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The Good and Bad Company of Battlefield’s future
Post by nachosjustice @ 02:32pm 05/07/19 | Comments
A deep dive into the pros, cons and likelihood of the Battlefield sequel rumour that refuses to die: Bad Company 3...

The next Battlefield game will, at long last, be Bad Company 3. At least, that’s the seemingly undying rumour that’s been doing the rounds for yonks. As a fan of the series since Battlefield 1942’s D(emo)-Day, it’s a possibility that brings with it even more immense possibility and an equal dose of trepidation.

But first, a history lesson. Rewind the clock six years ago to the eve of the launch of Battlefield 4. I was one of the lucky few to be invited to a Dinner with DICE event held on the show floor of the EB Games Expo the night before it kicked off.

In attendance was Lars “Mr Battlefield” Gustavsson. He’s one of the few DICE devs to have worked on almost every Battlefield game. And somehow the seating arrangements had me sitting next to him. Despite imbuing a few doses of Dutch courage, there was only one question I was really interested in asking the Swede: "where’s Bad Company 3?"



It was a question that ended up informing the opening of his speech that made a couple of headlines at the time. What Gustavsson said to me that didn’t make it into his welcome speech was that, as much as DICE loved the Bad Company games, they didn’t know what they did so right to make Bad Company 2 (in particular) resonate so much with fans.

"Obviously, the bigger takeaway from that event was that Bad Company 3 hadn’t been forgotten..."



For those unaware, the original Bad Company, divisively, defied its traditional PC roots and launched as a console exclusive for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The same mistake wasn’t repeated with Bad Company 2 or any core entry since (although RIP the Battlefield 1943 PC port).

The thing is, Gustavsson’s frank admission that DICE, effectively, didn’t know how to rebottle the same lightning that led to the immense popularity of Bad Company 2 – to this day, still my favourite game in the franchise (1v1 me in BFV, Battlefield 2 lovers) – has always stuck with me. Obviously, the bigger takeaway from that event was that Bad Company 3 hadn’t been forgotten, but if it is being made right now, surely it means that DICE has to have figured out a way to make it work.



This ties nicely into the recent, louder rumours surrounding Bad Company 3 as a next-gen launch title. Despite my love of PC gaming, I’ve never bought into the idea that multiplatform game development is inherently a bad thing, with the exception of terrible PC ports.

Ever-rising hardware specifications, the cost of keeping things up to date, the near unlimited variety of software/hardware combos that lead to weird errors, the sweatiness of online play for competitive titles, and the transparency of Steam reviews (which are sometimes closer to ‘or worse’ than ‘for better’) must weigh heavy on developers. And I feel sorry for them.

"It’s become more of a talking point in this current console generation with the respective PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X refreshes..."



But one of the bigger challenges of multiplatform development is the restrictiveness of the consoles in terms of their very limited hardware resources. It’s become more of a talking point in this current console generation with the respective PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X refreshes, but there’s little denying that elevator sequences or walk-and-talk loading-screens-disguised-as-gameplay are a result of taking into account the slower console end of town.



When Battlefield 3 devs openly talked about PC as lead platform, it was towards the end of the last-gen console cycle. This part of the console cycle is a great time to be a PC gamer because PC becomes super important to developers and publishers, offering a way to showcase next-gen features and fidelity on the one transcendent-gen platform.

Frostbite 3 has been around since Battlefield 4. Despite tweaks, it’s getting long in the tooth. Next-gen consoles are the perfect place to unveil the next iteration of the frequently gorgeous engine, also with the possibility of more than just tastier eye candy.

"Obviously, the bigger takeaway from that event was that Bad Company 3 hadn’t been forgotten..."



Before he became at an executive at EA and eventually moved on to be the CEO of Embark Studios, I interviewed Patrick Söderlund at the initial unveiling of Battlefield 3. My heart sank when he didn’t want to talk multiplayer specifics – this was, paradoxically, a single-player-focused reveal event – but I was surprised that he casually mentioned that the engine supported 128 and 256 players.



Years later, Battlefield is still very much a 64-player game. The limiting factor then, according to Söderlund, is what was an underlying rhetorical design question that recently re-emerged in a Game Informer interview: do more players equal more fun?

These days, in the 100-player realities of the ever-popular battle royale genre, DICE might be willing to change its tune. That is, of course, assuming it would be the OG DICE building Bad Company 3 and not DICE LA. That’s not intended as a diss at DICE LA – which has done some fantastic behind-the-scenes triage on Battlefield, most notably essential netcode improvements for Battlefield 4 that fed into subsequent games – as much as an indicator that the Stockholm-based creators of Battlefield, at the very least, tend to make better maps.

"Side note: at the review event, this map was pitched as ‘infantry vs aircraft’ and infantry players still don’t have an adequate way of fighting back against planes..."



While this is the same DICE studio that occasionally misfires a Fjell 652 travesty – side note: at the review event, this map was pitched as ‘infantry vs aircraft’ and infantry players still don’t have an adequate way of fighting back against planes – I like or love every other Battlefield V map. Even when I think I’ll hate it, which was my fear for the tank-dominated open lines of sight of Panzerstorm – I end up enjoying it. In the case of Panzerstorm, I enjoy it even more since the map tweaks to create more infantry cover.

But back to Bad Company.



