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Unscaled Warfare - Speaking Battlefield 4 with Multiplayer Producer, Aleksander Grøndal
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 05:49pm 01/07/13 | Comments
We chat with DICE's Aleksander Grøndal who works as multiplayer producer on Battlefield 4 about their next entry in the popular series. Read on for what he had to say...

AusGamers: Have you had a good E3 so far?

Aleksander Grøndal: Yes, it’s been awesome! The reaction so far has been great. We’re here with 64 playable stations, including two commanders, and so far it’s been spectacular.

AusGamers: What has the feedback been from players, getting into the big 64 player battle?

Aleksander: It’s been overwhelming positive, I would say. I guess people didn’t know what to expect, and now that they’ve seen what we’ve shown, it seems like we’ve delivered on their expectations.

AusGamers: You guys tend to focus on showing the big cinematic single-player stuff -- it’s kind of a staple for the military shoote r-- but then you suddenly come out and go, “Oh no... by the way, here’s 64 players”. Is there a reason you don’t come out with multiplayer first? Is there a philosophy behind that?

Aleksander Grøndal: I think when we go back to that exact question, we analyse what we think we should be leading with, and what’s looking good, and when to hit the right things, and go big with a thing. We always wanted to... well, I always wanted anyway, for E3 to be the reveal for multiplayer. Because single-player can take a small piece of the game and make it look good, whereas multiplayer has to have basically a working game for a game like this, and that requires a little bit more effort to get it to this degree. So I think it’s both a marketing, and pure production decision.

AusGamers: With the Xbox conference stage demo -- aside from the technical difficulties that happened there -- you have this ship that is capsizing, and split in half, with fighter jets sliding down into the ocean, and it’s crazy. Then you’ve got this collapsing building in the EA conference, and the original stuff you showed last GDC as well is out of control as well. So at what point do you tone it down?

Aleksander: [laughs] No, there will always be peaks and valleys. In order for something to feel intense, it has to have a lower end to it, otherwise you don’t feel anything. So there will be peaks and valleys in intensity, absolutely.

AusGamers: A bit of a famous question from Battlefield 3 among the press, was after that original amazing demo at GDC 2011 with the Earthquake, multiple people asked about the possibility of earthquakes in multiplayer, which obviously wasn’t happening then. Now you’ve got all these giant world events happening in BF4.

Did you guys sit on that for a while, and think that maybe it is time to bring in spectacular events like that into multiplayer? Has that always been on the cards?

Aleksander: Absolutely. It’s been on the cards the whole time. That whole skyscraper event is an evolution of the concept. The idea was to add big and small events that dynamically change the battlefield, so it will feel different every time you play it.

So here on Siege of Shanghai, you have the destruction of the skyscraper that creates a whole new gameplay area for you guys to play around in. It also throws up a lot of dust into the air, so then the whole visual look and feel of the map changes, and the viewing distance also changes a lot, so you need to be in closer -- if you’re in the helicopter, for instance: you need to be in closer to see targets and engage.

The same thing goes for smaller things that we have. If there’s a parked car, and you bump into it, the car alarm might go off. Or when there’s a fire, the sprinklers in the roof might turn on, then there’s water around you, and you get camera effects based on that. If you shoot a fire extinguisher, that creates a temporary smoke cloud. All of these small things allow you to use the environment to your advantage. So it’s a toolbox, and you can do what you want with them, but our goal is to get the feeling that it’s a more dynamic environment.

AusGamers: Have you found, during the iterative process, that some players don’t really like that, because they have a particular playstyle, and when the world changes they have to switch to long-range or something like that?

Aleksander: I think that’s always been the case. Ever since we brought destruction on board that was already happening. So I think it’s just a step further with that, that includes more elements. We haven’t really gotten that kind of feedback yet though. If you want to play in a sort of arena, then that’s fine, there’s games that are doing that pretty good.

We want to be open-world and have these dynamic environments, and that’s kind of been a part of Battlefield for quite some time, and we’re just building upon our own evolution.

AusGamers: One of the Battlefield 3 DLC drops had that close quarters map in the skyscraper...

Aleksander: Ziba Tower?

AusGamers: That’s it. Are we going to see more of those kind of short-range maps this time around? Or was the feedback from that more “no, no, you guys are Battlefield, we need big open spaces”?

Aleksander: There will definitely be game modes and maps that are catered towards the infantry experience. I can’t speak maps other than what we’re showing today, but there will definitely be something there for infantry-only fans, as well as the big open battlefield fans.

AusGamers: What’s the process moving forward onto the next gen consoles, in terms of player numbers? Are you able to talk about that yet?

Aleksander: Sure. We’re doing parallel development on all platforms. We have Frostbite 3, it allows us to do awesome development on all five platforms at the same time, and it scales between them. So it’s not that difficult for us to develop for it.

AusGamers: And what about player numbers specifically, is it 64 across all next gen platforms?

Aleksander: That’s right. The next gen consoles will have 64 players, so finally you’ll be able to experience that true land, sea, air, epic-scale battles colliding at once. Yeah, we’re bringing that to the console audience, which is a big thing for us, together with the 60FPS stuff we’re having for the next-gen consoles too.

AusGamers: Can you talk at all about the networking side of that? How does that work from a dedicated server perspective. Can you talk about the plans there?

Aleksander: We’ve been running 64 player servers on PC for some time, so it’s not really any different to us. We know how to do it, and we know what we need to push in order to make it happen. It’s happening now right there in the booth -- the server is running on my laptop. It’s not a big deal for us really.

AusGamers: Have you guys found any advantages specifically with the Xbox One’s cloud services offering at all. Did you take any of that into account, or is Frostbite geared to do everything on its own anyway?

Aleksander: Frostbite is powerful enough to do what we want to do, but we’re not talking specifically about the cloud stuff just yet.

AusGamers: Obviously BF4’s coming out on current gen as well. Are the player numbers are smaller on the current gen consoles?

Aleksander: Yes, we will keep the player numbers that we had the previous time around, which basically means 24 people on the PS3 and Xbox 360. But since we’ve added the commander mode, it will have two additional slots for commanders, so 26 total.

AusGamers: Now I’m not sure if anyone really talks about this, but native mouse and keyboard support was available for the PS3 if developers implemented it. I’m not sure about the PS4, but is that something you guys think about? Is it just baked into the product anyway?

Aleksander: We have mouse and keyboard support for the PC obviously, but I can’t speak now specifically for next gen consoles. But if it makes sense in the Battlefield universe, for a Battlefield game, we’ll consider it.

AusGamers: Ok, awesome. Well that’s all I’ve got for today. Cheers Alek.

Aleksander: Thank you very much.
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