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State of the Game: Battlefield 4, DECEMBER 2014 (XBOX 360)

Battlefield 4

The good news is they’ve almost fixed the game.

The latest problem was introduced with the October patch. You will get stuck on everything. Door thresholds. Pebbles. STAIRS! Everything. A lot of my deaths happen because I’m more preoccupied with getting beyond some invisible barrier which is only surmountable by jumping over at a very specific spot that always seems to change than I am with getting shot at. They are aware of this and have fixed it on the CTE, but it will be a while before we see it implemented on consoles. It annoys me this fix wasn’t included with the release of Final Stand. Unacceptable, DICE.

What announcement?
DICE promised grand news regarding the future of BF4. Their announcement was that there would be another announcement.

To say this announcement was more anti-climatic than the blind date I once had with Heather Locklear who turned out to be a transgender’d bloke named Heath Erlocklear would be an understatement (teach me to agree to anything while on my 3rd Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster). At least Heath paid for dinner (and drinks)! It feels like DICE screwed us. Again!

Emboldened by Wall $t
This is what I believe is going on behind closed doors. They are hedging their bets to keep interest in the franchise going in case Hardline is an utter failure (I for one have no interest in it). They are planning on making more DLC, but the debate at DICE and EA is whether to charge for the DLC or not. It would not surprise me if EA wants to charge $50 for another Premium membership. I believe DICE had every intention of making a more lucid announcement but EA’s bean counters called them down. Stockholders don’t like the free word.

Whatever their announcement, anything but free future DLC is unacceptable IMHO. Fuck the stockholders.

The entire Battlefield community (not just Premium members) are owed (yes, I said owed) this added DLC. The community needs it. Just giving it to Premium members (in a vain attempt to sell more Premium) will not resolve the animosity distilled in the community by such a feckless launch and the staggering long beta time they’ve endured. Nor will it solve the Premium player population problem.

Vanilla BF4 is well worth the price of admission.
If you’re thinking of picking up a copy to put under the Christmas Tree, go for it. You’ll be absolutely fine playing the core game during peak times.  After 14 months of beta testing, the core game is solid now (more or less). I can’t stress this enough, vanilla BF4 is well worth the price of admission, especially if you get it on sale or used for under $25.

Premium, however, is simply not worth its $50 price tag.
It never was. 360 users are shit out of luck if they are waiting for BF4 Premium Edition to save money on the entire package. Due to “technical limitations” the Premium Edition will not be released for the 360 (coughbullshitcoughreasoncough). Not that it matters, Premium has a paltry player population anyway. Honestly, $25 is too much for Premium on the 360.

Where is everybody?
I understand lots of factors are contributing to the dwindling player base and not all of it is the fault of DICE or EA. Right out the gate hardcore BF players were split between Xbox One and the 360. The 360 isn’t dead yet, but the introduction of Next Gen will make the 360 less viable for competitive multiplayer games like Battlefield as these gamers tend to be more hardcore gaming enthusiasts (not to mention, elitist).

Yet a lot is their fault. The problems have had a tragic effect on the longevity of Premium content serving to split the player base further as wiser gamers than I opted to buy just the DLC that appealed to them (mostly Second Assaultbecause METRO!) and eschew Premium altogether therefore making the DLC more of a gimmicky flight of fancy rather than consistently playable additions to the game. The game’s inept release, game-breaking bugs, and the inordinate amount of time it took to place the game in a playable condition (keep in mind, the game is still not fixed, after 14 months it is merely playable now) have served to anger a lot of players, force them to leave the franchise altogether, or just be very wary of wading back in after trading their copies of BF4 in fits of rage.

No Rush? No, not the band, smart-ass!
Rush is an iconic game mode I’m pretty sure is exclusive to the Battlefield franchise. Rush games are hard to find on any of the DLC at any time including peak hours. In fact, sometimes I’m not so sure Rush even exists in Premium anymore. You’ll find plenty of Rush on vanilla maps; this fact only serves to convince me the veteran BF players weren’t as stupid as I and didn’t waste their money on Premium.

What happened to the naval experience?
No one seems to be playing Naval Strike which saddens me because Carrier Assault is a funtastic game mode. I believe this is because Carrier Assault was broken for so long people just moved on out of frustration. People are recently playing Air Superiority because one of the Phantom Assignments requires jet kills, but those servers were desolate before the release of Final Stand.

All things considered Premium has been a disappointment. I wanted to love it. I really did. After buying BF4 used, feeling bad because I was enjoying it so much, making the conscience decision to support DICE by not only purchasing Premium, but convincing my friends to purchase it as well; no one can say I have not given this game a fair shake.

From the difficult to navigate cluttered interface to the Quick Match feature that will either find no games or place your squad in an empty server to the distant, non-communicative and oft mismatched player base that just doesn’t feel like BF3’s player base did (before the Great Server Fiasco of 2012, of course). The Battlefield 4 Premium experience is one of frustration for me most of the time.

I must admit, you probably won’t have much trouble finding a Premium match when you’re all on your oddy-knocky. You will likely be put in a queue if you wish to play Rush, though. Unlike BF3, BF4 is no fun without my friends. I’ve actually been playing MW3 to fill the void when my friends are MIA rather than log onto BF4 and play alone. Nothing draws me to BF4 when my friends aren’t around.

