Conflict Between Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty Resolved
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 18th Apr 2011
Earlier this month Gaming Update offered a succinct assessment of our take on the upcoming Uber Title Battlefield 3 (http://www.gamingupdate.com/articles/42/Battlefield-3-Prediction) in which we pretty much state what is obvious to anyone who has spent some time playing the game -- like us -- and were we surprised by the literal flood of email that resulted!
The email basically consisted of two different camps -- them what agrees with us, and them what don't. Yar!
The former is made up of gamers who represent a mixture of past series fans and those willing to be pleased, while the latter is pretty much every CoD fan on the planet. The core issues in play here are an amalgamation of two basic themes -- first that Battlefield 3 is part of the Bad Company series (it is not), and second, that Battlefield 3 represents the hijacking of the CoD series, which could not be further from the truth.
There is a lot of fear being projected here -- which begs the question -- what exactly is it that they have to be afraid of?
Coke vs. Pepsi and Star Trek
The Cola Wars first erupted in the 1980's, when Coke and Pepsi went for each others throats and, naturally, dragged a polarized consumer public with them into the fray. At stake was the issue of which brand was the most popular -- and despite the fact that they are two very different products that taste nothing alike, considerable effort and money was spent to portray them as the same, with one being superior to the other. For a brief period in the 1990's a second Cola War erupted in the UK that had similar roots, but in the end it arrived at the very same resolution.
The wars ended at a draw, because as much as the advertising folks would like us to believe and embrace the notion that a cola is a cola, the truth is far simpler. Some people like Coke, some people like Pepsi, and some people could care less either way.
If you presumed that the same basic condition prevails with respect to Battlefield 3 and CoD, well, that would be a mistake. Unlike the Cola Wars, where two different products were being forced into the same category, these two games are very similar, and when you dismiss the rhetoric and the posturing, it becomes very obvious that both sides are aware of that fact.
The crux of the issue appears to be the conviction on the part of the CoD crowd that EA's foray into squad-based realistic modern military shooter territory can be construed as nothing but a blatant attempt to steal CoD's thunder. That they are two very different games, and that each brings something different and special to the table does not seem to matter -- it is the similarities that appear to be blinding the gamers in this case. Even more interesting though is the history behind these games -- a history that reminds me of an episode of Star Trek called Let That Be Your Last Battlefield .
(foreshadowing) The U.S.S. Enterprise intercepts a stolen Federation shuttlecraft which contains a humanoid named Lokai, being pursued by another ship with a bloke named Bele on it who comes from the same planet as Lokai.
Lokai tells the crew he is from the planet Cheron, and asks for asylum on the U.S.S. Enterprise. His most distinctive feature is that he is half black and half white, starkly separated down the middle of his body. Bele -- who has black and white skin that is reversed from Lokai's -- claims to be Cheron's chief officer sent out to bring in political traitors, of which Lokai is allegedly among.
In the end of the episode the crew of the Enterprise discovers that Cheron is a long-dead planet annihilated by interracial bigotry. Lokai beams down to the surface to escape Bele, who follows, and the Enterprise leaves them on their planet to decide their own fates. (/foreshadowing)
The CoD series has traditionally been about historic battles and theaters, with a strong focus on the single-player campaign mode and, in later generations, a change of focus weighted towards the multi-player side. According to the trend analysis the last two games in the CoD series were driven largely by their multi-player side, with the surprising result that more gamers skipped the campaign mode and played the multi-player side than not.
Battlefield has traditionally been about conquest mode -- with large maps and a greater variety of vehicles -- with the multi-player side being its primary focus.
The Bad Company series was created as a a spin-off from Battlefield, with its core focus being a well-developed and interesting single-player campaign with an over-the-top and exaggerated voice on military combat. What little multi-player it had was added late in its development, as a response to gamer desires, and that shows clearly in play.
Battlefield 3 is a horse of a completely different color entirely, being a mixture of both approaches. Taking the best of the lessons learned in Battlefield, Modern Combat, and the excellent single-player campaign lessons from the Bad Company series, the developers have fused the two together to present the first well-rounded and intense offering in the main series.
The truth is very simple -- both of these game series have evolved from generation to generation in response to the interest of their fans. The CoD games started out being focused upon single-player campaigns depicting combat in historic battles, and evolved into a primarily multi-player PvP modern combat arena. The Battlefield games started out being focused upon multi-player PvP play on complex and large maps, and evolved its focus upon a richer and more satisfying single-player campaign.
Up until the last generation of the games in both series, what we had was two well established war games, each with a solid fan base, that started out as one thing and became another. But that ended with the previous generation of each, because what we have today are two games that have focused upon delivering both gaming experiences in one bite, and from all appearances it looks like Battlefield 3 has attained perfection first.
In other words the developers have out-CoD'd CoD, and that is at the heart of the friction between the two camps.
In the process of reading and replying to the flood of email that we received as a result of the Prediction Article -- and yes, we read every one and answered every one because that's how we roll -- a pattern began to emerge. A level of clarity that we had not anticipated revealed the true underlying cause for what we feel is an extreme amount of misplaced anger from the CoD side of the room, so we thought that it might help if we set the record straight and, just maybe, help them to understand Battlefield 3.
The main goal for both of these series was always to create a game that will be played and enjoyed by both camps -- single-player and multi-player -- making it literally all things to all people in that narrow genre of gaming. The idea was to create a game in which PvP fans will want to play the story mode, and story mode fans will want to play PvP -- a worthy goal that has, at least until now, failed in both series.
The evolutionary process has manifested itself in different ways and along different paths for each of the two -- the most recent CoD game included changes that were intended to take it to the place that Battlefield 3 appears to have reached -- a ranking system and smaller maps, unlockable weapons, smaller numbers for the PvP matches, and vehicles, while its campaign side was tweaked with a focus upon story quality and voice acting, more combat support elements and vehicles.
The tweaks to Battlefield that has resulted in it arriving at that magical destination first include larger maps with more players on the PvP side, squad-focus with more realism in tactics, and a ranking system with unlockable weapons. On the campaign side they have injected more humor into the much better and deeper story lines, a much improved graphical engine that permits a more realistic visual experience, and the inclusion of modern tactics and events that quickly brings clarity to the mission.
It appears from the outside looking in that the folks behind Battlefield 3 simply recognized the issues that were holding the series back and fixed them, and the folks who develop CoD have not done so well at that. Both of these games were headed in the right direction -- are headed in the right direction -- and both are building in more effective anti-cheat code, a wider server pool, and game depth that is keeping fans playing longer, and more often.
In the end, the crime that Battlefield 3 perpetrated was arriving at the right mixture of features and content before CoD did. Of course, all that really means is that for a brief few months Battlefield 3 will be King of the Hill in that genre... At least until the next CoD comes out, at which point we expect that they will have tweaked it to better focus upon the interests of the gamers -- like Battlefield 3 has done -- and like Battlefield 3, will have set the bar even higher so that the next Battlefield game has more to accomplish, and more to beat.
That is the beauty of the competitive system that these games exist under -- and in the end, it is the gamer who benefits from this system! Well, most gamers -- because the uber fans who swear by one title and denigrate the other simply because it exists do not benefit because their blind loyalty keeps them away from the competition.
After sorting through the ton of email, reading and replying, and giving careful consideration to everything that was said, along with the hopes, the dreams, and the desires of the gamers who wrote to us, we find that in the end there is only real villain here: intolerant fans.