Battlefield 3: 'DLC should be about giving players something new'
1st Jun 2012 | 17:18
Next week looks set to be a big week for Battlefield - not that it won't be for the rest of the industry, of course - due to the expected release of Battlefield 3's Close Quarters DLC and the long-rumoured Battlefield Premium service.
Back in April we got the chance to chat to Battlefield 3 executive producer Patrick Bach about Close Quarters, which will offer tight, infantry-only combat across four new maps, as well as a range of other topics including next-gen consoles, new IP versus sequels, and the used games market.
How will the Close Quarters maps impact the flow of gameplay?
We've had this type of gameplay in some of Battlefield 3's maps and sections of its maps already. But what we wanted to do with Close Quarters was to see how far we could take it, how far we could push the idea of tight infantry gameplay in a game like Battlefield, which has the classic huge open landscapes, vehicles, team play focus for a lot of people. There are people who play Battlefield 3 in this type of fashion, who like the tight infantry gameplay and the destruction. This is an expansion pack that is more tailored for that type of gameplay.
It doesn't mean that we're throwing everything else out of the window. We are planning the expansion pack that comes after this, Armoured Kill, which is all about big open landscapes, vehicles, all out war on huge battlefields, which will complement Close Quarters quite nicely. They'll also prove the point that Battlefield can handle everything from a quite small scale environment to huge big open landscapes.
Are the indoor maps much more destructible than those in the core game?
Yes and no. In a way they aren't because the core of the destructibility is available in Battlefield 3, but we are taking it to another level by making sure that more things blow up and it's a more intricate part of the experience. There's also a whole tactical layer when it comes to blowing away doors and walls and changing the landscape as you play the map. That's very important to us, and we've tried to again move the boundaries of what this [game] could be without screwing the core game up.
I think we are a bit stubborn, we try to prove to ourselves that we can do certain things. In some cases we decide to do something and then we have to figure out how to do it afterwards and this is a great example of us doing that, where we more or less just decided to see how far we could take it and where we'd end up. We were also worried that maybe Battlefield wouldn't hold up to this type of experience, but it sure does.
A number of people have expressed concerns that Close Quarters won't offer traditional Battlefield gameplay. Obviously they can wait for something like Armoured Kill if they prefer, but if you were talking to these Battlefield purists, what would you say to convince them to pay to try this?
First of all, if you absolutely hate these maps then you can get it for the ten new weapons [which carry across the core game and all DLC packs] or the achievements, but I have a hard time seeing the purists that only like Battlefield 1942... those people, most of them who have been playing Battlefield 3, have been getting used to the idea that Battlefield can be so much more than just the more slow-paced, open landscapes and vehicles gameplay.
Looking at the popularity of the maps we have in Battlefield 3, the tight infantry maps are actually the most popular ones, so you can't really use data either to prove we're doing something wrong here. On top of that, if you don't like it you can go back and play Strike at Karkand or the original maps from Battlefield 3, so I would at least give it a shot and see what it means.
The Close Quarters DLC will actually make you a better player on the other maps because you'll learn stuff that you would never have the chance to learn in those maps as they're not tailored to this experience, so to me this is a great training ground for the twitch skill and the fast-moving and high-paced gameplay.
You've spoken before about favouring expansions over "piecemeal" DLC, but what is it you feel you do well to retain players? I know a lot of people who think Call of Duty does a good job of keeping users engaged with regular content updates like new maps each month.
I think we just have a fundamentally different view on what map packs or DLC should be. To me it's about expanding the experience, about giving players something new, instead of giving players the same map with a new graphical layer on it, a map with new lighting. To me that's not a new experience, and I think to us that's key, because when you're paying for it you should get something new, whether its weapons or maps or anything else. Just paying to get the same thing over and over again to me isn't the way to treat the players.
PS3 Battlefield 3 owners have had some benefits like early access to DLC, but select players have also suffered problems such as input lag and voice chat issues. Why do you think these problems have occurred and has DICE been quick enough to address them and open enough with the community about them?
First of all, just because it's in a forum doesn't make it our top priority. There are things that we've been fixing that have been way, way worse than the things you've brought up, and we have to make decisions on fixing the most important things first. Regarding vocal people on the internet, the statistics we get from the game often prove that certain things aren't true, and it's really hard to tell sometimes.
