, including expansions, of what I believe is the best Battlefield game ever released – Battlefield 2142. The whole lot is also free – you don’t have to pay for the game. Just create an account, download the launcher, and download the game. The servers are already there for you, and the launcher lets you download both or either game.

This is old news though, so why write about it?

In my opinion, what has done highlights the best side, and worst side, of DICE. has released Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, and all their expansions, for free. Unlike Lucasfilm, who stopped a fan-made Star Wars game from being created, DICE has allowed¬†¬†to release BF2 and BF2142 for free¬†(I would also imagine there has been some behind-the-scenes communication¬†as well). This is a great move by DICE; they’re essentially helping and clearing the way for our¬†community to continue to play what many believe are the best versions of this franchise. A nice touch, and something that is heartening to see.

But if that highlights the best side of DICE – supporting its community in its desire to continue to play older games – it also brings into sharp focus what DICE is doing right now with Battlefield 1.

The fact we could host our own servers in BF2 and BF2142 is what has allowed to revive those two games. The later generations of Battlefield games, including Bad Company 2, have not allowed us to host our own servers – we’ve had to go through DICE-approved server providers. So unless someone gets hold of a Battlefield 3 server exe, what’s been done for Battlefield 2 is not going to be done for Battlefield 3 and later games.

It’s this gradual erosion of trust in its playerbase, and continuing¬†removal of player options, that is highlighted by what has achieved. The latest step in DICE’s¬†constrictive process appears¬†to be their¬†move to remove any choice in where we rent¬†our servers from for Battlefield 1. By all indicators it’s going to be DICE who is the PC game server provider for BF1. And it also looks as if they’ve even removed the ability for admins to use 3rd party tools such as ProCon to admin servers. I released a video on this a couple of weeks ago, and it’s linked at the end of this post.

This is where the dichotomy comes in. How can a company which supports its community so that they can continue playing its older games, move in such a totally dictatorial direction with its new games? How can a company which gave us the genre-defining Battlefield series, and support its community in playing those older games, then remove so much of what made the franchise what it is in the first place?

I understand the cost of each generation of games is increasing rapidly. DICE has hardly been able to increase the base cost of the game, hence the reason for other revenue streams such as Premium and server rentals. But they don’t need to carve out a large part of the reason many of us play just to achieve a certain $ return. Dumbing this game down to the lowest common denominator, which is precisely what we’ve been accusing the CoD franchise of trying to achieve over the years, will simply remove that section of the community which has helped build the game to where it is now.

Perhaps the senior folks at DICE need to take a look at ARMA 3, or if they do not want something quite so complex, then they should cast their eyes over Squad. In fact, Squad was made by the same team that made the Project Reality mod for Battlefield 2. Today they would not be able to do that, because DICE does not allow modding of its games.

Is there any better example of how far DICE has fallen than that?

Why “vets” should give Battlefield 1 a chance

Lets start with an uncomfortable truth. Pre-BF3 Battlefield games, and by that I mean BF 1942, BF 2, BF 2142, BF:V and the expansion packs, belong to a bygone era. They were awesome games – so awesome in fact I spent around 6 years playing BF 2142 almost exclusively. That’s never going to happen again. Games today are designed in a different way, with different teams under different circumstances. Am I happy about that? No. Do I accept that though? Begrudgingly.

And then we¬†have those¬†infamous¬†rose-tinted-spectacles. There is no way any modern BF game is going to compete with all the incredible memories I have for those older games (especially BF 2142). My memories of the earlier Battlefield games are wrapped up in other experiences that were happening at that time. A game would have to be better than BF 2142 to be able to compete with both the game, and the memory of the game. Nah, ain’t going to happen.

So we’re left with two choices for people like myself who miss the original Battlefields. We can forever complain about how we’ve been betrayed and let down by DICE, or we can look at the next¬†Battlefield game as-is, without the baggage of constantly¬†holding it¬†up to games and memories that are never going to be beaten.

And it’s when you look at Battlefield 1 as just another game, without that historical drag, that it starts to look really rather good.

Gone are the masses of lock-on weapons and the flashy UI. In their place is something which feels quite basic, but all the better for it. It feels like skill, as in the ability to aim, has been brought back into the game. You feel more in control of your character, especially as several of the default weapons are semi-automatic, so you have to ensure your aim is good. Doritos (the markers on top of an enemy to denote where they are) do not seem to last as long as earlier games, and it’s much harder to spam Q to find enemies.

When you join a game, you’re automatically given the option to join a squad. And your squad mates stand out in an obvious green colour. There are other small touches which have been designed to enhance teamplay, such as alerting medics to your position when you’re dead. Of course, if you’ve a good medic nearby then this should not be needed, but how often does that happen?

The point here is that a lot of mechanics have been refined, and a lot of new ones added. For example, watch this video to see what’s been added to tanks:

Of course, there still are negatives in there. Camera flares, suppression, losing control of your character when you vault over something, network lag, and what feels like a tiny amount of input lag when using a mouse, are still in the game. But they’re more minor irritations rather than the major annoyances they once were. Vaulting, for example, was very annoying when it was first introduced to the series. Battlefield 1’s vaulting feels much more intuitive, and can now be used in a surprising amount of places (more on that in a future¬†video).

The closed alpha only had one map, with two game modes (Conquest and Domination). And although much has been made of the WW1 setting, the map just did not feel gritty enough to be a WW1 map. Unless the rain was slashing down, it seemed almost too pretty and colourful. WW1 was anything but.

There are also the obvious future pitfalls: there was a large difference between the BF3 closed alpha and the release version of that game, DICE could find some way of introducing lock-on weapons, the network lag could be even worse than earlier titles, or Battlefield 1 could suffer from a similarly excruciating lack of content at launch like Battlefront did. There are an insane number of ways DICE can screw this game up, but the signs at the moment are encouraging.

So we’re left with a game which, in a closed alpha state, is fun to play, refreshing, and has inspired me to create more Battlefield videos in 1 week then I have in the past several years. Heck, I’m even hoping Global Conflict fires up again so I can play in organised 32v32 matches. Battlefield 1 is a game which deserves a chance, not a simple dismissal.

If you’re a Battlefield “vet” then please approach the beta with no preconceptions and no closed opinions. Give Battlefield 1 a chance – you might just enjoy it.

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: