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AusGamers Battlefield 3 "Close Quarters" Developer Interview with Patrick Bach
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 08:20am 14/03/12 | Comments
At this year's GDC, AusGamers caught up with DICE's Patrick Bach to talk about Battlefield 3 and their newest expansion, Close Quarter. Read on for what he had to say...

Out at this year’s GDC in San Francisco, California, AusGamers was invited out to an event held be EA to not only officially unveil Medal of Honor: Warfighter, but to also celebrate the expansion of Battlefield 3 throughout the year with their “expansions” (read: DLC :P), kicking things off with Close Quarters.

We managed to get hands-on with a round of the map Ziba Tower (see box-out for impressions), and came away impressed that, while more often than not touted as “large-scale warfare”, Battlefield 3 could still kick up a bit of dust to the competition by offering small, intimate no-vehicles maps of the run-and-gun kind.

Further to getting hands-on with the new content, we were also fortunate enough to speak to DICE’s Patrick Bach about all things Battlefield 3 moving forward, and to ask where the hell Mirror’s Edge 2 is. Read on for what he had to say...



AusGamers: Hi Patrick, let’s start with the new maps...

Patrick Bach: Okay.

AG: What’s the process from here moving forward? Because it seems like you have a really robust strategy getting everything out the door, and you announced a lot of content tonight, and I notice that you’re using the term “expansion” and not DLC, that’s obviously a deliberate measure to let people know you’re giving more to the player...

Patrick: Yes. We don’t want the player to confuse us with [just] maps or, you know, random stuff. We have a long history of producing expansion packs for the Battlefield series; we have clear themes where we focus on an experience or a fantasy. We did this for Battlefield 1942, we did it for Battlefield 2, we did it for the Bad Company series and now we’re doing it for Battlefield 3. We’ve done this before.

We at DICE, we honestly feel this is what we want - as gamers ourselves. We don’t just want a new map; we want new guns, we want Achievements, Assignments... so instead of just giving you one part of the puzzle, we give you a palette of stuff. You know, all the new guns, you can bring them back into the original game (Battlefield 3), so even if you don’t care about the actual maps, I can still enjoy the guns and I can play the old maps.

AG: Are you guys planning on bringing in any single-player content?

Patrick: Nothing that we’re talking about officially right now, so I can’t really talk about it.

AG: Not being able to talk about denotes that something might actually be happening...

Patrick: Nothing is impossible (laughs).



AG: Right, okay. On top of all that, it seems like you’re pushing the concept that you’re doing something different to, you know, the other side of the fence...

Patrick: Yes.

AG: But I also hear rumblings of a potential subscription model for Battlefield 3 multiplayer, is this true? Is there anything you can say about these rumblings?

Patrick: I don’t know where that rumour came from. No, again we’re focusing on the stuff that we know people want, and then how we distribute that... that’s for the future.

AG: Okay, so moving forward: Close Quarters, I played a little bit of it before - the map reminds me of a skyline from Mirror’s Edge...

Patrick: Okay (laughs).

AG: Is that a deliberate thing, or...?

Patrick: Okay, so DICE is not a small company but it’s not a big company. So we have people that worked on Mirror’s Edge that are working on Battlefield 3, you know, with our maps, so if there’s a hint of Mirror’s Edge I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s nothing official that we’re trying to do or following...

AG: Right, okay. Fair enough (disbelief). So why the small map to begin with? I mean obviously everything else has been “large-scale”, this one feels a bit more refined, a bit more run-and-gun, obviously no vehicles or anything like that... was this in response to the fans, or something you just wanted to do internally...?



Patrick: It’s actually both. First of all, we are fans at the studio so we often use ourselves and our own judgement on what we think is important and what we think is fun. But we actually saw people playing -- in Battlefield 3 -- the really tight, close quarters maps that had in the original game. You know, like Operation Metro, you have all the tight sections, and people love that. It’s like “wow, that’s something we haven’t [fully] explored before”, you know, so what we did was we said “Okay so if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right, let’s put all the effort into creating these super close quarters maps”. And you know, we put a lot of destruction in there and there’s a lot of cool stuff happening around you and we’re making sure that we push it to the limits to test what Battlefield can do; extending the scale of what a Battlefield experience really is.

AG: So have you guys toyed with the engine at all? Because as you said there’s a lot of destruction going on; a lot of physics - all that sort of stuff. Are there any new tweaks at all that are a part of any of the updates you’ve been doing, or is it all... I guess just stuff you knew was in [the engine] that you wanted to exercise?

