December 5, 2013

Battlefield 4 Leaderboards

Over its last few iterations, the Battlefield series has introduced a multitude of game statistics. With Battlefield 3, DICE even introduced a website dedicated to user profiles and tracking statistics.  With Battlefield 4, this evolved to include leaderboards that can be tracked on a city, national, or even global level.

Personally, I love statistics in games like this.  It's not that I want to be at the top of the leaderboard so much as I enjoy being able to track and monitor how I change and improve.  It provides a quantitative assessment of how the things I do impact my gameplay.  It is fun to me to sort through and see what vehicles and weapons I use the most.  I even enjoy the friend leaderboards, as I can aspire to lead my friends list in one task or another, as I know how they play and that their stats are legit.

Despite all this, I find myself torn by the nature of statistics in Battlefield. As anyone familiar with statistics will tell you, there is no good way to compare and contrast when the environment in which the statistics are built is not standardized.  Battlefield is built on allowing players to play the game how they want.  By putting the servers in the hands of the players and clans that rent them, we get ranked servers that run the gamut from DICE's "official" settings, to the extreme highs and lows of ticket counts and respawn rates.  Because of this, every player's experience is what they make it, which is a great thing, unless you are looking for comparable statistics.

Battlefield 4 has introduced Battlepacks, which often reward us with XP boosts. Some players are even receiving boosts as powerful as 200%.  Combine that with the double XP week EA/DICE is using to apologize for the launch difficulties, and we have people scoring hundreds of thousands of points in a twenty minute round.  The statistics offered on Battlelog do not differentiate between points earned in the traditional manner and those earned through bonuses. Therefore, those who play with boosts or during double XP events more than others will have scores and stats that skew higher.

One of the reason statistics and ranks have become such a significant part of the game is that they are a motivator.  Players will stay with a game longer if they still have higher levels to reach, better stats to score, or more weapons to unlock.  Knowing this, DICE has made certain stats, such as SPM and squad score, more prominent to encourage players to team play and PTFO more. However, this same motivation leads other people to manipulate the game to make themselves look better than they really are.

Unfortunately, so long as statistics are publicly visible on leaderboards, there will be players motivated to do anything to top the charts. Players use their ability to manipulate server settings and administration rights over the players on their servers to enforce rules enabling them and others to boost specific stats to put them on top.  If you look at the Battlefield 4 global leaderboards, nearly every category is led by boosters.

Personally, I don't see the fun or value in topping a leaderboard by spending hours manipulating the game in an abnormal way. What makes it really strange is how many cannot stop with something realistic. They see that the best players typically have a score per minute around 1,000 and decide they need to find a way to make theirs 10,000. Completely believable.

Put basically, the Battlefield leaderboards are worthless.  There will always be players cheating their way to the top.  Even if such players did not exist, the numbers would not be comparable because of the battlepack XP boosters, and because more play time inherently yields more kills and a higher score.  Take them with a grain of salt.  If you do manage to top a board by playing legitimately, feel free to be proud because your legit play just beat out some cheats.  Ultimately, though, remember that Battlefield is a game.  If you aren't having fun, you are doing it wrong.

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