There has been a lot of debate lately on whether the Battlefield 3 beta is good or bad, and really on just what kind of purpose a beta should serve. We will save the talk on what a beta should be for another time, and focus mainly on Battlefield 3 and if in fact this is a “good” beta. I will say I am having fun with the beta but there are three key areas where I think EA and DICE completely screwed up with the beta release.
Scale, or Lack of it
EA and DICE have spent the majority of their development time trying to convince people that Battlefield 3 is, and will be, better than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. They have explained ad nauseam the differences between the two and how BF3 has a larger scale and vehicles. So here comes your beta release for this game of huge scale and lots of vehicles, and yet you don’t have a map that has either of these, and instead focuses on a smaller, infantry-based map. First off, how can DICE properly test the servers for a game of this scale, with a small map and no vehicles? What this does is confuse some of the more casual gamers who play the beta or read about it, only to hear nothing about tanks and planes, but all about squads. It does a poor job of representing what your product has to offer, even though it is just a beta. Beta’s are not treated the way they used to be and sadly, a lot of people will base their purchase on how the beta played.
Lack of Options
When I played the Uncharted 3 beta, there were two very different maps and even a few different modes to try, properly testing the software while also giving gamers a great taste of all the different multiplayer options the game has to offer. In Battlefield 3 however, there is only one map and one mode, which as I did before, does not properly showcase your game, nor can it be that good for stress testing the many different scenarios the team is sure to face. I know I may be nitpicking with this last one, but it would also be nice for the options that are there to work, especially so close to launch. These options include proper squad joining and the ability to join a game as a squad and stay as a squad. Yes, this is a beta and bugs are expected, but when you see this issue and know that this was also a major issue in Bad Company 2, it’s tough not to be a bit nervous.
Most of the time when you join up on a beta and start to get your hands on the game, you are usually months away from release of the game, sometimes longer. That is why the timing of the Battlefield 3 beta was a bit of a shock, as PS Plus subscribers, which I would think is the majority of the testers, got in late September. I know nothing about fixing issues from a beta, but to me this seems fairly last second to find and fix bugs before launch, especially when there have been a number of reported issues with the beta software – and it’s important to note that a game has to be completed and sent off to be printed weeks before release. Does this mean we could be seeing the release of a buggy game that receives patches the first few days?
In the end though, this is still a beta and it should be treated as such, but with the beta so close to release and an infantry only map, you can’t help that some people might get a bit cancel happy. One thing is for sure though, betas are not what they used to be and their perception among gamers has changed, where, like it or not, people expect more from a beta and will base their purchase off it, especially when it releases a month before the game does. Just know, I still plan to pick this game up and I will see you on the battlefield later this month.. Suit Up!