You’ll never be satisfied, b33mR!
Not true. My disappointment stems from my love of the game and as a consumer spending his hard earned money, not juvenile gamer malice or some misguided sense of entitlement.

Promising us they’ll continue to work on BF4 after Hardline is released is a step in the right direction. But the future DLC they have planned must be free for all Battlefield players, not just Premium members.

For me, I’d be perfectly happy to forget past grievances if this DLC contained a meager 4 maps and some sort of squad v. squad competitive mode like Squad Rush from BF3. I’d be ecstatic if one of those maps was Grand Bazaar, but I’d be just as happy with four balanced and tested new-old maps. And if its free for everyone to play I’d be happier than a pig in shit.

As I edit this piece for publication I’m not so narcissistic and lacking in self-critical insight that I can’t see I’m whining a little about not being able to find the games I want to play. I am. I’m sorry. I bought Premium and I get a little bored playing the vanilla maps all the time. I get frustrated when it takes me 5 minutes or more (my gods, the interface is terrible) just to find an acceptable server with enough slots available for my squad. I feel I have not received my money’s worth regarding Premium.

But I’m not just bitching for my own sake. If EA truly wants to save Premium they can do so by putting it on sale for $10-15. And for that price it would be worth it for many of you out there. This would have a positive rippling effect on the now more or less working game by adding the players needed to give it (namely the Premium content) a second wind. And that would sate my contention.

A price break this huge will sell (a huge price break is why I bought Titanfall, which I might have had sooner had I not wasted gaming budget on Premium). Sorry, EA and DICE, you gotta take the loss this time to save your franchise. Suck it up like soldiers, not whiny and greedy bitch traders on Wall $t.

MAJOR Changes Coming in Battlefield 4’s September Patch

Updates from the Battlefield: Core Gameplay Improvements (patch notes)

We’ll finally see the Automatic High Frequency Update setting on last gen consoles. Alas, you can’t fix, change or improve something in the code without it having a Butterfly Effect on other parts of the code and gameplay. For example, improving the Netcode has reduced the time to kill so, in an effort to balance, DICE has reduced the damage of a lot of guns at close range and they will take one extra bullet to kill. The idea being the game will have a little more time to register the hits and hopefully result in less of those how the hell did he even hit me moments. It may take a little getting used to and you might notice the change more on slower firing weapons, but overall I’m looking forward to these changes. DICE has stated their focus is on maintaining a consistent Time To Kill (how long an average engagement lasts for) which to me suggests a sincere effort to not make the game a total CoD clone.

Character movement will be more like BF3. Head flinching has been reduced, crouching time has less of a transitional delay, you’ll strafe faster, and you’ll reach your top speed quicker. This should reduce those getting shot from behind cover moments. Hit effects have been moved to server side rather than client which is a good thing because it’s a more reliable system. Visual recoil and scope sway have been all but removed from guns.

The Heads Up Display (HUD) is undergoing major cosmetic surgery. In an effort to de-clutter the screen DICE has implemented several options such as the ability to adjust enemy, objective and friendly icon’s transparency to your liking. We are also getting the fan suggested Medic Triage, a timer above corpses that shows you how much time you have left to revive your teammates allowing you to better gauge whether the revive is worth the risk or not.

In addition there will also be a slew of game mode improvements. These range from HUD display improvements to MCOM relocation and map vehicle assignments. Grenades will see some changes to their damage and blast radius as well as to the amount you can carry and how long it takes to resupply them from an ammo bag. Flashbangs will make your HUD vanish for 10 seconds (5 seconds if a friendly flashbang); this might actually make flashbangs viable as I fail to see the point in them as they stand right now.

A LOT OF CHANGES TO DIGEST AT ONCE
If you haven’t already, you should start experimenting with different guns so you’re not married to the one you’re using now. I’m not sure if I’m entirely on board with the way DICE goes about balancing things. They tend to look at what the community is using too much and nerf those weapons in hopes of making the unpopular weapons more appealing instead of simply buffing a certain dynamic of the unpopular weapons a little. You see this with how they are about to nerf the damage of Slams in an effort to get people to use mines more often.

They were going to nerf Stingers and Iglas because pilots, who never seem to end a match with less than 30 kills, are a whiny bunch of gits with far too much time to spend bitching on the EA forums. Thankfully they decided against this nerf and infantry will still have a reliable option to fall back on when their team is lacking a decent pilot to stop the enemy pilot’s rampage. Vehicles in Battlefield should compliment infantry not simply dominate and decimate it.

In the following video YouTuber, Blindman, talks about the changes while playing on the CTE server in which they are already implemented.

Join us on our Xbox 360 server
MARK OF SHAME GAMING (& TDCS)
HAVE FUN & PLAY NICE.
Map rotations and game modes may change without notice.

Come play BF4 on our server!Background artwork by the talented z0h3 on deviantART

State of the Game: Battlefield 4, AUGUST 2014 (XBOX 360)

BF4BUGSLRG

The release of Dragon’s Teeth on Premium was successful though not without its hick-ups. EA/DICE was suffering through a DoS attack at the time which caused much frustration amongst the player base, myself included. Problems aside, Dragon’s Teeth is a welcome infantry-centric addition to BF4. Sadly, as usual, the good news stops there.

