In this in-depth Road to BF4 post we tackle a highly anticipated feature for the Battlefield 4 Spectator Mode. The team at DICE explains how being able to view Battlefield matches in the engaging Spectator Mode will gratify curious fans, competitive gamers, and ambitious YouTube video makers.
With the crazy moments that happen only in Battlefield, the impressive skills of top players, and the amazing Frostbite 3 visuals, we really wanted to give everyone a chance to view Battlefield 4 matches not just those participating in the battles themselves. That is why Spectator Mode was created, to give everyone front row seats to the all-out war of Battlefield 4′s multiplayer.
Here to take us through Spectator Mode are two of its creators: Daniel Matros (Assistant Producer) and Dennis Brannvall (Junior Gameplay Designer). The duo will discuss the different camera views in Spectator Mode, the many display options for those who spectate, how the mode ties into competitive gaming and more. Take it away, guys!
Get Some Perspective: The Views of Spectator Mode
We are very excited that Spectator Mode is returning in Battlefield 4, and this time around we are challenging and expanding upon the concept of spectating in a first person shooter. Our goal has been to give spectators the best possible views of the Battlefield, and the ability to quickly switch between both camera types and players without toggling through an entire team to get what they want.
So how does Spectator Mode in Battlefield 4 work? It all starts with Battlelog. When you find a BF4 server, you can choose to join as a Spectator. If spectating is enabled, there are four Spectator slots per server, and those four slots are excluded from the number of players the game mode allows. So on PC and next-gen consoles, you could have 64 players + 2 Commanders + 4 Spectators.
Once inside Spectator Mode, you can observe the matches in four different views: First Person, Third Person, Tabletop and Freecam View. Each view comes with its own merits, and our goal is for players to find the perfect views for the situation at hand and to easily switch between them.
The first view you will see in Spectator Mode is the Tabletop View. This is visually similar to the Commander Mode screen, and here you will have a UI with icons for the starting points, players, vehicles, and so on. From this position, you can then select anything that has a camera players and all the vehicles and you see their actions in a smaller picture-in-picture screen. Using Tabletop View and its smaller screen gives you a great overview of both the big and the small aspects of the battle.
Switching to First Person View puts you in the heat of the battle and is visually reminiscent of actually playing Battlefield 4 yourself. Third Person View also follows one specific player, but from an overhead perspective. This gives the Spectator a wider view of the surroundings, and captures the chaos of all-out war in a more cinematic way. Finally we have Freecam View, where you have five different cameras that you can switch between. These cameras are placed on the map by us from the beginning, but you can move them anywhere you want – an ideal setup if you are creating your own Battlefield 4 movies. You can capture all the action from different angles to get that cinematic feel, like the one you see in our own Battlefield 4 trailers. One cool thing is that the video team here at DICE actually use the Spectator Mode themselves to capture those cinematic camera angles.
We looked at having just one Freecam but quickly realized that it wouldn’t cover the entire Battlefield. So one criteria for making a great Spectator Mode for Battlefield 4 was to have several Freecams, since you need the ability to fly around and switch positions quickly. This is also true for the competitive world, where having just one Freecam can easily make you miss parts of the action. If you look at shoutcasting of competitive gaming, you can’t always see where the action is. Sure, you get information based on the kill feed, but you can’t always see what’s going on around the corner. So in the Battlefield 4 Spectator Mode, you will get a combination of many different view modes and camera angles making it great for competitive games.
See What You Want to See: Spectator Display Options
At the top of your screen you will find the controls for moving between players, and switching between the four camera modes. You can see every player in the squad you are currently spectating. You can also see where the five cameras are, the score for the two teams, the remaining time, and the objectives (like flags in Conquest mode). There are squad bars on the two sides of the screen to keep track of the squad member’s health and classes. In addition to that, the Player Card shows the player’s current weapons, attachments, gadgets and vehicle customizations (if you are spectating a vehicle).
We want to give you as much information as possible in the Spectator Mode interface, like squad bars, ticket count, objectives and team names. But you should also be to toggle the different layers on and off, because let’s face it: Battlefield 4 is a beautiful game, and sometimes you want to view it without distractions.
Another thing that was important to us when designing the third person camera is that it should never clip through buildings and walls, because that takes you out of the experience. Our programmers worked hard on making it look great in third person, even in narrow situations like crawling through a tunnel. You don’t have to be that active in the Spectator Mode’s third person view; it should take care of itself and not wind up in weird places.
Spectator Mode and Competitive Gaming
Spectator Mode will tie into competitive gaming in many ways. There’s been a lot of buzz in the pro league world since we revealed Spectator Mode at E3, and we hope to see Battlefield 4 played at more competitive events in the future. The broadcasting-friendly features of Spectator mode, along with the depth of gameplay and improved team play mechanics, will allow BF4 to take a big step into the competitive gaming scene.
To make a game interesting in the world of competitive gaming, you have to be able to have spectators. We want to give people a chance to view players that are really good at Battlefield 4, and for anyone to share their experiences. While no one can say exactly when, we at DICE are convinced that e-sports will someday become the most popular sport on the planet, and we’d like Battlefield to be one of the games that makes that happen. That’s another reason why we need a Spectator Mode, and a really good one as well.
All the game modes are great to spectate, but we’re really excited about Obliteration. By design, this game mode focuses the action into a single point of interest namely where the bomb is and what’s happening to it which makes for exciting and easy to follow spectator experiences, not to mention plenty of crazy Battlefield moments.
Challenges and Color Coding
The biggest challenge with creating Spectator Mode was to make sense of developing it for such a vast game. We struggled with that a lot: how do we support having both a big overview and a detailed view and make it work well? This required a lot of thought, and we had to hammer out many edge cases. How would we support Squad Death match that has 4 different teams, for instance? The Battlefield 4 mentality of all game modes, all maps was something we felt was needed for Spectator Mode too. Early on though, we considered whether to just not allow Spectators on servers with 64 players, due to all the challenges that would mean for developing it. But we realized we had to support it and it had to be a good experience.
The color coding was another challenge. Initially, there was some confusion at E3 and gamescom when we used the same colors as the active players see in-game. For instance, one of our producers had this moment on the gamescom live stream where he thought the player was shooting at his team mate. That made us realize we weren’t there yet. We knew we had to distance ourselves from the colors in-game since the spectator is supposed to be a neutral entity on the Battlefield. We finally decided on what the team colors in Spectator Mode should be: deep red and deep blue.
To round off, we asked our Spectator Mode developers what part of the new feature they are most excited about.
DM: I want to see how people will shoutcast Battlefield 4 with the help of Spectator Mode. Will they use the first person view fusioned with a real-time strategy point of view, or will they use third person only? It’s going to be very interesting to see how our tool is going to be used.
DB: Spectating a 64-player Conquest match lets you fully appreciate all the different multiplayer narratives that our game consist of. You get the awesome vistas when all the vehicles come rolling out of the HQ’s, you get the close quarters infantry fighting, the pesky snipers on top of a roof and then the helicopters that take them out. And it all happens at the same time, and you’re able to capture it all as a spectator. That’s when I’m the most happy that we didn’t scale down or compromise Spectator is an awesome feature and I can’t wait to hand it off to our very capable fans and see what they make of it.