Last week DICE launched a new game mode for Battlefield 2042, called Zombie Survival. It would pit a small team of human players against a horde of the undead, except, well, it lasted about a day before it had to be removed, for reasons that had nothing to do with Zombie Survival itself.
Justin Wiebe is senior design director at Ripple Effect Studios, formerly known as Danger Close Games and DICE LA, a studio that these days mostly helps out on Battlefield with stuff like game modes and expansions. He took to Twitter over the weekend to explain why the mode was pulled, after players were gaining XP too quickly and easily:
“We’ve removed the Zombie’s mode and replaced with Gun Game”, he wrote. “Hopefully we can fix it in the future and keep it in alignment with standard game progression. We’ve also tightened our review process to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Thanks for your patience and understanding.”
Then, responding to a player who said the mode had been seeing a “mixed bag of reactions” from fans, Wiebe added, “I think there was potential for the mode but needs to go back into the workshop for a bit. Regardless, we need to be focusing on more important issues like improving core XP progression for BF Portal.”
“I’m not going to lie, this one shouldn’t have gotten through our review process,” he says in another, earlier tweet. “I think our desire to create a fun zombies mode clouded our ability to see such a simple thing like the impact it would have on progression. I’m very sorry for the hardship this has caused.”
The issue here is the Battlefield 2042, for better and mostly worse, is built around the idea that as you play it you gain XP, which lets you unlock new weapons, vehicles, skins and equipment in the main game modes. That makes it one of the most important things for the team to get right, and introducing fan-made modes in Portal—the game’s creation suite—that break that progression threatens to undermine the system the main game modes are relying on.
This of course sucks, regardless of whether you enjoyed Zombie Survival or not, because it reminds us that the progression system itself is deeply unsatisfying for anyone playing the game for a serious amount of time. To see interesting game modes like this nuked to preserve it shows that this game’s priorities are wrong at their most fundamental levels.