It hasn't even been a week since Star Wars Battlefront's big reveal at Celebration, and DICE is already on their heels in terms of messaging.
With the first details now available, fans have taken to social media and other outlets to express their displeasure. Over on Reddit, fans are debating whether EA will ultimately decide to slice up Battlefront and sell it piecemeal. The thread has even caught the attention of developers from DICE.
"Please don't make me break what I can and cannot say, but if you think there's anything we're not including in the game to save it for DLC, I can tell you you're 100% wrong. In this project, I've never heard anyone say,'Let's not do this for launch so we can do it as DLC instead.' Ever," a developer under the name DICE_TheBikingViking wrote.
The debate over the Battle of Jakku DLC is but one issue that DICE has faced in the aftermath of the unveiling of Battlefront. No sooner did the first previews go live that fans began to grumble about the lack of space combat — a beloved fixture in previous games. Some readers also interpreted a series of tweets by DICE to mean that there would only be four maps. DICE has since clarified that there will be "more than eight" maps across four planets, but in some ways, the damage has already been done. The new narrative is that Battlefront's scope has been crippled by DICE — a perception that isn't likely to go away any time soon.
In my own preview of Star Wars Battlefront, which was based on the footage shown during Celebration, I was reasonably positive in my impressions. I expressed relief that Darth Vader and Boba Fett would be making an appearance, since it suggested that Battlefront might be more than a mere Battlefield clone. But a lot of users don't seem convinced.
"The loss of space battles, the linear on-rails AT-AT and the reduced number of maps and locations are perfectly forgivable as long as the core tenants of the series are intact. As of now, they are not," one Redditor argued. "Even the lack of classes could be forgiven assuming there's enough customization to recreate those classes and their roles but there isn't enough information publicly available currently to account for that."
"So far they haven't added to the original's experience other than visuals—which are gorgeous—just taken away," a reader under the Twitter handle @DavidForGiants commented when I noted the skepticism around Battlefront. He's not alone in his opinion.
DICE, for their part, have defended their decisions, arguing that there won't be a reduced number of maps, and that their approach is ultimately for the good of the game. Unfortunately for them, those protestations are likely to be met with a deaf ear from the sort of core users they are trying to court. Most fans are apt to assume the worst about anything related to EA.
What I didn't realize was how badly DICE's reputation was hurt by Battlefield 4. Over the years, they've generally been well-regarded as far as EA studios go, and there has been a certain level of trust that they can make a good shooter. That trust seems to have vanished since Battlefield 4.
The bitter truth for DICE is that fans are probably right to be skeptical. Few have forgotten what a mess Battlefield 4 was out of the gate, and the recent rash of unfinished and buggy AAA games frontloaded with preorder bonuses have left many gamers feeling jaded and cynical. Every game is being viewed with an increasingly wary eye, and that goes double for EA, which just can't seem to avoid negative headlines.
In that regard, DICE appears to have even more riding on Star Wars Battlefront than I first supposed. True, making the first real Star Wars game in years is no small thing. But on top of the outsized expectations of Star Wars fans, DICE now finds their credibility is at stake. It's going to take one amazing shooter for people to have faith in DICE again. That's AAA development for you — it's a zero sum game, especially when you're messing with a beloved franchise like Star Wars Battlefront.
Thus far we've only seen a very narrow slice of Star Wars Battlefront, so there's still time for EA and DICE to turn things around. I actually have faith that it will be a strong shooter, if not necessarily the grand and at times messy experience of the original Star Wars Battlefront. But if the Internet has proven anything, it's that bad word-of-mouth can really kill a game's momentum out of the gate. And fairly or unfairly, DICE is not going to be getting the benefit of the doubt anytime soon.