DICE launched its Battlefield 3 rent-a-server feature for console gamers earlier in 2012, and now the developer is adding a new tool to give server admins even more control over who plays and how a game unfolds: the Matches feature. With Matches, those who pay for a server rental will be able to define things like the time, server name, and a designated roster for a multiplayer match, as well as gameplay-oriented options like friendy fire, health regen, and kill cam.
The idea here is to give those who rent Battlefield 3 servers the ability to coordinate sessions with friends and squads, via a Battlelog-based interface. This leaves me worried though. EA's dedicated console servers all but disappeared once the rent-a-server feature launched, and with Matches offering server hosts the ability to specify by name who can join... well... where do the rest of the players fit in, the ones who don't want to pay for a server rental and don't have friends who do?
Obviously not EVERY server will have locked rosters, and from the sound of things this feature only works if you're actively setting up one of these coordinated matches for a specific time. That said, the move from EA-hosted servers to player-hosted servers hasn't been very well received in all parts of the fan community, with many complaining of draconian server rules, kick-prone admins, and too many high ticket matches.
Given all of that, I just can't see how a feature that gives server admins more power over their matches -- right down to who can and can't play before they even join -- is going to help the situation. Now to be fair, the Matches feature isn't out yet and there's more still to be revealed about it. We don't know how it's going to turn out once it's in the wild. And the basic idea here -- offering players the ability to set up versus matches among large groups of friends -- is certainly a strong one from a social perspective.
I'm not criticizing Matches, I just have some questions about what it's going to mean for the larger community, lone wolf gamers and small squads who just want to play random pick-up matches. Sure, you could just rent a server of your own, but I'm guessing that most would prefer a solution that doesn't require paying a monthly fee for virtual real estate. We'll be following up with EA on this one.