DICE is putting its blood, sweat and tears into ensuring that Battlefield 3 lives up to the hype that Electronic Arts has set up for it. It doesnít have to try too hard though - on the audio-visual front, itís certainly looking like one of the best games this generation, and the studio already has an award-winning history of providing an atmospheric assault of the senses.
You can find out what I thought of the first few levels of the single-player campaign here, but after my playthrough I was able to chat to producer Patrick Liu on the ambitions of the Battlefield
franchise, how far the Frostbite technology can be pushed and the gameís chances against Activisionís own ďbehemoth,Ē Modern Warfare 3
SPOnG: What kind of feedback have you had from both the Open Beta and the Closed Beta, and what are some of the improvements youíve made as a reaction to that?
A lot of stuff, especially from the previous version. For example, we reworked the spotting from the ground up. We changed all the map layouts, removed the LAV... We customised the balancing and behaviour of a lot of the weapons.
SPOnG: Some of the more vocal feedback on the web have noted the Betaís bugginess and lag. Is that reflective of the final game, or is that something youíve taken on board?
Yeah, itís definitely buggy. Iíll admit to that, Iím not going to hide that fact. But the point is that this is early software. I know a lot of people think that, while itís called a Beta itís actually a Demo, but this is a true Beta. Itís not a Demo. Weíre doing real live testing of the backend while people are playing.
SPOnG: Does that annoy you, the distinction between Beta and Demo that some players donít seem to understand?
Yeah, it can be annoying sometimes, just reading the comments and knowing what the Beta actually is. But, you get used to it I guess.
SPOnG: You have some truly huge maps in the game. How challenging was it to pack in the amount of content you have, especially when working with technology thatís five years old?
It has been a challenge, yes (laughs)! It kind of works out, with the new streaming technology that we have. Thatís really helped us out with the big maps. We tried to do that in Bad Company, but we never really managed to make them as big as in Battlefield 3
. At that point we didnít even have any streaming at all included with the Frostbite 1 engine.
SPOnG: Battlefield 3 is being hailed as one of the most graphically realistic games out there. So obviously on an audio-visual level the game is pretty high-end. Could it go further? Is there a need in your mind for a new generation of consoles when you can pull off this kind of graphical fidelity from an Xbox 360?
I would say that weíve been exploiting the hardware as much as we can with Frostbite 2. We would definitely require a new generation of consoles to make something thatís better than Frostbite 2. Weíll see...
SPOnG: What sort of ideas, hypothetically speaking, would an updated Frostbite 2 or Frostbite 3 engine do that you guys have worked around?
I think we could improve a lot of stuff, in regards to both the scale and the rendering of maps, along with the destruction and dynamics too. Today, already we know how to improve the animation - we would just need a little bit more power to realise that.
But itís always about the budget of the whole game, and the art of balancing all the different features that we have. The scale of the maps, the number of vehicles, the number of soldiers, the destruction... if we had, for example, less vehicles and smaller maps, we could probably have more destruction.
SPOnG: Whatís your ultimate ambition for the Battlefield series? Where do you see it going and what do you want this one to achieve?
First of all, we want to introduce the Battlefield 2
experience to a new generation of gamers, I would say. Time just flies by in the gaming industry, right? And after that, I would say that we still have a lot of features that are pretty unique for Battlefield
- ever since 1942
The scale of the sandbox experience, the team-playing mechanics, adding destruction since Bad Company
... all of these things, nobody is doing it better than we are, in my mind. So I think we can still push that forward. We introduce a few new things with each generation of Battlefield
. Whatever fits into the sandbox gameplay, we will add to that.
SPOnG: Iíve got to mention the elephant in the room, now. The release date of is quite close to that of Activisionís own Modern Warfare 3. What do you think of Battlefield 3ís chances against that? Itís the biggest selling franchise in recent memory and thereís no secret that EA and Activision have been at loggerheads. What are your thoughts?
From what Iíve seen of Modern Warfare 3
it looks great, as usual. I think weíre going to put a huge dent, so to speak, in [Activisionís] market. But theyíre a behemoth. Itís not easy to move them... although I believe that we have already that, with Battlefield 3
ís campaign so far.
But at the same time, from a developer standpoint, we really focus on creating our own game and making the best that we can. We set the bar quite high for ourselves, and thatís usually the biggest challenge for us. I know that the game is never actually done - we can always improve the game. We have lots of ideas on how to improve this, so if we could we would push Battlefield 3
back a year or two maybe. But that wouldnít make any sense. So the biggest challenge is really our own requirements for ourselves.
SPOnG: Mirrorís Edge has a bit of a fan following. Do you think that the market would be receptive to a sequel?
Yeah, definitely. I think itís something that people are ready to get into again. We see that thereís a huge fan following, itís almost like a cult! And we know what strengths we had, and what weaknesses we had in that game. If we were to release a new game, weíd know what to improve and how to reach a broader audience. So I definitely think thereís a market there.
SPOnG: You guys have been working hard on this project - what has been the highlight for you during the gameís development?
I would say the thing that brings up the most memories is actually the animation, in both good and bad ways. The first time we saw, we were demoing to our own team how the animation and AI works, just with some easy waypoints to show where the AI should be heading. Seeing characters do all these cool movements and actions by themselves, without any of us actually animating them... that was a eye-opener for me.
Of course, I also remember all the bugs that came with that system! Weíve seen a couple of them in the Open Beta - how soldiers can look like when theyíre bugging out. We have some pretty interesting characters saved.
SPOnG: Thanks for your time.
Battlefield 3 will hit the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on 28th October.