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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Battlefield 2042 gets antsy about whether 128 players is a good idea after all

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Battlefield 2042 has had a rocky old launch, with publisher EA saying it “didn’t meet expectations” before, in a rather muddled fashion, denying it blamed Halo Infinite for the game’s cool reception. The long-and-short is that no-one’s happy. Players aren’t happy, the publisher isn’t happy, and it doesn’t seem like DICE is over the moon either.

A new blogpost on ‘core feedback’ details some of the substantial improvements that DICE intends to make in the game, focusing initially on the game’s map design. It identifies five key areas to work on in the game’s maps: traversal, intensity, line of sight, objective paths, and cover.

Traversal is fairly self-explanatory: players are frustrated about the travel times between flags and spawns, something that is undoubtedly exacerbated by 2042’s new 128 player limit. “We’ve seen you use terms such as ‘Walking Simulator’ to describe how this feels in-game,” writes DICE CM PartWelsh. “We understand that this isn’t a satisfying experience and agree that there’s too much overall travel time.”

So: base spawns and flags will be moved. DICE is already working on the most “obvious candidates” but is also asking players for their feedback on which maps are the biggest offenders in this regard.

The problem categorised as ‘intensity’ is especially interesting as, much like the spawns, it seems linked to that 128-player cap. “We know that during certain pushes for the objective, it can get too chaotic when fighting over Flags; either there are too many players, or vehicles, and sometimes the overall chaos can make it feel overwhelming when accurately trying to assess what’s happening around you.”

In terms of solutions, DICE is looking into permanently reducing the player cap on Breakthrough mode to 64 players (an option that is already present in the game), reducing vehicle spawns, and tweaking points values. But, it concludes, “Right now, we feel that Breakthrough on 64 players provides the best experience of Breakthrough.”

Line of sight is how often players take fire from enemies at a distance, with the complaints generally saying there are too many open and flat spaces that encourage and reward long-distance combat: a particular culprit being the map Kaleidoscope. That map is currently being changed internally with more line-of-sight blocks, and plans are afoot to do the same with others.

As this suggests, much of what DICE is doing here is a work-in-progress and won’t be seen in the game immediately, or in some cases even in the short term. Kaleidoscope is where the changes will be seen first but in terms of the overall map pool: “The plans that we’ve outlined to you today will require substantial development time, so we want to be transparent that not all of these proposed changes will be available to you in-game simultaneously across all of our library of maps.”

The final two areas of focus are paths towards objectives and, somewhat linked to this, cover. DICE reckons there’s an especial issue with defending on some maps that don’t have clear intended paths, and there are also problems with “players exposing themselves on bad lanes” on attack. Presumably they’re not flashing the defenders but dying under a hail of fire.

The cover side of things ties into several of the above areas. Essentially there isn’t enough of it, and DICE is going to add more across maps where it feels needed to reduce the number of open and flat spaces that encourage long-range engagements. “[O]ur intent is to reduce the likelihood of being fired at from a 360 degree angle, and to take away that Hail Mary feeling of running onto no man’s land between objectives.”

The blogpost ends with an acknowledgement that these “learnings” are somewhat crucial for BF 2042’s future, and will thus be incorporated into all future map designs. The takeaway seems to be as follows: “The biggest action point for ourselves is that bigger maps doesn’t necessarily mean more freedom and playstyles, or fun. So you can expect future maps to be smaller in scale than most of our release maps.”

It also seems like DICE is getting increasingly wary about what the 128-player count can mean: which does seem surprising when it was one of the game’s headline features. The developer is going to “review player counts” across modes and, with all the above proposals, is asking players to submit feedback and clips showing their issues where appropriate.

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