Blimey, there is hope. Because of a rising tide of discontent surrounding pay-to-win content in loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront 2, the ability to spend real money on them has temporarily been removed. Loot crates can only be bought with credits earned by playing the game.
This is a stop-gap measure until EA studio DICE can come up with a permanent solution people will be happy with. "The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we've made changes to the game," DICE boss Oskar Gabrielson said last night. We don't know whether it will take days or weeks or months.
But what can DICE do to fix loot crates and progression in Star Wars Battlefront 2? I see no other way than to stop beating around the bush and completely separate progression from the contents of loot crates - rip it right out - because it's here the real problem lies.
Loot boxes are largely ignored in other full-priced and predominantly multiplayer games Overwatch and Call of Duty: WW2 - beyond being historically disrespectful - because they contain only cosmetic items to alter character or weapon appearance. They're there and you'll open them and you'll want them, but you won't, and this is crucial, need them.
Overwatch doesn't have a progression system but in Call of Duty: WW2 you earn experience points by fighting which level-up your account, unlocking abilities and weapons. You cannot buy this progression. It is completely separate from loot crates. And it is earned.
But in Star Wars Battlefront 2, the abilities which make you more powerful - Star Cards - only come from loot boxes. There is no other progression system. In Battlefront 2 you need loot crates. And because you can, sorry, could buy loot crates, you could buy progression. You could, as the lingo goes, pay to win.
It's not a system you can dilute to palatability with piddly measures, not even by rewarding players more credits for scoring more points in games - which DICE absolutely should do by the way. As long as you can buy a gameplay advantage it will be wrong. It doesn't work and it won't. Stop farting about, EA, and let DICE rip it out.
Pull all Star Cards and weapons out of loot crates and have them be awarded for levelling instead - for playing the game. Allow players a choice between multiple Star Cards when they have enough experience to level up, and maybe separate progression for each soldier type, spaceship type, and hero, so the more you play of them, the more powerful they get.
Also, why not tie unlocking stronger tiers of Star Cards to completing in-game Challenges? The system is already in there and it would be more engaging than simply saving up credits. And do away with crafting parts entirely.
While you're at it, EA and DICE, don't just lower the senseless unlock fee for heroes like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker - remove it. I genuinely love your Heroes vs. Villains mode, but only having half the roster available because you need credits to unlock the others is ridiculous. This is Star Wars - you picked it! - and playing as those heroes is the fantasy. It's why people spend £50 on your game. Don't abuse our enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, reduce loot crates to cosmetic items. If you have to have them, make their contents superficial and optional. There's a mountain of Star Wars inspiration to draw on! I understand this is complicated by Disney, the strict owner of Star Wars, which needs to approve every detail, but again, you picked Star Wars - if you want to make more money out of us, deal with it.
Why not budget against the £50 we're paying for the game and then, months down the line, start talking about us funding ongoing development with some paid content? And don't waggle free Season Pass content at us - lovely as it is - as justification for your insidious loot crates, because yours isn't a free-to-play game, and even by those standards your system stinks. There's a reason those games dodge pay-to-win associations like the plague.
But as I said at the beginning, there's hope. I never dreamed EA would allow DICE to suspend in-game purchases in Star Wars Battlefront 2, let alone at launch - the game's busiest and most visible period - but it did. Whether it's because Disney panicked about bad Star Wars PR in the lead up to movie The Last Jedi, and forced EA to change its mind, doesn't matter. The shitstorm had an effect.
Sorting out Star Wars Battlefront 2 permanently will take something gutsier still, but if EA has the guts there's an opportunity here to flip a PR disaster into a PR win and make a memorable amends. And I hope EA does, because Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a very good video game and it deserves better than this.
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