Battlefield 4 Interview: Producer Daniel Matros on switching roles, sandbox jetskis, and changing South AfricaWritten by: / / 7 Comments
The first time El33tonline had the chance to speak with Daniel Matros was at rAge 2012 in October last year, and the then-community manager at DICE was eager to tell us about his role at the Battlefield developer and what he plays after hours, while also providing a joking hint at the setting for Battlefield 4 that turned out to be right on the nose… very sneaky!
– Daniel Matros at gamescom 2013
Matros also told us about his ambitions to get more involved in the development side of the company, and less than a year later he has achieved that exact goal and now acts as producer for Battlefield 4’s feature rich Spectator Mode while continuing to be an infectiously exciting evangelist for DICE and the work that the studio does.
What’s Spectator Mode? In short, it’s an aspect of Battlefield 4 that is often overlooked in development and essentially allows players to watch an online game taking place either through the eyes of a chosen player, or over their shoulder in a third-person view. While watching, spectators will be privy to that players’ current equipment setup, ammo count, weapon modifications and stats, while also being able to keep an eye on the rest of the game by bringing up a live scoreboard.
Here’s Matros demonstrating the feature at E3 2013:
E3 Live Stream Highlight: Spectator Mode in Battlefield
Since E3, Matros says, a lot has changed and been improved in Spectator Mode, but a lot has also changed in his own life and his role at DICE. El33tonline was fortunate enough to catch up with the DICE producer at gamescom 2013 recently to chat about these changes, what he’s looking forward to in Battlefield 4, and his thoughts on the development of a country he loves, South Africa:
El33tonline: The last time we spoke was a long time ago…
Matros: A very long time ago, a year ago almost.
El33tonline: At the time you were more of a community manager at DICE – how has your role changed at the studio since then? How has that transition been for you?
Matros: It’s changed a lot! When I was a community manager, I started with Bad Company 2 and then went into Bad Company 2: Vietnam, and I always had a representational role – I always represented the company wherever I went. I went to a lot of different events but I always wanted to embed myself more into the development team, so I was always more on that side, the development side. I didn’t only want to be the community manager who reads posts and forwards them, I wanted to understand [development].
So I hung out a bunch with the dev team and coming from an E-Sports background – a competitive background – I presented my idea of a competitive feature, the Spectator Mode. So that’s what I do as a producer [on Battlefield 4], I work on the Spectator Mode right now and help out with what I can on the team. And travel a lot, still, representing.
El33tonline: What’s been the biggest surprise for you, going from a community manager role to a producer? A lot more work? Less work? Different work?
Matros: The amount of knowledge you need to have. You need to know everything. It’s humanly impossible to know everything, but you still need to know a lot, so it’s a learning process and I’m learning all the time. I got to a point as a community manager where I felt as though I wasn’t learning anything anymore, I wasn’t having fun. I have fun when I’m learning and that just stopped for me, so I wanted to step out of that role.
I’m having a lot of fun now, creating my own thing and the team back home is amazing to work with, so it’s fun.
El33tonline: Your core responsibility is Spectator Mode, but are there other parts of Battlefield 4 that you’re able to provide feedback on?
Matros: The Domination game mode, definitely, and the Diffuse game mode – which we haven’t talked about yet – so those two and then building a competitive scene for Battlefield. Battlefield ’42 was up there and yeah, just making it awesome!
El33tonline: What have been the most important things to get right in Battlefield 4, other than Spectator Mode? What have you been talking to the team about and saying that ‘this’ should be top of the list?
Matros: So with features – and when they’re integrating features, you need to be very specific about it – you need to go into very heavy level detail with everything. Everything from the design, to how it’s going to work, while thinking about ‘Oh, what if this or that happens, how are we going to mitigate that by doing this other thing?’ There’s just a lot of detail [with features].