Patrick: Well, of course, we’re fixing bugs all the time. We’re getting better and better and [making] maps all the time as well, so I think the fidelity and the quality [of the maps] will only increase over time. And you know the Frostbite 2.0 engine is still young, so we’re still finding new ways to use it and “exploit” it, in some ways, to push the boundaries further. So in general we are trying to... you know, every time we do something we don’t want to just “milk” it and just do something that’s “good enough”, we want to “extend” what is possible in Battlefield, so I think that’s what we’re doing and I think we’re achieving it.

AG: Do you guys have a projected idea of the amount of time a core community will spend on a single map, so for example, Armored Kill is the second map coming and you guys mentioned it’s the largest map DICE has ever created, do you guys kind of feel like the fact that that is as large as it is, and that Close Quarters is as small as it is, means that people will just exercise those maps for a projected period of time, and is that how you space out the time between releases?



Hands-On Ziba Tower

We didn't get an extensive amount of game time with the new map on display, but we can definitely tell you that here in Ziba Tower "close quarters" is no joke. It's a very small map, with little ground to cover between you and the opposing team, but DICE have done an excellent job of creating a living, breathing skyline building. Complete with hallways, rooms, levels and balconies, respawning is never much of an issue and you always have an opportunity to gain or regain an advantage thanks to its verticality. There are no vehicles in this map, either. It's as run-and-gun as you get, but we don't really see that as a bad thing, and can foresee this bad boy becoming something of a server churner, with lines to get in. Fast, furious and frenetic play is the name of the game here, and on the PC (the platform we played on), there was copious debris and destruction flying about our periphery. The only downside was both losing our round, and not being able to play again. But it was an excellent taste of things to come.
Patrick: We rather see it as we’re adding more things to the mix. You know, we’re adding more spice. And then depending what spice you like more, that could be... I like to think it’s a personality thing - I like the smaller maps, for example, or it could actually be a “what you feel like” doing today. We’ve seen that with a lot of Battlefield players, they don’t play Battlefield as one thing that they do over and over and over, they tend to “oh, today I’m only going to play this game, or this map, and tomorrow I’m going to play something completely different”, or “I only have a small time period, so I’m only going to help my friends on this map”. So I think what we’re doing is we’re adding... first of all we’re extending the spectrum of what Battlefield is, but also we’re also trying to make sure that we have more options.

AG: What’s the biggest thing you guys have learnt since launch, just based on player feedback? You know, in terms of servers, and UI, and bugs, and console vs the PC and... you know, what’s the bigger process for you guys in terms of just that feedback?

Patrick: Well in general I think we’ve learnt a lot of stuff. We learnt that a lot of our bets we’re right. You know, Conquest is still very popular, and we knew that we would never sacrifice Conquest for any reason. We also know that Team Deathmatch has turned into a very popular game mode, and we never had that in Battlefield before. So it proves that Battlefield can be more than just Conquest, and more than just Team Deathmatch.

We also noticed that fixing bugs and keeping our focus on the whole product over time, actually pays off. It makes the game better and better and better, and people are accepting the fact that if they have a complaint, that might actually be fixed, instead of this idea that it’s a fixed release date and a fixed product and you just live with it. You know that’s not how we see it. This is a living product; we’re fixing it as we’re moving along - if you find a problem then we’ll try and fix it. There’s no reason for us to say “no, we’re done”, because we’re not done - we keep working.

AG: Now I’ll just end on an aforementioned note: Surely you guys, with Frostbite -- and I know you don’t have very much time in the office -- but surely you guys have just “played” with Mirror’s Edge using Frostbite?! Because let’s face it, that would be pretty special...

Patrick: I can’t talk about other IPs apart from Battlefield today, sorry (laughs looking worried at PR handler).

AG: Okay, thanks.

Patrick: No problem.
Read more about Battlefield 3 on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!



Latest Comments
Winston
Posted 09:58am 14/3/12
Meh, I'd pay for new maps for the base game but I'm not really into this separate expansion thing.
Steve Farrelly
Posted 10:16am 14/3/12
You still need the base game to play these maps Winston, it's the same thing, they just like using the word "expansion" over DLC
Winston
Posted 10:24am 14/3/12
Ah ok, so will they be like 'Return to Karkand'? where the maps can be added to the regular rotation?
Steve Farrelly
Posted 11:11am 14/3/12
yep
Eorl
Posted 11:20am 14/3/12
As said in the interview, they like using the word expansion because it offers more then say Call of Duty's Content Drops, which offer only (a) map(s).
kirkoswald
Posted 01:33pm 14/3/12
If they don't add voice chat to squads. I'm done with bf3.. I've found myself enjoying cs:source more, purely because of the voice chat!
badfunkstripe
Posted 03:44pm 14/3/12
They can only be added to regular rotation in 16 player TDM though. Which is a mode that basically no one plays on PC at least.

