Battlefield 3's Executive Producer Talks Beta Reactions, Certification Delays

Last week, I attended an all-day Battlefield 3 event in San Francisco. Over the course of the day, I had a chance to try out the game's multiplayer, singleplayer and co-op sections. Multiplayer impressions are here, and my take on the singleplayer missions I played is here.

In addition to playing the game, I had a chance to talk with Battlefield 3's executive producer, Patrick Bach. He was a pleasure to speak with, refreshingly frank about the game's development process, the challenges faced in making an ambitious multiplayer game like Battlefield 3, and even the technical difficulties they were having with the PC version that day. We talked for a while about the public reaction to the beta, which has been mixed.

Kotaku: So, how has it been, hearing some of the negative feedback from the Beta?

Patrick Bach: The only thing we can do is tell people that: "These are the things we have fixed since the beta." And also based on the feedback from the beta. But other than that… you need to let people play it. The problem with having a beta is that you hand out a product that is not done. Deliberately. You do it because you want to get feedback on not only what the players think, but also on how things are holding up, what can we read from the network traffic, how is everything holding up, how are all of the systems that are brand new holding up. You could argue that maybe we shouldn't do a beta."

It's a double-edged sword.

If we don't do [a beta] , then we might have problems day one. So the only way to ensure that we have less problems day one is to have a beta. But if you have a beta, laughs, people will hate you, and think that you're stupid.

We get complaints like, "How can you guys miss obvious things like A, B, and C?" And we didn't miss it. We just weren't done with it. But we had to get it out so that we get results back, so we can fix it. The lead time when you do a beta is actually pretty long. You need to go through certification on consoles, and do a lot of things before you get it out. And since you want to get it out on all three platforms at the same time to avoid further whining… (chuckles)… it takes as long as the longest platform certification time.

"This was a real beta, and I don't think people are used to it. They get the product, and they think, "you have to entertain me," because it's an entertainment product."

How long is that?

Around a month and a half. Which means that when we're done with that beta, we say "Okay, this is it. Now let's go back and finish the game." When we got to the point [six weeks later]that we actually released the beta, the game was in completely different shape. We couldn't really tell people because then we'd have to go through the process again.

It sounds like certification hobbles the beta process somewhat.

Yes.

What's a way to make that better in the future?

One way of fixing the problem is… don't make betas. At least not open betas. Because often when you see betas, sometimes they are actually demos. But they call it a beta, to sound cool. This was a real beta, and I don't think people are used to it. They get the product, and they think, "you have to entertain me," because it's an entertainment product.

And it's like, "Well, it's a broken entertainment product, because we want your feedback." And they say, "Well, I understand that, but it's not polished enough!" And we say, "Well, that's exactly what we're talking about!"

So the challenge is, listen, but don't overreact. Understand that people are disappointed, but that you have to do it.

Or, don't do it. Don't make a beta. At least not an open one.

And just do closed testing.

But that's hard as well. We had an alpha as well, that was much worse.

Did any of that leak to the public?

Yes, it always does. And people complain about that as well, but it wasn't as many people. It wasn't such a big hassle. Now, it's a big thing, people make videos of it and we say, "yeah, thank you; we know, we know."

And what you're playing today [at this media event] , except for the stability issues, the game doesn't have those issues anymore. It should be more or less 99% mitigated.

Yeah, other than the stability it runs fine. I'm not seeing too many in-game bugs.

But then of course, we do have those stability issues. And other frustrations.

Right, seems like there's always going to be some problem or another. So after it launches, you'll be looking at those things and updating the game?

"We know that we won't hit 100% at launch. We won't be able to say "It's perfect." Better to release it than to wait another year. Release it, and make sure we follow up on it. "

Absolutely. Patching of this game and updating, if it's Battlelog or the core game, that's a big, long-term engagement. We really want to stay in the game post-launch. From an economic standpoint, that's not the cleverest thing to do, but that's not why we make games. We want to make games that we can be proud of, and releasing a game of this magnetite; it's quite a big game.

We know that we won't hit 100 per cent at launch. We won't be able to say "It's perfect." Better to release it than to wait another year. Release it, and make sure we follow up on it. We've been shipping so many Battlefield games that we know that people will keep playing it. If it's good enough, they'll keep playing it.

I still play Bad Company 2.

But it wasn't great on day one. People hated it on day one. It was a complete disaster, according to the forums, it was the crappiest game ever. And then we patched it and fixed some issues. And now it's like some people think it was perfect from day one. It was the best game ever! Why can't Battlefield 3 be perfect from day one. But I mean [Battlefield 3 ]is much better today day one than Bad Company 2 was day one.

What did you think of the reaction to the beta for Bad Company 2? Was that beta feedback the same?

