EA DICE has further explained the thinking behind Star Wars: Battlefront 2 loot crates, and talked more about how they're changing after the controversial multiplayer beta in October.
DICE also separately said the Flametrooper's damage would be buffed for Star Wars Battlefront 2's launch on 17th November, and Strike mode would be extended to three rounds from one.
Battlefront 2 producer Paul Keslin spoke to Joe Vargas on his AngryJoeShow YouTube channel.
"The beta was a place we were experimenting with things," he said. "It was meant for us to try out stuff ahead of time so we can tweak and change those things ahead of launch. What you saw in beta was absolutely our attempt at something, then it's open to fan feedback and how do we react to it and how do we tweak things to make a better experience?"
In the Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta, all of the game's progression came from loot crates - new abilities, new weapons, new equipment. You could have a significant mechanical advantage over another player simply by having better luck when opening crates, or by buying more crates to open. The upshot being that dreaded phrase 'pay to win'.
Since the beta, DICE has announced changes to the Battlefront 2 loot crate and progression systems for launch. But why was such a system in a full-priced, £50 game to begin with?
We can probably "imagine" some of the reasons, Keslin said, but the one he went with was: "It allows us to give players an opportunity to, hopefully, try things that they're not normally going to try.
"We've seen at EA, in some games passed, if you allow players to too single-mindedly focus down a certain path, they'll try out two/three things they know they like and then not engage with the rest of the game and they might stop playing the game early, and we would prefer players are playing our game for a long time to come. We've put a lot of time and effort and love into these things - we want to make sure people keep playing them."
In other words, getting items and abilities for other classes from crates may encourage you to play things you otherwise wouldn't. "It's just a way of spreading out some of the stuff you can earn in the game," he said.
One of the ways EA DICE is changing the system for launch is by removing the epic tier of Star Card from loot crates entirely (Star Card abilities come in four tiers - bronze, gold, silver, epic - each more powerful than the last). In order to get an epic tier Star Card you must now craft it, as you can craft other tiers of Star Card. But in order to craft a certain tier you will need to be a certain corresponding level, which can only be attained through play.
Paul Keslin's comments seemed to also suggest you may need to be a certain level in order to use a certain tier of Star Card.
"We've also tiered the other rarities of other Star Cards so that you have to play the game, hit a certain player rank - but also a certain rank within a certain class hero, starfighter, etc - to unlock the next tier of Star Cards that you can use," he said - "use" being the operative word. In EA's associated blog post it quite clearly stated "craft".
"That way people aren't just blowing through with two or three Star Cards really quickly," added Keslin. "We want them to have more tools in their toolbox so they're able to experience more of the class as a whole before they start getting higher and higher tiers."
Another problem with the beta was unlockable weapons contained in loot crates, because luckier/richer players would have more guns. This will change by guns being awarded at certain class-level milestones instead, although some weapons will remain in loot crates.
How many guns are there? At launch there will be one base gun and three unlockable guns per class, Keslin told Vargas, with more to come post-launch.
Another beta bone of contention was skilled players earning the same amount of end-battle credits as unskilled players regardless of performance. This will not change.
"We still have the system in place where the time you spend in a match means how much you'll get rewarded," said Keslin, "because we want players to have a level playing-field of progressing through crates at a kind of similar pattern.
"Where skill comes into play," he added, "is how quickly are you completing those Challenges, which fuel you getting more credits, more crafting parts, more Star Cards at a faster rate than unskilled players. You don't get it directly in the round per se but you get it in the speed at which you're completing all of the Challenges in the game."
Challenges are a "huge gamut of things", he said. They take in metrics like number of kills, time-played, use of specific abilities, and they're tailored for certain classes or modes.
DICE putting Keslin forward for the AngryJoeShow is commendable - incidentally we came close to having our own opportunity but it fell through. Keslin's comments do not solve the problem but they at least show a willingness to engage with criticism and feedback - "something we're trying to do a lot more with this game post-launch", Keslin said.
These are baby steps up a much steeper hill of a problem, but EA DICE keeps taking them - and if the pressure stays on - then who knows? Maybe it will get there.