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AusGamers Battlefield 3 Video Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 12:30pm 11/03/11 | Comments
AusGamers had a chance to catch up with the king of first-person shooters at EA, Patrick Söderlund, to talk Battlefield 3...

AusGamers: Hi guys, we’re at a very special event out here at GDC. You’re with Stephen Farrelly and AusGamers once again. We have a very, very special guest tonight: we’re speaking to Patrick, who is... you would call him the boss of first-person shooters down at DICE and DICE are basically the boss of first-person shooters in the games industry.

Patrick, thanks for joining us today. Let’s get straight into it; that demo was, I’m going to say it, fucking amazing. At what point did you guys sort of step back... you’ve been talking about Frostbite 2.0 for a while and there were a lot of teething problems with the last Frostbite -- especially on consoles, a lot of people complaining about it and it coming back to PC and so on. At what point did you just sit down and say “you know what? We need to re-write this entire thing!”?

Patrick Söderlund: There’s a couple of the reasons why we decided to do that. First of all, a lot of it is something that the gamer won’t see. We decided that we needed to make it a lot more easier for the people that work with it to work on. So we completely re-wrote the whole toolset so that we could iterate quicker and by having the ability to iterate quicker, we could also make a better game.

Because we can test things and say “this isn’t good enough, let’s try it again until we get it right”. So that’s a big part of it, the whole suite around toolset and how we do things, that’s different. But then we also thought that there’s a lot of stuff that haven’t done that we can do. Rendering-wise, animation-wise, sound-wise and we felt if we could get all those to mix well and do the things that we think we can do technically, then we can deliver a game to the consumer that he hasn’t seen before and that no one in this industry can replicate. And that’s been our goal from day one.

Watch the full interview embedded above or click here for the HD streaming option

AG: So have you built the engine with that mindset? Is it almost a futuristic mindset, in that, you understand that down the track, you’re going to need a certain set of tools to work with for other iterations of this type of game? DICE tend to work in the first-person field obviously, and even Mirror’s Edge was running off similar tech. So how far forward did you guys think when you were building this?

Patrick: Well, we actually looked at it from a slightly different perspective. We looked at what areas do we think we need to improve upon, in order to be innovated and industry-leading. We looked at it and said, we can do a lot better on the rendering side, even on PC and obviously on console as well and we can do a lot better on the animation side. I think what breaks the illusion with a first-person shooter today, when you play it, is actually the movement of the NPCs and your squad-mates.

They look good from time to time, but there are so many elements or points in time where you’ll see them snap or look weird when you’re playing the game and we wanted to eliminate all of that. So what you’re seeing today, hopefully you’ll agree with me that, the animations that you see you cannot tell whether it’s AI-driven or scripted. And what you just saw is probably 80% AI-driven, but you can’t tell the difference, right? And that’s been our goal. The blending out of scripted moments into AI needs to be completely seamless. We look at the game and say “we never want a popping AI, we never want a twitching AI, we never want any of that”. It has to be perfect, so to say.

So that’s the one area. Audio is another area where we felt there’s a lot more here that we can do that we haven’t done. So when you hear the game, you’ll also be able to hear that “holy crap, that’s different -- I haven’t heard that before”. Then the last thing is obviously rendering -- making sure that we could have huge cities that you can fully destruct and that you can shoot down facades, you can shoot down buildings. Everything that you should be able to do in reality, you can do in the game.

So again, we looked at it from those angles and talked about what areas do we need to improve and we kind of took it from there and made the tech based on that.

AG: So obviously for Battlefield, this is an actual proper sequel to Battlefield 2 and it’s the first time you guys have kind of injected this much single-player material. What was the reason behind doing that and not just releasing basically another multiplayer-only game. Is that a learning thing that you’ve pulled from the Bad Company series? Is it to invite new players to come in and experience the new tech that you’ve got, or is it because you guys have kind of grown as story-tellers? There were moments in that demo that I genuinely forgot I was looking at a videogame.

Patrick: Well I’m glad you say that. I think it’s probably a little bit of everything you said. I think... you know let’s not kid ourselves, we want to make a game that can reach a broad market, a mass-market consumer. So we think that we need single-player to be able to do that. We think that we need single-player in order to be successful on the consoles.

