I Hate Battlefield 3

I hate EA Games. I hate Origin. I hate Click & Buy. I REALLY hate Paypal. And I hate BF3.

Why ? you ask, submerged with bewilderment at such bile (in case you are not bewildered, please go to one of your favorite bookmarks now).

Why ? Let me tell you why (warning for the lily-hearted: a light dose of totally-overused-all-over-the-Internet strong language will follow).

*** Some history first :

DICE made its name with the Battlefield series. Then, at the height of their glory with the success of BF Vietnam, EA bought them and started ruining the franchise.

BF 1942 was a great game. It was fun, fast-paced and a joy to play. With friends, of course, because I hate the online morons who play my team but shoot ME in the back when there are enemies all around simply because I got to the tank first, only to get themselves killed two seconds later because they ran into a ditch and an enemy tank took that as a friendly invitation to end their sense of entitlement. Tank that I had seen and was intent on thwarting before being traitorously shot from behind by . . . okay, I'm getting slightly sidetracked.

So, BF 1942 was great. BF Vietnam was loads of fun too, especially once they had finally found out how to make foliage opaque to bots - before that it was a bit of a crapshoot with enemy bot snipers who could see you but you hade a snowball's chance in Hades of seeing them. DICE corrected that, and the world was fine and dandy on the battlefield. With bots, of course, because those foulmouthed, traitorous morons that infest . . no, not again. Stay the course.

BF 2 was simply gorgeous, and it was getting better to play online with the 3 strikes program. Remember that ? Kill three teammates and you're ejected from the server. I loved that one. Of course, it took some for EA/DICE to fine-tune that functionality to ensure that engineers didn't unjustly get kicked for having put a bomb on the road and seeing, horrified, one of their own jeeps blow up on it, but EA/DICE managed to correct the niggling issues and play was grand, with bots, and just about bearable with those sub-humans that grief the battlefields from their mom's basements. Okay, enough about them.

BF 2, as gorgeous and fun as it was to play, was also the start of EA's trend into locking down the battlefield (literally). No longer could you pit any faction against any other, as you had been free to do in the previous versions. No, here the excuse was that the units were coded into the levels, so you had to use the faction that was coded. Bollocks, I say. They had done it differently for two full versions before, changing things now had no technical reason whatsoever. It was political correctness, pure and simple. All of a sudden, having a game where US troops could be set against Euro troops was not acceptable. Yeah, right.

Anyways, that was one minor point that demonstrated the downward trend. The other, major point, was the map sizes, which were EA's excuse to force players to use official servers. Yes, this is where the battle against free servers started, people. That battle was fought ferociously, thanks to stalwart warriors of the likes of which we may well never see again (thinking of you, WCC Squad). Thanks to some resistance fighters with unmatched spirit and not just a bit of PHP skills, my friends and I enjoyed a private, ranked server for over two and half years, with 80 bots and zero griefers. The maps we played were full-sized, and we had the Warthog as favorite bomber.

Glorious days. Well, in between game patches, that is. Yes, because EA knew about the private servers, and didn't like it. So, with every patch, there was something done especially just to break private rankings, and every time the PHP resistance fighters reviewed their code and made it work again. Kind of like the Apple/jailbreak thing today. Even in the end, when EA implemented some low-level OS calls to some file in order to lock things down and force players to only call their official (ie paying) servers (by the way, the method used was to hijack the hosts file to bend it to their evil purposes - sorry, where did you get the right to do that, EA ?), intelligent people found the way to get around the lockdown and continue using private, ranked servers. And, with each patch, I wasted a week and a half implementing the patch and the server updates to get it all working.

We lasted over 30 months in that battle, then BF 2142 came out and it was all over. Since BF 2142, there are no more private servers because you can't play solo anymore. That's how EA finally locked the chastity belt. All previous versions had a solo mode against bots, so it wasn't too difficult to get that solo mode to accept multiplayer. But, if there is no solo mode, if there are no bots in the game, then it's game over for private servers and for bots. Of course, it was only a question of time before the crafty EA money-grubbers put two and two together, and BF 2142 was their 4 moment.

