The last few GDCs have belonged to EA, at least as far as the public is concerned. In general, GDC is a much more low key show than something like E3 or CES. For the most part, the event is about networking, sharing ideas, and helping the industry grow. Of course, there are exceptions.
Last year EA stole the show with the first look at Battlefield 3, and this year it was Medal of Honor: Warface. But before Danger Close took the stage, DICE unveiled the three upcoming BF3 maps due out later this year (and possibly into next). For a closer look at the first map pack, Close Quarters, check out our hands-on preview.
Following the presentation, we had a chance to sit down with Patrick Bach of DICE, an Executive Producer for Battlefield 3. Naturally the talk began with discussion of the Close Quarters map pack. It then expanded into how the fans impact the development process, and then strayed into talk of the industry in general, including what he thought of the Call of Duty rivalry. Check out the transcript below.
Yes, there will be 10 new weapons, and the weapons will be spread over all the classes. There will be new assignments, so there will be a lot of new stuff in general
Will there be any more single-player or co-op content in the future?
I can’t really talk about the exact plans for the future packs, but we haven’t included that in Close Quarters. For the close future though? No.
“Ziba Towers” is small and contained. Is that theme representative of all of the Close Quarters Maps?
Yes, that is the theme, as the name hints. To be a Battlefield map, the classic Battlefield player would imagine that you were in a big open landscapes. To enclose the player makes it very intense, almost claustrophic at times—it adds a lot of new emotions to the spectrum of Battlefield.
Will you be able to do the classic game modes like Rush and Conquest?
Yes, the classic game modes will be a part of this expansion pack.
So what we saw was just one small part of it—it expands?
What kind of new weapons will we see?
We’ll release that as we get closer to it, but there will be the SPAS 12–the Italian shotgun–which is a classic shotgun that people have seen many times before, and there will be a lot of other guns. The important thing is that we’re doing these guns and spreading them over all the classes, and of course you can then bring them back into your original game. So it actually extends the other maps of Battlefield 3.
Will Close Quarters be able to support the max number of 64 PC players?
No, we are restricting players. I can’t tell you exactly what the restriction is right now, but we are restricting players so we can focus on the fun factor. How many players do we want before it turns into carnage?
People could potentially find that funny, but not fun.
There are some console updates coming, including some major overhauls to the matchmaking. Have you announced when that will go live?
We don’t have a date for it yet. We’re going through a lot of practical processes to get it out, but it is a full rent-a-server program. You as a player can rent your own server. You can do all the setting yourself, you can invite whoever you want, or you can keep it open to everyone. You control it. This is the first time we’ve seen this on a console. We were quite surprised that no one has done this before. It’s a special feeling owning your own server; having control over it and making sure that you have all the settings–and you have all the information that you think the players you want to invite–are there.
So it will be similar to the PC version?
Are there going to be any obvious differences between the PC and console matchmaking?
No. I think the biggest difference when it releases is that it will be easier for console players to rent a server than it is for PC gamers today because we don’t have an in-game interface. But for the console you get everything in front of you at the main menu.
Any chance we may soon see a Battlefield: Bad Company 3?
I can’t really talk about any of the other IPs right now…
What can you tell me about the next map pack, Armored Kill?
The goal and the theme of that pack is to create something that is on the opposite side of the Battlefield scale [from Close Quarters]. Close Quarters is a very intimate, intense infantry experience. [Armored Kill] is the big open, heavy metal vehicles, focusing on the big beasts of the battle. We are introducing new vehicles into the mix. We are building the biggest battlefields we’ve ever built before, so we’ll have the huge battles. It is kind of the opposite…it is complementary part of the spectrum for Battlefield 3.
We listen a lot, but that doesn’t mean that we do exactly what people ask us to do. There are so many requests that don’t fit with reality. We don’t want the game to be fixed for a single individual. We want the system to be perfectly balanced so you can have all these things working together. If you make the game better for you, it might get better for me, but not for him. So we wouldn’t do a fix like that. Even if there is a majority of people complaining about something, that doesn’t mean that we can do that change because it may break the game as a whole.
Sometimes it can be hard to communicate that because we want to find a solution that mitigates all the problems rather than just fixing it for you and breaking it for me. That’s the challenge of building a game like Battlefield. If you get it right, it’s magic. It’s really hard to get to this perfect rock-paper-scissors balance. It’s so easy to get it wrong because if you just react to the person that screams and yells the most, you will definitely break the game. So we can’t do that, because we are responsible for the game, so if we break the game we have to fix it. We can’t blame the community and say “but you got what you wanted and look, it broke, it’s your fault.” We have to be responsible and make sure that when we do something we do it properly, and also plan for the future.
There has been a lot made of the rivalry between Call of Duty and Battlefield from both the press and the fans. How aware of that are you?
Well we do pay attention because people bring it up all the time. We don’t see ourselves as the direct competition to the other shooters on the market, because there aren’t many shooters that are trying to do what we are trying to do. If we try to limit ourselves by trying to build something that is in my book lesser, a lesser experience, even if people say that they like it, and say that they like this particular part of the experience, that is not what Battlefield is all about. Then we shouldn’t call it Battlefield, we should call it something else.
If you don’t have the vehicles, if you don’t have the structure, if you don’t have the team play, if you don’t have the classes, then you’re breaking it. I hope that people that are playing Battlefield 3 and are playing other shooters can see that it’s not the same. If you are into shooters, and you play shooters, you will definitely spot the difference.
What games are on your radar?
I’m looking forward to quite a lot of games. Maybe not always to play them, because sometimes there are games that are interesting but not always to your liking when it comes to the actual game. But there are a lot of interesting games. I think Halo 4, Assassins Creed 3… there are some big players out there that will hopefully give us something more than expected. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have in the plans for us.
When we talk about gaming or gamers, we tend to look at people, because humans won’t change—their behavior, at their core won’t change–but the interface between the person and the product might. No one believed in the games that we can now play on the iPhone, because a couple years before we had the N-Gage, and machines that were on paper the exact same machines. But then all of a sudden the same thing starts to work, because it is the right platform at the right time, and with the right content, and you have the right user behavior. It’s like now it fits, but five years ago it didn’t.
In a way, the games we are building are platform sensitive, because you need to be able to see what’s happening in front of you to be able to control that with a high precision, so it is hard for us to make a hardcore, mobile Battlefield version that has the exact same values as what we are trying to create. So to answer your question, I think there will be a market for games like Battlefield in the future. I also think the gaming market as a whole might grow, but the growth might be in other areas. So you might grow the casual social part, and then the high definition, hardcore shooter audience will stay the same.
Younger people growing up have more choices when it comes to gaming. They like the casual like games—like the Pop Cap games for instance—it’s great fun to play it on an iPhone, but when I get home, I want to play Battlefield. That doesn’t exclude Bejeweled, because they are different experiences. I think it is the whole need to entertain yourself. Today you have so many more choices that we didn’t have five or ten years ago, so it is more a question of how do you want to consume your games, not do you like games. So I think that games, and specific genres like shooters, will stay. It’s just a question of how do you consume them.