It's no secret that Battlefield 1942 doesn't have a very mature community and audience yet. This is part and parcel of being a new multiplayer online game. Yet I can't help but contrast Battlefield's development with that of Tribes 2. Both games are team- and objective-oriented; the loose cannon with great individual skills isn't as much of a contributor as the smart team player.
Right now you can log onto any BF1942 server and see players waiting for planes to spawn. There will be many scouts (snipers) and assaults, with fewer engineers, medics and anti-tank infantrymen. The assault and sniper classes tend to have better frag-to-death ratios, though on maps like Stalingrad, the medic is a popular choice. The average flyboy can get a 5 to 1 ratio even with persistent AA fire.
At the same time, you can log on to Tribes 2 and watch a lone heavy armor obstinately sit by a generator deep inside his base, turrets and sensors deployed, even though he'll be lucky to see four or five enemies in twenty minutes. There is bound to be at least one guy constantly repairing turrets, no matter how many times they get blown up by missiles and mortars. He might not get a single frag all game, but he still does it. The question is why - what engenders these vastly different mindsets?
Both games attract the same kind of players - those looking for the consummate teamplay experience. These are people who want to find a niche, a role they enjoy and excel at. Yet Battlefield players tend to shun the grunt work, while those in Tribes 2 gladly do it. There's no doubt that Tribes 2 players have more experience in both Tribes 2 and the original, but you never heard stories about vehicle hogs even when T2 was new. Then when you look at BF1942, it's almost cliché to talk about a sinking carrier full of flyboys waiting for their planes, with no engineer in sight.
Battlefield's mechanics certainly reward teamplay - if the carrier goes down, the team has lost an incredibly important offensive weapon - so team members should try and keep it afloat, right? If a flag on Midway or Wake Island is captured, there's no need for 6 wanna-be pilots on the carrier, so they can spawn on the island and hold the flag, right?
Except, they never do. Oh sure, there are conscientious players out there who understand the concepts behind teamplay, but most people are too motivated by individual scores to sacrifice their standing on the server for a team win. Nobody remembers team wins, but everyone remembers the sniper who goes 30-2 night after night.
Tribes 2 neatly solves this problem by putting the emphasis on points, not frags. Repair a turret or generator? Get big points. Did you deploy a turret wisely and it got a frag? You get the frag. Did you defend the generators from attack? You get extra points. Did you destroy an enemy generator? Guess what - you got extra points! Stopped the enemy flag carrier mere feet from his own flag? Major points. Shot down a vehicle? Big points again. Suddenly, the guy defending the generators doesn't end up on the scoresheet as the loser with just six frags - his bonuses show his contribution.
Battlefield 1942 doesn't show the contributions of the anti-tank who sacrificed himself time after time to stop the PzIVs from rolling down into the Soviet half of the city. He gets no bonus for fighting a tank while six l33td00dz spam grenades at spawn points and get ridiculous scores. At the end of the match, he's probably sitting near the bottom of the scoresheet, with 13 kills (9 of them tanks) and 20 deaths. Judging by the score, he looks like a bad player - and he realizes this. Nobody wants to be known as a loser.
Battlefield offers no extra incentive to stop the tanks, even though they are a much bigger threat to the team than a sniper with a sick frag ratio. Indeed, given the difficulty of attacking a tank, the average player is more likely to get fed a 75mm cannon round than to return the favor with a panzerschreck. Why would he want to have a loser's score when he can just spam grenades on Stalingrad, snipe on Omaha Beach, get cheesy spawn-rape exp pack kills in Kursk, or bomb with impunity over Operation Baytown? Yeah, his team might lose, but he'll be the guy with the 4-1 frag-death ratio, and the chumps trying to blow up tanks with bazookas or assault flag positions will look like they're the ones costing the team a win.
So there is no actual difference in the mindsets of the players in those two games. They all want to play their roles, but they also want their contributions recognized. Tribes 2 provides that recognition in the form of extra points, while Battlefield doesn't. Thus, Tribes 2 has many gamers willing to do the dirty work, while Battlefield doesn't.
If the community in Battlefield 1942 is going to improve, the game has to take the first step by rewarding the guys doing the dirty jobs. It'll make for more interesting matches, happier players and a well-rounded community. With time, the community might develop unspoken rules to prevent abuse on certain maps (like the explosive pack cheese on Kursk's tight spawn points.) There is hope - if even the cynical Tribes 2 crowd can agree that destroying bases before teams are at 10 players a piece is bad, then surely the fresh and enthusiastic Battlefield 1942 players can decide on rules to improve their game.