At the same time though, now that we’ve made single-player from Bad Company one to Bad Company 2 and now to Battlefield 3, we’ve kind of gotten very fond of doing it. So generally, you’ll find the DICE guys, the people at DICE, they made the type of game that they want to play themselves. And I think what this technology allows us to do is make a single-player game like nothing that’s ever been done before and wait until you see the multiplayer, which is the same type of fidelity, but with a lot of other cool things in there that you won’t believe when you see them.

So we just looked at it from that perspective and felt like, you know what, we like telling a story, we feel that that’s inspirational to us. We looked at movies like Hurt Locker, Generation Kill and Black Hawk Down. Looked at those movies and said, there are elements in those movies that we think that we can convey and convert into a computer game and that we want the consumer to experience.

AG: Are you guys ever concerned that... the modern warfare setting is quite common now, in that it’s almost similar to where we were at a few years ago with World War II. And obviously the story you’re telling in Battlefield 3 is a few years down the track and total fiction. But are you ever worried that you’re kind of -- it’s hard to say after seeing the demo, because it looks so good -- but are you ever worried that you’re kind of grinding the same gears, in terms of narrative in that context?

Patrick: Yeah, there’s always a risk of that of course. I think the overall, where you are, whether it’s in World War II or modern war, is probably less relevant to us at least. I think the most relevant thing is to get a believable dialogue amongst the characters and the game so that you as a consumer can look and play the game and actually care about the characters that are in there. So we spent a lot of time and energy on making you want to care about the people that you meet in the game and the people that are with you in the game.

And I think we could tell that story in World War II, in space, or in modern war. We picked modern war.

AG: Now I know you guys probably aren’t going to talk to much about multiplayer. But I guess I kind had two big questions. One of the first ones was: there’s a lot of action and emotion and drama that you injected into those three segments of gameplay that we saw and obviously that’s driven from a narrative context and works. But you’re also showing off the strength of the engine. For me, it would be a no-brainer to not utilise what the engine is capable of there, in multiplayer. But how are you going to drive those holy shit moments that we saw there?

Do you guys have kind of a plan of attack? Is there a narrative component to the multiplayer stuff now?

Patrick: Well no there isn’t, but the multiplayer I think when you play multiplayer, just like in any Battlefield game, you make those scenes. You’re part of making those scenes. What we need to do is to be able to give you a toolbox where it’s easy for you to make those scenes. Where you can create that kind of spectacle that you saw here.

Whether that is taking down a whole building or whether that is you shooting people with a tank and the whole animation system plays it so that it looks real. There’s so many different things that you can do with an attack that I think will create those moments. But I think we need to understand, the way I look at, single-player is single-player. It’s going to be a narrative, almost movie-like type of experience, whilst multiplayer is going to be something different.

What this engine allows us to do is give you an experience in multiplayer that probably matches the single-player experience as well, without the narrative.

AG: Are you going to be able to drop a building on a helicopter in multiplayer?

Patrick: You’ll see what we can do, I can’t tell you more than that.

AG: Now you guys are leading on the PC platform, which is really wonderful to hear. It’s probably something that you can’t talk about, but in terms of the dedicated server model -- which is a really hot topic today -- are you guys going to follow what you’ve been doing in the past with this? Or are you adopting a whole knew attitude with it, with the new engine and with the new game?

Patrick: No, we’re going to continue following the old path. We think that we need to let the consumer... yeah totally, dedicated servers is what we want. We to give the best possible experience to the consumer and for us, that requires dedicated servers.

AGAwesome. Well thank you very much Patrick, You guys heard it here first tonight on AusGamers. We’re at GDC and really, the game is fantastic. Well done. Thanks guys.

Patrick: Thank you.

AG: Cheers. Thanks Patrick.

Latest Comments
Posted 01:18pm 11/3/11
Posted 01:21pm 11/3/11
Great interview, I like your interviiews... they seem very unedited and unplanned... you ask the right questions we want to know, even tho in the last witcher (i think) interview you seemed a bit stoned :D
Posted 01:31pm 11/3/11
Good job on the interview, you've improved heaps :)
Posted 03:00pm 11/3/11
Yeah I agree. You always ask good questions, not stupid generic ones that everyone else asks.
Posted 03:18pm 11/3/11
Holy s*** Steve I could tell by the way you come across in text that you were a chill dude but man best interview ever, you should start up a YT channel if ya wanna get more vids out there. Nice job mate, keep it up.
Posted 03:24pm 11/3/11
oh man you sound like a robot! feel free to vary your tone a bit here and there :)

but the questions were good because they yielded the answers we all wanted to know
Posted 06:02pm 11/3/11
what is this bar? star wars cantina?
Posted 08:15pm 11/3/11
Nice one
Posted 08:42pm 11/3/11
Great interview. Lots of good news, and it was good to hear you ask about dedicated servers (and to hear that they'll definitely still be there).
Posted 01:50am 12/3/11
This game looks amazing... I'm so stoked for this game.
Reverend Evil
Posted 02:08am 12/3/11
Good interview Steve. I love the beers in the background. Twas a nice touch.