From then on, EA has gleefully rubbed its hands in piles of our money every time they sell a new version of their BF series, secure in the notion that they have finally screwed us over good and we can no longer retaliate.

Since that time, I vowed I would never again buy another EA game, vow which stood the test of time - until one of my close friends admitted to having bought BF 3 to play with another group of friends. Hemming and hawing, I was finally dragged into this hell once again (what one doesn't do in the name of friendship) and I bought BF3.

And this is how it worked out for me.

*** The Purchase Experience

BF 3 can be bought online from Origin. At first, I took that as a good thing, because I had had it with EA Downloader (or whatever else they call that crap these days). Because of EA Downloader I had lost my right to install BF 2142 (the digital installer kept asking me for the CD key, wtf ?!?), and when I complained about it too much, I found that my copy had been purely and simply invalidated. My money, on the other hand, they kept. Thanks EA, I won't forget that one.

So, with touching naiveté, I thought to myself "at least I won't be going through all those hassles with Origin". Yeah, right, we'll see how that goes shortly. And no, I didn't know that Origin was just EA with a facelift. Now I do.

Anyway, armed with my VISA, I boldly stepped up to Origin's site to purchase BF3 Premium. I created my Origin profile, entered the purchase into my cart, and went for checkout. There, I noticed that I had the choice of checkout operators : Click & Buy, or Paypal. No VISA option. Hmmm. Well, since I hate Paypal, I went for Click & Buy. Of course, I had to input my credit card details. Then, I had to create a Click & Buy profile, and input my credit card details AGAIN. By the way, Origin, since you only deal with Click & Buy or Paypal, would you mind explaining why exactly it is necessary that I give YOU my credit card details ? I'd really like to know.

So I went back to purchase BF 3 Premium. Yes, with all this account creation stuff going on, of course my Origin session had expired and my cart was empty. Going back through it all again (uselessly inputting my credit card details ONCE AGAIN for Origin), I end up at the purchase validation screen, only to see that my purchase is refused "for security reasons".

Now, let me remind you that, when purchasing with a VISA, there is this thing they call 3D Security (yeah, because Virtual Security probably didn't give that SECURE vibe they were looking for, whereas everything being 3D these days . . .). Basically, what it looks like is this : you go to pay for a purchase, and the cart operator opens a session with your bank to validate said purchase. You input your 3D Secure password and the bank reports that the purchase can proceed.

In other words, your banks is now called to validate your online purchase, meaning that the scumbags that skim your credit card number are now (theoretically) screwed. Yay for security.

So, going back to Click & Buy, I saw the "security reasons" message and wondered what exactly did they mean ? Opening my C&B profile, I saw that they were asking for me to "confirm" my bank account. Oh, okay, I thought (always with touching naiveté), C&B wants to ensure that I am not trying to skim from someone else's account. Fair enough, I said to myself, this is a security measure I can bear with. I click on the "confirm" option. I then get the explanation that I need to find two "purchases" on my credit card statement. Each purchase contains an amount of €1.xx, and when I see the two lines, I should come back and enter the two xx amounts. Fine, I think, this'll be done in a jiffy. I log into my webbanking, and check my statement. Nothing.

An hour later, I check again. Still nothing.

I had started this thing on a Friday night. It took until the following Tuesday for the purchase lines to appear. By that time, I was done with gritting my teeth, I was grinding my molars to fine dust. Finally ! I thought. I was going to finally get my BF3 Premium (touching naiveté).

Oh how wrong I was.

Having found the amounts that would validate my account, I opened my C&B profile and followed the instructions for completing the confirmation process. Lo and behold ! my bank account was confirmed.
I rushed back to the Origin store and went through the process once again - entering my credit card details ONCE AGAIN as uselessly as before - and got to the validation/checkout page. I gleefully submitted to the 3D Security check and watched as my purchase was finally validated . . .

Screw that, I got the "security reasons" denial message again. WHAT !??! What "security reasons" could possibly exist for this denial of my right to spend my money ?!

Let me see, in order to buy this single game, I had to create my 3D Security profile, I had to create a Click and Buy (hah!) profile, I had to give my credit card details countless times, I had to CONFIRM the validity of my bank account with a transaction that C&B approved, AND I WAS STILL SUBJECT TO "SECURITY REASONS" ????