SERIOUSLY, WHO ‘EFFING DESIGNED THE INTERFACE?
AND WHY HAVEN’T THEY BEEN DRAWN AND QUARTERED YET?
I’ve already mentioned how poorly designed the interface is on consoles. Giving a toddler a bottle of squeezable jam, a tub of peanut butter, two slices of bread and saying ‘have at it, hoss‘ before you go walk your dog would produce the same result.

Reasoning the designer may have been drunk at the time I tried navigating the interface whilst indulging in liberal libations…

While I give DICE props for implementing a more robust Squad Up feature with the last update, the system ultimately fails yet again as searching for servers continues to be a much maligned chore.

Search results turn up no servers or tons of empty ones you can’t join. Quick Match your squad and you’ll either see the no available games message or your squad will be split onto different teams. Bypassing Quick Match and manually searching for a server isn’t any better. Select the option to show only servers with 5-10 available slots so you can find eligible servers rapidly and you’ll still have to scroll through tons of servers with a meager 1 or 2 slots open. When you finally find a server with enough available slots for your 3 man Squad you’ll be greeted with the not enough available slots message.

Adding further insult to injury, squad coding is completely FUBAR. Squads are somehow defaulting to private and the option to un-privatize is suspiciously absent (when did Rand Paul get a job at DICE?) People can’t leave the squad they get placed in to join their friend’s squad. People can’t switch teams regardless of the game’s progression or how many slots are available on the team their friends are on. All these issues are new since the last patch.

Reasoning the designer may have been drunk at the time I tried navigating the interface whilst indulging in liberal libations. It didn’t help. In fact, it gets systematically more frustrating with each beer and I’m the type of drunk that likes to hug everyone. It’s possible some of the server search problems are a result of the DoS attack. Alas, with all the unsolved dilemmas plaguing BF4 since release it’s hard to give EA and DICE a pass anymore; even when it’s not their fault.

AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF MONKEYS WOULD’VE WRITTEN BETTER NETCODE
Netcode continues to be an issue on all platforms and the last patch seems to have put the solution back to square one on PC.

While the 360 and PS3 have yet to see any meaningful attempt to fix the sophomoric code, things in this department are no better or worse than they have been for last-gen players. There’s more graphical glitches of late. Dead bodies suddenly catapulting and ping ponging around the battlefield and all that. But considering all the game breaking problems I’ve run into, catapulting dead bodies is the only thing in BF4 putting a smile on my face lately.

I read DICE is having trouble working around the last-gen’s limited memory to implement the “netcode fix” already available on next-gen and PC. I take this with a grain of salt. They are written by self-proclaimed hardware & coding experts who are more likely either paid EA trolls, marketing douchebags writing bullshit in a pathetic attempt to get you to buy next-gen, or they worked one summer as a Popcap intern and are suffering from delusions of competence.

Carrier Assault was one of the few redeeming qualities BF4 had going for it these days.

P-R-I-O-R-I-T-I-E-S… n’est-ce pas?
As if finding a Carrier Assault server wasn’t hard enough the Carrier Assault game mode is now completely and totally broken. Carrier Assault was one of the few redeeming qualities BF4 had going for it these days. It starts off as a round of Conquest and ends up with everyone storming the enemy’s carrier in a quick round of MCOM destroying Rush gaming goodness.

These days it’s 5-10 minutes of Conquest that ends without warning, leaving you feeling like the first time you saw a chick naked and blew your wad before she even got close to unzipping your pants.

What? Like that never happened to you.

An inquiry on the forums turned up someone who said this was done to fix a game crashing bugone I’ve never experienced in Carrier Assault. So I gotta wonder, with all the imbroglio at DICE/EA, why would they try and fix something that ultimately wasn’t broken to begin with?

ULTIMATELY THE PLAYER BASE IS SUFFERING
The loyal fans are the ones truly getting the shaft in ways DICE can’t even conceive or comprehend.

For those that love this game the ever shrinking player base will continue to be the biggest problem. Look at my rankings at bf4stats. I’m in the top 20% for things like score, vehicles destroyed, headshots and score per minute. The only reason an absolute scrub like myself could rank that high in Battlefield is if there were less competition in the game than in our crapitalist economy.

Furthermore, I got a Squad Wipe medal the other day. One would think this something to brag about but it’s not. It’s just testament to the fact that no one is squading up, either because they are new to the game and don’t know how, or they are victims of the shitty squad code I mentioned earlier. I’m not wiping out entire squads with my uberness; I’m killing one guy stuck in libertarian squad hell.

Your stats don’t mean squat. The other day I hit a high flying A-10 with an RPG on Firestorm. It was moving slower than Sarah Palin’s thought process when trying to come up with actual solutions to ‘Murica’s problems (or just spelling potato.) The A-10 hung in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t. I’ll admit I can be pretty good with an RPG sometimes, but I’m not shoot the A-10 out of the stratosphere good!

Not only does the player base seem sparse at times it often feels void of battlefield soul. The release of Hardline will only exacerbate this problem. Equip the night vision scopes, fellow gamers. The future ain’t so bright on this battlefield.

