Battlefield 1 Incursions: Is it worth it?

 

As this is my first piece for this glorious new portal into the minds of gamers (and what a dark dank place it is…..full of hentai unicorns and disturbing amounts of caffeine), I have decided to give my two cents on the whole idea of the Incursions mode for Battlefield 1.

Please note: as this is still in Alpha it is not a review or an analysis of the mechanics of the game, or a direct compare and contrast to other competitive FPS games.  This is purely asking the question as to whether EA/DICE should even bother.

Now that we have sorted that, I would like to (re)introduce you to a word listed within the venerable old tome, the English Oxford Dictionary – “Bandwagon”.  It is defined as:

NOUN

  • Used in reference to an activity, cause, etc. that is currently fashionable or popular and attracting increasing support.

Phrases

  • jump (or climb) on the bandwagon
    • Join others in doing or supporting something fashionable or likely to be successful.

Jumping on a bandwagon is, quite frankly, a major part of any business.  New ideas are almost never allowed to exist and adapt within a vacuum, so quite rightly if someone comes up with a whizz-bang idea then someone else’s boffins will try and make an even better version of that cracking idea………………and no I have no idea why i’ve suddenly turned into an old timey newsreel announcer.

However, it is not always the best idea to jump on a bandwagon without properly checking it is a suitable ride for you.  One could argue that technology companies are particularly guilty of not looking properly before leaping – take the Zune for example; Microsoft’s attempt to answer the all dominating Apple iPods released 5 years earlier.  It was a costly attempt to take a bite out of Apple that arguably did not achieve its goal.

This leads to my question: is it sensible for a developer to jump on the esports bandwagon at this stage?

The answer is a resounding…………………..maybe.  It really is all about the product you’re starting with.

If you’re lucky, then you hit the ground running with a truly e-sports sympathetic type of game that proves a hit.  Otherwise you need to adapt an existing game to crowbar it into the required esports mould.  And this is where a developer can become unstuck.

Many fan favourite esports games have built their rep over many years.  These are, more or less, games that can have fast paced rounds that instil the requisite thrill in their audience.  If not then you’re skimming the excitement levels of a riveting game of chess.  Yeah! I said it!!! Watching a chess match is boring! Come at me chess nerds!

This brings me to BF1 Incursions.

As described by David Sirland (DICE Producer), “…our vision for the experience is clear: a tight, team-oriented experience for all skill levels. “Easy to pick up, hard to master” might be a worn phrase, but that’s exactly what we have in mind. As two five-man teams face off, the smartest and most strategic players will win the day – and everybody will have enjoyed the ride.”

I’m not sure that I will have enjoyed being curbstomped by a more strategic player an entire round but people’s pleasure mileage will vary.

The esports market – especially the FPS e-sports market – is an increasingly crowded place.  Esports are now, more than ever before, becoming a part of the mainstream consciousness especially with the Millennial crowd and the numbers of viewers of competitive streams and attendees at the events themselves make executives positively froth at the mouth.  The final of Valve’s Dota 2 championship (The International 2017) in June 2017 pulled in a viewership of 400,000 on Twitch with over 15,000 people actually at the KeyArena in Seattle to watch the…….deep breath……$25 million dollar prize pool be fought over!  That’s a lot of money and a lot of people and the money men love it.

Seeing all that ‘free’ publicity for your product is a simple no-brainer for game executives who see e-sports as having a solid future and, judging by the numbers we are talking about here, who am I to disagree.

So the decision by EA/DICE to jump on that particular bandwagon is of very little surprise.  What is a surprise is that they have chosen Battlefield 1 for such treatment.  To me, World War One does not lend itself clearly to the esports arena and especially as the Battlefield franchise’s raison d’être has always been large scale infantry and vehicular combat.  Admittedly it has had modes more akin to e-sports for some time (Domination and Team Deathmatch for example) but this is the first time a concerted effort has been applied to creating something focused on esports.  Currently, EA/DICE insist that Incursions has not been done with esports in mind but again, why produce such of small squad based action mode that is not the franchise’s focus?

The million dollar question of course is will it work?  Well only time will tell on that one.  From what has been seen so far, the things that you may think would work against it could actually lead to its success.  For example – destructible environments: many e-sports faves such as CSGO are eminently predictable in their environments.  Everyone familiar with the game will know every square inch of each map and the skill is very much down to weapon selection, shot angles and time to kills.  This makes it attractive as viewers know what mostly to expect and can cheer someone for a particular piece of skill and boo someone for walking straight into a sniper bullet.

Now we have BF1 Incursions where the environments could well be levelled in some areas and new shot angles created on a whim.  This adds an element of unpredictability that I think is a needed shot in the arm.  Throw in a tank to really cause havoc and now tactics have to be changed quickly.

Will people find that attractive to watch due to the potential chaos on the screen?  Who knows, the proof will be in the muddy 1914-18 French pudding so to speak (other European dessert based metaphors will be available at release).  It is certainly a bold attempt on DICE’s part and could become a roaring success.  Let’s hope the lug nuts on that bandwagon are securely screwed on.

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