EA and DICE servers are now gone for Battlefield 3
The ability to rent dedicated Battlefield 3 servers for use in the console versions of the game was a welcome addition back in March. Unfortunately, playing on these servers appears to have become the only option for playing online multiplayer, a development which understandably has fans of the game frustrated with Electronic Arts and DICE.
As outlined in this thread on the official Battlefield forums, many players are upset that EA- and DICE-operated servers have almost entirely disappeared. These servers were the only ones available prior to the rent-a-server option becoming available on consoles, and were to be complemented nicely by the new custom servers which allow for their owners to establish communities of sorts with rules, options, and admins they decide.
This is a great option to have, although the word option is key. With very few exceptions, these servers are now the only ones available to be played on as EA and DICE have taken the majority of their official servers offline. This is problematic because there are no consistent rules on these rented servers, and it can be needlessly difficult to find an acceptable game. Its more than the map and game mode these servers are dictating; some might have rounds that last an incredibly long time (which is no fun if one team is pushed back to its final base and its players die shortly after spawning) or admins that kick players for no legitimate reason. Whatever the particular case may be, its not always easy to find a player-run server that operates in the same way as one of the old official servers, which is how many players would like to play.
"The game was a lot of fun when you could play on DICE servers by their official rules," TTUVAPOR wrote on the Battlefield forums. "I shouldnt have to search and search just to enjoy a game or two. Not everyone has huge amounts of time to sit through a server list and browse to find the perfect rented server. ... Rented servers are fun for those who want something more than just standard, but to entire eliminate standard play is just bad business."
Some people have noted how suspicious it is that EA and DICE servers are largely gone (VentureBeat could find only 17 EA servers on PS3) now that there is a way for players to foot the bill. And doing so is not cheap, even with the discounted rates offered for longer leases: A one-day rental costs $1.49, while 90 days costs $59.99 -- the same price as the game. This setup may not require your average player to pay for a server of his or her own, yet it does not mesh well with the built-in expectation that buying the game will entitle you to play online for free on servers which are not controlled by ill-tempered gamers with a propensity for booting anyone who kills them.
Electronic Arts has yet to respond to 1UPs request for comment. The official Battlefield Twitter account has offered little information on the situation, merely telling those who inquire that their concerns have been passed along to the developers.
Earlier this week, franchise community manager Daniel Matros answered questions on Reddit, including one regarding the lack of official DICE servers. "There is only so much physical space and digital space where you can have servers," Matros wrote. "The community requested an RSP programme and we delivered."
This comment resulted in angry responses about it being senseless to do away with official servers by offloading server costs onto the community. He did later say the world of Battlefield is "dynamic" in response to a question about the removal of DICE and EA servers being permanent which, while somewhat positive, is not the answer players are looking for. Since then he has provided an additional update claiming the situation is being evaluated: "[W]e are looking over the feedback requests and also what we can do on our side to make sure players are satisfied. More updates to follow."
One would hope the company realizes the error of its ways and official servers are brought back. It has a vested interest in making players happy not only because it wants those players to purchase the next Battlefield game when it is released, but also because it wants them to continue playing BF3 in the meantime and then purchase the upcoming Close Quarters downloadable content.
Battlefield 3 has seen controversy in the past, first with a promised bonus for PS3 players being dropped (and later made good on) and then with the release of premium shortcuts.
EAs business practices, too, have been bemoaned often including its habit of shutting down the online servers for its games awfully quickly. Among the most recent games to be shut down in this fashion was EA Sports MMA, which was not even a year and a half old when its servers were turned off in April. As I wrote at the time, EA reserves the right to do this in its End User License Agreement, but especially when it comes to games with online passes, there needs to be some guarantee for how long servers will stay online. The Battlefield situation is not an exact repeat of that as it remains possible to play online, yet for a game that is among the four most popular on Xbox Live week after week, its unthinkable that the community would be relied on almost completely to prop up its online servers.