Posted 08:57am 12/3/11
Interview of the year?
Posted 01:41pm 12/3/11
'Dedicated server model' 'for the consumer', yea right. They aren't going to ship the server to everyone. They are going to make you pay a certain set of EA approved companies for them to host it.

Shame there was no talk on mod tools. Be interesting to see what excuses/lies they will use now, "omg frostbite 2.0 is too complex for mortal minds! we couldn't give out mod tools because your brains would explode!!"
Posted 06:01pm 12/3/11
@ Kamu

From what i remember their main reason behind the "too complex" tools is because they apparently need several servers just to run it, that is what i remember reading anyway, sorry that i don't remember where but it makes sense if its true.
Posted 06:03pm 12/3/11
'Dedicated server model' 'for the consumer', yea right. They aren't going to ship the server to everyone. They are going to make you pay a certain set of EA approved companies for them to host it.

Thank god. Im tired of millions of scrub servers where the host has zero ping and everyone else starts lagging when he downloads some porn.

Not that i like EA, but dedicated server is about having dedicated resources to give a full multiplayer experience. Anything less reflects poorly on the game, even if it's out of their hands.

I don't like EA, but servers to specific high quality hosts like the most popular ones we already see (internode, ausgamers and so on) are the best bet.
Good interview Steve. I love the beers in the background. Twas a nice touch.

I liked his sweaty palm wipe on his pants just before he shook the guys hand.
Posted 08:12pm 12/3/11
You sound like a robot Reality.
Posted 08:23pm 12/3/11
Very good interview. Nice one. I particularly liked the way you included scenes from the trailer throughout.
Posted 12:10am 21/3/11
I caint wait till this comes out
Posted 12:30am 21/3/11
Steve Farrelly is so dreamy. He looks like rock star except for the gaming world.
Posted 10:07am 21/3/11
Thank god. Im tired of millions of scrub servers where the host has zero ping and everyone else starts lagging when he downloads some porn.
How often does that happen though? And when it does, the worst case scenario is that you have a s*** game for a few minutes then go off to find another server. A truly open model gives you choice and options and even lets you run the server yourself, which is something you don't get in the Battlefield model.
Posted 01:26pm 21/3/11
How often does that happen though? And when it does, the worst case scenario is that you have a s*** game for a few minutes then go off to find another server. A truly open model gives you choice and options and even lets you run the server yourself, which is something you don't get in the Battlefield model.

I think i was drunk when i posted that i don't really remember, what i was saying what my point was or why..

But I don't play that many non-dedicated hosted games right now so i don't actually have anything except the old q3 free to all server model. You'd jump on gamespy (through the ingame browser) look for a low ping, join it, and then it'd feel like ass (i think network latency used to mean more, 0-5ms ping was impossibly easier to play with than 50-100ms) and suddenly you'd get random packetloss and your rail would be one direction and he'd be behind you suddenly. You'd leave, but considering you were having fun, and then someone ruined it, it's not much different than the effects of someone griefing you.

It still diminishes the value of the game, if you associate the game with being frustrating even if its only some of the time.

Then again you could just move back to a real server like the gamearena ones but it was hard to play proper 1v1 on theirs (they didn't always have servers for it), and the players were rather good who did.

I'm really only playing devils advocate here I don't really care. But there's never any absolutes right?
Posted 01:29pm 21/3/11
I'm really only playing devils advocate here I don't really care. But there's never any absolutes right?
Fo sho! I just think the more servers, the more options, the better. It doesn't take long to find out which are the 'good' servers and which ones aren't, and there's always good little semi-private servers on which there are a bunch of regulars that'll give you a really good game. You don't really get that any more in the 'ranked servers only' age.
Posted 02:15pm 21/3/11
I remember CS had some awesome servers, and some awful ones. Lightning CS anyone?
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