I played some Battlefield 4 multiplayer last night. I know, I know, OnlySP and all. But hey, we all have our guilty pleasures.
Well, actually, that’s not quite true. I tried to play some Battlefield 4 multiplayer last night.
Getting comfy in front of my desktop gaming PC, at which I do all my high intensity gaming, was a simple process. Bum meet chair. Headphones. Gaming mouse. Power switches. Up and running, all according to plan.
After that, it should have been a simple(ish) process to get into my game. This is the process I expected:
Step 1: open Origin.
Step 2: open Battlelog.
Step 3: play game.
Instead, I was greeted with the following:
Step 1: open Origin.
Step 2: update Origin for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: relogin to Origin, since updating wipes username and password data.
Step 4: download massive update for Battlefield 4 for about 15 minutes.
Step 5: open Battlelog through Origin.
Step 6: update browser plugin for Battlefield 4.
Step 7: reopen Battlelog since updating browser plugin closed Battlelog.
Step 8: reset server browsing settings, since they got wiped somewhere.
Step 9: start game.
Step 10: get a popup prompt from the game to update my GPU drivers.
Step 11: ignore popup prompt from the game to update my GPU drivers.
Step 12: get hit with a game breaking audio bug.
Step 13: get a quick hand of scotch and have a lie down.
I ended up playing for about 45 minutes. It took me about 30 minutes to start the game in the first place. It would have taken maybe another 15 minutes to update my GPU drivers, had I chosen to do so. So I wasted an hour and a quarter of my very precious time (I’m not getting any younger) on what was essentially a broken experience.
Yes, I know I should update my GPU drivers often. And I hadn’t played BF4 in a while so there were a number of updates all at once. And yes, the audio bug is a known one and everyone else had it too since the latest server update. But geez, can I catch a break here please?
Are all these updates really necessary?
Firstly, the Origin update. Opening Origin with an older version is completely impossible. Instead, it AUTOMATICALLY updates. What if I didn’t want to do that now, Origin? What if I just wanted to check my settings, or launch a game that doesn’t even use Origin as a launcher? Like Battlefield 4? What if I see an update, realise I don’t have time for the runaround, and want to just stop altogether? Unfortunately, you cannot open Origin unless you have a current version, and you can’t cancel the update and then open Origin, meaning you will always have to wait for a client update at some point. That’s not a particularly fun or time-economical way to go about things, EA. Couple that with the fact that Origin may be a completely unnecessary game launcher in and of itself – they could use Steam, or, y’know, nothing at all and make life easier for everyone.
Next, Battlefield 4 update. Yes, updating games is good. Patches and stuff. And playing different versions online is difficult. I know it has to happen. But again, warn me first please? I like to know beforehand when I have to do the 1.whatever GB download the update requires.
Next, Battlelog. Yes, Battlefield 3 and 4 launch through the browser-based launcher of Battlelog. We’ve known that for years. Doesn’t make it any less unnecessary, though. Sure, it offers some actually pretty great functionality, but can’t that be secondary, instead of having to launch through Battlelog? Old argument here.
Next, browser plugin. Again, with Battlelog comes a browser plugin. I don’t know what it does. I don’t care what it does. It’s in my way of having a good time. Why should I have to update it, restart my browser, and start back from Origin again? Can’t you launch BF4 from Origin, skip Battlelog and the browser, and not have to use a plugin at all?
NEXT, GPU driver prompt. Yes. I know my drivers are about three versions behind. I haven’t had time to update them yet. It’s on my to-do list. I don’t need you stopping my game from launching with a prompt telling me how lazy I am, especially when older versions of the drivers actually run the game. Maybe not as well, but I don’t particularly care about benchmarking right now – I just want to shoot some army dudes in the nutsack right now. At least it was a relatively quick click to dismiss the optional update. Unlike the previous three updates.
I guess what I’m trying to say is – don’t wrap your game in a whole bunch of extraneous programs that also need constant updating. Battlefield 4 (and 3) are the pointed example here. There are other pointed examples (Ubisoft). I mean, at least Steam has the decency to let you play games while it’s updating. Most of the time.
On the upside, Origin and Battlelog are constantly under improvement, which is undoubtedly A Good Thing.
But what if it weren’t?
We heard not too long ago that the PC based Games for Windows Live “service” is being shuttered in July. While this is for the best, since GFWL is pretty much Satan, what it does mean is that a lot of games – including my beloved Dark Souls – will be losing something that might actually be necessary for running the game. For example, many GFWL titles have save games linked to a GFWL account – without the account being recognised due to no GFWL, will saves still work? Will you lose progress? Will games need to be patched to remove the wrapper individually, or will Microsoft do it all automatically?
It’s an actual, genuine dilemma for gamers who have games wrapped up in the caution tape that is GFWL. Will I be able to play a game that currently requires the service, after said service will be shut down. I don’t know, maybe. Probably. But it’s a problematic precedent.
What happens when Origin gets shuttered? When Battlelog goes down? Will I be able to play Battelfield 4 in the future? Probably not, eventually. And that makes the potential expenditure on the product in the first place essentially moot. I don’t like spending money on entertainment products that aren’t guaranteed to work into the future.
More problematic is the wrapping of BF4’s SINGLE PLAYER in the same rubbish as the multiplayer game. To be unable to play my single player campaign into the future because of server issues or unsupported legacy software wrappers, is disconcerting, to say the least.
Consoles are getting that way too. OS updates, game updates, launchers, companion apps, publisher specific accounts – it’s all reliant on the idea that someone will be around forever to service it. Or that consumers don’t care about spending their money on entertainment with a contrived termination date.
All of these wrappers and constraints and extraneous bits and bobs of update reliant software are unnecessary, and potentially damaging. Stop doing it.
Post script – don’t think I’m giving Steam a free ride here either. If their service goes down for good, I’ll lose hundreds of games – and hundreds of dollars. I trust Valve to create some sort of way out, but it’s nowhere near a guarantee. So think about that next time you buy a digital copy of a game on Steam – or through any other digital distribution method.