Video game publishing juggernaut Electronic Arts is skipping E3 this year, the biggest annual video game trade show event, and they're doing so to host their own big event for fans and media. One of the games that will be there, a game EA already confirmed is one the ways this fiscal year, is Battlefield 5.
There's an argument to be made that with this upcoming installment EA and developer DICE need to deliver big, more than they have on any prior installment. Battlefield 4 didn't innovate much upon BF3, launched with major issues, and didn't quite have the legs or notoriety of its predecessor, and Battelfield Hardline - developers by EA's Visceral Games - was an epic disappointment. Add to that the release of DICE's Star Wars Battlefront dumbing down all of the features that make Battlefield great in order to appease the widest possible casual gaming audience, and there's a lot of reason for long-time BF fans to feel a sense of disappointment.
But fret not! There are many opportunities for BF5 to rectify this, improve upon its predecessors, make some changes, add new features, and bring back some old ones in a big cool way while also doing some different and fun things. Let's talk about the features and changes we'd like to see come to the franchise with Battlefield 5.
18 Address Netcode Issues
DICE wrote this two years ago for the Battlefield 4 community after a problematic launch and slow post-launch support over issues with the basic functionality of multiplayer:
We at DICE are committed to improving the overall Battlefield 4 multiplayer experience for our players. Some issues, commonly referenced in conjunction to “netcode” are preventing Battlefield 4 from performing optimally for everyone, and with this post we would like to explain what we are doing to address these problems.
The posting went on to detail and list the specific bugs, errors, and connection issues they were working on, but this was a while after launch. Many of the issues should not have existed in the first place, especially after having released and supported Battlefield 3 just prior. It was a case of sloppy launch code combined with a rushed release. Battlefield 5 must launch and work as intended. We don't want to see another "early access" style launch with a poor tick rate and problematic netcode.
17 Launch With Better Maps
The launch lineup and DLC maps for Battlefield 4 received a fair share of criticism for some weak or uninteresting map designs. Some had open areas lacking cover, others had areas which forced players to traverse long distances for little reason. The best maps of BF3 and BF4 could be re-released as free DLC up front, with other launch and DLC maps supporting a variety of modes. BF4 for instance, didn't support close quarters play like BF3's second expansion pack.
Better maps sounds like a generic request, but having more variety (and more maps in general) at launch is key to supporting new and fresh gameplay modes. Having larger maps could even support larger player counts and more vehicle-heavy modes but more on that later...
16 Immersive Environments
If the game features multiplayer maps specifically designed in urban, civilian-heavy environments, there's more that can be done with them.. Battlefield Hardline and its down Los Angeles maps featured no... life. So cops vs. robbers combat became all-out war in an empty arena. There were no civilians to protect or interact with but it at least let players drive cars - something the core Battlefield games block players from doing despite them being littered all over maps.
A little more freedom in using what's in the environment, destroying said environments, and even modes that fit certain maps would be welcome!
15 Improve Squad Options
If Battlefield 5 is as big or bigger than its predecessors it needs to allow for freedom for server hosts to design their games. There needs to be options if squads only 4 players or if they're twice that. And if team play is the focus - and it is - include options for squad leaders to be more important in-game. Battlefield 2142 for instance allowed squad leaders to have a drone assisting them, refilling health or ammo, even shooting nearby enemies. We're not saying that is is what BF5 needs specifically, but more options are needed to make leaders more effective.
This only works in modes however, when the squad leader is an actual leader using the squad commands. There must be an easy way added to immediately replace squad leaders not playing as squad leaders (not issuing orders, never obeying commander, etc.). It would also be beneficial to allow players to use voice to communicate with players outside of their squad and/or with commander and/or with nearby friendlies. One little detail that needs to be hammered out as well, and it's partly a team balancing issue, is addressing issues when players in a party find themselves struck on opposite teams. This is especially problematic when joining servers where one team is dominating and you're on the losing team, unable to do anything but take the loss on you stats page that Battlelog (the game's browser-based tracking/matchmaking system) forced upon you.
More on rewarding this type of essential gameplay next...
14 Encourage & Reward Teamwork
DICE has often touted the importance of teamwork and tactics in their Battlefield games but in practice, it mostly doesn't play out that way because the game doesn't encourage or reward it substantially.