State of the Game: Battlefield 4, JUNE 2014 (XBOX 360) Part 5: HOPE?

Battlefield 4

THE PLAYER BASE FEELS DIFFERENT
Adding to my disillusionment, BF4 seems to have attracted an abundance of CoD kiddies and playing with general population is not the same experience it was for me in BF3.

Too many kills by Snipers and classes running around with Designated Marksman Rifles (a poor game mechanics choice by DICE, IMHO). In Domination people tend to stick on the outside of the map and pick off people capping the flags while your own Snipers are never savvy enough to realize their first priority should be the enemy Snipers. It’s so bad Domination is now my least favorite game mode.

IS THERE HOPE?
Despite my many grievances with BF4 I still find it fun to play, but only with friends.

When I’m alone I find myself playing BF3 or something else entirely. I still believe the single player campaign was well worth the $25 I spent on a used copy. However, considering the lack of servers I’m starting to feel like the $50 I spent on Premium was too much.

In my naivety I thought I would do my part to support the developers because I believe (still do) BF4 is a step in the right direction for the franchise, but I forgot about the corporate douche-nozzles operating Electronic Arts. I was stupid to think they would actually fix the game before implementing cash cows like rented servers and purchasable Battlepacks. I was stupid to think they would not repeat their actions of May 2012 and manufacture predicaments in which people are gently forced to buy servers.

I should have waited till Premium went on sale and so should you.

They’ll fix most of the game eventually and lately the game has been a lot more stable, but they’ve made their money and are not obligated to fix anything. It’s a shitty reality we all must face in the current onslaught of laissez-faire mediocrity ruled crapitalism. All things considered, Battlefield 4’s biggest problem on the 360 is the dwindling player base.

Would more players equate to more available official servers? I don’t know. I’ve worked in marketing and the strategy is always the same. They never do the righteous thing to get you to buy their product. They trick you into buying it or create dilemmas that give you little choice. The printer is only $99, but the ink carts are $50 and you need four of them. The game is only $60, but you’ll want the DLC which is another $60 (you can bet your friends will be playing it!) Wait in queue to play a match or buy your own server.

Marketing people are some of the biggest and most dishonest scumbags on the face of this planet and the older I get the more I tire of their mind games. If it wasn’t for my friends playing BF4, I honestly would have left it alone considering the well deserved negative press surrounding it (another paradigm that works in EA’s favor).

Despite my reservations, I’m glad I did take the chance on it. There’s so much I like about it. It plays different, maybe not better, but I like the changes. The maps are much better designed. The award system, while a total fucking Skinner Box, keeps me entertained and pining for the next Battlepack or unlock.

I can deal with the bugs; occasionally getting shot while safely behind cover; the console crashing; the CoD Kiddies. All that is easily rectified by one loud exclamation of ‘ARE YOU ‘EFFING KIDDING ME?‘ to which my wife yells ‘STFU‘, and with my frustration vented I’m back in the game.

What’s a little hard to deal with is spending over $70 on the gamemost of it on content I haven’t actually received yetin addition to a monthly Xbox Live fee, and I can’t find decent servers to play on quick enoughif at all. I don’t have time to waste waiting in a queue for a game. And that’s just the crux of it.

Besides EA and DICE doing the right thing and putting more official servers into play, the only thing that could possibly fix this is a hearty influx of new players. This won’t happen until they release the BF4 Premium edition, and even then I would suggest everyone wait for it to go on sale for about $35 before they buy into this game because I suspect, at the rate they are going, you’ll have to spend more of your hard-earned money on a rented server if you plan on actually playing the game.

It’s not a terrible game and I will continue to play it. Hell, I even made a kick-ass tDCS BF4 Stats graphic to sign off my BF Diaries articles with! You can’t tell me I’m not a fan of this great game. I still strongly recommend the game with a price caveat (do not spend more than $50 on the Premium edition), though my reasons are selfish; the game needs more players. Specifically, the game needs more Battlefield Veterans to come back.

State of the Game: Battlefield 4, JUNE 2014 (XBOX 360) Part 4: Server Evidence Conclusions

BF4PRICELESSYou’re back! I thank you for sticking with this State of the Game article for this long. I wish I had the time (and willpower) to physically document a ton more research. You’ll have to take my word that I’m a pretty fair and honest guy and while I haven’t been going to the lengths I went to on the 29th, I assure you the data is pretty consistent whenever I pause and take a quick look on Battlelog during my busy day or when start up BF4 to see what the server situation is before playing something else. The official servers are few and far between.

What could be causing this? Microsoft and Xbox Live were having server problems during the time I compiled this research, but that would not account for the problem appearing right after they started renting servers.

Could it be the code? Maybe. You’ll see some of the searches for Carrier Assault turned up the occasional Obliteration or Rush game server as well. It’s apparent much of BF4 was rushed out the door to compete with CoD Ghosts and Battlelog is not as polished as it could be. Maybe the official servers are there and they just aren’t showing up when you look for empty ones.

Maybe it’s the way DICE and EA have it programmed. Does the system “intelligently” add an official server when all the available servers are full? I see no evidence of this and if that is the gist of the way it works, it sucks. Most people who log on and see full servers are going to look for another game mode rather than wait in queue. How would the system determine more servers are needed unless there are extended queues?

