Battlefield 5

What BFV Practice/Test Range should have been and what it should be in VI

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about how the state and availability of the humble Practice Range will be the most important indicator of whether or not the BF series likely to be ascendent again. Today I endeavour to expand upon that post and go into great detail on what a successful Practice Range looks like and why it is important to the series even if you never plan to set foot into it.

Why is Practice Range important?

Two main reasons:

  1. Battlefields, while not sim level deep, are still very complex games. Bullet drop, gravity, recoil, spread, armor angles, penetration, damage variance between vehicles are just a few of the many intricate systems that permeate throughout the BF releases. Players need a sandbox environment where they can focus and learn about these critically important systems (not to mention essentials like learning how to fly a helicopter). This is doubly important as new weapons and vehicles are introduced regularly and existing weapons are patched, meaning players have to "relearn" to become proficient again.
  2. As mentioned above, Battlefield is a complex game and historically that, at any given time, has meant some things are broken (or unintentionally become broken during balancing patches) and some things are unbalanced. This is not (entirely) the fault of the devs. Given that these games are so massive in scope, it is to be expected and is forgivable that a certain percentage of output will be flawed. I believe there exists a "gamer's compact" whereby gamers accept that a certain amount of flaws (not to be excessive in number nor severity) will make their way past testers with the understanding that players will identify these bugs/imbalances and devs will work as quickly as is reasonably possible to remedy them. What is not forgivable is when the means to test and validate gameplay functions is absent from the game. A well executed Practice/Test Range allows as little as one player to accumulate vast amounts of high quality information that can then be disseminated to assist in community education as well as retrofitting the game. Both of which translate into a better gameplay experience for everyone.

What's wrong with BFV's version of Practice Range?

Put simply, it is incomplete. You can use only two of the heavy vehicles and only two planes. You can't customize your weapons, can't choose your classes and you can't select your vehicle upgrades. The map, despite being technically large, feels cramped due to the rocky terrain. It lacks dummy soldiers and vehicles to fire against replaces them with vastly inferior silhouettes. It is not hyperbole to say this is a 3rd rate attempt, a massive regression and absolutely fails to achieve what a practice range in this type of game should do. We live in the information age and BF thrives off the flow of readily and easily accessible data to maintain integrity and help the game evolve. While companies like Capcom and Tecmo/Koei have long ago realized the importance of "Test Mode" in their games, EA/DICE has yet to do so. Perhaps they don't really know what to include so it is for this purpose that I have constructed the following compilation of Must and Nice to haves.

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Ability to deploy with ANY vehicle including ones normally limited like “call-ins” or special vehicles like the AC-130 in BF4 Damage indicators even on empty vehicles. This can be as simple as the current ingame system where it shows the points earned for damage or it could be more technical like it is shown in a fighting game test mode for example. This info would of course be adjusted for the game and could show the target vehicle’s health and systemic damage, how much damage was inflicted in the shot, along with the amount of consecutive hits recently landed, as well as possibly its angle in relation to you which would be useful when testing angle based modifiers.
Ability to customize vehicle configuration (upgrades like special shell types, armor, engines, optics etc.) before deployment with any configuration usable in normal play (even if player has not yet unlocked it) Ability to select ANY map in the game
Ability to deploy multiple instances of the same vehicle in either the same or different upgrade configurations Ability to spawn vehicles at designated spots. For example, if I am one player and want to test tank damage in BF4 I have to spawn, drive my tank out of the “safe zone” and then run back or respawn and then drive the other tank to a location outside of the safe zone. This takes even longer if I want to test vehicles from different factions. The ability to simply spawn any vehicle, multiple times, from any location on the map would save a ton of time!
Access to vehicles with as little as ONE player for the purposes of testing/experimentation and to allow drivers/pilots to practice and familiarize themselves with vehicles. (community games/private servers in BFV currently require min. 4 players to get access to vehicles) Freeze/unfreeze mode for aircraft. This would allow you to freeze the movement (but still allow you to rotate aircraft in any orientation) of any aircraft for the purposes of testing air weapons (kinetic, explosive and locking missiles). Currently testing aircraft weaponry is really cumbersome since you have to land them and position them just right in order to have the proper orientation.
Ability to spawn infantry bots anywhere on the map (including inside vehicles so that vehicle damage points would show when you shoot at them). Obviously, if you want to test weapons against soft targets we need to have the ability to spawn soldier dummies. These don’t necessarily have to have AI but we should be able to control if they are standing, crouching or prone to test the effects weapons (especially explosives which are impacted by soldier orientation) on them. Unlimited ammo toggle or instant ammo replenishment. For long sessions of testing against various materials it would be nice to not have to worry resupply dynamics.
Long or no expiration (self destruct) timers for vacant vehicles (10+ minutes). This allows one player to designate a vehicle as the target vehicle and then fire volleys at it from a distance and then hop into the target vehicle to evaluate numerical and systemic damage. A short expiration timer makes this hard/impossible to do. Ability to reset map destruction with one click. Basically, restore the map to its original state. Maps can get kinda messy after long testing sessions so it’d be nice to be able to quickly clean it up. Not to mention if you’re testing how weapons impact structures you’ll want an easy way to restore them without having to exit the map and restart.
A map that is large and contains a varied landscape consisting of flat land, elevated areas, sea, and buildings Limited modding “support.” I’m not talking about official support and tools, but in BF4 for example you could fire up practice mode and then run cheat engine and modify game files for testing/experimentation purposes. Want the F35 to fly twice as fast? You could do it! Want to double or halve the damage of a tank shell? You could do it! This would serve two important purposes. The first is to be able to experiment with and show possible balance changes. It’s one thing to describe a requested balance change and it is another thing to be able to SHOW it. The second purpose is to simply allow for creativity and fun. You can do some really cool stuff and tinkering with frostbite on this superficial level is just a blast! Again, I am not asking for any support from EA for this, but to simply allow for those with the know how to do as they did in BF4 practice range without fear of tripping a anti-cheat ban
Map contains all stationary weapon types that are available in game. (Machine gun and anti tank launchers for example)
Ability to spawn as any class of infantry (including special ones if those are included) with any upgrades/specializations (even those you have not yet unlocked)
Ability to customize your weapon upgrades and deploy with said weapon upgrades even if you have not unlocked them.
Ability to instantly activate “call-in” special attacks like artillery and missile strikes so that damage and effects can be tested and evaluated.

It is critical to the success of BF6 that a fully functional Practice/Test Range be available on DAY 1. To help DICE plan for this, what else do you want to see?


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