The Sgts blog is a place for any of the Sgts to ramble on. There are no set topics and comments are welcome
The Call to Arm(a)s. Why mods are good for studios
It's been a while since I wrote a blog, and the reason is that I haven't been inspired to...until yesterday.
I was trawling through my twitter feed (@sgttonyvilliers) and read the following from Alan Kertz of DICE (@Demize99) :
"Is it possible that Play4Free models are actually replacing (and expanding) the 20-30$ boxed product?"
Now, I'm not industry insider, but I would have thought this would have hardly come as a surprise to the industry heads (of which I would count Alan Kertz), after all the massive following that DayZ got was because of two reasons;
1. It was good fun and involved to play
2. A lot of BF3 players were disenchanted with the way DICE had gone with Premium and their refusal to properly listen to the public.
The second part of this is hugely reflected in the ratio of BF3 owners to BF3 Premium owners, and even more damning, was the fact that when the Devs came on and offered their tags, they did so only in game modes that Premium owners would have (initially CQ and then AK), in an attempt to lure people into buying Premium simply because they wanted to get some Dev tags (I would point out that I bought Premium because I could afford to and because I believe that DICE were giving us something worthwhile).
This aside, we now have Alan Kertz asking, almost rhetorically it would seem, if Play4Free can expand or overtake the 20-30$ boxed games. In short the answer is in another question. Would you rather pay 30$ for a game or pay nothing? Planetside 2 is a guide here. The game has a large following from Planetside 1 and people are excited to play it again.
But perhaps the largest problem from DICE's POV is that a large tranche of BF players are moving away from BF3 DESPITE the new maps and game modes because DICE have failed to either a) realise or b) act on the knowledge that their large game base of players is NOT COD but remains true to the spirit of Battlefield which seems to have been diluted since EA's involvement with DICE.
EA bought a controlling share (62%) of DICE in 2005. Before this all DICE BF games were on PC or MAc only. In the year that Ea bought in, DICE were releasing DLC for BF2142, and released BF2 (following with addons for BF2 later on). The very next BF title, released in 2008, was BF Bad Company and THIS was cross-platform. This is a clear indication that it is EA who pushed for mutli-platform release, and in the main this was to compete with other similar games, the main threat being COD so that is where EA have set their sights. (In fact, EA CEO John Riccitiello stated that Battlefield 3 is aimed at competing with the Call of Duty series. "This November, we're launching Battlefield 3. It's going up against the next Call of Duty, which is presently the No. 1 game in the game industry," he said, "A game that last year did $400 million in revenue on day one. Battlefield 3 is designed to take that game down.")
This means that the BF players who PTFO and want team based games, are getting fed up of EA/DICE's apparent need to draw players from COD. The harsh truth is that those who play exclusively COD aren't going to play BF and vice-versa. The cross-over (middle of the van-diagram) players are likely to be more coming from COD, granted, but they aren't clued in to the traditional core values of what BF is SUPPOSED to be about. Hence they don't necessarily add anything to the evolution of the BF series. Unfortunately in an attempt to bring players over, DICE is chipping away at the core traditional values, and the core game-play features (squad VOiP, Commander Mode, and Battle Recorder for example) for 2 main reasons that I can see 1) To make it easier for the COD based players to transition and 2) Because it's easier to port from or to Console from PC.
Further evidence of the drop off in players is found in the stats provided at www.gamestat.com where the downward trend is very obvious. In November 2011, BF3 had around 75,000 players per day playing the game. It's trended downwards, averaging at 25,000 per day by June. That's an average drop off of 50,000 players in 7 months. I'm not sure that this can solely be attributed to players being bored of the game. After all, B2K was released in December 2011, and despite a spike of player interest, the downward trend continued by January! In June, CQ was released and again interest spiked. This time it held, but the downward trend is still noticeable until September when AK is released. Aftershock will be released in December so it's likely that interest has plateaued. For now. But we have a whole year to wait until End Game is realesed and I can't see figures holding unless EA/DICE take more interest in what we want.
