Battlefield 3 Developer Explains USAS-12 Frag Rounds

    March 30, 2012
    Richard Stalker
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The frag rounds in the damn USAS-12. It seemed as though every time I turned a corner I was getting shot in the face by one. It got so bad, I said to hell with it and started using one myself. If they wanted to be wusses and use that gun, I could definitely beat them at their own game, and thats what I did. I played with it almost exclusively, and laugh almost the entire time. I got a lot of hate mail in my inbox but i always had teammates wether clan members or randoms thank me and call for me when there was a clog up in an area. Then the news came that they were balancing the gun by slowing it down. That made me play with it more!

My USAS-12 Stats:

Time 10h 13m
Kills 892
Headshots 112
ShotsFired 13541
Accuracy % 26

Thats right, 1.45 kills per minute played with that beast, not bad. But through this whole thing me and just about everyone wondered WHY? Why would DICE intentionally put us all through the ringer with this obviously over powered weapon?

We all finally got the answer today when Alan Kertz who is a Core Gameplay Designer on Battlefield 3 went on the Battlefield blog to continue on his “Inside Dice” series. This is what he had to say:

“I often get the question “who thought 12g FRAG rounds were a good idea?” Well, that would be me. 12 gauge FRAG rounds stem from two places. First, like nearly everything in Battlefield, FRAG rounds are inspired by an authentic shotgun ammunition (developed for military use and tested by the USMC). A FRAG round is a 19mm High Explosive round, making it of a similar caliber to the rounds fired by the cannons on the F-18!

The second inspiration comes from an Easter Egg weapon for developers in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The developers (or anyone who picked up their kit) could fire 12g FRAG rounds, with a similar ballistic performance as a standard shotgun slug, though slower. So popular was the round with developers and players alike that the FRAG round was made an unlockable ammo type for shotguns in Battlefield 3.

The addition of suppression in Battlefield 3 as a gameplay mechanic gave 12g FRAG rounds a clear target design. FRAG rounds would allow players with shot guns a round with limited combat effectiveness but the capability to harass and suppress opponents at longer distances. It almost worked.

Straight out of the gate, as players ranked up a bit of fun was had with FRAG rounds in the first unlockable shotgun, the 870. As players continued to rank up, the FRAG rounds were put to the test in the semi-automatic shotguns, with greater but still limited success. Enter the USAS-12. Arguably the FRAG round was developed primarily for combat shotguns, especially automatic weapons capable of quickly putting multiple rounds on target, since each round is of limited damage itself. It was clear that in order to remain balanced, and despite it not being completely authentic, the automatic and semi-automatic shotguns would need to have their own version of the FRAG round. It was quickly patched in, for balance.

And so it seemed that all was well again, at least for a time. The FRAG rounds are an interesting bit of study, statistically speaking. On the PC, USAS-12 kills account for just 1.8% of all kills (all ammo types are included in that figure, not just FRAG rounds). On the PS3 that number climbs to just over 3% and on Xbox 360 it climbs to nearly 4%. This is a unique behavior, as not only are the FRAG rounds and the USAS identical on all three platforms, but only the stats for USAS-12 and 870 vary so drastically between platforms. Furthermore, the 870 is most popular on PC and then drops in the same order of PS3 and 360. I’ll let everyone draw their own conclusions as to why this is, though I certainly have my suspicions. Statistically, there is a worst case scenario of dying from the USAS-12 1 out of every 25 deaths.

So why does it feel so frequent? Primarily, the FRAG rounds are most effective in Battlefield 3 exactly where they would be in real life: close quarters, urban combat. When broken down by map and mode, the USAS-12 is clearly more popular in TDM and CQB maps like Grand Bazaar and Operation Metro. Players in those modes are more likely to be killed by FRAG rounds than players who run around on Kharg Island Conquest.

And what do I plan to do about it? Well, one very little, but very effective change will take place in the near future. On all other shotguns, using FRAG rounds reduces the effective rate of fire. For semiautomatic shotguns this rate drops from 200-220 rounds per minute to 180rpm, a 10% reduction. The USAS simply did not have this reduction in place. As of the next update, it will have its 275rpm reduced significantly to 200rpm. I’m actually a bit worried it’s too much, and I’m eager to hear how players react to the change.

Shotguns are easily the most difficult weapons to balance in Battlefield. Given the wide range of combat distances in Battlefield 3, shotguns must feel powerful up close, without being over powered, and weak at medium distance without being under powered. Furthermore, each map has a unique combat distance feeling, yet the performance of the weapons must feel consistent. The relatively random nature of pellet spread, or FRAG round accuracy, makes this especially difficult. The update also includes some more minor tweaks to try and help players consistently identify the effective range of their shotgun by reducing the random factors involved.

Rest assured, this won’t be the last update for balance issues in Battlefield 3. I’ll be monitoring the situation closely, and working directly with the team to make additional updates and tweaks to keep the Battlefield balanced. Let me know what you think of the latest balancing tweaks here in the comments section on the blog.”

So as you can see, the reason for the Frag rounds and what ended up happening were completely unseen. But they are almost completely nerfing the gun in as far as how many RPM it fires

40 service stars with the USAS 12? Seriously? Do those frag rounds give you tingling sensations? #Battlefield3 3 days ago via Twitter for Android ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

OMFG I hate the usas 12 in BF3 3 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry

Conor ElseaWho needs accuracy when you have a USAS-12 with frag rounds? 6 days ago via web ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

  • CJ Brown

    Firstly, congratulations on the success of Battlefield 3!
    I only wish there existed a way to exit the “finish lobby” without exiting the game to look for another map without sitting for 45 seconds being forced to look at the scoreboard which can be frustrating at times. Also, it would be great if an accurate ping meter was displayed somewhere showing exactly what the latency is in the current server.
    Game wise (IMO), the soldier takes too long to stand up (too lazy), load weapons, also, no real difference in the sprint mode versus other modes. The pistols have too great of damage versus carbines at long range.
    Long range bolt action rifles don’t pack enough punch earlier enough in the progression-body blows should be 1 shot kills with a bolt action. Semi autos are making hard won (progressed) bolt action rifles practically illegitimate due to their rate of fire and suppression.*needs balanced IMO*
    Thanks for considering this, CJ

  • Zach McGowen

    The lowering of the power and RPM of the frag rounds, especially in the USAS-12 ruined BF3. It is supposed to be a realistic shooter. In real life, the firing rate of a shotgun doesn’t decrease or increase with different rounds. So why should it in the game? Also, the frag rounds are EXPLOSIVE. So they are like grenades, and should kill people. After the update, very few people use frag rounds, because they are dramatically underpowered. The USAS wasn’t overpowered with the frag rounds. It still took several hits at medium distance to kill someone, and I got killed by all different classes and weapons when using the USAS. So, the developers ruined a great strategy to play the game by changing it.