“One of my favorite things about multiplayer game development is that it’s a highly iterative process,” Battlefield Hardline lead producer Thad Sasser tells Digital Trends. “And by carefully targeting the changes, by limiting the number of changes you make, and by making sure that you continually improve things, the game slowly inches its way to better, and better, and better, and better, and better.
I think the real goal of the feedback is to help us shape our vision.
“Getting the beta out so early was instrumental in helping us achieve what it is we wanted to get to. Battlefield is obviously a huge, complex, historic franchise, and you have to make very targeted and very careful changes to make sure that you’re not alienating existing Battlefield players while still attracting new players.”
Many of those changes were evident during the game’s final open beta, including longer match times and new, randomized objectives for game modes like Heist. The latter alteration is meant to give Hardline more of a strategic feel, as robbers run and cops give chase during a big bank robbery.
You can thank direct feedback from early beta testers for some of these tweaks — adjustments that might not seem like the biggest deal on paper, but ones that definitely help make the game flow a lot better.
“I think the real goal of the feedback is to help us shape our vision. Obviously, we want to deliver something that’s cohesive — something that gets to a place, that gets to a goal, that gives players a new kind of experience. I think that, really, for us, a lot of the player feedback is around the idea of helping us shape that. Helping us figure out what fits and what doesn’t fit,” Sasser says.
“There are a million things we want to do, obviously, and we have to prioritize the ones we want. And figuring out which ones the community is also excited about, or is suggesting, really helps us focus and figure out what it is we want to deliver.”
Take, for example, a lot of the early buzz over explosives within Battlefield Hardline. As anyone who has played any of the recent military-style shooters can probably admit, a game just doesn’t feel all that fun when someone gets an early lead and access to crazy weapons as a result. Especially when that player starts lobbing rockets (or summoning airstrikes) on every other hapless person on the map. It gets old quickly.
In Battlefield Hardline, one of Visceral’s early challenges was to find a way to balance out the oft-criticized Survivalist gadget. The item, which you could pick for the game’s Operator kit, basically allowed players to automatically revive themselves save for the most extreme of situations — headshots, death by explosion, or death via fall damage. Direct feedback from the community led to the understanding that the original version of Survivalist wasn’t very fair; it also helped Visceral brainstorm an appropriate solution.
What can we do to make this better? What can we do to make this more fun?
“A lot of people said to just remove it, but that’s a lot of lost work. That’s not our first option. So, we go, ‘What can we do to make this better? What can we do to make this more fun?’” Sasser explains.
“We looked at community feedback and a lot of players were complaining about explosives. We thought, huh, what about if this was turned into a counter for explosives. That would eliminate the people who are complaining about explosives being overpowered, because now they can survive and they’ve got a counter to it. And it’ll change the problem of [Survivalist] being too powerful because the counter is something that’s very common, like bullets.”
Now, the Survivalist gadget only allows self-revives after a player is flattened by a car or blown up by something unpleasant. It’s one of the many changes that followed the previous beta, just like this latest one is set to address other issues. The specific focus right now? Gun balance.
“We’re really looking forward to getting the feedback from both the beta and the launch game, but also the telemetry — looking at the data and going, ‘Oh, yeah, this thing’s got a 47-percent accuracy. That shouldn’t be happening.’ Or, ‘This thing’s being used one-percent of the time, maybe we should make it more attractive.’”