Battlefield V has been a game 16 years in the making. Maybe not quite directly or consciously, but everything DICE has done in this time, has worked towards one day returning to WWII. And to make it a unparalleled experience, especially in comparison to the original WWII themed Battlefield 1942.
Located in Sweden, DICE has yearned to go back to this era. Back to the time when they first started the series and found an adoring audience. One which craved the open sandbox style which would go on to define them as a studio and influence many others in the genre. At the reveal of Battlefield V in London last week, DICE announced not only that Battlefield V would be returning to WWII and release this October
, but a suite of changes and new additions
to the traditional Battlefield formula were in store.
At the reveal, several key members of the development team were on-hand and excited to finally show off this return to their roots. Some had joined DICE in recent years, some had pioneered the original 1942 (including the famously referred to Mr Battlefield and DICE studio head, Lars Gustavsson) and some, who had been fans from the very beginning and have since had the opportunity to bring their own vision to the series. Andreas Morell, is one such developer.
Andreas got his first opportunity to work on the series when he started at EA as a tester working on the Battlefield 1942 Secret Weapons of WWII expansion. It wouldn’t be until 2013, that he would go on to officially join DICE as a producer, becoming a Multiplayer Producer on Battlefield 1 and then Senior Producer, on the studio’s upcoming Battlefield V. Importantly, Andreas was a fan first, playing 1942 fervently before getting his break with EA. It was all quite surreal for him.
Now a key member of the Battlefield team, helping guide the series, it’s not only an exciting time for him and the team to be continuing the series, but to also to return to WWII. “It is a huge honour to be able to go back there and visit the era where it all started”, said Andreas as we began our chat. “It means so much for us as developers, but also on a personal level. Even before starting as a tester on one of the later expansions for Battlefield 1942, I still played the original 1942 and I couldn’t ever imagine I’d be spending my days now with ‘Mr Battlefield’ (Lars Gustavsson), who was the creative brain behind that. It is so special [to go back to WWII]. It’s hard to explain the feeling.”
You could see Andreas’ eyes glaze over a little, reminiscing back to those days, when he was not just testing Battlefield 1942, but obviously playing plenty too. It’s not surprising that developers such as Andreas, who have been involved personally and professionally, helping build a game franchise such as Battlefield over decades, are as committed, passionate and filled with such a buzz, to return to their beginnings. However, Andreas and DICE didn’t just want return to WWII, but to go beyond the WWII stories and experiences we’ve grown accustomed to in games and movies. Armed with over a decade of experience developing open sandbox shooters, and with far better tech and resources at their disposal.
One of the elements that this is most evident in, is Battlefield’s War Stories. First introduced in Battlefield 1, the single player mode which explores conflicts through the eyes of the very people, who experienced them, is back again for V and with the aim to continue exploring unique theatres and stories, but now in an even more global conflict. One of these stories set to be explored and brought to light in V, is one that hits close to home for DICE, which has many personal connections to the Swedish studio and is right across the border.
“What I think is really special about the Norway story, is that not a lot of people outside of the Scandinavian region, knows that Norway was occupied by Germany,” Andreas explains, when talking about Norway in Battlefield V. ”And these stories are really about average, human lives living under occupation and how that affected everyone.” During World War II, there were several European nations occupied by Nazi Germany for much of the war. The people of these countries often fought back against their invaders, long after their governments had surrendered, in the form of resistance groups, trying to force out their new rulers. One such country was Norway. Occupied by Germany from the middle of 1940 till the end of the war, Norwegian resistance fighters numbered in their thousands, with sabotage, raids and intelligence gathering as part of their efforts to fight back.
There were many brave men and women who were part of these resistance groups, whose stories like many others across the globe, have been somewhat of an afterthought to the actions of the main Allied forces. With many close family ties to members of the DICE Battlefield team, it makes a lot of sense for them to want to explore this often overlooked Scandinavian theatre, something Andreas recognised was a motivator for the team. “As a whole the region [Scandinavia] is close,” Andreas continues.“Although DICE is very much an international workplace, many have family ties across the border. There are personal stories of people there that were affected by the war one way or another, and that’s what makes this so special for us, because we want to portray the Second World War like you’ve never seen it before. Tell these untold stories, do deep dives into unplayed moments, and tell these stories on a more personal level. Ways that make this really interesting and are stories we really want the world to hear. It is a huge privilege to work on something like that”.
Although specifics on the Norway campaign where thin, it was said the story would follow a resistance group fighting back against their Nazi occupiers whilst protecting their families. No specific characters were announced for it, but a short video was played, showing a woman in the cold, hard conditions of Norway. Although it doesn’t confirm it, we have a good feeling the story will follow Anne Sofie Ostvedt, a woman who historically lead thousands of resistance fighters in Norway during WWII.
When asked about further details on other conflicts and regions War Stories in Battlefield V would explore, Andreas couldn’t give any specifics beyond the Norway story. But hinted at its global scale. “We want to portray these untold stories across the world, across World War II and it’s a really great opportunity to surface some of those, one of those being the story in Norway,” Andreas adds. “We want to give you the full palate because there is so much to talk about. World War II, was a truly global war which affected millions of people, so we really want to tell those human stories. Australia, on the other side of the planet, you were affected by it, America was too. It was such a huge conflict. There are so many great stories to tell.”
At the Battlefield V reveal Andreas and the other developers from DICE emphasized this message, how WWII was a global conflict. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw not only fronts in Scandinavia, mainland Europe and North Africa explored (the three regions which have so far been announced as locations for content in V), but in the pacific region too. A story following ANZAC soldiers on the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea, or maybe Chinese forces fighting against the Japanese Empire on mainland China, would both be interesting stories to explore, which otherwise haven’t in mainstream media.
Along with War Stories, there was of course plenty of other stuff to talk about and cover from the reveal. When asked about what mechanics or new approaches he was excited about in Battlefield V, Andreas was quick to touch on the new online service Tides of War. And how important the community is when it comes to the overall design philosophy of the series. Particularly now as a producer, Andreas overlooks the series from a holistic perspective and thinks regularly about how would players interpret and enjoy each mode and how to make it appealing to fans long after release.
“It is very hard to pick one [part I’m excited about],” Andreas ponders. “If there is one thing, among many, that I’m really excited about is that we are going back to an era everyone is familiar with, but to tell it in a way no one has experienced before and take you on this journey, through World War II with the Tides of War.” The service is not only the new way DICE are approaching and categorising their post-launch content, but is part of the move away from Season Passes, paid expansions and loot boxes. Which as Andreas said, is about keeping their community together, which originally he was part of before joining as a developer. “For us, I think it’s very important to be able to keep the community together, rather then it being split up between passes here and there. It is a great move for Battlefield players, a great move for everyone and [will] do really positive things for the community. We love our community”.
Even outside of the return to WWII, it’s clear that Battlefield V hasn’t lost sight of another aspect of its beginning - a dedicated community of fans and players. This focus on community and the hardcore base of fans was evident in the opening reveal, with Trevor Noah picked to host due to being a fan himself. Although the presentation was heavily scripted it was after it finished with the cameras turned off that the appreciation for their fans became apparent.
Trevor continued to thank the audience for coming and the opportunity to talk to the creators of the franchise he adores, and then brought the North American Battlefield community manager and long time hardcore fan (adorned with Battlefield tattoos across his arms), Veff Bravvock, to the front from the audience. He was presented with surprise birthday cake, along with the appropriate birthday sing along from the crowd. As the night finished, people gathered to chat about the reveal they’d just seen, but not before an avid fan and now EA employee yelled across the studio, “this is the best game community in the world!”