Bulkhead Interactive took first-person shooters into its sights and fired off a volley of shots, striking the FPS community last week with the release of Battalion 1944.
Retailed for $14.99 USD, and immediately put on sale with a ten percent discount, Battalion 1944 dropped seemingly out of nowhere for three dollars cheaper than originally expected. “Strange,” I thought to myself, as I clicked purchase and installed the game. Little did I know, I wouldn’t be able to play this new game for a minimum of two days. (Always do your research!) Bulkhead’s Early Access FPS had an extremely difficult launch despite the “good luck” tweet from the don himself, PlayerUnknown.
Studio Lead Joe Brammer took to Twitter upon realizing that his game didn’t work at all. Thousands of players were attempting to log into a game server that, first, couldn’t handle the capacity, and, second, technically wasn’t ready for players to play on. In short, the game couldn't run, and Bulkhead embraced its failure head on. Brammer posted a stream of tweets notifying the disgruntled community that the fixes were inbound, coming hot, and that the studio was hard at work making things right. This developer communication and transparency only continued, something I admire greatly.
We had already been scared that the game wouldn’t work. Sure, Steam offers refunds for cases like that, but it was more than the money. It was hope. I’m speaking for myself here, but I was fearful that the game I was looking forward to would be the exact bust I had hoped it wouldn’t be. Well, I was wrong. Thanks to the strength of Bulkhead’s development team and Brammer’s consistent, unrelenting leadership and transparency, Battalion 1944 works.
In the first of Brammer’s videos posted during the “crisis," he details the initial server issues, in which too many players were attempting to contact the servers at the same time, resulting in crashes and failure. Brammer said that the issue’s fix had been identified, and the servers would be brought down and reset. Unfortunately, this didn’t work.
So Brammer and the guys at Bulkhead stayed up all night at the office, working on identifying what else could be causing the issue.
Below is the second video, posted later in the evening (on the same day of release), in which Brammer lays his cards on the table. He admits “failure” and speaks on his disappointment in himself.
“This is entirely me,” he said.
He made promises (that he has come through on) to remain transparent and communicative in the future. The problem he identified, this time, was that he underestimated the number of players that the game would have, and purchased too few servers.
“I let my fear of failure get in the way," he said.
A far greater number of players purchased Battalion on launch day than Brammer had expected, which resulted in server overloads.
The following day, the server kinks were ironed out, and the game was playable. I was only able to play one match, as I didn’t have much time that day, but from what I did play, the server was stable, despite unbalanced teams. This was the next issue that Bulkhead had to tackle: team balancing. Teams were queuing with three members on Axis, six on Allies — or vice versa — and playing out as is. Players on the disadvantaged teams left, canceling many games. As of now, these balancing issues have been resolved.
Here’s what I like about all of this: communication.
It takes weeks to get an answer out of Bungie. The Prometheus Lens was busted for weeks, without any changes made until very recently. How do you let something competitively unbalanced sit like that for so long? It took minutes to get a direct response from Bulkhead. Give it a try, tweet at them. I almost guarantee they’ll respond if you’re genuine. A dedicated, communicative, and transparent development team is what restored my faith in this game, despite a terribly rocky start. Feeling as though the creator genuinely cares about their product is important to me, and this feeling bleeds all through Battalion, and the guys at Bulkhead wear this on their sleeves.
Now that it’s stable, Battalion has seen some unexpected popularity. Shroud and many other popular Twitch streamers are getting into the fun, embracing the game's old school feel that is so reminiscent of early Call of Duty and Medal of Honor titles. I’ve seen some crazy 720 no scopes with the KAR98, and it’s only been a week. I’m excited to see how much more of the community will embrace the game, and for how long. I worry about the game’s longevity, but think positively in regards to esports and a competitive scene for Battalion. I don’t think it’ll outlast something like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
We’ll see. For now, thanks Bulkhead. See you on the battlefield.