Battlefield 2042 has not so much hit the ground running, as wingsuit-crashed at such speed that it's still tumbling through the snow with its limbs-a-flailing. Something that's keeping these limbs intact, however, is the excellent Portal mode, which lets players create games with custom rules using maps and gear from across the series. Warfield 100, a "Full Battle Royale Experience", is perhaps its finest creation yet.
Warfield 100 creator Christian Muhler—who owns indie game studio One Duck Theory and is a self-described "masochist who plays the PC version with a controller"—implemented dozens of custom rules to make the mode work. Many are weird but kind of ingenious workarounds that squeeze a ton of custom code into Portal's pretty limited toolset. The mode has a circle that closes in every two minutes, ground loot, and even a Warzone-style prison that gives you a chance to return to the match after you die.
But many of these battle royale staples are implemented in the form of weird workarounds. The circle, for example, is made up of teleporting bots. "They are placed in a circle using a 'teleport' command continuously," Muhler tells me. "Technically, all the 'red glowing' (pinged) bots are used to help indicate boundaries to the human players, since they take damage when they go out of bounds."
Even though the bots are used as boundary markers and are unarmed, they can still melee-attack players who get too close, which could be a problem given that they're virtually invincible and respawn automatically even if they do die. The AI's hostility isn't intentional and may be fixed in a future update, but my enthusiasm for these mad fist-swinging AI patrolling the game's boundaries gives Muhler some pause for thought. "I'm on the fence about whether to remove that feature," he tells me. "I kind of like it now that you've described it that way."
Beyond all these workarounds, the biggest problem for Muhler at this point is stability. "I suspect this is due to the Portal servers not having the necessary resources to run so much custom code," he tells me, though he doesn't blame the developers for this. "It makes sense—they are allowing any of their millions of players to each spin up a custom server any time for free and given the costs associated with that hosting, I'm betting each server can just barely run a match with 64-128 players and minimal custom code."
If you do fancy jumping into this strangest of battle royale modes, here are the key rules you need to know:
- There is a 60-second pre-game lobby, with humans replacing AI players as they join the game.
- Players parachute into the map armed with an M1911 and grenades.
- Ground loot is invisible due to a limitation of the Portal editor, so instead players get a message saying "On Loot" when they're near it, and need to crouch three times to get a random piece of gear.
- If you die, you're sent to a prison—Warzone style—where you need to kill another player to respawn into the game. Each time you die, you need to kill one more player to leave the prison.
- The server limit is 128 players, but 28 of those are AI who demarcate the boundaries of the prison and circle. If more than 100 human players join during a game, then these AI disappear while the player becomes a spectator until the next round.
To see if a game of Warfield 100 is going, search for "Warfield" in the Battlefield 2042 server browser, or if you fancy hosting a game yourself you can use the code AAGDWA.
When talking about his plans for the mode, and whether the mode may yet become more feature-rich, Muhler says that for now he just wants "to make Warfield 100 into a fun and stable experience."
Going forward, however, Muhler does believe EA DICE could do its part to help people like him who want to use Portal for more ambitious, experimental modding. "I would love for EA/DICE/Ripple to allow for rented servers (whether from them or a 3rd party) in addition to these free Portal servers," he says. "This could benefit them (reduced hosting costs as some opt for renting and even increased profits if they host higher spec 'rental' servers themselves) and benefit the community (more opportunities for very intricate custom modes as well as persistent servers that can be joined any time)."
Beyond that, Muhler would like to see a multi-team template allowing for, say, up to 32 teams, "would open a ton of possibilities", and the ability to add vehicles to these custom modes. "Currently, the only option for making truly custom games with rules/code are free for all and team deathmatch, neither of which has vehicles," he concludes. That last point, at least, is already being addressed by DICE, as its roadmap recently revealed that the addition of vehicles into the team deathmatch template is coming soon.
Implementing a battle royale mode—quirk-filled though it may be—is impressive considering EA itself said that the Portal editor wouldn't be robust enough to build a battle royale mode. Thanks to oddities like Warfield 100, the Portal mode has proven to be a standout feature in a game blighted by bugs, overpowered hovercrafts and bots who refuse to revive their teammates.
As someone who's struggling to warm to Battlefield 2042, with its sparse oversized maps, bugs and weirdly weightless ragdoll physics, I'm probably going be spending more time in Portal's alternative realities rather than the main game. See you on the Warfield.