Maybe it’s all just part of their whole gimped game problem and will be fixed in time. Maybe it’s a bean counter thing, the sales figures don’t add up so reduce the server count and save electricity. Maybe they are in the process of adding new servers? Maybe half the servers are down while they take the time to properly update them?

I certainly want to be optimistic, but EA’s track record does not endow me with much confidence.

PROFIT AT ANY COST (TO YOU)
The ulterior motive is glaringly apparent. A corporation’s only goal is to make profit for its stockholders. Servers cost money to maintain which the corporation sees as cutting into their profits and not simply the price of doing business. PC gamers have been paying for their own servers in Battlefield since Battlefield God knows When and they are quick to mention this whenever console gamers moan about purchasing servers.

PCGbatSlapBut PC gamers don’t pay a monthly fee just to be able to play the multiplayer aspect of a game on Xbox Live. Multiplayer is the only reason to have an Xbox Live Gold membership. Live members are already paying for their servers and have been for a while.

This is the long game for EA. Ten years from now gamers will forget servers were once considered part of the price of the game. Paying an additional $200 a year to play a game they purchased for $100 will be considered normal. The only question is, with the way Internet Service Providers are savagely raising their fees, will gamers be able to afford such a game ten years from now?

Let’s say all that is a little far fetched and their goal is more modest. EA and DICE simply need to sell servers to make up for poor BF4 sales and the overtime needed to fix the game in a timely manner (if they even care about fixing the game in a timely manner).

The history of rented Battlefield servers on Xbox is one filled with bad memories that still sit strong in the minds of many adult Xbox Battlefielders. Friends being ‘team balanced’ despite numerous verbal pleas to leave your squad alone. No using this, that and that gun on a Tuesday during a full moon. No shooting the admin’s clan with IGLAs or Stingers while they are decimating your team from the sky. No shooting the admin more than once in a match. Kicked for this. Kicked for that. Kicked for friends…

So it goes without saying most people out there avoid rented servers like the plague. But the idea of having your own server with your own rules is very appealing and countless people are sure to try it for a few days at least. It’s doubtful they will return after the server sat empty for most of those days. The solution? Eliminate official servers thereby forcing players onto the rented ones.

THINGS AREN’T ALL BAD THIS TIME AROUND
Rented servers were more miss than hit on BF3, but I will concede the Admin Douche-Bucket paradigm is less of a factor in BF4.

As I’ve stated before in this article, I am thankful a majority of  server admins are not compounding the problem further by demanding ludicrous and often insane rules on their servers. In fact, quite a few servers have ‘NO RULES’ clearly stated in their message which is often followed by a ‘don’t be a douche’ caveat; a perfectly reasonable request in my books.

I thank those admins from the bottom of my heart. Your efforts to not be totalitarian douche-nozzles is duly noted. However, you can still be booted ‘to make room for friends’ on many of these servers. Something I feel they have the right to do even though I wouldn’t do it myself nor would I request a friend with a server make room for me in such a fashion.

Finding an official server was not a problem before they started renting servers. I can’t reiterate that enough. Before rented servers went live there were tons of official servers. And while the data does reflect a decent amount of rented servers to choose from, they are full most of the time and taking the time to vet them for obnoxious rules and jumping in before those few available slots fill up is another story entirely. Add a squad of friends into the mix and you’re in for one hell of a stormy ride.

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow for the final part of this State of the Game article when I will discuss the changing player base and the hope I have for this game.

State of the Game: Battlefield 4, JUNE 2014 (XBOX 360) Part 3: MIA SERVERS; The evidence

ServerQuestThe day they announced rented servers had gone live was the day finding an official server became exercises in patience and persistence. After two weeks of this nonsense I decided to document the problem. After about a day of documenting the problem I decided that it’s really not worth my time. I’m not married to this rant (which is honestly a legitimate complaint).

I must make it absolutely clear I am enjoying Battlefield 4 and I can deal with the bugs (which are all slowly and surely getting fixed). Alas, I can only truly enjoy the game when I can actually find a game. And therein lies the problem.

The following data I collected on May 29th 2014. I’m using Carrier Assault because this is where the problem is most noticeable. I was going to place the screen shots in the actual article but that would make the piece excessively long and difficult to read. I’ve presented my evidence in text with links embedded in the dates to the screenshots at Photobucket.

The following was very briefly compiled after a night of gaming. I took the screenshots with my HTC Amaze and the in-game search settings I used were: Free Slots – All checked (including full servers); Server Type: Official, Ranked; Preset: Normal; Region – US East & West.

5/29/2014 @ 12:55 AM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 0 (ZERO)
— RENTED SERVERS: 3, 1 w/ 4 slots, 2 w/ 23 slots,  1 with a NO RPG caveat in server description

5/29/2014 @ 12:57 AM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 0 (ZERO)
— RENTED SERVERS: 7, 5 full, 1 w/ 2 slots, 1 w/ 23 slots and NO RPG caveat in server description

I was going to stay up longer but decided this would be easier using Battlelog on my PC the next day. Though I have only used two examples here they are indicative of my in-game search results for Carrier Assault since DICE/EA started renting servers; ZERO OFFICIAL SERVERS!