Issuing orders via the command rose for squad leaders for instance, doesn’t emphasize objectives to teammates enough and there’s rarely a commander issuing orders in any relevant way the squad leaders are following anyway so general gameplay turns into randomness where players do their own things, some for the team, most for stats or camping. There are easy ways to better outline objectives on the interface/map clearly and even easier ways to reward players for functioning as a team. Encourage tactical gameplay, Rainbow Six style.
13 Immersion: End the Teleportation
The Frostbite engine is visually impressive with destruction elements and wonderful lighting, but shockingly dated in how it handles vehicles. Some vehicles control weirdly (planes/helicopters) but worst of all, players still spawn in and out of vehicles, different seats, and emplacements.
Unlike every Halo game ever or the Far Cry games, the Battlefield series so far has failed to complete the animations for players getting in an out of vehicles. It's mindblowing watching their big budget, realism-focused battles when a soldier vanishes and all of a sudden is inside of a jeep. C'mon!
12 Overhaul Progression/Unlock System
Stop the grind! The progression structure of BF3/BF4 forces players to unlock the same weapon mods over and over and over again for every new weapon unlocked. That means if you have a gun you’re familiar with and you’ve invested time in unlocking and finding the right loadout, the game essentially punishes you for using the next new gun since it has no mods... even though you have unlocked those mods for that class of weapons.
It's time to let players choose to unlock what they want to play with instead of forcing repetition in unlocks. That's not why players play Battlefield. Make the progression faster by focusing on unlocking other types of content (like visual customization options - more on that later!).
11 Add Soldier Customization
Firstly, start including female soldiers in multiplayer. It's absurd that Battlefield 4 - which featured a female lead hero in its story campaign - has literally no female characters in its multiplayer component. That's a must-fix for Battlefield 5 and we expect it will be since there were female character options in Star Wars Battlefront.
We'd like to see custom soldier options added to improve progression and immersion in the Battlefield multiplayer experience. Part of locking players into online worlds (see: The Division and Destiny) is giving players an avatar that's truly theirs, to evolve and customize. Instead of slowing players down with gun/attachment grinding and the annoying battlepack system, get players invested in their character instead. Let them customize the look of their soldier and the look of their gear.
10 Drop Microtransactions
Monetization shouldn’t be a factor for players who are asked to not only buy the game, but to purchase a premium subscription up front to get all the maps and to avoid a fractured user base. This doubles the price of the game.
But for EA, that hasn't been enough. They've included shortcuts and battlepack options that allow players to pay real money to get ahead on the grind. Players who pay can get unlocks and mods by paying money essentially dividing the community into players who play to earn and players to pay to earn and it's really anti-consumer. If time investment is such an issue, overhaul the progression system. That shouldn't be the focus. More on that front later...
9 Bring Back Mod Support
What made the Battlefield franchise so viable is how it started on the right foot way back with the original Battlefield 1942. The game was revolutionary, but a big reason why it was so successful, why it lasted so long, and why it earned so much followup media buzz was its support of mods.
It was a gamer-friendly game in every sense of the word and modders were allowed to create total conversions like the amazing Desert Combat and 1918 mods. Trauma Studios, who developed the award-winning Desert Combat total conversion, added and created features to the game that not even DICE could or would, and were contracted to help make Battlefield 2 as a result. Bring that back so the community can be creative, so we can play past where DICE and EA are willing to invest. And so new things can be created for the future of the series.
8 Innovate With The Story Campaign
We can’t blame EA and DICE for wanting to flesh out their games with story campaigns. In fact, it’s a good thing to boost the value of the games and appeal to more players... but only if they’re worth playing and they arguably haven’t been so far.
BF3, BF4, and Hardline all feature forgettable, generic stories with characters we can’t even name because no one cares. They looked visually good though, but that doesn't cut it. Do something unique or don’t bother. Allow co-op, bring in a twist, or do something that’s worth the investment on the Dev’s end and for the players. Or drop it all together and double the launch content of multiplayer (i.e. 20 maps instead of 10).
7 Implement Class Options
Class Restrictions - if BF is going to continue to rely on classes to handle balancing and limiting of weapon choices and abilities, add options for servers/modes to limit how many of each class can be selected in each team so the game has the necessary roles fulfilled. A team doesn’t need 20 snipers getting one-hit kills in Hardcore mode when medics are needed. Make each class useful or overhaul the loadout system.
6 What Happened to Co-op Play?
Battlefield 3 was the big showcase of the Frostbite engine, and with that game DICE tried to do it all. It had a big multiplayer suite, a single player campaign (a first for the core series), and even a standalone co-op campaign. The co-op wasn’t the best though and only featured six missions, but instead of improving on it, DICE just gave up and offered no co-op play in BF4.