Or that they're in the minority?
Yes, not always but in some cases, and I think it's important for people to understand that it's not that we aren't caring, it's just that we can't always tell people that they're wrong, because people have the right to feel whatever they feel, but that doesn't make it right for everyone. It's interesting that you brought up the input lag, which has been a really hard thing for us to fix, but in this expansion pack we're actually fixing it. I didn't want to bring it up as a feature, but we are improving it quite significantly, and hopefully players who have felt it before will feel the difference, that it feels much snappier and gives better feedback, so we're definitely listening.
And on the voice chat functionality, we've been working on it and I think we'll probably have the perfect solution very, very soon. It's very hard to fix between the combination of the built-in systems and our systems, and it's not that easy to just make it a priority over everything else because it will affect the rest of the game.
As we approach the back end of the current console generation publishers appear less willing to invest money in new IPs, so we're seeing lots of sequels, sometimes on an annual basis. In the shooter genre, particularly in the military sub-genre, a number of games seem to be following a broadly similar template, with a cinematic single player campaign, multiplayer with levelling, unlocks and killstreaks, and maybe a co-op component thrown into the mix. Do you think there's still room for innovation in the shooter genre this generation and how do you think Battlefield's exploiting that?
I think it's a delicate discussion because innovation isn't always a new IP, it's also developing something that is great and making it better, or in some cases taking something that is quite bad and making it good. I think the challenge lies within the consumer behaviour of not buying new IPs even if they're great, because people like what they know, or they think they know, even if it has completely changed.
We've seen that with Battlefield 3, which is completely different from any other Battlefield game, and still people are calling for the next Battlefield game, which is of course a benefit for us because we get people's attention. Battlefield 3 is way different than for instance Battlefield 2 or Battlefield: Bad Company 2, so we get free advertising just by having the Battlefield name, then of course it's up to us to prove that it is the next big thing.
So for us Battlefield 3 could have been released almost as a new game because there are so many differences, but the problem then is that players seem to want sequels, they like the next iteration of the game they love, and even if people say they want new IPs, when new IPs arrive no one cares, they don't buy them, so I still don't understand why people see it as a problem when they're part of, they're creating the problem. I would love for people to buy new IPs and prove with their wallet what they mean, instead of blaming someone else. There's a big chunk of money you invest in games so you want at least your money back.
Like Mirror's Edge?
I can't talk about Mirror's Edge, but that is one of those examples.
EA has Medal of Honor: Warfighter coming out this year, and presumably there'll be a Battlefield game in one form or another in 2013, when it's been rumoured that there'll be next-gen consoles on the market. What's top of your next-gen wish-list?
In general it's probably what everyone else wants. We want a more powerful CPU, we want more memory, we want a powerful GPU, we want to push everything that has to do with calculations and graphics. Everything from AI to rendering has to do with what CPU you have, what GPU you have, then of course memory, high resolution textures, getting the crisp feel of a game is all about memory.
Together with that I'd love to see expanded online capabilities, because we are really pushing the boundaries of what you can do, and we want to continue to do that in even better and more connected ways. I think both consoles are already doing that, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what you can do with the next-gen.
And what do you think about the anti-used games measures rumoured to be featured in next-gen consoles?
Yeah, I heard about that. I think that can be a win and a loss. I think it's a loss if it only means that you will be able to get fewer games for the same money. But in theory you could see it the other way, because a lot of companies making games today are struggling based on second-hand sales.
So if you think that there are too few new IPs on the market, [it's because] no one can take that risk if their game is at risk of being resold too many times. Therefore you see a lot of online games being the most popular. You mentioned that you feel like a lot of them have the same formula and this is one of the reasons, which most people seem not to realise.
So on the positive side you could see more games being created because of this, and also more new IPs, because there'd be a bigger market for games that don't have for instance multiplayer. There could be awesome single player-only games, which you can't really do these days because people just pirate them, which is sad.
From a gamer perspective, if you want to buy as many games as possible then this could be a problem, but if you want more diverse games then it's a more positive thing than a negative. The only thing I know is that people are not doing it to be evil and stupid, it's about trying to create some benefits for consumers.