Update, 11/13/2017, 1:52pm PST: A new blog post from DICE executive producer John Wasilczyk has appeared on the game's website. In light of the recent controversy on Reddit, he wrote that "it's clear that more changes were needed." The studio will reduce the cost of credits required to get the game's top heroes by 75%. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker will now cost you 15,000 credits; Emperor Palpatine, Chewbacca, and Leia are available for 10,000 credits; and Iden Versio is now at 5,000 credits. He also mentioned that the studio will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Wednesday. Additional details on the event are coming soon.
Original story, 11/13/2017, 12:05pm PST:
Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t officially available until Friday, but some players already had the chance to play it because of EA’s Play First Trial. The early access period allowed EA and Origin Access members to play 10 hours of the game, and players already discovered that it takes a considerable amount of time to unlock some of the title’s trademark heroes and villains. A member of EA’s community team responded to a complaint from a fan about the system, which only fanned the flames in the ongoing controversy of the industry’s microtransaction methods.
The outrage began when a player, who purchased the $80 deluxe edition of the game, complained on the Star Wars Battlefront Reddit page that Darth Vader was unavailable as a playable character until they gathered enough in-game credits to purchase him. Credits are earned through matches and challenges, but they're also available through the crate system (something to keep in mind for later). Early players discovered that the number of credits accrued through gameplay was small; one user even calculated that players earn an average of 275 credits in a standard match of Galactic Assault, which apparently takes an average time of 11 minutes and 9 seconds to complete. By this calculation, it would take you about 40 hours to earn the 60,000 credits to purchase Darth Vader as a playable character. However--and this is the area where microtransactions come into play--you can avoid this progression system entirely and get the same character in Hero Crates. You can purchase these crates with Crystals, an in-game currency available only by paying real-world money.
Players were already angered about the crates system in the game, which led DICE to explain and then change its mechanics after the beta sessions on consoles and PC. The straw that seemingly broke the camel’s back in the controversy came from the official EA community account, which responded to the initial post with the following message:
"The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we're looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we'll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay.We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets.Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can."
EA’s response was met with a multitude of comments and downvotes from frustrated players. At over 362,000 downvotes, it’s currently the most hated comment in Reddit’s history. An EA developer also wrote on Twitter that they received death threats and personal attacks because of the response. Dennis Brannvall, an associate design director at DICE, attempted to further clarify the game’s progression system with a post on the Reddit page. He even reiterated that the studio will continue to monitor and tweak the number of credits earned in each match against the price of crates and heroes. As expected, players were still outraged at him about the game in its current state.
Since its inception, microtransactions have been a controversial element in video games. The idea that players could pay more money after the initial game purchase to get faster access to better items put the term “pay to win” front and center. Unfortunately, these methods aren’t going away anytime soon. Take-Two Interactive, the company that owns 2K Games and Rockstar Games, announced last week it will have some sort of “recurrent consumer spending” feature in all of its future titles.
This recent issue on progression and microtransactions casts an even worse light on the game, and more importantly, EA. DICE will undoubtedly continue to add new content and tweak specific mechanics of the game, including progression, but it seems like the damage is already done to the once-beloved franchise.