Teams have begun to drop BF2.
This is nothing new; teams have been dropping the BF series seemingly since it hit the shelves. First it was old :42/Nam teams who didn’t like the quicker pace of play, pilots disappointed with the jets (and rightfully so), people who couldn’t seem to handle the squad system/hopping – then the threats from numerous teams and individuals on league forums everywhere that they were going to drop the game when the new 1.x patch was going to hit (and then not following through on it). But this wave of drops that has started is entirely new.
People are just getting sick of this game. It hasn’t been a year and people are already getting the feeling that this game is just plain played out.
This phenomenon is clearly only at the competition level, however. The pub community is stronger than ever and continues to grow. Hop in any populated ranked server and browse the ranks quickly. Lieutenants are not at all uncommon and people are reaching some serious ranks. I wouldn’t be able to tell you or estimate the number of points required to reach some of those levels, but my point is that some folks that just enjoy pubbing are really enjoying pubbing. It could be that the whole ranking system with its MMORPG-like ‘leveling’ aspect with the ranks provides a goal for folks to work towards and so keeps them playing. But what I think is more likely is the fact that the gameplay is just more fun in a large, public server kind of setting. This is also manifested in the relative success of the BF2 Combat ‘Tour of Duty’ community, which specializes in large-scale coordinated 30v30 play.
A quick examination of two design elements are convincing enough to me that this game was never built with competition in mind. (This is a point that most folks don’t need convincing of, but requires illustrating.) The first of these elements is the cursed ‘random cone of fire,’ which was basically implemented so that people that were less skilled at the FPS-style games didn’t get totally rocked for the first few weeks that they played. The issue is that it puts a tangible ceiling on the skill of the well-practiced competition player; no matter how well someone can aim and lead a target, there’s no telling how far off the mark that bullet they’re about to fire is going to fly. That issue alone can kill a game competitively. (Think CS would have been nearly as popular with a ‘random cone of fire?’ Heh.) Add in the fact that all the maps included in the game were clearly built with 64-player public server play in mind, and you’ve got a knock-out combo. The maps used in competition on all levels and in all formats are not fully designed and realized for play at that level, instead they’re canibalized versions of the full 64-player map with some flags moved around and less vehicles. This has a slight impact on pub play (only slight because the flow of play is much less coordinated within each team), but the impact on competitive play is huge. All competition is going on in maps that were not particularly thought out fully in terms of 8v8 play; instead the designers just shrink down the area of map to be played in and plunk 4 flags down.
The comparison I wish to make here is between BF2 and :42, one of which is seeing its top teams drop out of competition out of boredom after two seasons and hasn’t even been on the shelves for a year yet, the other which saw 6 seasons of solid competition and kept people scrimming and pubbing for nearly two years. The difference, I think, is that :42 did not have the two things outlined in the previous paragraph. The maps were the maps – no scaling. Instead of building the maps super huge for 64 player play, the maps were built to encourage rich play whether there was 10 players in a server or 40. Also, when you put your crosshairs on something and fired, that’s where your shot went.
This is not to say that :42 was built for competition in mind, because it wasn’t either. It just happened to be a bit more condusive for it. But what BF2 lacks in this aspect is fueling the bordeom that are making teams drop. BF2 just doesn’t have the same hook that the original did and this is the manifestation of it. And while seeing these teams drop is no reason to panic – a few teams dropping is certainly not going to kill the competitive community around BF2 – but it’s a sign. Either some new teams that aren’t quite so bored need to step up huge and keep pushing the envelope as far as competitive vigor, or this is the beginning of the end for BF2. We all know that once top teams and even championship teams start jumping ship, the overall level of competition and value of league titles become devalued. And when teams defending titles (such as HOT in 12v12) see no reason to stick around and defend it, that’s a big sign that the recent pullouts are only going to accelerate.
This is also preceding news I recieved from an inside source that 1.3 is scheduled to hit today. After all the outcry over what was to be changed by it within the competitive community, I wouldn’t be suprised if we saw CAL-M collapse right in on itself. Not that I’m predicting it…I just wouldn’t be suprised.
So is this the end for BF2? Nah. Technically, BF:Nam or :42 haven’t died yet with folks still playing 5v5 over at Teamwarfare. But is BF2 gonna be suckin some serious wind here over the next month? You bet.