We've been talking to DICE executive producer Patrick Bach about Battlelog - Battlefield 3's answer to server browsers. It lets players recruit friends into your squad and specify a server to play on, all from the comfort of a browser window. Once everything is in order, Battlefield 3 loads up you session and waits politely to be clicked.
We asked why DICE opted for the feature (which Graham described as a " bit mad ") when talking to him a few hours ago: “We look at players when they're playing a game. Then we try to take that behaviour and turn it into our next iteration.” he told us.
“We could see people were starting the game, loading the map,” says Patrick. Then they would start reading a paper or they look at their watch: they don't want to be [in-game] during that, they just want the match, and their pre-match activities.”
Players needed to be entertained duting those loading screens. DICE's solution was to provide them with the whole of the internet to play with, even if it required the use of multiple applications and the possibility of wasted resources: “We started to think, well what if the actual game was actually within different applications? Hey - we already have the foundation of a UI and web browsers can be updated.”
DICE were determined not to be held back by convention: “We couldn't really find a reason why not to do it. “Because I'm not used to it” was the only reason we could find, and that was quite an aggressive reason.
“But that's habit. That's not a reason.” insists Patrick. Once we got it up and running and pressed it on people, everyone hated it until a couple of hours. Then they noted that “Oh, I'll search for this and it takes me three seconds to start it and - bang - I'm in the game.
“When people got used to that they stopped talking about it and it just went quiet. The people who started really really aggressive started to fade. Either they don't bother complaining anymore, or they just accepted it.”
Patrick still hears regularly from Battlelog Naysayers though. “I still get hate mails on that note: “You need to have an in-game server browser” and I'm like: “Why? What is an in-game server browser? You mean starting another software to browse a server and then start the map? There's no difference.”
“We honestly believe this is the right way forward. Like I say, you get used to it - the players are like “hey, this is actually not that bad, the thing I hated? It's OK.”