Furthermore, it's very easy to see that DICE are concerned that their buy-to-play DLCs would suffer from Modding. I dispute this. If a game has to be bought and paid for in able for you to play the mod, then how can Modding affect it? A mod can be transposed onto DLC's but the gamer still needs the DLC to play it.
Normally I look at decisions made by people in various industries in a business light. It helps to rationalise the thinking behind some decisions, much like above. However I am now arguing as a player about why Modding should be allowed.
When you think about it, as demonstrated by DayZ, modding only enhances the game. It's a win-win situation. If the mod requires the original game (which of course it does) to be bought, from a business point of view, what's the problem? None. Oh, you might conceivably argue about Intellectual Property concerns but I doubt IP would concern a business if the sales of its games rocketed by 130%.
Secondly, Modding lives or dies by its success at attracting gamers. It has no track record. No fan-base to sell into. A mod of a game only works if players like it, if it offers and enhancement (key word) to the existing base-game. Therefore one could readily surmise that an intelligent and truly customer-base-aware studio would welcome modding for the simple reason that a mod can show the studio what is really turning players towards their game. How many people owned Arma before DayZ. Certainly the figures suggest a MASSIVE increase in sales once gamers realised there was a good game to be had (and a lot of BF3 players dropped out from BF3 and the premium package because they felt DayZ offered more to them than BF3 did or could).
The sad fact is that DICE have concentrated on additional income DLC without realising that hurtful truth. That comparatively speaking, we are not interested in new game play styles, new tanks, new camouflages. What we are interested in is a game that is what we are interested in. We want BF to work like we are used to. The old adage of "The public likes what they know, and know what they like" is true. They have strayed too far from (and given ill-though reasons for doing so) the game that their public likes and knows.
To rescue this situation, they need to allow mods. Let us show you what we want! Look at how Arma reacted to the DayZ mod. They bought the guy on board to help create a standalone game. Brilliant. They didn't worry about how it would affect Arma 3, they brought him into the fold to help further their business. All DICE has to do is do the same thing with ideas that succeed from mods in BF3.
Then, you use our mods to improve your game and (this being the killer point) MORE PEOPLE WILL BUY THE GAME.
It's insanity from a gaming sense and a business sense to let this go unchanged. From a business sense you get free research and game engineering and from a gaming sense you provide a game that want to play, which in turn means from a business sense you get more money, which means from a gaming sense, your much loved franchise continues to improve and enhance the game we love to play.
EA...DICE...look at the figures. You have already beaten MW3 into the ground. Yours is undoubtedly a superior game. Now it's time to let us help you make it even better.
I said it before, and I'll say it again. WIN-WIN.
A layman's view to the Battlefield 3 world.
Battlefield 3 Blog - A layman's view to the Battlefield 3 world.
It's no coincidence that I start writing this blog at a time where DICE/EA seem to be most polarising opinion.
Recent "unofficial but very reliable" sources have been quoted that let the cat (well Schrödinger's cat, it would appear) out of the bag. That "'cat" is the possibility that DICE/EA will introduce a new "Premium Service" to be announced on June the 4th, the eve of E3 2012.
Now the big hoo-hah is basically summed up by most BF3 players using the following sentence: "Battlefied is becoming BattleCOD".
Despite there being any real evidence or indeed official comment from DICE/EA on this matter or on the Battlefieldo leak (with the exception of Gustav Hallings light rebuke) gamers are up in arms over the perceived increase in similarity on product and service delivery between Battlefield and COD.
For one I am surprised at this outrage, particularly at the concept of a Premium service.
Without wishing to sound like I'm genuflecting at the altar of DICE/EA, they are businesses. Clearly Activision has built a successful model on it's COD Elite program and from the sounds of it EA is looking to increase its earnings by adapting the model to Battlefield.
What seems to be bothering people is that Battlefielders will have to pay for something that they believe should be A) Free and B) Secondary to fixing some of the more prominent glitches and bugs that remain in the game or have been created post the last patch.
