Over a few days, the conversation surrounding Star Wars Battlefront 2 went from folks happily blasting away in the Play First Trial, to maths-driven outrage, to sweeping changes in how the game lets you unlock its biggest hero characters. All that and the game isn't even out yet.
Over the weekend, a Reddit user made a spreadsheet and determined that earning enough credits to unlock high-end heroes like Luke and Darth Vader solely by playing the flagship Galactic Assault multiplayer mode would take about 40 hours. EA explained in another Reddit comment that it wanted people to keep playing Battlefront 2 for a long time and hero costs were set to reflect that goal. In perhaps the most pristine "That's The Internet For You" moment of 2017, EA's response quickly became what appears to be the most downvoted Reddit post ever. Each user account can only vote once, up or down, and it's sitting at about -671,000 right now.
Yes, very likely the most-disliked Reddit post in history is now an official statement about a progression system in a video game. Consider it a continuation of those "worst company in the world" online polls that managed to cast EA as more nefarious than predatory lenders and profiteering medical insurance groups.
Grind is a video game staple, why was this different?
For argument's sake, let's assume the Reddit math was imperfect. We know it doesn't include credits earned from completing in-game Challenges, for instance. Being extra generous, we'll say that for most users it only takes half of the estimated time to earn enough credits to unlock heroes like Luke and Luke's Dad. So… 20 hours. Which is still a really long time to play for just one frickin' character.
Yes, they're supposed to be prestige heroes; you're supposed to get chills when, instead of fighting your dozenth Darth Maul for the day, you hear that "khoooo hahhhhh" breathing apparatus noise coming from down the hall. And you can't buy these heroes with crystals, the microtransaction currency, so at least it's the same long grind for everybody, right? Nope. Loot crates have credits in them and you can totally buy those with crystals
Unlike, say, a particularly impressive Overwatch skin, playing with a rare hero in Battlefront 2 could totally give you a edge in combat. Even if they're all perfectly balanced in terms of damage output and utility, people won't know how to counter rare heroes nearly as well.
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In short, folks were right to think the system was out of whack. Civil complaints and canceled pre-orders were justified. But then…
There were death threats, weren't there?
Ugh. Yes. One EA developer, whose Twitter account is now set to private, said they had received seven of them. Death threats are never okay, even joking ones. I hope the people who sent them get prosecuted because this has to stop.
Update: Kotaku did some digging and it looks like the developer I mentioned above might not actually be an EA employee, which also implies that the death threat claim could be fabricated. It's a really weird story, especially because the Twitter account has been around for years and is followed by/interacts with multiple actual EA employees.
So what did EA do?
Aside from hopefully calling the cops on the death threats? Well, EA revealed on Monday that it was cutting hero costs in response to the outcry: "top heroes" like Luke and Vader can now be unlocked for 15,000 credits instead of 60,000, and campaign hero Iden Versio will run you a modest 5,000 instead of 20,000. It'll still be a time commitment to earn heroes - one that can be shortened by spending real-world cash - but 75 percent less of a grind.
This is the second time in about as many weeks that EA's announced substantial changes to Battlefront 2 in response to angry fan feedback. Last time it moved most weapon unlocks out of loot boxes and put them behind specific class advancement milestones, among other changes. Sadly, some of those "fixes" only worsened the overly complicated progression system we critiqued in our Star Wars Battlefront 2 review. Hopefully things go smoother once the game actually comes out on Friday and Star Wars Battlefront 2: The Last Jedi season begins in December.