On July, 7th DICE published Battleblog #2: With A Bit Of Class. This blog post describes in minor details the four classes that will exist in Battlefield 3 from the perspective of Sr. Gameplay Designer Alan Kertz aka Demize99. Most of that sounds very exciting and thought-through, but there was one comment about the recon class past and future that really got me thinking. Kertz says that “Recon traditionally has been seen as just a sniper”. To me, that is a highly simplified view. Thinking of Battlefield 2142 for example, there was one unlock tree actually enabling you to live up to your role: a personnel camouflage device would make you invisible, a carbine gave you solid and accurate firepower and either the anti-personnel mine or the RDX explosives gave you the means to carry chaos and confusion behind enemy lines.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 drifted away from that and more or less forced recon class into a sniper role. All class-specific unlockable weapons were dedicated sniper rifles, so to a certain point, Kertz is right of course, but ignores the fact that BFBC2’s design is to blame for the distorted perception of the recon class and its role on the battlefield. As a matter of fact though, players were not forced into a sniping role. After all, general unlockable weapons were available to all classes, including powerful shotguns, the G3 assault rifle and of course the Thompson M1A1 submachine gun. These gave all classes a set of alternative weapons, but moreso to the recon class, allowing it to shift its activity from “far away” right into the heat of battle. Add to that the deployable motion sensors and explosives and you had a class that could easily wreak havoc on its own in some kind of guerilla warfare or play a supporting role in a well-working squad.

Experience suggests though, that the vast majority of players did not play this “recon-grunt” but in fact the recon-sniper. Ultimately, I’m concerned that this will not change in Battlefield 3, despite Kertz stating that DICE “built several completely new teamplay oriented gadgets specifically for the Recon class so he can be a team player, even if he’s sitting on the top of Wookie Mountain.” This is certainly happening with the best intentions, but in ignorance of one key variable in that equation: human nature. Experience from Battlefield 1942 through BF2 to BFBC2 shows that snipers are typically lonewolves. They are not the kind of people who worry about the dynamics on the battlefield, they are players who have little interest in teamplay and teamwork. I dare predict that no matter what kind of equipment DICE will introduce in BF3, the vast majority of players who chose to be “recon” will continue to play the sniper they’ve always played. Hope remains that whatever gadgets Kertz is talking about will not turn out to weaken the team, because the players who are supposed to use them aren’t aware of where – or how – there use might be required.