The next day I would periodically check in on the Battlelog Multiplayer Server Browser and take screen shots of the data. The Search settings I used were: Mode – Carrier Assault; Free Slots – None, 1-5, 6-10, 10+, All; Type – Official, Ranked.

Keep in mind that there is no option to select region on the Battlelog Multiplayer Server Browser and there is no way for me to see if the rented servers have ridiculous rules so I did not include their details in the text data (I did not edit them out of the screen shots). The focus of this complaint is the amount of OFFICIAL servers available. Keep in mind that servers with 1-3 open slots will fill up fast and throw you into a queue more often than not.

5/29/2014 @ 3:00 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 4, 3 full, 1 w/ 23 slots, all 4 w/ crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 8, 3 full, 1 w/ 1 slot, 2 w/ 3 slots,  1 w/ 6 slots, 1 w/ 23 slots

5/29/2014 @ 3:10 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3,  all full, all w/ crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 9, mostly full

5/29/2014 @ 3:20 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 4, 3 full, 1 empty but it’s a RUSH server! (the search is for CA)
— RENTED SERVERS: 7, 6 full, 2 w/ queues
* It’s worth noting that someone called their server THE LAST PREMIUM SERVER *CARRIER ASSAULT*… Irony?

5/29/2014 @ 3:30 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3, all full and w/ crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 8, mostly full, 1 w/ queue

5/29/2014 @ 3:35 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3,  1 w/ queue, 1 w/ 1 slot, 1 w/ 5 slots, all with crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 8, mostly full

5/29/2014 @ 5:35 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3, all full, 1 w/ crappy PING, 2 w/ really crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 11, mostly full

5/29/2014 @ 6:15 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 4, 1 full w/ really crappy PING, 1 w/ 1 slot, 1 w/ 4 slots, 1 w/ 23 slots, and all 3 w/ crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 10, mostly full

5/29/2014 @ 6:50 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3, 2 full, 1 w/ 6 slots | all 3 w/ really crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 11, mostly full

5/29/2014 @ 7:30 PM
— OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3, 1 w/ 1 slot, 2 w/ 7 slots and all 3 w/ really crappy PINGS
— RENTED SERVERS: 10, all full, 1 w/ queue

5/29/2014 @ 8:34 PM
OFFICIAL SERVERS: 3, 1 full w/ really crappy PING, 1 w/ 15 slots, 1 w/ 1 slot and BOTH w/ unbelievably crappy PINGS.
RENTED SERVERS: 13, mostly full, most w/ crap PINGS.

5/29/2014 @ 8:50 PM
OFFICIAL SERVERS: 4, 1 Defuse… WTF? 3 w/ 3, 6, and 19 slots ALL w/ unbelievably crappy PINGS.
RENTED SERVERS: 12, mostly full, some w/ queues all with crap PINGS

Regarding the PING rates: I have a solid Comcast XFINITY connection, but I suspect the piss-poor PING rates are due the fact the only official servers are not located in the USA (these servers do not show up in the in-game server browser with only US East & West servers selected). I will also concede the severely poor PINGS occurred during peak hours which is more of a testament to our crap internet infrastructure than anything else. “Murican exceptionalism at its finest, folks!

Still, I believe with just half a day’s worth of documented research I have succinctly proved my point. There are few, if any, official DICE/EA servers to go around.

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow for part four when I will discuss what we can glean from this research.

State of the Game: Battlefield 4, JUNE 2014 (XBOX 360) Part 2: MIA SERVERS

 ServerQuestTHE FABULOUS RETURN OF THE
GREAT BF3 SERVER FIASCO OF MAY 2012
There does not seem to be enough servers. Official or rented (at times). Search for servers with 1-10 or zero players in them and you’ll find none (in BF3 there are always empty servers). For game modes like Carrier Assault you will find mostly full games and be forced to wait in queue.

This problem only showed up right after the addition of rental servers. One would think I’d have more to say on the subject, but I’m an adult and I should have known better. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… DICE pulled this stunt on BF3. They just rinsed and repeated the standard corporate sponsored customer buggery and this time they may have no intention of fixing the problem. All the YouTubers who would normally cry fowl have moved on to NextGen (thanks to our support) and besides them having their own server problems, they no longer give a rat’s arse what happens on Xbox 360.

THE ADMIN POWER TRIP IS NOTICEABLY ABSENT
Thankfully the server problem is not being compounded by an influx of douche-nozzle admins this time. You’ll still have the 6 hour long games in Metro to watch out for, but at least I haven’t been kicked for using an IGLA on an Admin Flyb0y69… … … YET!

It could be the daft sods throwing their money away on rented servers are aware of the limited player base and have turned down their Power-Trip-Douche-Dials from eleven to about an even 5. Still, you’ll run the gambit of “getting kicked for friends” which may happen more often than not considering the actual amount of available servers in certain game modes and DLC.

Not enough official servers is my biggest grievance with DICE and EA on BF4. As a Premium member (who also pays an Xbox Live monthly fee), I should not have to wait in a queue and there should be at least 5 OFFICIAL DICE or EA empty servers for any game mode available at all times. As I said, fool me twice!

