Battlefield V: TTK and The Issue of Community Influence

I have played thousands of hours of Battlefield. Somehow my first experience with the franchise was through probably its most revered game, Battlefield 2. Something which unnerves me slightly, considering I’m only twenty-two now… Since then, I’ve played every game in varying amounts. My favourite being the bluesy tones of Battlefield 3. Many an hour were had atop Zamavand Peak on rush. Now the Lords of Ruinous TTK have come to smite my fun. Firstly…

Battlefield Games Always Improve!

Battlefield games  always improve after release, Battlefield 4 being a perfect example of how a community directive (CTE) leads to vast improvement in the game. Of course, not to mention DICE devoting their LA team to it in earnest. Because Battlefield has always been about the community, both in and out of game.


Battlefield V with a Tommy Gun pointed towards the camera.


So, we come to Battlefield V, a game that has had both a rocky pre and early post launch. Firstly, the trailer…. it wasn’t a good trailer, not by a long stretch. It reflected poorly on what the game was, and especially on what it wasn’t. However, the biggest conversation was of course around the representation of women in the War, and many of the character customisations (you can read my take on that). However, as with all things internet related, this has been mostly forgotten about. Thank god. Still, it relates to what I want to talk about. The community influence on Battlefield’s game design, and implementation of changes in future patches.

 

The ‘Original’ Vision of BFV

I cannot completely comprehend the exact type of game DICE wanted Battlefield V to be before their public announcement. I’m not going to sit here and talk about specific ins and outs of game design, because I’m not a game designer. The vision, as I understood it, was focusing on a more ‘skill-based gameplay’ which rewarded squad and team cooperation far more than individual prowess. I thought this meant a slower type of confrontation. Something which the Attrition System naturally veered towards – players would be out of the action for more sustained periods due to re-supplying, be it infantry or vehicle. Because of this, gameplay itself would be slower, more methodical, more calculated – something which is reflected in the objective orientated game modes.

Except… it isn’t.

Battlefield V released, firstly to Origin Access Premium subscribers on the 8th of October. It was immediately clear which direction DICE had steered the game towards. Attrition had been scaled back compared with previous builds: everyone spawning with one medic pouch and increased ammo amounts. Whilst the Time To Kill (I’ll call this TTK from here) had also been reduced.

Battlefield V had become a much faster-paced game.


German panzer in Battlefield V


Why Battlefield V Changed?

There were calls that Attrition was too punishing – always running around on 50% health, needing a medic, or lacking bullets and needing a support. I understood this… to be the point. It encouraged teamplay, everyone relied on each other (to a certain extent) for something they needed. After all, Battlefield is a team oriented game, it always has been. It’s marketed that way, and it’s one of the franchises unique selling points – everyone fulfils a different role, whilst contributing towards the overall score. A ‘battlefield’.

However, people weren’t in favour of it, more specifically, Reddit didn’t like it (I suppose Twitter also had a hand in it too). It’s the most extreme voices that have the largest reach and impact, and in many cases, influence. Yet, these communities represent a very small amount of total Battlefield players. And, it’s important to also take into account the reputation of where such ‘ideas’ come from. Whilst I’m sure many people love Reddit for many good and sincere reasons, it objectively has a culture of attracting cynical voices. With this in mind, where would one go to say and discuss the opposite? The more positive side of Battlefield V? Would those people be saying anything in the first instance, considering they might be satisfied, and therefore have no need to?

Using Reddit as a metric for player response is terrible

It’s a snapshot of the internet. It would be like taking a consensus of public opinion from a singular city in a country with dozens. Of course, DICE (and other developers) don’t re-route their entire game design entirely based of the whims of people on Reddit. But it does naturally influence them – discussion over the past week (November 2018) has proved this, DICE saying they were going to balance/tweak TTK.

Drunkkz3 TTK

Florian, Core Gameplay Designer on Battlefield V, DICE

This was met with something close to outrage from certain areas of the community. A reaction which I fundamentally don’t understand. Criticisms and opinions on the internet exist within an echo chamber – people see one thing, and then repeat it without fully knowing what it means, and without ever having thought about it before. We’re all guilty of this to a certain extent – myself included. The internet isn’t a fully rational place. We all know that.

The problem is… those who believe their own word as gospel when the given situation isn’t completely subjective. Something further iterated with the insistence on rallying player opinion and experience behind a person’s own. Everyone’s experience with the game is vastly different, regardless of it being an emotional response, or one based on their hardware configuration. There’s no sweeping solution for everyone.

(After the community response in favour of current TTK implementation, DICE said they will run further tests – which weren’t previously planned – to figure out how to do this in the ‘best’ way possible.)

 

What the TTK Changes Mean?

‘Influencers’ continue to have a growing… influence on more-or-less every aspect of our daily lives. And whilst this can be a positive thing, it’s important to be mindful in having our own opinions. Experiencing things first-hand. Battlefield V isn’t a terrible game. It’s rushed, and it’s clumsy and full of issues because of this. But at its core, it’s far from terrible. And it will, with certainty, get much better – irrespective of TTK changes.

Things will inevitably change, they always do. And I’m sure some TTK tweaks will be a part of this, regardless of what people want, or what they believe is right. DICE have almost endless amounts of data relating to every tiny aspect of the game. Data only developers have. Data only DICE can properly interpret in the correct context. Changes are not some off-the-cuff whim decided by one person or community, they’re based of data – things that work, and things that don’t. Sure, everything might appear fine on the outside to the general player, but that doesn’t mean it actually is, and that doesn’t mean Battlefield V  plays the way it should, or was intended. Just because your experience now is good, doesn’t mean it can’t be better.

Who knows what’s happening under the hood of the Frostbite engine, or in the netcode that powers the servers? It’s impossibly complex even for those working in the industry, and the fixes are never as simple as people believe they are. There’s no switch to simply flick – every single thing has to be considered before it makes its way into our Battlefield V.

Do I think the TTK should be changed? Yes.

There are games which benefit from fast TTKs, military simulations being the most obvious. Games like Rising Storm 2 and Arma. Because, they… simulate. Battlefield has always attempted to bridge the gap between these military simulators, and more casual franchises such as Call of Duty. It seems like people want it to be one or the other, to commit to something concrete. Why? Battlefield, in a sense, is its own genre. Stop trying to make it something which it isn’t.

Instantly killing a player on the spot is not ‘skill-based gameplay,’ it only serves to satisfy those who place kills above objectives. When there’s no time to react, it’s simply luck-based gameplay that feels odd and out-of-place in a Battlefield title, especially one like Battlefield V.

 

Thanks for reading!

-Chris (Follow me on Twitter, and consider supporting Peach’s Almanac on Patreon!)

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