As to point A, there are arguments for and against. But realistically (and for that matter fairly) the only way to look at it is as a business. A game, as a product, becomes a depreciating asset very quickly post sales plateauing. Patches need doing, DLC needs generating and general staffing is required to keep the product engaging. Arguably this is done to encourage the buying of the next game on, but I think it's fair to say that Battlefield 3 will be with us for at least 3 years, maybe longer, in one format or another (and I'm not going to touch on the cry for Mods here because that's been extensively covered by much better commentators than I such as Phyrefli2:
Simply put, Business exist to make money, Charities exist for philanthropy. If Battlefield 3 is to be with us for the next 3 years, DICE are going to have to spend a lot of money on wages and bills to keep the game fresh with new DLC and patched (let's not descend into childish banter over the last patch please) and that will start to eat into the profit margin for EA/DICE. Therefore it would be a sound business decision to adapt the COD Elite model on to Battlefield 3. One can argue the ethics until the cows come home and I, for one, think that patches should always be free (and I point out that EA/DICE have not suggested otherwise) but the truth is that DICE are potentially only asking for what amounts to a voluntary contribution. The fact remains you DON'T HAVE TO BUY IT!
So now we come to the concerns some players are voicing: "Will the premium content give players an edge over other players"? Aside from this being just slightly pathetic, on current evidence, when one looks at the COD Elite package www.callofduty.com/elite/whats-included, there is nothing to suggest that the premium service will offer new guns, perks or attachments, anything in fact, to give you and edge over those who don't or can't subscribe. Yes there is the mention of "Assignments" and yes the "Back to Karkand" DLC assignments got you new weapons. But who, aside from DICE, is to say that there is even a reward for the assignments, let alone new weaponry. If anything, and given the few items listed in the article, it would seem customisation options are more likely a reward than weaponry.
Bear in mind that "Close Quarters" DLC (which might be free to LTD ED owners and at a small price for on LTD ED owners, as BTK was) follows close on the heels of this purported Premium Service and DICE have made it very clear that this WILL have new weaponry that can be brought back to the base game, so it would make little sense to make it part of the Premium Service.
I don't accept the argument that introducing the "Buy to Pwn" packs, as some have called them, have significantly altered the game and it is DEFINITELY not an argument to say that proves Premium service will allow you to buy advantageous perks/weaponry. After all, anything you could get in those packs was achievable with enough game time. This is another argument and one that follows a parallel path, i.e. DICE are going to release "Buy to pwn" packs immediately after the DLC is released. I can't argue against this from any strong point of view, other than to say I would be very surprised if this happened and I feel that they may release said packs after enough time has passed for most people to have earned them in normal gameplay (much like they have with the first lot).
Coming to point B (Sorting Premium Service should be secondary to Patches and fixes) I agree. When you buy a car, there is a warranty attached. You don't expect the car maker to force you to buy a new car before offering to replace a part under warranty. However this is more intricate than a simple "ducks in a row" exercise. DICE are multi tasking here, presumably under some insistence from EA, producing this purported Premium Service and new DLC as well as, one hopes, looking to patch up the game.
I don't know if the patch will come as part of the DLC but one would assume that this is most likely. Given that multi-tasking, it is not unsurprising that there has been a delay in fixing the bugs/glitches most pronounced in the current patch. But what is more evident, when you step back a little, is that whatever DLC is coming will need to integrate with the game, so there is no real point in patching to re-patch on DLC. Yes it's a pain and it shouldn't have happened, but they will fix it.
Of course some people are unhappy about the map type, saying, predictably, that it is too much like COD. Well think of it this way. We have big maps and now we have something a little more intense. Where snipers, chopper, jet and tank whores have no place. And that, I think, is enough of a saving grace. But the most robust defence of "Close Quarters" is the release in Autumn of "Armoured Kill" which is going to include more big maps. In fact there are, according to Battlefieldo, going to be 4 expansion packs one "bonus content" pack and one guide released by March 2013. I'd say that's a pretty good haul.
I know, in fact I'm hugely aware, that this has looked like a good old ride on the nether regions of DICE, but the fact is that when I stepped back and looked at it rationally.....we haven't been too hard done by.