Andrew Wilson: EA to ‘fundamentally shift’ approach to game development, will delay games if necessaryWritten by: / / No Comments
If you were playing Battlefield 4 during launch week, and even two months after release, there’s a very good chance you would have run into any one of the dozens of issues that plagued the game following release in October 2014.
Now half a year later, Battlefield 4 is in much better shape than it was at launch as developer DICE still works furiously to update the game with patches, and provide additional value to players with downloadable content.
According to EA’s new CEO, Andrew Wilson, this method of releasing a game is “unacceptable” and will be addressed going forward.
An “Unacceptable” Launch
Speaking to Eurogamer in a wide-ranging interview, Wilson admitted that the launch of Battlefield 4 was a mess, saying:
“For me, the situation we had was unacceptable. For the team it was unacceptable. We have worked tirelessly since then to make sure the gameplay experience got to where it absolutely should have been at launch and we’re focused on that and we continue to deliver value to that player base.”
Ambition is Important, But it Can Be Your Downfall
Why did DICE have such a difficult time bringing a stable version of Battlefield 4 to market, despite the lengthy development period? Wilson explains:
“Think about what Battlefield 4 was: 64 player multiplayer, giant maps, 1080p, Levolution that was changing the gameplay design in an emergent way. There is a chance there are things you are going to miss through the development cycle. And you end up in a situation we had with Battlefield 4.”
The availability of new consoles didn’t help the situation, either, as Wilson attributes the main reasons for the game’s instability to having to work on unfinished hardware and Battlefield 4’s ambition:
“Not to abdicate responsibility whatsoever – we own it, we are responsible for it and we have worked tirelessly to remedy the situation – but when you are building a game on an unfinished platform with unfinished software, there are some things that can’t get done until the very last minute because the platform wasn’t ready to get done.
“What was happening with Battlefield 4, even as we were pushing all of this innovation, was a lot of it we couldn’t test until really late in the phase. I believe it was unique.”
A “Fundamental Shift”
In a separate interview with Kotaku, Wilson outlined his plans to ensure EA continues to push the boundaries of innovation, while keeping the bar for quality high to meet the expectations of its fans.
Included in Wilson’s list of methods to ‘fundamentally shift’ EA’s approach to game development and game launches are a few obvious suggestions, including testing games more thoroughly (“Does it work? Zeroes and ones. There’s a fundamental test. Does it do what it’s supposed to do?” he says) and ensuring the game is enjoyable sooner (“So the time from alpha to final is now significantly longer. So we’re asking teams to be finished earlier,” he continued), but there are also some bold moves on EA’s part.
For one, Wilson says that EA won’t be afraid to delay game releases in the future if those games need more time in development, evident by the delay of Titanfall on Xbox 360, he says.
In addition, EA will begin talking about upcoming games much earlier, an approach the company put on display during its E3 2014 press conference as it revealed unnamed games from BioWare and Criterion, and discussed Star Wars Battlefront and the next Mass Effect, both of which are expected out in late 2015 at the earliest:
“The world is changing. This Hollywood blockbuster mentality of ‘keep all of the information to yourself’ is not something that makes sense in today’s world.
“And, listen, as you’ve seen from us in the last few days with Hardline we can’t keep a secret anyway so we may as well just start talking about it.”
Nice Words, But Will it Work?
As evidenced by EA’s press conference ahead of E3 this year, the publisher is in a state of flux. With a new CEO and big bets on fewer games every year, the company needs to make important strides to win back its fanbase after a tumultuous Battlefield 4 launch, and regain the levels of support enjoyed during the early years of John Riccitiello’s leadership as CEO, where new intellectual properties and quality products were prized goals.
If the rest of EA can live up to Wilson’s promises, then we’ll be seeing a very different – and a very welcome – face of the publisher in the coming months and years.