Now that the open beta for DICE’s newest venture into the Battlefield universe has concluded, it’s time to see what potential the game will have; not only in terms of raw revenue, but for eSports and for fans of multiplayer shooters. Battlefield has not been a credible eSports title for some time because of the steady increase of players on the maps following the first add-ons for Battlefield 2. It is simply very hard for clans to have a constant roster of more than 10 people and for Battlefield 3 and 4, at least 16 active players were needed to be able to accomplish the tasks on the huge maps. Now DICE might not even be too keen on achieving eSports viability with Battlefield, but a lot of mechanics in Battlefield 1 hint towards a more competitive overall game.
The real problem for any analytics of the potential of Battlefield 1 is that the map, which was part of the closed alpha, was not available in the open beta. The desert map of the open beta was a little too large in Conquest mode, making the way to the objectives longer than necessary if no vehicle, horse or tank was available. Fast light and medium tanks and snipers ruled this mode thus making players choose these options most of the time. The netcode has improved since Battlefield 4’s first iterations that did not work too well – to put it nicely, which was a welcome change.
To achieve everything that DICE aspires to do with Battlefield 1, a lot of smaller and larger quirks need to be ironed out:
- Better netcode: While the netcode has improved and DICE surely have learned their lessons from the Battlefield 4 problems, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Lag spikes that are server-side and not client-side often make the netcode register hits too late when the player already is behind cover again, health regeneration lags behind so players die although a medic already has patched them up, etc.
- Map design: It is a moot point to discuss this entirely, but from the closed alpha we have seen how maps can work, when in the open beta the desert map was more unbalanced than its alpha counterpart. Players stuck mostly to vehicles. Whoever held the center capture point in Conquest and had some armored tanks, was pretty much unbeatable. We will have to see if DICE has balanced map designs up their sleeves or if they test the balancing on live servers.
- Leveling, perks and weapons: Battlefield’s system rewards players who play a lot. After a month it is pretty much impossible for new players to catch up, because more veteran players are so far ahead. If we look at competitive games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive then we can see that this does not have to be the case. More skill-based progression than just time-spent progression would make Battlefield 1 a more competitive game.
- Leagues and championships: There is a lot of money to be made in eSports and competitive gaming. Games that have leagues and championships that yield a lot of monetary rewards perform well and in the long term. For the last Battlefield games, DICE have missed this train and after a few months their games’ audience decreased immensely. This is an opportunity that DICE has with this fresh start.
- More modes: The introduction of Rush alongside Conquest in the open beta really was positive. More engaging and fast gameplay and fewer needed players. This was a step into the right direction and there is surely more to come.
With all of those aspects mentioned: This beta for Battlefield 1 was the most successful and most played beta in history for Electronic Arts. More than 13.2 million players took part in the play-testing and gave DICE a lot of input to work with for the final version. The most played classes were Assault and – something to be expected – Scout (the sniper class of Battlefield 1). Well done!
Battlefield 1 will be out on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on the 21st of October.