The problem is, DICE isn't acknowledging they didn't deliver what people expected or wanted with the larger maps. So the lack of on going enthusiasm for those maps is not because people don't want those sort of maps. It's because those maps are pretty badly designed. They don't have the long lasting game play appeal maps in previous BF games have had.

You just have to look on the official forum at the amount of people wanting more BF2 maps, bf 1942 maps and BC2 maps added to the game. Maps they have played way more times than anything in BF3, yet they want to keep playing them instead of BF3 maps.

Hence why the TDM modes and Metro 24/7 is becoming popular. The other maps get boring quickly, don't have long lasting appeal so people just go for the crazy maps.

Also 16 player? Well on PC at least the reason 24/7 metro is so popular is that it's just plain stupid in 64 player. That the stupidity of it, the horrible design is kind of the charm.

So this DLC is also completely missing the mark for PC. The same way the missed the mark with large maps for PC. Dice really is just mismanaging this game when it comes to PC at least.

Also the talk of fixing bugs, the game is still riddled with them and we're still waiting for the major patch we were meant to have over a month ago.
SpikeNine
Posted 03:48pm 14/3/12
Yes, BF3 certainly needs VOIP for the PC, other than that I'm still enjoy BF quite regularly and look forward to the "expansions"
Outlaw
Posted 04:27pm 14/3/12
I remember back in 1942 DICE were very slow with patches. I doubt theyve changed much.
trog
Posted 04:40pm 14/3/12
I remember back in 1942 DICE were very slow with patches. I doubt theyve changed much.
Just for reference so there's some numbers around this, looking back through our history of patches and Wikipedia, I can see BF1942 came out on the 10th September.

v1.1 (the first patch) came out on the 12th Sep 2002
v1.2 came out 28th November 2002
v1.3 came out 4th February 2003
v1.4 came out 12th June 2003
v1.4.5 came out 30th August 2003
v1.5 came out 31st October 2003
v1.6.19 came out 31st January 2004
v1.6.19b came out 2nd December 2004

Not too bad, though there's some big gaps between a few things there.
Outlaw
Posted 05:04pm 14/3/12
Not as bad as I remember. The 4-5 months between patches 1.3 & 1.4 is most likely what my shady memory is referring to since I was probably playing the s*** out of it around that time and eager for a patch.
trog
Posted 05:10pm 14/3/12
Yeh I have memories like that as well. The time you really notice it is when something is busted or not working properly or getting exploited and you're busting for them to fix it.

Reading that list makes me want to play BF1942.
Dan
Posted 05:12pm 14/3/12
I would absolutely f*****g love a more novelty style map pack for BF3, an actual Mirror's Edge themed map would be quite awesome in Frostbite 2.

Of course, if they'd allow the community to run unranked servers and released their map-making tools, the community probably would have already created a bunch of these by now :(

And yes, I agree that the PC version of BF3 needs public options for it's in-game VOIP so you can chat with everyone you're playing against, not just the squad of friends you assembled before launching the game.

Only being able to chat with your friends list is such a nubly console way of doing things and it really hampers being able to socialise with your fellow players.
Winston
Posted 05:12pm 14/3/12
Thanks for clarifying badfunkstripe, I'll definitely be passing if it's only for TDM.
Bromby
Posted 09:20pm 14/3/12
Hence why the TDM modes and Metro 24/7 is becoming popular.


I'm so f*****g sick of Metro! Especially with M320 spam! There are a few servers that ban M320\USAS\SWAM etc which is cool though but still a unbalanced map IMO. If your team spawns at the Cafe end of town, 9/10 times you'll win if your team isn't a complete bunch of knobs
skythra
Posted 10:47pm 14/3/12
Meh, I'd pay for new maps for the base game but I'm not really into this separate expansion thing.

Wow. This is why games are the way they are. Attention span = 0.
fryzee
Posted 05:28pm 15/3/12
bit small maps :/
BladeRunner
Posted 07:01pm 15/3/12
Hope PC version has slightly larger versions of the maps.
mrmatt
Posted 10:07am 07/4/12
Also "Thanks for clarifying badfunkstripe"

Lots of ppl I know are playing inf only atm because of air dominance and cardboard tanks. If they dont reverse some of the worst features of the last patch the only ppl playing will be on the TDM servers. metro canals etc.
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