Bring back co-op something, whether it’s wave-based horde mode, or co-op campaign. It’s better to play with friends especially in a multiplayer-focused brand. And better yet, since it’s co-op and not competitive, give players a Forge Mode or map editor. Allow mods and community content. Be new. Be awesome. Be different.
5 Player Counts: Bigger Can Be Better
Go big. Battlefield 1942 supported 64 players. 14 years later and the game still can’t grow past that? It's time to evolve with the hardware and genre. We're not saying Battlefield 5 should simply double up player counts everywhere (64 player modes can still be the main modes) but why not also support a mega mode where double the numbers (or more) can be supported, given more use to vehicles and having more of them?
Even if current consoles cannot support map and game sizes that large, the flagship PC community absolutely can. And not every map needs to have increased numbers, but having 128 or more shouldn’t be a blocked option for servers and large maps like it is now on the previous franchise entries.
4 Bring Back Bots
DICE has a depressing tendency to drop or "dumb down" features in newer games (see: Battlefront) and one of the core features of early games in the Battlefield franchise was that of AI-controlled bots. Back in the day, offline bots were a normal part of Battlefield gameplay - a crucial way to test loadouts, explore maps, practice, and continue playing when there's not a sufficient player base. At this very moment, 2015's Battlefield: Hardline is virtually dead on PC because no one plays it. We could if there were bots...
Why was this taken away from players? Why did BF4 include a test range but no bots? Bring it back. Let players have bots with different difficulty options. Let custom servers feature bots or AI units.
We’re not really serious about Battlefield 5 adding dinosaurs... but we also sort of are. Hear us out. The EA publishing machine is infamous for delivering arguably the bare minimum in launch versions of a lot of triple-A games and charging for the rest separately. It's just one of the many reasons the video game giant won the Consumerist's "worst company in America" two years in a row and it's become a staple part of triple-A game releases in general. It means things like microtransactions are prevalent in big games; it means release dates taking priority over quality of content, and it means restrictive always-online, no-mod designs, etc.
That needs to change. Star Wars: Battlefront was a massive seller for EA, but it was also a bare bones game that took many steps backward from what developer DICE has been delivering for years in the Battlefield series. BF4 for instance, also took a step back on the co-op front from what BF3 tried to do, and Hardline (developed by EA's Visceral Games) was a failure. DICE should aim to be different and have fun with Battlefield 5. They started to with some of the Easter Eggs and unlockables in BF4 and it's time to take that to the next level.
Call of Duty has zombie modes which have become a brand in their own right, and for years DICE devs and its community have been teasing back and forth the idea of dinosaurs. Why not use the impressive Frostbite game engine and the popularity of dinos (ARK: Survival Evolved, Jurassic World) to have a fun additional mode. The serious military war stuff is covered in all the other modes and campaign. The serious bigger idea we're getting at here is for DICE and EA to give back to the community. Stop the microtransactions, pay-to-win nonsense. Stop holding back on so much content and start thinking outside the box. Start having fun. Start supporting mods.
Doing so could (read: will) earn earn Battlefield 5 far more social media love from influencers, more Twitch streamer attention, and certainly YouTuber Let's Play celebrity coverage, more invested players, more content, more fan loyality, and a longer game lifespan, while DICE works away on Battlefront 2.
2 Cross-Platform functionality
For competitive modes, unless a mouse and keyboard is easily and fully supported on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Battlefield 5 (unlikely), there can't be a scenario where PC players can play against console players due to obvious balance issues.
But there's an "easy" way according to Microsoft and Sony to allow cross-platform play between the console versions at least, expanding that player base. It's really up to the publisher, Electronic Arts, to help push that through.
However, with so many reports about hardware upgrades coming in the near future on the PlayStation/Xbox fronts, maybe there is a scenario where these consoles can be balanced with traditional PC play.
Battlefield 5 is very likely going to have a holiday 2016 release date, and so to is the first consumer-ready console virtual reality hardware in PlayStation VR. The only way VR works and grows for mainstream gamers if if the biggest mainstream games support it, and EA is one of the big publishers who can make a difference on that front.
It almost must happen in some form actually since DICE's current big shooter, Star Wars Battlefront is actually getting VR support exlcusive to the PS4. So for them not to offer the same for Battlefield would be inexplicable. Look to the future, DICE!