USAS 12 Frag Rounds: Tale of the Tape

Following up on his last “Inside DICE” post, Alan Kertz returns with the inside story on the much discussed Battlefield 3 USAS 12 shotgun and FRAG rounds: Where the inspiration came from, how it was balanced shortly after launch, and how we’re rebalancing it based on community feedback.

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.

It’s important for us to fine-tune shotgun balancing at close range, especially with the upcoming expansion pack Battlefield 3: Close Quarters this June.

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.

Alan Kertz
Core Gameplay Designer

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  • RSKane 06.03.12 at 23:32

    I don’t think one should be able to snipe with a shotgun. That’s what it seems like when you’re maybe a 1000 feet away and you die because of a shotgun blast.

  • evilblakdarknes 05.28.12 at 03:00

    one thing i really miss about the usas 12 with frags before the latest patch is the hate mail i’d get from other players ha. that would alway bring a smile to my face:)

  • evilblakdarknes 05.26.12 at 20:15

    before the patch the usas 12 was my favourite gun, now its one of my least favourites. to weak and not effective now. you’ve ruined a popular gun which is a shame.

    • Friendsfromafar 06.07.12 at 21:53

      The USAS 12 with frag rounds were completely overpowered. I was always getting raped with the gun and the other team would absolutely decimate the other team if they all were using frag rounds. I never tried them until they were about to patch it and i was amazed by the power and lethality of the gun. I got three service stars in no time and the reason it was so popular was because it was very easy to use and get kills with

  • BrettStevens94 05.24.12 at 17:47

    this seems interesting and im happy you did that people used to go crazy with the frag round but why take it down so low that now no1 uses them why did you put so much recoil on the usas 12 that no1 wants to use it anymore im egar to know

  • RedWo1f147 05.24.12 at 03:11

    Then why do I get kicked?

  • YinYang27 05.23.12 at 02:23

    FINALLY!!! I HATE FRAG ROUNDS!!! In fact I hate every shotgun EXCEPT for the 870 Combat! I can’t wait for the USAS-12 to be like that!

  • MindlessCorpse 05.22.12 at 11:35

    I liked the Frag Rounds. they were effective if you could put the round on the target. Now I can put two or three rounds on a player at close range, and they still have time to respond. Too weak now.
    I usually use a different rifle, but for close maps, the USAS-12 w/Frag has gone too weak.

  • hapalupa 05.22.12 at 02:11

    shotguns are still overpowered. I don’t mind if they great at short-distance combat but you can easily get killed from them even on mid-range. and all the noobs that can’t aim are running with them. lads just look how many tdm servers have shotguns baned. thing to consider, dice.

    • evilblakdarknes 05.26.12 at 20:21

      don’t agree with you. shut guns should have lots of stopping power just like they would in real life. if you’re gun complain about a shot gun then why not complain about sniper rifles being used with iron, dot or holo scopes. i’ve said it one or twice and i’ll say it again. to many under powered guns on this gun. they all need buffing and the good ones left alone. its never a good idea to ruin a fun weapon but you can make the less fun ones fun to.

  • kazki_026 05.14.12 at 04:58

    USAS frag = U SUCKS AT SHOOTING.. well for me post patch is good so you just dont run in hell and kill as a devil. but also fix the m26 dart. its just shotgun sniper kills one shot in mid and long range.

  • MordecaiAMC 05.11.12 at 14:25

    Prepatch prepatch prepatch

  • Mr.NiCoS 05.10.12 at 21:15

    fix bf to pre patch it was much better that way only dont change shotguns cus they are good now

  • Knife Saver 05.09.12 at 05:48

    I’ve never found a problem with the USAS Frags rounds. Even since the Beta version. Ive used them a couple of times before and after the patch. You are going to die by any and probably every gun in the game at some point. Just get over it.

  • egofinn69 05.07.12 at 20:38

    i think that the USAS-12 is now under powered. it loses to almost every gun at close range. and the frag rounds are now useless

  • lxndrskv 05.06.12 at 21:59

    Die Frag rounds

  • GriNGoGaTo42o 04.26.12 at 06:02


  • pocketrocket666 04.25.12 at 10:03

    whats the point of bringing out cqb expansion pack if all the good guns for it are gone now. i won’t buy it for sure. whats the bullshit about balance anyway. not all guns are the same in real life either so they aren’t balanced. total balance is just the same gun for all and thats boring. with the last patch we got a lot closer to that now. instead of using many different guns i only use the m416 , m4 and hand guns now most others aren’t really worth it anymore…