I UNDERSTAND IT’S PLAYER POPULATION AS WELL
The Xbox BF4 player population was split from the start with some people moving to the XBOX ONE right away. However, globally the Xbox 360 edition of BF4 far outsold the Xbox ONE version. Using sales figures alone there should be a ton more servers on the 360 than there is.

Then there are the droves of people that left the game in disgust and the typical corporate knee-jerk reaction to such a dilemma. Seeing the population falter, the bean counters may have decided to cut back on official servers in a vain effort to force the more loyal player base to rent a server in order to find a game they want to play. This time EA doesn’t have to worry about popular YouTube gamers reporting on this. It’s a win-win for Electronic Arts and a giant f%#k you to their customers. EA is really good at giant F%#K YOU(S) to their customers.

A few years ago I would have ranted about this to the point of veins bursting inside my head. I just don’t give a shit anymoreFirst World Problems and all thatthis time I’m shouldering the responsibility. When it comes right down to it I have no right to be upset. I just have to consider my experiences when purchasing any future products from these companies.

Not that I believe I’ll have any affect on the market. The free market is now the stockholder. EA proved this when they ignored player complaints about their broken game and only acted to acknowledge the bugs and fix BF4 after the stockholders threatened to sue them. This isn’t about sticking to the man. This is about saving myself from utter disappointment in the future. Corporations are entrenched in greed fueled single-minded tunnel vision and the mindless consumer masses are nothing but ATM machines. ATM machines with very low standards. The sheer amount of consumers in the world works against those very same customers. EA plays the odds, and odds are most of consumers don’t care much about product quality or truly understand the technology of what they purchase and therefore what they should expect. All is well in LaLa Land as long as it turns on or loads up.

All that said, the lack of servers is disheartening. Carrier Assault is by far my favorite game mode these days. Servers for it are few and only one of my regular gaming friends has the DLC. Not that it would make a difference if more of my friends had it… It would just make trying to find a server with enough spots and no idiotic admin rules that much harder to find.

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow for part three when I will present evidence of the missing servers.

State of the Game: Battlefield 4 JUNE 2014 (XBOX 360) Part 1: Interface Woes

BF4BUGSI’ve come to the conclusion there are enough bugs in the entire game to re-shoot the scene in Temple of Doom were Kate Capshaw had to stick her hand in a hole full of creepy crawlers which, coincidentally, is exactly how I feel when I start up BF4 sometimes!

The first draft of this article had me complaining about the console crashing bugs on certain maps. That draft was over a week old and I’m pleased to say the console crashing is happening a lot less frequently lately. YAY DICE! Good job, and thank you. That said, it does still crash… Look, I’m trying to throw DICE a bone here!

Other bugs still exist. There is something fishy with the netcode (they have increased the tick rate on their Community Test Environment, we’ll see if this helps consoles any sometime soon). You will be shot while 100% behind cover. The death cam needs tweaking. Avatars will moonwalk on their butts across the map. Lots of ways for Snipers to glitch. And many of the weapons need balancing. I am confident DICE will address most of these issues in time. Despite my unusual optimism, I persistently wonder if I wasted my money on Premium, but not because of the bugs. I can deal with the bugs.

The real dilemma is finding a game.

From the poorly designed interface to an appalling lack of official servers (which only happened after they rented servers, kowinky-dink?), just finding and getting into a game is a wee bit vexing at times.

WHO DESIGNED THE INTERFACE?
The interface is cut and pasted from the PC version. The fact you can’t adjust your soldier/vehicle loadout without being in a game is not only frustrating, it is one of the single most stupid design decisions in the history of console gaming.

I suppose the implementation of a more robust Battlelog experience was meant to alleviate this. In reality it’s totally useless unless you have a PC or tabletpreferably a PC Tabletnext to you while you play and even then it’s more of an exercise in tedium than a leap in innovation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool feature—it would be better if I could access things like soldier presets from inside the game.

The Squad Up feature has finally returned. It’s half-assed. It will throw you into a rented server without giving you the opportunity to vet it and chances are it’ll be some crack-pilot’s server with the no IGLA or Stinger rule. Squad Up needs more robust search options or have rented servers eliminated from its search entirely until they do add more robust options.

JOINME

WARNING: MAY CAUSE SEIZURES!

The best way to find a game on a reliable server with a group of friends is have them select you on the ‘epileptic fit waiting to happen screen‘ and join on you when you’ve found a game with enough empty spaces (good luck with that).

The folks at DICE would do well to study the life and times of Steve Jobs a bit because searching for a server is a convoluted process. Continuity, fluidity, ergonomic functionality, all these things and more are absent from the interface design.

There’s no way to search for only DICE or EA servers (though I concede, this is probably on purpose). The map selection column is painful to look at with no option to quickly select specific DLC or the just core maps (for those times when your friends have none or some of the DLC). The problems run deeper into the coding; the search results aren’t always what you asked for, and as if that wasn’t enough, the game often erases your search settings.

When you do finally manage to successfully navigate the game’s clunky interface and find a game, you’ll end up in a queue…

Thank you for reading and please come back tomorrow for part two when we will discuss the lack of official servers on the 360.

State of the Game: Battlefield 4, MAY 2014 (XBOX 360) – Part 2

Battlefield 4Welcome to part 2 of my Battlefield 4 State of the Game article.

