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BattleField 2, Part 2

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 14, 2005
(Issue 2341, Searching the Internet)

Last week, we took a look at "BattleField 2," the new multiplayer combat game that's quickly becoming the hottest thing in online gaming.

And while BF2 remains highly addictive, it's also turning out to be buggy as all get out.

Only released in June, BattleField 2 is causing all kinds of crashes and freezes of users' PCs. In the weeks since I wrote the last column (my overly patient editor, Gretchen, can well attest that I don't exactly write one column each week – they tend to arrive in bunches of 2-4), I've found BF2 tends to crash every couple of sessions.

And I'm not the only one. As mentioned, all kinds of people are complaining about the bugginess of BF2.

How do I know this?

The Internet.

Grassroots communities

If the Internet allows up to 64 players from across the globe to square off 32x32 on the same map in BF2, on thousands of maps, it also allows those players to communicate with one another outside the BF2 environment.

And they are.

The same blog and forum software that allows any Web host to add live interaction to her/his BF2 fan site allows that Web site owner and her/his visitors to share their BF2 experiences.

When those experiences are positive, it's the sort of viral marketing money can't buy – and that sort of positive buzz has been a big part of BF2's success.

But not all the buzz is positive.

From computers freezing mid-game to being kicked out to the desktop to having your PC freeze after you exit BF2, this game is buggier than a week-old corpse.

At a weekly gaming LAN I attend, we all are pretty much guaranteed to crash out of the game at least once over the course of the evening.

Grassroots solutions

Doing a Google search for BattleField 2 crashes and bugs brings up over a million hits. Not all of them relate to the game, but quite a few are, and most of those come from various gaming forums where frustrated fans are gathering.

The problem with the Internet, of course, is that while there's lots of information, you can't always tell up front how accurate or useful it is.

One of the posts on a forum about BF2 crashes reported that the onboard audio cards on many motherboards couldn't handle the BF2 audio. This user said buying a separate sound card had fixed his crash problems.

We all have onboard audio at the weekly LAN party, so the LAN host offered to buy a sound card and see how it worked.

He's still crashing out of BF2 – so that solution didn't work for him (and the rest of us aren't going to drop coin on a sound card if it isn't necessary).

Other suggestions we found on some of these forums included re-installing the game (did that; some improvement over the short haul – but who wants to keep re-installing their games? That's goofy ...), getting different video drivers and adding more RAM.

All of these approaches, though, are essentially user fixes to what are flaws in the game itself.

What's that? We could take the game back for a refund?

Clearly you didn't read last week's column about just how very addictive this game is.

When it's running, that is.

The word from Electronic Arts

There has already been one fairly significant patch for BF2, 1.02, which weighs in at a rather hefty 16 MB. And EA Games, publisher of the BattleField franchise, announced during the summer that a major upgrade patch, 1.03, is in the works. EA's official BattleField 2 Web site reported in mid-August that the original late August release date for the 1.03 patch has been pushed back indefinitely.

So when we'll get a bug-free version of BF2 remains to be seen. And whether any of the fixes on the various fan-based forums will work in the meantime seems a bit doubtful.

Equally doubtful, though, is that EA Games will see any major backlash for releasing BF2 in such a buggy state – it's simply too good a game for us to give up on.