It was the same, just smaller. "It was the worst game ever." So we're used to it, but now it's blown out of proportion because there I think six times the amount of people playing the beta as we had in Bad Company and it's the same problems. They say the same things, "You're stupid," "We hate you,"

And we're like… "Sorry!"


Comments

    'And we’re like… “Sorry!”'

    Yeah, I'm sure that's what they're thinking xD

    I havent had too many issues with this beta, given that its a very early beta build, I reckon this game will be awesome launch day.

    I reckon there should be more betas nowadays..

    Not only does it help iron out the bugs. It gives players a chance to know what to expect and "try" out the game etc..

      Tell that to Activision >.>

      But in trying a buggy beta (which is expected for a beta), it can leave a negative impression as most people treat a beta as a demo.

    To be fair, people were just acting like 11 year old brats on the beta forums.

    Christ, man up a bit please. It's a beta. Oh, and please don't buy the full BF3 if you're one of them, I'd prefer to play the game without whinging girls.

      It would have helped a lot if they hadn't marketed the beta so that it sounded like a demo. It was a "reward" for pre-ordering other games! Why wouldn't people expect it to be playable?

        Right.. marketed the beta so that it sounded like a demo? *brainexplosionallovermypants*

          I've seen a lot of people arguing against the notion, but:

          1. Beta has almost become synonomous with demo. Not necessarily EA's fault, but thats the market reality.
          2. No attempt was made prior to release to indicate this was a genuine stress test Beta. Until the negative reaction that is.
          3. They used it as promotional tool. Until it was released, people justifiably assumed it was a Beta in the Halo/MW sense.

      Roger That :D

      now all we have to do is wait for the UMP45 to be nerfed :P

    To be honest, I didn't post on the beta forums at all because it was full of gamers.

    What people don't understand is that just because you are a gamer, it doesn't mean that you're any good at 'developing' games.

    Since I'm a full-time employed games tester, I wrote up a 3 page document and just emailed them directly with all the bugs I could find.
    The girlfriend didn't find it amusing though, many comments like "Why are you doing this at home, you do this at work.. pay attention to me..."

    BF3 will be good assuming most of the bugs get fixed. (Note: 'Bugs' includes some of their terrible design decisions like being unable to set options outside of game and being unable to change servers inside game. Battlelog is just not an enjoyable experience)

      I would have to disagree about battlelog. Yes I'm a gamer. No I have no idea how to design a game. But...

      I actually like having everything in one place. It's quick, the game launches in seconds and I'm in and playing. I also like being able to alt-tab and browse my stats etc.

      The only complaint I have is. A. Server queue wasn't working at the end of the beta. B. I couldn't squad with my friends. And it's all fixed for the final game so meh.

        "I actually like having everything in one place."

        If you have to alt+tab from the game to go to another window to see stats etc that's TWO places.

        Speaking as both a web and OpenGL developer, I'd much rather push HTML buttons than in-game buttons. At least I can be sure that my browser is responsive and can be directly controlled as opposed to getting stuck in a UI layer.

        I quite like it as well. It's nice having the game loading up in the background while you browse the web. And you can easily look at past games, browse forums etc all from the one place. I hated it at first, but it grew on me.

        However, it makes Origin seem pointless. Instead of starting up Origin and opening Battlefield, I just go to Battlelog and start the game from there. Origin pops up, logs in, etc. but I never actually interact with it. I'd rather it just run as a background process, or not at all.

        The Battlelog was fantastic. It's quite easy to browse and choose a server from, especially compared to BC2 (server browser was my least favourite thing of that game). I really love a game that can alt+tab or go in windowed mode without freezing or crashing or requiring me to whip open task manager and then alt+tab to something else and then into the game to get it to open again. That's a huge plus, the game going from the battlelog in the browser to fullscreen and back again was just seamless for me.

        And the game itself was great, playing the beta justified the pre-order I've had down for 2 months..

      It's strange to see the direction EA/DICE are taking with battleblog. Generally I'd think developers would want to keep the gamer inside the world like the casino mentality. Hide the outside world from the user and keep them playing. But with battleblog after each game you are pulled back to your desktop where you have the option to go check your email and notice that you are late for that appointment.

      I like the chance to have the breather, but I don't know if it will hurt EA/DICE in the end.

        I like your casino analogy but disagree with your logic.

        If you want to keep playing you will stay on that server in the current location. You'll quit to either change servers or have a break. Battlelog ensures that you can do both a reenter the game with less fuss. Before you would have to quit the game, check your facebook then repoen the game going through all the credits etc.

        The entry barrier is less both ways I guess. But it's all relative to the user as well.

          Huh? I never had to do your method (in over 400hours of BFBC2) I'm with Cyk on this one.

      I can't claim to be in the industry but I map occasionally for source games and I studied 3D animation for games for a bit.. I'd like to think my understanding of the development process is better than the average gamer..