  • pocketrocket666 04.25.12 at 09:59

    the usas12 and the famas are completely useless now. you might as well just completly remove them from the game. its still possible to get kills on dumb noob maps like shooting up the stairs in metro still works but that wasn’t much fun in the first place and all the noobs kept wining about it. to use those guns on other maps required skill and it was a lot of fun. fragging out enemy positions jeeps and helis that is not possible anymore, you might as well start throwing pillows. the game was a lot more fun before most guns were nerfed to bb mode…

    • evilblakdarknes 05.26.12 at 20:27

      start throwing pillows haha i like it:)

  • Almeida_fn 04.25.12 at 01:09
  • Almeida_fn 04.25.12 at 01:09

    Boa noite galera como comprar o pack do bf3 no Br

  • 7AMDON 04.23.12 at 14:59

    THE IS NOTHING THAT overpowered !!! u need skills ! ,,,,,,,the game was amazing first 2 months before the fucking every patch after it …fucking weapons ..the game become bulshit

  • 7AMDON 04.23.12 at 14:57

    YOU UYS HAVE listened to fucking around 1k player to fuck up usas + frag and everything …i dont feeel its a wepon anymore its shit and i quited battlefield 3 becouse u reduced its damage etc … should have vooote for it before doing shit updates in important weapons …and same time if players dont want play with frag ppl then they should just join a server not allows frags usas etc……….its soooo shaame u guys fucked my best weapons ,,,,fuck this game i dont like it anymore unless u give it back

  • Alexanderbb-1994 04.23.12 at 12:11

    i belive you never should path the usas or mk3. they where fine where they was before

  • LCAlucard 04.20.12 at 20:17

    lool I like it the way it was!

    And yes, i played with it, and yes i played against it…. and soo?
    Overpowered? OK. I understand all points of view, however it’s easy to counter it.
    It’s a Game, soo, Pull yours imagination, use every combination and Most of all, your SKILL…
    and Pufff a magic weapon will apear to face frag, usas, dart, even the m320….

    And yes, i already used all weapons… i can garantee that overpowered or not, there is always a combination + skill that will surpass “the overpowereds” weapons/shot’s!

    Soo, i think with soo many “updates” at weapons, we start to feel wicked shots…

    Because, if guys want “REALISTIC” weapons and BLA BLA BLA, “REALISTIC”

    FRAG: It’s a SHOT that has a GRENADE on it, and EXPLODES when touch’s YOU! Soo…

    FOR REAL, what can a GRENADE do to You, when shooted too your chest, you will BLOW UP! with luck, some leg can get untouched or a finger or 2 LOOOL….

    A sniper, and not getting the M98B, just for example: L96 Ammunition 10 [7.62x51mm NATO] at close range, what happens? lol u should get a “GOOD EXIT HOLE” from the shot entering…. DEAD! but…well, 2shots…well… OK! No problem… Then we do what?

    Get Adapted… Adapted

    • COWSgtHavoc 04.20.12 at 20:54

      there is a flaw in your logic with the snipers. 7.62x51mm NATO, and all the other rounds used by the long range bolt actions would most likely not kill at close range unless it hit the heart or the head. Those rounds go faster as they travel through the air so it would make more sense to have 2 shots at close range and 1 shot at long range, as long as its above the waist.

      • mattrio 04.22.12 at 06:21

        just so you know, in real life, the law of physics dictates that regardless of weapon, the speed of the bullet will NEVER increase in speed unless going straight down, so that means that with the friction of the air (dust, wind, just about anything really) will slow the bullet down…the game mechanics are different than in real life…so all in all, i cannot say the sniper rifle’s bullet will decrease or increase speed, but if it drops only one can assume that its losing its speed…but i’ve always hated shot guns unless its up close and personal…tempted to play with shotguns again

      • Ertsec 04.22.12 at 21:01

        Well in real life the bullet also rises if it were to be sighted in at 100 meters because the 7.62×51/.308 round tends to shoot in a arch. This means that all shots under 100 meters would be aimed at the chest for the bullet to hit the chest.

  • SulavaCracroft 04.19.12 at 06:09

    Buckshot, easy, quick not overpowered. Frag with USAS, ARRRRG!

  • coeur-de-fer 04.19.12 at 01:13

    And as long as we are talking about shotguns and their effect, the closeup effect of buckshot is very unrealistically nerfed. The military found a long time ago that multiple round hits from a small caliber like a .22, such as three hits, will have a greater physiological shock effect than a single hit from a larger caliber and be more immediately disabling. Within the first 10 feet, the shotgun pellet spread is so negligible the impact is the same size and the effect the same as a bullet of the same mass so should be the same as, for instance, the .45 mag pistol (which should be a one hit kill at that distance). The effect should drop off rapidly and geometrically after that, but even three pellet hits should be disabling. Unless you have a flak jacket that actually works. By the way, you still have “hints” that the flechettes will punch through thin wood and metal. They don’t appear to be able to punch through cotton. You should update your hints to match your nerfs.

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