Wednesday, April 08, 2015

hopes for Star Wars: Battlefront reboot

The original Star Wars: Battlefront (PC) is one of my all-time favorite games. When I heard the series would be coming to the Xbox One, I was very excited. In the hands of DICE, it is sure to be visually impressive and full of great physics. But will it be true to the series?

What features distinguish past Star Wars: Battlefront games from DICE's own Battlefield series? What made the original series great?

One difference between those old games and Battlefield is the option to play against and with bots in multiplayer. I have always found competing against bots in fragfest games more enjoyable than competing with other players, for a variety of reasons.

Ironically, the behaviors of human players are often more cartoonish than scripted characters — ways which are not fun for everyone. Many players hop around like kangaroos and spam grenades, for example.

Another way bots can be more fun is that a player is more free to play however he wants when other players are not counting on him to seize an objective, guard a position, or otherwise focus on team play. Against bots, a player can treat the fragfest like an open world sandbox, emphasizing victory sometimes and silly or over-the-top action other times.

Galactic Conquest mode was another key feature of the original game. It added a level of strategy on beyond individual battles, linking them into a war campaign. It also added team bonus dynamics. Which planet to attack next? Which team bonus (extra ammo, health regeneration, etc) to bring into this fight? What bonus will the enemy have? DICE could even expand this idea into a system more akin to LOTR: Battle For Middle Earth 2's excellent "War of the Ring" mode.

To be true to the series, DICE also must not give the factions identical class options. Droidekas and jet troopers, for example, had no equivalent units in the Rebel faction... which had Wookies.

One aspect many very popular games (Star Wars: Battlefront, Diablo, Super Smash Bros, Call of Duty, Mass Effect 3, etc) share is that they don't let an obsession with power balancing get in the way of providing variety of character, weapon, and skill options (among other dynamics). It is more important to provide players with thrilling and pleasantly surprising experiences than it is to ensure fairness. As any sports fan will tell you, nothing kills the fun as fast as an over-zealous referee.

I might not mind a few extra layers of dynamics, like destruction physics or a Mass Effect 3-style weapon and loot system.  I'm sure the movement, shooting mechanics, and vehicles will be fun in the hands of DICE.

Here's hoping that the new Star Wars: Battlefront's dynamics are as compelling as its core combat mechanics and visual treats.

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