Battlefield 5 suffered a rough launch, and developers DICE have been wrist-deep in the multiplayer of the game since. The game will be sticking around for some time — there won’t be another Battlefield title until 2022, according to Electronic Arts. Update 5.2 is on its way, and discussion around the existing time to kill in multiplayer led developer DICE to talk about what pain points cause players to abandon the game.
Time to Kill measures the amount of damage a player can take before being removed from play, and it’s proving to be the centerpoint of many of Battlefield 5’s current debates — players on social hubs claim that it’s one of the best parts of the game’s balance right now.
In response to those arguments, DICE has posted a major explainer on the game’s subreddit called “Responding to your concerns - Update 5.2” that gives us a sneak peek behind the curtain — namely, the actual factors that cause players to rage quit their games in Battlefield 5.
Global community manager Freeman says something that will feel familiar to anyone who has ever played an online game: “You quit when you are shot in the back, without having an opportunity to face your enemy.”
In Battlefield, which features realistic terrain and huge maps, visibility is a huge problem. It’s common for players to feel they’re outright “deleted” by folks that they never see. According to Freeman, players should lose close-range encounters where they fail to identify a threat quickly enough, but DICE wants to retool the experience so that fans still feel that they had a chance to react — not just die.
“A death is less punishing when you feel like the kill was skill on the part of the enemy. More problematic are long range deaths with weapons that are marked for short range. You don’t expect them to be a threat, and when you die at 100m from an SMG it feels wrong and it’s frustrating.”
In short, players are able to snipe each other from long range with weapons that weren’t meant to deal out long range damage.
Weapon balance is a fraught issue for player retention. Starter weapons need to be competitive, or players will perceive that they can never catch up to veterans and they rage quit. But if one weapon is good enough that it can be used everywhere, players don’t feel a sense of progression ... and quit.
No simple solution
Long range combat and a lack of weapon variety are two obvious problems, but Freeman also writes that “frustration with the Core Gameplay is high, and wider spread than discussed here.”
“Through our surveys we were able to measure that while there is a group of current players are who satisfied, but that there is a much larger group of current players who are dissatisfied. We can see that the satisfaction with the core gameplay has decreased over time, from a quite positive position a year ago at launch, to a more neutral or even negative position now a year later.”
While DICE says that the current gunplay is “solid,” it also feels “stale”, and players desire more content and for the game to be refreshed and updated over time. That’s a much trickier problem to solve — even though Battlefield 5 has improved, if the gameplay doesn’t change, players also quit.
With this Battlefield being the franchise’s representation until 2022, it’s clear DICE have their work cut out for them. They have identified the reasons why players quit, but it’ll likely take a great deal of work to solve those issues — and try to bring new players in as well.