Needless to say, the message I left for C&B support helldesk was slightly less than perfectly polite (full disclosure below). I called into question their ability to program as well as their ability use cognitive reasoning and, catching my breath, demanded an explanation.

full disclosure
First name: xxxxxx
Last name: xxxxxx
Your email address: xxxx@xxxxxx.net
Your ClickandBuy account number: xxxxxxxx (authenticated)
Language: en
Subject: Purchases and subscriptions
Sub-Category: Complaint
Please enter your question or comment here:
I subscribed to your "service" in order to purchase Battlefield 3 from EA/Origin in digital form.

When I first tried to make the purchase, I ran into the 3D Security thing for the first time - had to set that up and my purchase was cancelled. Fine with that though, my bank is directly authorizing the purchase - that is a good thing and I applaud the effort.

Then I had to confirm my bank account with you. That took no less than four days and I can't help but think it is a rather redundant step since 3D Security is my bank telling you everything is OK. But fine, lets confirm this bank account.

So I waited for the transactions to appear on my statement and lo, today they did.

And now I am trying once again to make my purchase and what do I find ? You are telling me that the transaction cannot complete for SECURITY REASONS ?

Which ones ? You can't trust my bank ? Or you can't trust your own code ? WHAT ?

I've jumped through all your bloody hoops. I have the money, give me my game already. What more do you need ? A blood sample ?

I want to know what "security reasons" are preventing you from performing the service MY BANK is TELLING YOU you CAN. Please explain. And it had better be good, because right now you're looking more of a useless nuisance than anything else.
full disclosure

This is the answer I recieved, in full :

Your customer reference number is: xxxxxxxx
Dear Mr.  xxxxxx,
Thank you for contacting ClickandBuy and for your message.

Please note that at ClickandBuy you may only use credit cards which has been issued in your country of residence.
For this reason, please enter a French credit card instead of the one issued in Luxemburg and try to purchase again.
The verification amounts have been refunded to your credit card, so that you may suffer no loss.

Yours sincerely,

ClickandBuy Complaints Management Team

So, if I read that correctly, C&B had no problem charging my card from another country (hey, I work in Luxembourg but live in France - it's that thing called Europe, remember ?) without asking for any 3D Security validation, but when I wished to do the same thing with MY OWN MONEY, then all of a sudden there were "security reasons" ?

How about you give me that "security reasons" bullshit when you try to CREDIT MY ACCOUNT (twice) in the first place ?

Right, useless nuisance indeed. Needless to say my answer was short and to the point : I cancelled my Click & Buy (re- HAH !) account.

Which, of course, now left me with only one option : Paypal.

Ye gods, the things one doesn't do for friendship.

Grudgingly, with as much reticence as a wary cat, I went to Paypal and, <shudder>, created an account. Holy shit, I now have a Paypal account. Damn you, Origin ! Damn you to Hell !

Going through the Ts & Cs with a fine-toothed comb, I soon found that "confirming" my bank account was once again on the cards. Wasting no time, I launched the procedure. Paypal only took one day to have the charge show in my credit card statement - Paypal 1, C&B a big fat 0.

Back to the Origin store. Place BF3 Premium in cart. Go to checkout. Enter my bloody credit card details uselessly ONCE AGAIN AGAIN AGAIN. Choose (bleargh !) Paypal. Validate with 3D Security and . . . it is approved !

Finally !

BF3 Premium is MINE ! All mine ! Wait, why am I happy again ? I just gave yet more of my money to a pack of bloodsucking, joykilling, game-cloning vampires. Sheesh.

Oh well, the damage is done, time to download.