The latest Bad Company 3 rumours peg it as a PlayStation 5 launch title, but that’s not to say it’ll be an exclusive. Although possible, this level of exclusion of the next Xbox and, possibly, PC seems an unlikely move for EA, particularly in the face of a growing swell towards cross-platform gaming, which may help to break down these types of boundaries on third-party titles.

"DICE is, arguably, at the end of its war-filled waltzes down memory lane, which started with Battlefield 1 and continued with Battlefield V..."



This particular rumour gained traction because it was linked to some information about the PlayStation 5 (or whatever it ends up being called) that proved to be accurate. Still, Bad Company 3 rumours feel like yearly iterating whispers, and with good reason: they perpetually make sense.

DICE is, arguably, at the end of its war-filled waltzes down memory lane, which started with Battlefield 1 and continued with Battlefield V. Both of these settings made a lot of sense during their respective announcements. Battlefield 1 because of the future fatigue of the shooter franchise (not to mention that the era hadn’t been properly done before) and Battlefield V because it could act as both a kind of arms-technology sequel to Battlefield 1 and could also take the franchise back to where it started.



It makes sense for the next Battlefield game to go back to the… present. There’s no strong reason for it to be Battlefield 6, in the sense that nobody really remembers Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 for the storytelling. But people do have fond memories of DICE’s modernised Kelly’s Heroes take on the entertaining Bad Company campaigns.

The Bad Company subtitle also lets DICE experiment with the Battlefield formula in unexpected ways. That’s what the studio did with the original Bad Company, most notably with destructibility that was iterated on with its superior sequel. Sometimes a name change that gives devs the out of ‘this is spin-off Battlefield, not the core series’ is all the breathing space required to take the kind of creative risks that lead to engrossing gameplay.

"Obviously, the bigger takeaway from that event was that Bad Company 3 hadn’t been forgotten..."



There is an Elefant in the room, though: Battlefield V. In theory, Battlefield V could prove to be EA’s Rainbow Six Siege. With a live-service model funded by cosmetic microtransactions, technically, as long as players keep buying skins to fund further development, the content can keep coming.



Like Siege, Battlefield V divided players at launch between those who loved the potential and those who either got stuck on artificially inflated ‘controversy’, or those who didn’t gel with the gameplay changes. Personally, I loved it, and I think it’s only gotten better since launch.

And it’s only set to get better from here on out. The latest Tides of War roadmap highlights the kind of new players have been impatiently waiting for: new maps, more weapons, a 10x boost to the career rank, private games, as well as the introduction of the US and Japanese armies. Granted, a lot of this feels like it’s been a long time coming, but the point is that DICE is giving the people what they want.

"if these rumours prove true and DICE has found something in next-gen consoles that allows it to embrace the next iteration of destructibility as a form of creativity..."



While Battlefield V may have life beyond 2020, it’s unlikely that EA will be okay with DICE not releasing another game in the series. But in the spirit of giving the players what they want, it’s always felt like Bad Company 3 rumours have long been met with anticipation rather than indifference. I want it. I want it to be the next Battlefield game. But I want it to be right.

I’m comfortable with it forever being in the pipeline, annually rumoured, and the subject of leaks if DICE hasn’t yet cracked that magical formula. But if these rumours prove true and DICE has found something in next-gen consoles that allows it to embrace the next iteration of destructibility as a form of creativity, or whatever else has been cooked up, I hope it’s under the Bad Company 3 banner.



Latest Comments
BladeRunner
Posted 08:01pm 05/7/19
I just want a battlefield like BF3 or BF4. I fear that will never happen again.
FSCB
Posted 08:24pm 10/7/19
I hope a battlefield like BF3 and BF4 never happens again. Buggy, laggy, repetitive and poor map designs, poor balance between tanks, infantry and helos/planes.
Levelution was simply a gimmick to make you look away and forget the technological achievement that was already reality in BFBC2.

For me, I hope they go back to the wide open classic design of BF2 with modernised physics, flying, balance and team mechanics...or they make a small-map, full damage physics, squad action game which builds on BFBC2.
Never again did they manage to make Rush mode work like they did in BFBC2. Hence all of these modes they have come up with since have been interesting but either flawed or short lived, BF1s innovative modes are the best example. Side note: BF3 and BF4 didn't even have any innovative modes in them.
infi
Posted 01:54pm 11/7/19
Well I played the s*** out of BF3 and BF4 so I can't complain.

We need Return to Karkand map pack in every Battlefield. That is all.
trog
Posted 05:06pm 11/7/19
For me, I hope they go back to the wide open classic design of BF2 with modernised physics, flying, balance and team mechanics...or they make a small-map, full damage physics, squad action game which builds on BFBC2.
I try to avoid being a "back in my day" gamer (even though everything back in the day was obviously better and superior in all regards) but I would play the living s*** out of BF1942 and BF Vietnam if they just re-made those basically exactly as they were, but just on modern engines
BladeRunner
Posted 03:01pm 16/7/19
I never got to play BF Vietnam or even BF1942 online, So I missed out. I enjoyed Battlefield 3 and 4, yeah there were issues but it still kept me coming back. I remember playing BC2 and that was alright too, BF1 and BF 5 are just not that great. I think DICE need to sit back and have a think about what they want to do and how they want to do it.

Id be happy with BF2 remake in modern frostbite engine, it would be pretty sweet. There are plenty of Ideas out there but I don't expect DICE to do any of them. Like a lot of companies that we knew and loved, they have changed over the years. Less about making a great game that does well and more about crap and lootboxes.
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