is both immediately jarring and exciting at once. No game in history has ever presented the “Great War” with such fidelity -- both on a visual and audio plane -- amplifying the brutality of the conflict. Balancing history and fun with such power is going to be the biggest challenge for DICE, and while it’s clear gameplay and fun will always come first, there will need to be a reverence to the source material unlike anything the studio has ever done before. On this side of the fence, I don’t envy the task they have ahead of them.
“I think it is a bold step for us,” admits lead world designer Daniel Berlin when we asked about the decision to go to WWI. “It is a passion project for DICE, we wanted to make this era, this is our idea, we are pushing this and like I said, it’s a passion product. But, at the end of the day it’s [also] an entertainment product. Just like you would come home from work and watch, say, a murder-mystery and that murder-mystery is about some gruesome murder, it’s still entertainment, and you buy it because it’s entertainment. So it’s the same thing for us, yes it is a war entertainment product, but we’re still going to be respectful to the era in terms of authenticity to some extent, so… I can’t really stress more that it’s an entertainment [product] first and foremost.”
Rumours had circulated for a while that DICE might devolve the modern state of shooters by going to back to World War II, or even World War I, and if the Internet’s reaction to the whole thing is anything to go by, it’s a devolution the space has been screaming out for. Call of Duty, on the other hand, has opted to take their series into the far reaches of our solar system with spaceships and other planets and moons. This year the two franchises couldn’t be further apart, but it’s looking like Battlefield 1 has already claimed the hype award.
“When we looked at it from the outset, take the vehicles for example, this was a time where people and soldiers had never ever seen a land ship before. This was the pinnacle of modern for them -- they saw a tank that was this killing machine,” Berlin explains when asked about building the world of Battlefield 1 and how it differs from previous entries in the series. “[So] we really wanted to depict that; the weight and the power of these vehicles, and we’re doing that through technology with the Frostbite engine.
“We’ve always been a very technology-driven studio; we innovate through technology, like the Bad Company series for example, where we introduced destruction,” he adds. “I can’t talk in specifics on how we’re expanding the systems today, but what I can say is we’re taking destruction to a new [level] and we’re taking the influence that you can have on the world as you play the game to a new level. All [in an effort] to depict the feeling the soldiers had when they were in this war, you know, “okay what happens when this new modern thing shoots a shell at this house”, for example.
“So we’re taking a look at that entire experience and just kind of elevating it.”
The reveal event focused very heavily on the multiplayer side of things, but with a campaign in tow, that reverence mentioned earlier is likely going to rear its head predominantly there. The team also talked about visiting and highlighting smaller stories from the war -- stories that may have been forgotten over time. We also tried to seek out answers to which soldiers and armies you might be playing with -- specifically the ANZACs, but we were met with the “we’re not currently talking about that” brick wall. What we can say is that DICE don’t want to take too many creative liberties for the sake of their own narrative.
“No, we want to stay authentic to what type of [soldier] was available, what type of armies were available and I think for us we want to see diversity in the game -- that’s important to us, so we’re looking at the smaller stories, that maybe aren’t that known,” Berlin asserts. “Again, I can’t really go into detail about which armies or which characters [we’ll have], but I will say diversity is important to us and we will depict stories and characters that aren’t that well known, and we’ll bring them into light.
“So fun and gameplay are the things that drive us,” he continues. “But as you saw in the video we go all around the world to gather reference -- real-world reference -- on everything that is in the game. Everything you see [in Battlefield 1] has existed in that time period, and all of the locations you see were battlefields from that time as well. We’ve gone [to those places] and done extensive research.”
And coming full circle, we dropped the heavy load of poignancy that is “the war to end all wars” and simply asked if they’d already started seeing crazy stuff happening in development. Things like loading up horses on biplanes to drop them on to battleships to run amok. It was a question Daniel seemed interested in answering, in maybe a few months time after release.
“Actually, this is a strength when I say this, but I don’t know,” he says with a laugh. “We just create a sandbox and we throw all these components in there and set them up, balance them, you know, like: this one trumps this one, and this one trumps this one, but at the end of the day it’s you guys, the players, who decide all these crazy moments. After BF4, for example, some of the stuff that came out of that I had no idea were possibilities. It’s the players that make these moments.”
Thankfully the one solid bit of information we secured was that there will be Conquest mode in multiplayer, and while coy on whether any new modes would feature, Daniel did suggest that they are shaking things up from what we do know of the series’ multiplayer currently.
“We’re crafting some modes that look at the era, and we make the mode fit that era,” he concludes. “So that’s something we’re also doing.”