*** The Download Experience

This is the perfect time to specify that, each of the numerous times I had set my BF3 Premium item into my cart, I had clearly indicated that I wanted my version to be in English - which was the principal reason for all this rigmarole in the first place. Indeed, if I was not hell-bent on having an English version, I could have just gone into a store and bought a DVD off the shelf in my nearest French supermarket (and maybe I could have done that anyway - I'm just beyond all that putting-a-bloody-disc-in-the-cup-holder-thing). Knowing that my game would be in French in that case (and having to use a DVD to most likely authorize the same download anyways), I tried the online way, hoping to get my copy of the game in English. Right, and I also play the Eurolottery every week. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Downloading is done via the Origin Downloader client. I fire it up and see that . . . my BF3 Limited Edition copy is ready for download.

this is the
          icon for BF 3 as it appears in my Origin panel

WHAT ?!? Limited Edition ??? I bought a Premium Edition you bastards ! Ye Gods I can't believe this is happening ! <pant><pant> Reigning in my fury, I start the download. All 17GB of it. Sheesh, better not want to watch TV at the same time. Oh well, another all-nighter for the PC.

A few weeks later, uh, the next day, I check the download status. The Origin client had indeed downloaded the game and all five packs included in the Premium Edition, so there's that. It's still listed as Limited Edition though - I guess EA didn't have enough money to pay a graphist to make a teensy little Premium banner on the icon. They had the money to do it on the Origin Store, though (proof here). Funny that (for a moronic value of funny, that is). Cheap bastards.

Anyways, I could finally start my BF 3 experience ! Somewhat excited despited all my wrath against EA, I fire up the client and find that . . . it was the French version.

What followed that discovery was a series of soundly-expelled expletives that are most definitely not fit for public consumption, so I shall spare you their recall. Let's just say that I was incensed. But there I was, so onward I went.

*** The Battlefield 3 Experience

My first choice was a bit of Multiplayer. That is where I noticed that there is no more in-game server selector. Nope, you do that in the web page. Kudos to EA/Origin for having extracted a normal game function and placed it in a totally different application. Well done, guys, really. By the way, could you tell me how gamers with only one screen on their rig manage ? Okay, they manage, I know, but sheesh, am I happy to have two screens. Oh, and congratulations on the totally useless desktop icon that launches the game while I still have to go to the web page to find the server. That is soooo useful, instead of, for example, making the icon launch the web page, since it's going to end up launching the client anyway. But no, that would be logical, and we can't have that, now can we ?

That said, I have to admit that the teething problems that were to be had with server filters in BF 2 and BF 2142 were finally gone (after two complete games, maybe more but I never did play online with BF 1942/Vietnam). The server filters now work as advertised, so when you search for empty servers you find a list of empty servers. You can refine to a single map, if you are so inclined. Nice to see that, since 2004 (at least), they finally got that part down pat. Well done, EA ! <choke>

So I chose a few maps where I could prance about without dying for more than three seconds. Having an empty battlefield helps when you wish to discover the game. What a shame there is no single-player mode, where one could train oneself on the maps before submitting oneself to the harsh realities of war. I wonder in what far future such a functionality could possibly - wait, we had that functionality and EA took it away. Well done, EA, way to improve the player experience.

Anyway, I discover the maps. Beautiful maps. Absolutely gorgeous, detail-filled maps. Breathtaking, really. The BF 3 world is fantastic, it must be said. I revisit Karkhand and smile fondly at the memories, whilst admiring the new version in its nip-tucking splendour. Well done there, guys, sincerely.

In my various map explorations, I hop into a troop carrier and explore a bit faster, then switch to tank and go medieval on some buildings just to see what happens. Holes happen. Great big bloody holes in almost every structure (some remain curiously indestructable). And trees no longer kill tanks ! Neither do the flimsy wooden barriers along the roads ! They bow down meekly before the might of my 60-ton beast ! And you can actually DRIVE THROUGH a building now ! Joy !

So there I am, shooting holes in buildings and watching roofs tumble down, when suddenly my tank shudders. Hmm, didn't know that the blast had been that powerf - BAM ! Tank shudder again. Wait, that was no asteroid . . . I turn the turrent around and, sure enough, some sneaky bastard had logged into my game and found me. Not that I had been particularly difficult to find, given the amount of explosions I was causing. Oh well, I was dead and my server was contaminated. I left him my dog tags and logged out.

Okay, EA, I have to admit, the game world is near-perfect. Well done there.

What a shame one cannot play against bots <harp><harp>.

