The CEO of EA, Andrew Wilson, has labeled the troubled launch of Battlefield 4 as “unacceptable”. While speaking to Eurogamer about the many bugs and glitches that plagued the game for the first few months of its release he said “[f]or me, the situation we had was unacceptable. For the team it was unacceptable.” He also feels that the game is in much better shape now than it was at launch. “Right now the game is playing extremely well, and people are in there and having a lot of fun. I’m still playing it.”
For me, the situation we had was unacceptable. For the team it was unacceptable.
How Battlefield 4 was able to launch in this admittedly “unacceptable” state seems to be explained by the complexity of the game, coupled with a too short development time. “Think about what Battlefield 4 was: 64 player multiplayer, giant maps, 1080p, Levolution that was changing the gameplay design in an emergent way. There is a chance there are things you are going to miss through the development cycle. And you end up in a situation we had with Battlefield 4.”
Wilson says that EA is taking steps to prevent the same sort of launch problems from happening again. However, he feels that “[i]t would be disingenuous for me to sit here and say, ‘we will never have an issue again,’ because that would mean we were never going to push the boundaries again. And I don’t want to be that company. I want to be a company that pushes to lead and innovate and be creative. But you can start to do things that give you a better handle and a better view about what the potential challenges might be.”
I want to be a company that pushes to lead and innovate and be creative.
As far as what steps are being taken at EA to prevent these sorts of troubled launches, Wilson says that developers will be given more time to get their “final” version prepared. “You can lengthen development cycles. You can give a much longer timeframe between final and launch to get a lot more testing on the game. You can change the development process whereby you have more stable build requirements throughout the entire set of development. You can start betas earlier so you get it out in the wild earlier with more people banging away at it. We have changed development processes, we’ve changed development timelines and we’ve changed testing processes and beta processes, all with a view to not have the issues again.”
With Battlefield: Hardline releasing later this year there were many thinking it too had a rushed launch, but Wilson says that it has been in development for three years. Likewise, he denies that Battlefield 4 was rushed to meet the launch of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. However, those consoles did receive a little bit of the blame for the situation. “Not to abdicate responsibility whatsoever – we own it, we are responsible for it and we have worked tirelessly to remedy the situation – but when you are building a game on an unfinished platform with unfinished software, there are some things that can’t get done until the very last minute because the platform wasn’t ready to get done.”
Wilson feels that pushing the boundaries is what led to the problem, but he seems to feel that they were forced to decide between that and playing it safe. “You could go down the really conservative path, which some people did in the industry, and your game didn’t have any of those problems, but you also got the feedback of, it just feels the same as it used to. Or, you could push the boundaries and end up in the situation we ended up in. Neither is good. But I would like to be in the company pushing the boundaries.”