I’ll cut to the chase and tell you exactly what I think: the Battlefield 3 public beta is the single most mismanaged and ill-conceived beta test I’ve ever participated in. Oh, the game itself is fine, I actually quite enjoy it despite the bugs; Electronic Arts and DICE’s attitude towards the players and lack of attention to detail? Not so much. Read on to find out why I think so.
How could EA and DICE release an open beta less than a month before release and not expect people to judge the quality of the finished product based on their beta experience? Apparently, Battlefield 3 must generate some kind of reality distortion field, since that thought never crossed their minds before they went ahead with the beta. In fact, DICE’s Global Battlefield Community Manager Daniel “zh1nt0” Matros had the cheek to chide us for not knowing what a beta test is. I don’t know about you, but as someone who has participated in countless closed and open betas, I took that as a slap in the face.
To make things worse, it seems that the developers and publishers have no idea how to run a beta test. In response to a question on why the Caspian Border map was not made available in the beta, EA’s Battlefield 3 community manager Ian Tornay stated on Twitter: “We can either put work into doing that or into the final product – which would you prefer?” Excuse me, but isn’t the point of any beta to test content, discover bugs and fix them in time for the release of the final product? How is that supposed to happen that if said content is not made available during the beta?
In many ways, those two statements by the Battlefield 3 community managers highlights the real problem here: the utter lack of communication and outreach from DICE and EA about the beta. Instead of telling us from the beginning that the beta was an old build and that many of the bugs we see in-game have been already fixed, DICE saw fit to only inform players of this a full 4 days after the beta first begun. In fact, DICE never told us exactly what was to be tested in the beta until they posted this particular update on the Battlefield blog — a curious choice instead of the Battlelog news section, which has since become the primary news source for players participating in the beta.
Information about the beta continues to be scattered across multiple sources, ranging from the official sources like the Battlefield website and the Battlelog news section, to unofficial sources like developer Twitter accounts and unconfirmed sources such as people who claimed to have played the Battlefield 3 alpha test. DICE themselves have made statements — such as a veiled threat to ban your entire EA Origin account if you played on hacked servers — which were subsequently withdrawn or deleted. Because of this, beta participants were left to speculate on their own and there has simply been so much misinformation spread throughout the community.
All these issues wouldn’t have been a problem, if only EA and DICE had a consistent and authoritative message splashed across multiple platforms and trusted media right from the beginning. Instead, we’re forced to trawl through the hundreds of Twitter updates from @battlefield, @demize99, @zh1nto, @crash7800 and @Elxx in the attempt to find some reliable information and learn of bugs that were already identified and fixed. This isn’t rocket science; if Blizzard’s community managers can maintain and update a detailed list of known Diablo III beta bugs in the official forums, why can’t DICE do the same?
While I understand this is a beta — and that problems in betas generally get fixed before launch day — the total mismanagement of the Battlefield 3 beta and the lack of communication from EA and DICE has caused myself and many others to think twice about purchasing the game. That is a real pity, because — make no mistake — once you get past the Battlelog issues, game bugs and other beta annoyances, Battlefield 3 is great fun. Enough fun that my friends and I come back for more every night despite the frequent crashes and inability to play in the same squad or team even if you join as a party.
Whether I, and others like me sitting on the fence, will pick up the game on launch day will depend on how well EA and DICE can clear the air of uncertainty and doubt that they have created through this sorry excuse for a beta test.
Update: The lead photo was previously a screenshot of a Tweet from @battlefield claiming that “34k pre-orders” were cancelled. It has since come to my attention through Reddit that the screenshot is possibly fake and I have replaced it.