*** The BF 3 Campaign Experience

Having been thoroughly wowed by the multiplayer world, I deem that it is about time to do the campaign and get some training. I start a new campaign and witness a rather nice cut-scene placing me in a subway train. Okay, nice intro, now I game. Pick up the gun and wipe out terrorists. Too bad there is no explanation to my acts, I'm just thrown into the action. Not that I'm complaining - yet. I grind through the baddies until, at one point, I'm totally blindsided by this one guy that I could never, ever have seen in a real subway train. Okay, we wants some actual surprise, I get it. Some melee action too, got it. Except that I'm not meeleing for squat, it's a cutscene. I am told to press the left mouse button at one point in my pseudo-struggles, I press LMB and witness, breath baited, to see how the totally predictable outcome would proceed. The terrorist ends up through the window of the subway train in a manner that totally convinces me that I can do this in-game (not). So I now have an AK-47, yippee ! Die, terrorist scum ! Onwards I plow, piloting my actions myself once again.

I get to the end wagon where, on the other side of a bullet-proof window (yeah, I've never been in a subway train where the windows weren't bullet-proof, I can totally feel the immersion there, guys), a terrorist is priming some explosives. After wasting my clip shooting him (yeah, because I was totally expecting bullet-proof windows, like in real life), I notice that I have to exit through the window. Okay, I find the window and exit (pressing E to use said window). Wait, didn't I just get rid of a terrorist like that a minute ago ? Too late ! What follows is a cut scene with a pseudo quick-time action, where my character jumps from one wagon to the next and avoids the explosion. I'm sure I can do that in-game too. Right.

My character watches the explosion, the seperated wagons receed into the dark, and the cutscene moves my characters' vision to the left, where the terrorist who was priming the explosives is standing intact, barely a meter from where they blew a train apart, and raising his arm to shoot me down. Oh no! He fires ! Down I go ! And catch myself on what is probably the last foot rail of an external ladder. God only knows where my legs are at this point, but hey, now I'm swaying like a monkey on a branch. Oh, and there's a subtext : Press SPACE. I press SPACE. The screen jerks around, apparently I fall, and catch myself again.

I press SPACE a second time and the screen jerks around again. A third time and I fall to my death. Wait, what ? Uh, that can't be right. I'm the hero. I can only die if I'm shot at too many times, no ?

No. I start the sequence again, going through the whole escape-through-the-window thing a few more times and each time I end up dead. Frustrated and dead.

Thankfully, the Internet is now available and I don't have to wait a month for some solution to be printed in a magazine. I fire up YouTube and find what I want, a walkthrough for that scene. Except the guy who made the "walkthrough" is not saying anything about what he did, he's just showing the result, like a magician doing the same trick slower for the dumbass that I am. Yeah, I can see you do the trick, but that doesn't tell me HOW you did it.
Then I tell myself that it must be a throwback from the console era. Meaning, I should probably mash that space bar endlessly until I get to the top of the wagon (because, thanks to the walkthrough, I know that's what happens). So I fire up the campaign mode again and get to the monkey point where I start mashing that space bar like there's no tomorrow.

And I die, again.

Fuck this, EA, I am not amused. I don't have the time to fool around with this shit. Half-Life was way better than this. I leave the campaing mode in its dust. I'll be playing with my buddies next Monday anyway.

*** Summing it up

The BF 3 engine is simpy wonderful. With all the games that have promised a "fully destructable world", I finally have one that actually delivers on its promise outside of the promotional videos (note to MoH gamers : I'm not saying MoH doesn't do that now, I haven't the faintest idea if it does or not and I won't be playing that anyway).

The server finder, for all the faults I find in its implementation, is well done and its filters are reliable. Good point.

The campaign is way too full of cutscenes that take away the immersion and pretend that I can do things I don't have a chance of accomplishing in the multiplayer game.  Three minutes of play time and as many immersion-shattering events. Shame on you, EA, for ruining this game like that.

I hate Battlefield 3.

*** Post Scriptum

I did find out how to get my BF3 in English - no thanks to proper Origin support though. It's a hack, involving downloading the right dll file, and downloading and using a registry file with the proper settings.

So, Origin, would you care to explain just how it is that it is so difficult for you to give people the language version they ask you for ? I mean, if there's a semi-official hack immediately available via search engine, then you can't be too good at delivering the goods as they are requested, now can you ?

I've got a bad feeling about this game.