Taken from a recent interview with EA/DICE General Manager Karl Magnus Troedsson he talks about the first next gen Battlefield game and also talks about beating clichés, connected gaming and the franchise’s future.
Below are some questions and answers that we mostly already know about but there are also a load of other great questions that have not yet been asked. Read on to find our more information about the upcoming multi platform shooter Battlefield 4.
First things first: what’s the story? Beyond the present day setting, there’s not much to go on.
What we’re revealing here today is far from everything. What you saw was part of the prologue of the game, but it is part of the game so it’s not just a specific demo that we have built. We’re showing off some of our characters, we’re showing that they’re in Azerbaijan – but we’re not talking that much more about why they’re actually there. What we can say is that they’re on a bit of a first mission that’ll set some bigger events into motion – unexpected events.
Can we talk about China at all?
China is in, that much I can say although I cannot say in what way, but it’s definitely one of the new locations in the game.
You’ve mentioned that players will be able to tell their own stories through Battlefield 4. How do your new systems support that kind of emergent story-telling gubbins?
Well first and foremost, it’s something that we’ve taken a lot of cues from multiplayer because we see that when people play Battlefield, it’s this sandbox where players have a lot of different tools and vehicles, and these are then being used to create movies of crazy things that happen during the multiplayer experience. That’s the kind of element that we’d like to bring into single player as well.
So what you saw for instance – the “Action Bubble” as we call it – in the construction site inside the demo today, that’s the typical place where we just let the player go wild, as we supply the player with the appropriate amount of tools to create their own stories. We may provide the player with a vehicle such a Jeep or we may provide different weapon options for if the player prefers a stealth approach, or to simply go all guns blazing.
Due to this, it’ll be up to the player as to how they wish to tackle a specific problem. This is what we mean by bringing signature multiplayer elements into single player, or at least one part of it. It’s about the choice and it’s about the use of tactical instruction, etc.
Then there will be other parts of the single player that is more dramatic to achieve that ultimate experience. The idea that we have there is that events won’t just be cut-scenes. You saw some parts today that were definitely controlled by the player and whilst you couldn’t get out the car because it’s sinking, the player was still in control – and that kind of player autonomy is something that we want to maintain as much as possible throughout the entire game.
Is that a reflection of where Battlefield 3 went wrong?
Well I can say this much – we weren’t entirely happy with the single player in Battlefield 3. We felt that we controlled the player a bit too much, yes.
Do the “social elements” that you mentioned in the presentation have anything to do with the stories that you want the players to create?
Well, yes and no. We won’t go into detail about those features today, but there will be elements where we make it less of a lone wolf experience. Even though it’s not co-op in the way that you’re still playing by yourself, we want to add elements that makes it feel connected to the rest of the game and to your friends and what they’re doing.
Would it be fair to say that there’s room for comparison to a “shared shooter” like Bungie’s Destiny?
I don’t have the necessary insight to compare Battlefield to Destiny, but in terms of comparing your progress with how your friends are doing – yes, absolutely.
How large and open are the environments relative to those of Battlefield 3?
This is an interesting question because it seems that size always matters! If you take Caspian Border for instance, that’s an absolutely amazingly huge map. It might not be the same size as a specific single player bubble in Battlefield 4, but it will be in the case that you feel like you have a lot of freedom to take on the challenge at hand – in your own specific way. However it’ll vary depending on kind of the mission you’re on, and especially the vehicles that you have available.
Are you introducing any particular new guns, vehicles or military hardware?
There will be a lot, although we’re not announcing that today. We did however mention that we’ll have a lot more focus on amphibious assault with different kinds of water vehicles.
When you started work on Battlefield 4, was it always going to be a contemporary military shooter? Did you experiment with any other ideas?
No, Battlefield has historically been jumping through various settings over time, in the 10 years that we’ve been around, but we strongly felt that we had more stories to tell in this modern setting, and with the characters that have at hand. I don’t know if you noticed, but some of the characters will return from Battlefield 3 – the helicopter pilot, for instance, is a returning character, though she doesn’t return for that long I have to admit! So we do feel there are stories left to tell inside of this universe, but where the franchise will go in the future – that’s completely uncertain.
Have you changed the audio design much?
Overall we’re extremely proud of our sound experience that we have had in the game so far, so it’s about owning it and tweaking it and making it better. As for the specifics, I think that’s a question for somebody else perhaps, but we always try to find a coherent style and tone for everything that we do, in terms of specific audio cues, choice of composer and so on.
In your presentation, you described Battlefield 4 as the beginning of “a new era in interactive entertainment”. How is this a clean break from what’s come before?
I would say this: I mentioned our focus on the dramatic, human and believable part of the game, which could come across as a cliché or a bullet-point phrase, but it’s something that the team back home are really living by. As opposed to trying to tell a story solely about a huge war, geo-politics, what’s going on around the world. That will be there in the background, but that’s not what this game is about.
Battlefield 4 is about the characters, it’s about being close to your friends when something bad happens, like when you have to cut off Dunn’s leg – we don’t want it to be a gory scene, but we want people to think “that was intense, almost to the point where I didn’t want to see it”. I believe that it’s this focus on the dramatic and human elements that will set us apart. We’re not just an FPS game where you shoot as many people as possible – it’s about the interaction between the characters.
Are you trying to introduce new kinds of character? The soldiers you’ve shown do seem to conform to certain military shooter clichés.
It’s always a – what’s the English phrase? It’s a bumpy road to go down. We have Michael K Williams from The Wire playing the black guy in the game, who is a great actor, but it’s like “oh you put a black guy in there because you have to”.
And it’s like, actually we wanted a strong character in there and when we did the casting, we found that this was the guy that we wanted. Will there be white guys? Yes, but we’re trying to mix it up more. There will be women – you saw Hanna at the end there. But the whole idea of the casting comes from the story we want to tell, the people we need inside this universe.
Will Hanna be a playable character?
I can’t comment on that.
Well, you know what? No you can’t, because you will be playing as one character throughout the single player, as opposed to Battlefield 3 where we had you jump between characters. So no, you can’t play as Hanna.
You sold Battlefield 3 to us as a “human story”, and you seem to be doing it again with Battlefield 4. How has your approach changed?
One thing that we learned was that jumping between different characters is not a good idea for telling a story where we want people to get connected to your character and the characters around you, so that’s one thing we scratched immediately from the list.
But it’s more about focusing on what’s between the characters – the dialogue, etc – making them recognizable. For instance, with Battlefield 3’s Faultline demo we had a group of soldiers driving towards something – they didn’t know where they were going, and they got diverted, and that’s where the mission begins. We looked at that scene over and over again, and even though we were very happy with it when we built Battlefield 3 – the hatch goes down, you step out of the vehicle and it looks awesome – when we asked people who was in the APC, nobody could tell the difference between the characters.
They were dudes in fatigues with helmets and guns. So it was like ‘OK, we failed here’. If we wanted to build a human story with drama in it, already we’ve failed. So that’s something we’re trying to do with Battlefield 4, to make the characters both more recognizable and more believable.
Patrick Bach has said you’re not a “Battlefield factory”, that there’s scope for DICE to work on other IP. Is that still true?
Well naturally I’m not going to confirm or deny anything that we’re doing, it is part of out strategy as a studio to not just make Battlefield games. As to what that actually implies and means, you’ll just have to wait and see.