We talk to the people behind saving EA’s iconic shooter
The shutdown of GameSpy means that dozens of games will have their online support cut short. Some of them will survive thanks to developers finding alternative services while others will perish due to a lack of attention. Some, however, will survive solely thanks to the dedication of their players.
Battlefield 2, a game that has cemented its place as a classic first-person shooter on PC, managing to attract hundreds of players every day despite being almost a decade old, is one of those games.
One of the players involved in saving Battlefield is Ernie, who goes by the name ‘Burn-o-Matic’ online. He’s been playing Battlefield 2 since the very beginning, almost 10 years ago, and for the past five years it has been the only video game he’s played. Ernie is a bit older than the average gamer, as are most Battlefield 2 players, yet he sees newcomers of all ages every single day on the server he admins, players which he fears will be lost after the shutdown. “I doubt they’ll fix this,” he says when asked about EA and DICE’s possible intervention in between rounds of Conquest. “I think we’ll just have to do it ourselves”.
‘Aroith’ is the owner of the server that Ernie admins, titled ‘The Weekend Warriors’. He’s made a point, along with many other Battlefield server owners, that they will live on after the shutdown, an event which he is certain most people don’t truly understand. “I wouldn’t say they’re worried…but I will say that the community is clueless about what GameSpy shutting down means for them. Some say they can just connect by IP, which is actually not possible”.
He has placed his hopes in a project that plans to unify servers under a single community-created login, one that would not only make sure that Battlefield 2 continues to be played after the shutdown but also aims to improve the beloved classic with the aid of the community. It’s called ‘Revive Battlefield 2,’ an idea that has brought the modding community of Battlefield 2 together towards one simple goal: keeping the legend alive.
The people involved in this are not alone, of course, as there are many other projects out there to keep these GameSpy affected games alive well beyond the shutdown on May 31st. The difference is that Revive Battlefield 2 will take things beyond simply keeping servers open. The team plans on adding new maps, modifying features, and even fixing bugs that the community had complained to DICE about ever since the last official patch.
Players Joe, Rick and Eric are part of this project, and they’ve made it a point during their development to include the community of Battlefield 2 as much as possible. Rick, who is currently doing the rounds as the project’s PR manager, affirms that development would be open to suggestions and even contributions from players, given some quality assurance. “We’re always open to people who want to help, especially with the boring jobs,” he jokes as he lists some of the ideas the team has had for a while now.
Ideas like limiting certain pieces of equipment to avoid spamming, adding community maps for the sake of variety, balancing weapons, and even rescuing the work done for some “dead” mods of Battlefield 2, hoping to repurpose them for the new updates so that their work lives on. Ricky hopes that by doing more than just patching the game, players will be more inclined to return after the shutdown.
Players and server owners do have some concerns about the project. With no official login, and thus no way to check valid CD keys, the number of cheaters could increase tenfold overnight. Eric, the current web developer for the project, assures that anti-cheat system PunkBuster will still be available though additional ways of catching and banning cheaters are being looked into.
It’s these sorts of changes that set this project apart from the rest, as they’ve taken their love for Battlefield 2 beyond simple upkeep to actively building on top of its framework. Joe, the project’s current manager, particularly loves talking about this topic, even having a list of maps deemed “classics” by the current player base that are already considered for inclusion in an upcoming patch.
“We plan of expanding on it the same way that Armoured Fury was expanded into Battlefield 2. That way we add more content yet we don’t change the core gameplay”. We discuss the plans they have, trying to clarify their stance on modifying the original game. One of the main problems the team faces in the development of Revive Battlefield 2 is what to keep and what to change.
Battlefield has a long history of controversial patches and unpopular, perhaps hated, gameplay mechanics over the years. It’s finding a balance and understanding the consensus of the community that’ll be the greatest challenge for the project, according to Joe.
The Battlefield revival project aims to release on the 30th of May, something which the team reiterates to calm down anxious fans. “Buckle down. There will be a bit of transition. We will release”.
Eric says that “nothing is unachievable” and that development is a team effort. “If we are lacking in one area, we will reach out to other members of the gaming community and ask for help”.
You can find out more information on the official website. Activities, community events, chats with the developers, and suggestions can also be found on their current Facebook page, and there is an open invitation for everyone to meet the developers on their own TeamSpeak channel.
What these gamers are doing is impressive, though it begs the question about whether these sorts of multiplayer-centric games should have an open system for their own communities to live on past official support, and how this could be handled in an age where reverse engineering and exploits are rampant. This is only one part of how the entire gaming community has reacted to GameSpy’s shutdown, but it’s the one that may become the most memorable in the long run by far.
Images: Electronic Arts, Blue Entertainment