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Why Battlefield 4's DLC delay is actually a good thing

Future plans for Battlefield 4 (opens in new tab) DLC are on hold for now (opens in new tab), as developer DICE looks to squash the majority of bugs that remain in the game. According to an EA spokesperson, talking to CVG: “the team at DICE is working non-stop to update the game”. Fair enough--it’s a smart move from EA in terms of winning back credibility and trust from players who have experienced problems with the game. However, it’s not an entirely selfless move either.

Personally, I’ve only experienced a single crash during roughly 12 hours of Battlefield 4 on PS4. My game failed to load a map at the start of one session, so I quit out of the application, closed it, and restarted. Took about 30 seconds. No stats lost, no need to unplug my machine and do the restart dance. Hey, maybe I’m just lucky--I know others who claim to have serious problems with the game. If you've had problems, do let me know in the comments. I'll commiserate with you as sincerely as possible.

It’s hardly a surprise. Battlefield games are notoriously buggy during the first few weeks, as the game’s online features go from having 100 or so test players to several million actual players within a couple of days. As I’ve said before, you can't simulate these conditions (opens in new tab), so people are always going to find problems. The serious bug issues have persisted longer than most expected--including myself--but I'm an optimist, so I like to think it's because this is the most ambitious game in the series ever. Ok, that’s the background.

EA’s decision to tackle the bugs for good will certainly be welcomed by the vocal elements online; the players who shout loudest about their grievances. Quite rightly so--it shows everyone that the problem is being taken seriously, and not swept under the figurative carpet.

However, if the latest slew of bugs in the new China Rising DLC (opens in new tab) (which launched for Premium subscribers on Tuesday) are any indication, then EA and DICE desperately need to stabilise Battlefield 4 before releasing any more ‘stuff’ into it. This isn’t just about reputation and player experience--this is about knowing what you can and can’t do within your own gaming environment. All these problems arising from the game’s launch on not only existing consoles, but brand-new hardware too, are clearly showing DICE what does and doesn’t work in Battlefield 4 online. And that will definitely influence the way it approaches future DLC.

There are clearly issues with some of the basic elements of Battlefield 4, which are causing coding conflicts to arise. In other words, some stuff just doesn’t play nicely with other stuff, and the game can’t handle that… and it crashes. Again, it’s totally understandable that this is happening--you can’t stress test most of that stuff, especially when you’re dealing with (as DICE were earlier this year) non-final hardware. Equally, though, you need to address these issues before throwing more potential problems into the mix.

That’s exactly what the guys and girls at DICE are doing, so credit to them. And yes, they get to win a PR battle too. It kills two (Little) Birds with one stone (IGLA). The battle now is to use this time to smash the majority of the bugs quickly. If this drags on, it won’t just make the forum-threads angrier: it’ll delay DLC and / or make it far less satisfying than DICE has planned for. And that would be a huge, huge shame.