Battlfield 3 Developer Interview
Post by Dan @ 09:02pm 09/04/11 | Comments
AusGamers catches up with EA DICE producer Patrick Bach at EA’s 2011 London Showcase for another chat about the hugely anticipated Battlefield 3.
AusGamers: My first question is regarding the storyline. Battlefield 1942 and BF2 didn’t have campaign storylines as such and the Bad Company games were very light-hearted, but you guys are taking a much grittier and more realistic approach with Battlefield 3. Has that been much more difficult? Trying to craft a story that has to take itself seriously as opposed to being able to have a bit of a laugh with it?
Patrick Bach: Yes and no. I think that the mindset of the Bad Company series first is what the Battlefield core series stands for. We’ve never been super-serious, it’s about fun first. You know, games are supposed to be fun. But the whole mindset behind the Bad Company series is fundamentally different from what we’re building right now.
I think what you could say is the same -- when it comes to the campaign -- is that we care about the characters. We want living, breathing characters that have some kind of personality, but then the whole tongue-in-cheek type of characters that we had in the Bad Company series, we’re not exploring in Battlefield 3.
AG: Now you guys are all based in Europe, but the characters we’ve seen so far have all been American soldiers. Do you have any kind of external advisers on that, any ex-military types or the like helping you capture that culture?
Patrick: Yes, we have a lot of of “foreigners” working in the studio in Stockholm. So Americans and people from all over the planet. So we have all our bases covered when it comes to culture and references like that. Then when it comes to the feedback on military actions and behaviour, we do have some experts that we work with to get the movement right, to get the vibe right and get the gun-handling right and stuff like that. To some people that’s also very important and we want to make sure that we pay attention to those things.
AG: So will the core of the story be a U.S. centric thing, or will it have a more multi-national, international aspect to it?
Patrick: I won’t go into details on that just yet, because there’s a lot in-store to tell later.
AG: With the opposing force in the game are you making any kind of considerations to try and make the player be a little more sympathetic instead of having them all just be “terrorists” to justify shooting wave after wave after wave of them with impunity?
Patrick: It’s always a concern when you have a game where you’re shooting at something that’s supposed to be human. I think we have the same challenges and the same opportunities as other media. You know, looking at literature or movies or TV series. So there is a challenge on how you treat the subject you’re working with. I won’t go into details again on the exact story, but we are trying to have our twist on how you tell a story on the subject of war. It’s a challenge.
AG: A common criticism of many recent top shooters has been an all too brief singleplayer campaign, with five to six hours having somehow become the norm now. But we’ve heard reports of Battlefield 3 intending to buck that trend. Are you offering estimates as to how long that might be yet?
Patrick: No. I think any reports on the length of the campaign have been based on speculation. We haven’t released any numbers on that yet. To me, I personally think that a great campaign is more important than a lengthy campaign. So I don’t really have any comments on what is better. I’d rather have a shorter -- not too short of course, but the question is “what is too short? -- a shorter campaign that’s super great, rather than just making it longer for the number’s sake -- which some campaigns are; then no-one finishes them.
So that’s also a challenge. It needs to keep your attention for the whole campaign, otherwise you can just ignore building a campaign at all, I think.
AG: One thing seems certain -- from an outside perspective -- is that this is one game that’s just not going to look as good on PlayStation and Xbox as it will on PC. We’ve also heard mention of smaller maps in the console versions in some situations. It’s starting to almost look like a potential turning point for multi-platform titles this generation, with the PC finally unshackling from that console anchor to show the world what it’s capable of again.
Do you think that concept of “platform parity” -- with developers having to promise the same experience across all platforms -- is finally coming to an end for this generation?
Patrick: It’s harder and harder to have them being the same; I agree. I think the talk of us having smaller maps on console is a bit weird though, because the player number on console is the same as we had in Bad Company 2 and it’s bigger than most other shooters actually. So I don’t see a problem with that; with the number of players you have on the consoles. The maps themselves aren’t so much smaller on consoles as they are just bigger on PC.
It’s the conception of us making something smaller, when we’re not. We’re actually making something bigger, because we have the opportunity to do that on PC -- due to things like bandwidth, CPU and memory. So we are utilising the extra power that we have. We haven’t shown anything from a console yet, so all of that is based on speculation; we haven’t said that the game will look worse on console. I’m actually surprised at how good it looks on console, considering our stretched-goal on creating a next generation experience.
So I think that our biggest threat there is not actually other games, it’s actually our own game, but on a PC. So I wouldn’t be too worried about that and I especially wouldn’t speculate too much on that until we’ve shown you what it means.
AG: Well that question comes from the perspective of a PC gamer, having noticed that a lot of developers seem to have held back on PC capabilities because they don’t want to push the tech too far ahead of what’s capable on a console. But what we’ve seen so far from Battlefield 3 seems like a potential tipping-point for that.
AG: The older Battlefield games on PC were massively popular among the mod community, but Bad Company 2 obviously didn’t offer that functionality. Will we be seeing a return to form there for Battlefield 3 with mod support?
Patrick: We haven’t released any information on those kind of details yet. In general though, games are becoming more and more complicated to build. We’re using a lot of bits and pieces from third-party middleware and stuff like that to be able to build the games we’re building today. Everyone thinks they want mod support but not that many people use it, to be honest. We do have a very avid group of people that really love the mod support.
So I’m really sorry to say, but it is a declining kind of art form. Which we see as a very, very sad thing, because we have recruited a lot of mod people to DICE actually. It’s becoming more and more complicated to build games in general so I think the mod community will shrink further in the future to be honest.
AG: Clearly you guys are making some big strides with graphics and physics tech, but what about audio? The Battlefield games have always been among the best sounding games, so is there anything you’re doing new there that you can talk about?
Patrick: I don’t have any details on exactly what we’re doing. Like you said, we are very successful when it comes to audio -- we just won the BAFTA for game audio, which is of course good proof that we’re doing something right, we have a very talented audio team working. They are doing some new and really cool things to make sure that Battlefield 3 will sound better than any other Battlefield game so far, and also making sure that whole style and tone of the game comes through in the audio as well.
Because to us, audio is a catalyst more or less to whatever game you’re building. You can enhance so many things; you can increase the emotions that you’re already creating with the rest of the game with the audio, so that’s a very important part of both the engine and the creative part.
AG: Is there potential there to re-use many of the old sound effects from previous games, or have you started from scratch, re-recording every gun shot?
Patrick: In theory, if we had been clever, we would have re-used everything. That would have been the cheaper solution. But since we are DICE and we’re always feeling that we have to improve on stuff, we actually re-recorded everything again [laughs]. To be able to take that step forward instead of just grinding on the same old stuff.
AG: Finally, back on the storytelling aspect. Quality voice acting is a very important part of really drawing people into the game and what we’ve seen in BF3 looks pretty solid so far. Are you talking about any of the specific talent that you’ve signed on for the game yet, any names?
Patrick: Sorry, no names yet
AG: Ok, well that’s all we have time for today, thanks so much for that.
Patrick: Thank you very much.