      I posted on the forum with a bullet point list of about 50 bugs and suggestions..

      It almost immediately went to page 2 of the forum and didn't get a single reply for the final 3 days of the beta after it was posted.. It was swamped with "IMA CANCELLING MA PREORDA, FUCKN SNIPER GLINT BLAH BLAH BLAH" threads..

      It's kind of sad that those of us who got it, and took the time to actually submit genuine feedback most likely wont get heard while the kiddies with their sense of entitlement cried their hearts out and dominated the 'community' voice..

    Yeah i think the problem with the beta was lack of DICE/EA involvement and communication.
    Even a little list of main issues that they already know about would have stopped people bitching about the same issue ten thousand times.
    They seemed to just release it by saying "its an old broken build... enjoy"
    There has also only been one small blog post about things they have fixed since beta... and its a very small non detailed list.
    They need to prove to the beta participants that the release version will have all those major issues fixed. I dont think its fair for them to say "trust us".
    Be interesting to see how it turns out in the end i guess.

    Fuck I hate doing certifications in games. Lot checks and TRC's, they piss me off and take ages to do

    I really appreciate his honesty. Great article!

    The thing is, a lot of the things people are complaining about aren't bugs, they're design choices.

    Having said that, playing Caspian Border sold me. I'll be getting this on launch day.

    The thing that annoyed me were the lies EA tell, I got the MOH LTD ED and still had no early code emailed them asking why and the responses I got were a joke they even got my name wrong in the reply's. and yes EA your so called beta was not a beta it was a glorified demo, Jerks!

      It wasn't a glorified demo, it was a BETA. Why is it all the credible games sites and developers agree on this but the odd gamer thinks it's not a BETA but a demo? Don't be stupid and think you know better than people in the know.

      It's annoying when people call it a demo. It had more placeholder elements, bugs and disabled features that it wouldn't be a true 'demo' of the final game.

      Besides that, I gotten my early access code without a hitch.

      Did you have Medal of Honor on steam? I got mine by right clicking on Medal of Honor in my library, click "View game CD key" and there it was "Battlefield 3 Open Beta Early Access"

    I just hope all the people that didnt like it cancelled their pre-orders so we wont have to put up with them ingame

    I get that it was a beta...

    They used it as a marketing tool (TV ads advertising the beta??? "Play it now!!!")

    and it was unplayable for me. 3-4 seconds of lag, texture issues, bugs left right and centre. On PS3 so its not like there are hardware issues.

    had it been 2 months ago. I would be as concerned. Its sposed to be released in just over 2 weeks... pretty poor quality. I would have cancelled a pre-order if i had one.

      I've not had a problem with lag at all that I can tell on the PS3, and I've got a fairly substandard internet connection - I guess we're all having different experiences.

    I played the PS3 version and found it to be a remarkably smooth, lag free experience. Whether this was dumb luck or my 18.9mbps sync rate I don't know, but it was playable.

    Operation metro is a shit map though,

    I had incredible difficulty getting in on day one with the load on servers but overall (aside from people falling into the floor in some parts) it was pretty good. Needs more incentive to play as the Engineer though, on a level without vehicles he was just useless.

    JUST TAKE MA MONEY DICE!! I didn't have any problems with the open beta on PS3, apart from the notorious falling-through-ground at the start of the map. Diddly-squat connection issues either! :D

    I actually get embarrassed by some of the whining that goes on. When I first loaded it up, it gave me the sh%ts that I was falling through the floor and getting killed by ppl in the void, but they fixed that crap, and I loved the experience. I thankful for having been able to share the experience, regardless of the issues. This is going to be a great game from day one, and you know there is gonna be issues with certain things, but instead of crying, provide 'constructive' feedback, jumping on the forums yelling "I've cancelled my pre order, because I'm a spoiled brat, and don't appreciate the fact that you've given me the privilege of playing something for free!! you suck!!" <<-- grow up.

    How is this industry that I love suppose to progress and mature when you act like this. I deal with people like that in my job and it's frustrating, people that cry over the smallest sh%t in life. These brillant people are providing us with great entertainment, if the game is absolute rubbish on release and it seems like a cash in, dont buy it...simple. I think there are a few people out there that need to drop the attitude and sense of 'ownership'. Give this kids making games a break! :P

      Well said.. totally agree.

    I played the beta on Ps3 for a couple nights but kept having connection issues and getting booted from servers... though I'm pretty sure the problem(s) were more likely on my end. Comcast has been really shitty lately I've noticed... sometimes it's as if the Internet just ceases to exist for about 10 minutes, then Comcast decides "oh, right, this switch should stay on..." and it comes back.

    Either way, I still plan on getting Battlefield :-P

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