I will preface this by explaining that I am not going to be jumping onto the circlejerk of Star Wars: Battlefront hate that has been making waves. I intend to defend this title with what limited capability I possess from running a small gaming blog. This piece is also largely one of journalistic opinion and I do not possess written evidence to support any of my arguments. I am only making assumptions, and speculating, based on my experience as a software developer and information technology professional.
I hate Electronic Arts (EA) as much as the next guy; I pre-ordered SimCity and was not able to play it for weeks. I have felt just as frustrated as everybody else while Electronic Arts has continued to nickel and dime its customers with microtransactions, even after they have purchased a full $60 game. I am in no way defending EA as their meddling has destroyed other companies, and ruined completely pristine game franchises in the past; however, the rhetoric against Battlefront has gone too far. People have been venting all of their hate towards EA at the wrong target and for, possibly, some silly reasons. Most of the complaints that I have seen made against this game can be boiled down to space combat is not being included, the AT-AT sequence on the moon of Endor is on rails, and Clone War era content all being missing from the game as seen in this reddit post.
The most common idea that I have seen making the rounds is that these features have been stripped away in order to sell back to you as DLC. There is no way to avoid this topic. It is a very real possibility, especially knowing the history of EA. I choose to not be that jaded and I am going to postulate why they may not have been possible to include from a technical perspective, as my hypothesis is very plausible.
The most recent core game in the Battlefront series was Battlefront 2 and was released a full decade ago, in 2005. Since that time what have we seen happen? The original developer of the series, Pandemic Studios, has completely shut down and Lucasarts was sold to Disney. When EA was given the rights, by Disney, to be the exclusive developer of all Star Wars video games they may not have been given access previous assets, or the previous source code, and assets may have gone missing since that time. EA then did what any publisher in that situation would do, give the Battlefront project to the most experienced developer of shooters with territory control, DICE. Battlefront was originally a Battlefield 1942 clone with a Star Wars skin so it makes perfect sense to give this project to the developers of Battlefield 1942.
I would like to point out that the original Battlefront did not include space combat or hero units, these features were introduced in the sequel. Sequels are typically an iterative product, the developers are able to learn from mistakes, add things that they previously didn’t have time to add and remove features that didn’t work, building on an existing foundation. This is a luxury that DICE may not have at their disposal. If we assume that DICE needed to start from scratch, it is reasonable to assume that they may not have had the resources necessary to implement all of the features that a second generation product had. Even if DICE had access to previous assets they may have needed to start over anyways, Battlefront 2 was developed in the Zero Engine and DICE now uses the Frostbite 3 engine to develop the Battlefield games. The previous work may not be compatible with the newer engine.
Taking out controllable AT-ATs does suck, but developers of the game have said that this was a design decision, and I am currently not in a situation to prove them otherwise. Perhaps at one point in development this feature was implemented and subsequently removed due to balance issues; the developers wanted to have an increased focus on the ground combat between players. I am not sure, but I am positive that many of the people gushing hyperbole on the internet are not experienced game designers capable proving the developers incorrect, otherwise they would be making their own great games. So until I personally get the chance to play the game I do not have an opinion of how “fun” the game is with this feature removed, and nobody else should have that opinion either because nobody knows yet.
Finally, the prequel era being removed from the game. I find this incredibly ironic how a group of people who at one point said that anything to do with the prequel trilogy is a blight on the existence of Star Wars, akin to the Star Wars Holiday Special. They are now complaining that the very thing that they passionately hate has been removed from this upcoming title. You can not have your cake and eat it too in this case. Those who have made a comment about how they hate all things to do with the prequel trilogy are not allowed to then turn around and complain about the prequel era being removed from this game. If you do this then you are a complete hypocrite and are undeserving of debate on the subject. Though, if you are upset because you think that the prequel trilogy has some merit, and wish that you could have awesome battles of droids vs. clone troopers in the rain on Kamino, while looking at blaster fire in those sick water effects, then that is a completely different argument, and one that I share with you.