Leaving my home in Ft Lauderdale, FL for college in far off Providence, RI was a hard pill to swallow at first. It was a total culture shock. I missed my family, my parents, my brothers & my friends back home immensely.
To make matters worse, when I did get back home on holiday breaks, sometimes I wouldn’t even know what to say or talk about with my own family. But all that changed whenever my brothers and I sat in front of the TV with controllers in our hands.
We grew up in a military household, so we naturally gravitated towards military themed shooters; first on Nintendo when we were younger & then on PC. Gaming together was always the highlight of these trips home as it was how we would spend a majority of our time together.
In 2002 when I made one of these trips, my brothers introduced me to EA's Battlefield:1942 on their gaming PC. Battlefield 1942 was a first-person shooter, but unlike other FPS's I had played in the past with my brothers, it introduced the ability to choose different player classes and weapons and the ability to go head-to-head against other players around the world in huge battlefields. Each battle took place on one of several maps located in a variety of famous battlefields in the major theaters of World War II.
Growing up in a house talking about war and engrossing ourselves in military history, movies, comics and books, this was like throwing steaks to a pride of lion. Even though looking back at how basic the graphics were, I was hooked that trip. I can easily say I’ve been a gamer my entire life, but this game was an experience like nothing I had ever had before - the action was hectic and fast-paced, and the gameplay was rooted in realism. There is nothing like fighting with real people on a large scale while your brothers cheer you on - or curse you out.
I didn't have a gaming pc of my own at the time, but I did have an Xbox and PlayStation so for the next few years I’d play all of the subsequent Battlefield games and their main competitor Call of Duty.
Then in 2010 “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” was released for XBox360 and it was an absolute masterpiece. No longer set in WW2, it was contemporary weapons and vehicles set in modern warfare. From graphics to gameplay, every aspect of the Battlefield series was injected with steroids. The most eye-popping facet was adding in large-scale destructibility - instead of running around a wall that was in your way, you could just blow it out of your way. This new destructibility the DICE Engine introduced made every time you played feel like a completely unique and exciting experience. Explosions caused trees to fall, walls to crumble and 3 story buildings to collapse. It was like nothing ever experienced in a multiplayer game with 32 vs 32 players.
I never played Call of Duty or any other game again.
For the next 8 years it was nothing but “Battlefield Bad Company’s” sequels: “Battlefield 3” and then “Battlefield 4” where I devoted 1000's of hours.
I was in deep. I published highlight montages on YouTube, became a member of a few different Battlefield clans and had a tight, international network of friends to always game with at any time of the day.
My younger brothers and a few other close family friends got in deep as well. There is nothing like flying a helicopter into battle with your real-life brothers in it with you, while they’re manning the guns, calling out enemy positions and, of course, cursing you out. It simply couldn’t get any better than this.
Then Battlefield 1 came out -- its title referencing the time period players fought in, World War One. We gave it our best shot, but it just didn't feel the same. Using old guns & old vehicles in an old setting. It just didn't produce those exciting "Battlefield Moments" all Battlefield players talk and reminisce about, and eventually we all stopped playing.
When I switched careers to Creative Director at CXR Agency, I was provided my own gaming PC and Virtual Reality setup. Like they say, when one door closes, another door opens.
But in this case, the door was kicked off the hinges.
I started with playing Onward, a very realistic FPS Military Simulator. It reminded me of the early days of Call of Duty in terms of the scenarios you fought in and the levels of realism they were going for. A few co-workers and I would get into it a few times a week, playing co-op missions and multiplayer online. It hooked me immediately.
It was very different from Battlefield, but the level of immersion in Virtual Reality was insane. If I wanted to get low and hide behind a wall, I needed to physically lower my body rather than tap a button. Instead of tapping a button to reload my weapon, I would need to physically remove the magazine from the rifle, insert a new magazine from a pouch on my belt, pull back the slide on the rifle and then I was ready to fire. Doing all of this while someone was shooting at you was a new level of adrenaline rush, I had never experienced in Battlefield or any video game, period. It was a lot of fun, but it still wasn't Battlefield. There were no vehicles and the maps were small. Because it could only handle up to 10 players at a time, the action and gameplay became predictable and repetitive and I started to lose interest.
One day last year I randomly did a YouTube search for "Battlefield VR" in the hopes somebody out there was working on a Battlefield type of game for VR and to my shock, a trailer for “War Dust” came up.. I watched jets and helicopters soaring, tanks exploding and infantry charging up a hill with explosions all round them. 32 VS 32 multiplayer was their selling point, so I downloaded it immediately.
To put it simply, “War Dust” is the bastard child of “Battlefield”: it doesn't have destruction, but it does have the player classes, vehicles, huge maps, plus the multiplayer mayhem matched with the immersive combat physics of Onward.
Once again, I was hooked and am currently 500hrs deep into the game. Sure, the graphics aren't great and there are some collider issues here and there, but damnit I’m in love.
During this time last year, Battlefield 2 came out, and brought the fanbase back to where they started in WW2. It suffered the worst release of any Battlefield game of the franchise, but even if it was an incredible game, I haven't been motivated to even turn on my Xbox One. For the first time in almost 10 years, I didn't buy the latest Battlefield game title.
These days I’m a member of the War Dust War Games discord channel with a few hundred other players active in the community.
Once again, I’m a member of a clan with a bunch of guys from around the world where we organize events and get players together. It’s all those same feels of camaraderie and tense gameplay as Battlefield 3 & 4. A couple guys even started a War Dust League and my team of 4 other players put together an undefeated season, only to lose in shocking fashion in the championship game.
The future is bright for War Dust though, and even if Raptor Labs doesn't have the resources to keep expanding War Dust, eventually a bigger gaming studio will come along and do the Battlefield VR concept even better.
Recently EA announced that DICE would be releasing Battlefield 5, in 2021, promising they would return to the early successes of Battlefield 3 & 4 with contemporary warfare (their most successful and celebrated releases). At the recent EA Play Conference, they even teased some graphics, leading attendees to believe, that the multiplayer battles will increase from 32 Vs 32, to 50 Vs 50 or dare we imagine 100 Vs 100.
But even with all the kinks in War Dust, I can't conceive going back to flat “pancake” games. Maybe for a moment, I picture myself logging back into my Xbox One account, seeing all the familiar gamer tags in my friends list, showing their “Online” status and that they’re all playing the new Battlefield. I'm scrolling down the list, feverishly messaging them that "I'm back" and that “I’m putting the band back together for one more glorious run”, but then I snap out of it.
I am a sucker for nostalgia, and I miss all those guys. The hours we shared and the blood we spilled together. But I'm never going back. It's just not the same -- the level of immersion and excitement in virtual reality will never be matched by a console game, even if that game happens to be one that played such a huge part of my gaming life.