BUGS AND FREEZES?
Not going to lie, everyone I’ve played with has experienced everything from game crashing to console crashing problems. The map Dawnbreaker consistently crashes for everyone, though it has been stable for TDM matches (a smaller map). There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason for it, it will crash if there is a lot of action on the screen and it will crash if you are standing back at your empty base deciding a better plan of attack. This is unacceptable and DICE must fix this. Dawnbreaker is a great map and I would love to make it through a round with having to restart my Xbox.

Installing the game to your hard drive may belay crashing issues a little. Maybe delete all the updates, clear the cache on the drive and download the updates again if you’ve had the game since release. With a fresh May 2014 install of BF4 (I installed both disks) I have not experienced as many crashes as I thought I would, very few in fact. I’m not saying that I have the solution, only that it is something you should take the time to try if you are experiencing severe problems.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE TICKRATE (NETCODE)?
For those not tech savvy, the tickrate is basically how often the computers update player’s positions on the map. Counter Strike’s is something like 100, while BF4’s is 10. However, there is no concrete proof that all the rubber-banding, and oddball happenings (like getting shot from behind a concrete wall or by an enemy that had his back turned to you) is solely due to the tickrate. I will say the low refresh rate of player positions is most noticeable on the mini-map making it very unreliable and pretty much useless.
All in all, I haven’t noticed anything game breaking here and the one thing I do know from my years of gaming is sometimes the Lag Gods favor you and sometimes they curse you. Most of the time the game is pretty stable on the 360.

If you’re experiencing severe lag issues go into your BF4 Options and look under the gameplay tab for Network Smoothing Factor and reduce it to ZERO. It seems to work for me and I have not noticed a degradation in graphics or experienced any visual errors the description of this setting suggests. Never do QUICK MATCH. Browse the servers and only join ones with three bars or higher. And do what the “pros” do if you’re having a really bad game, back-out of it and find another server.

That being said, the game is frustrating at times. Especially when you can’t find your groove and it seems like everyone is shooting you from impossible positions on the map. I don’t know if it’s shoddy netcode, the kill cam showing the enemy’s position too far after the fact, or just that I haven’t found my gun and my go to class yet. It’s probably a little of all of these factors and then some.

THEY DID A LOT OF THINGS RIGHT
Overall it’s an improvement on the series. There’s plenty of game modes right out of the box and the maps are much better designed, even the DLC maps. Except for Flood Zone which is a sniper camp fest for every class now that DMRs are in the game. It’s my Tehran Highway at this point. I hated Tehran Highway. Naval Strike is probably the best expansion in the history of the franchise. Progression through the game is fun and rewarding. Getting a new Battlepack every few levels is like getting a neat little gift for your efforts and the rewards in them are not game changing, just fun camos and different sights for the guns.

NO ONE TALKS ABOUT THE SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN
They did, but no one liked it. Gamers are fussy little gits harder to please than a Reagan loving Conservative pissed off with the right of Reagan black guy in the White House. BF4’s single player campaign was simply amazing. A far cry from the half-arsed forgettable crap that was in BF3. It’s well written, well acted and played wonderful. It’s been a while since a game pulled on my heartstrings enough to draw a tear and honestly, the single player alone was worth the $23 I spent. I don’t care what anyone says. The single player experience may have been short, but it was one hell of a ride. The only thing that would have made it better was if they implemented a slight roleplaying mechanic into it, so that your character could respond to the people talking to him. Like this one time the Marines on your ship were griping about something humane your teammate did; it would have been nice to tell them to fuck off, we’re Americans, helping people is what we do. Another disappointment was its Fallout 3 ending. The game gives you some choices but leaves out the most obvious one, like sending the Mutant companion into the radiated area to hit a simple switch, only in reverse, and you’re not a mutant, and the area isn’t radiated.

IS IT WORTH GETTING?
On the Xbox 360 I would say yes. I loved it so much I promptly went and blew the rest of my gaming budget for the year on Premium. If you’ve been following tDCS for any amount of time you would know that I’m one frugal gamer. For me to blow that much money on just DLC for a game is strange, especially considering my history with the franchise!

The game can be frustrating, but like I said, I’m not sure if it is frustrating for me because I don’t have everything unlocked yet and I haven’t found the guns, kits and play style that works for me in BF4 or if the netcode and programming is too shoddy. This past weekend was especially frustrating as I saw my stats go down faster than Bristol Palin on prom night. I suspect it had a little to do with it being a double XP Premium event and a lot of the ubers were on trying to squeeze a level or two to brag about, and I was experimenting with different guns on my assault class.

Yes, I’m worried they won’t fix the game. I’m worried they will push out the final DLC, say goodbye and leave all the bugs and the game unbalanced ala Modern Warfare 2. I’m worried I may have blown the rest of my gaming budget on a digital drinks coaster. We are talking about Electronic Arts after all.

If you are on the fence about BF4 I would suggest getting a used copy off Amazon for under $25. It is most definitely worth that much. If you like it grab a map pack or two or just get Premium. We all have to be smarter consumers. It’s why I bought the game used. It’s why you may want to wait until the Premium Edition is released and save a bit of money.

If you are looking for a new shooter, fear not, despite its problems Battlefield still blows CoD away.

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