At the end of the day, I’m ‘just’ a producer, I don’t make Spectator Mode. I make the conceptual design, I review the quality and make sure that we’re hitting the right spots, make sure we’re on track with the project, and I make sure we deliver. But at the end of the day, it is the team that does the job. It’s the team that’s in the editor creating this kind of stuff as they play around with different options, so I would say 99% of the credit goes to the team and 1% to me because I’m just overviewing.
El33tonline: What has been improved in Spectator Mode since its reveal at E3 this year?
Matros: We’ve brought in a whole new user interface, which isn’t too foreign for the game because we keep the same art direction, so we have the score bar, the squad board, player card, all that stuff.
El33tonline: What has been your favourite moment playing Battlefield 4 that hasn’t yet been possible in Battlefield 3?
Matros: I’d say the waves on Paracel Storm.
Imagine clear blue skies, everything is really nice, it looks like Durban. Beaches, you know… and then a storm just rips in and shreds the island with strong winds, rain and everything. Then when you’re in the boats, the waves are huge! They’re massive!
My favourite moment, and I know I’m not allowed to say this, but my favourite moment is not being a team player at that time. I took a jetski, went way outside – we didn’t have combat areas at the time – went way outside and just surfed the waves and didn’t battle. I wanted to surf the waves. It was an amazing feeling.
You only see open ocean. And then you can also wreck the carrier [on Paracel Storm], the lightning storm comes down and hits one of the windmills and the ship just comes crashing into the island creating new areas to play on… The whole Levolution concept that we’ve brought in is amazing, it’s just mind-blowing what we can do. And it’s going to be on every map, too.
El33tonline: Jetski mini-game?
Matros: If you want, sure – go into an empty server and pick up some jetskis and go! That’s what’s so fun about it, it’s very sandbox-like.
El33tonline: Have you ever considered moving to South Africa?
Matros: Yes, I have, but your internet is very bad [laughs]
I got engaged this past Summer to a girl I met in South Africa during rAge – not at the expo. I’ve been to Johannesburg now many, many times and to Cape Town once, and I’ve been thinking about it. I’m just in a sweet spot right now [at DICE].
El33tonline: Leading on from that, do you think there’s the potential to open a satellite DICE studio in South Africa? Have you looked into the local development scene?
Matros: You can develop anything anywhere in the world today, we’re not limited as we used to be fifty years ago, we’re not limited by anything, really. I mean, [South Africa] definitely has the same specs for the PC as we can get in Stockholm, it’s the exact same thing.
I just think the internet infrastructure needs to get a bit better in South Africa because it’s… terrible. [laughs] That’s not on the people themselves, and it’s not on businesses or you or me, it’s on the politicians. I’m [probably] going to be going down to South Africa to talk to [minister of trade and industry] Rob Davies about that, at the end of September.
The single thing that’s preventing South Africa from blooming on the internet – because people are ready for this and most of the people have PCs, South Africa’s not as bad as everyone thinks it is, it’s actually a very developed country – is if you install these kinds of things so people can communicate better. I mean, internet trade is huge and that’s where the world is right now, everything is ‘cloud’ anyway – go for it. Just the infrastructure needs to get better, and I think in terms of safety as well, the country needs to get a bit more safe. For me, I wouldn’t want to move to South Africa because it’s really dangerous – it’s too dangerous, and I think that’s a deterrent for a lot of people.
Creative minds are everywhere and I’m one hundred percent sure that [South Africa] has the same creative minds as we have at DICE, it’s just that the people at DICE have training. They work in an editor for years and years, and people in South Africa don’t have that because they don’t have that option. So I think a better internet infrastructure and more technology, the schools need to improve that, the schools need to improve their information technology lessons and teach people how to code – push for that.
The people of South Africa are ready for this, look at the games industry there, it could be amazing! Just look at the amount of players we have in Battlefield, imagine other games. Look at the amount of people who come to rAge. I thought it was going to be a run-of-the-mill show, a very small show. Then [EA South Africa’s] Ralph [Spinks] said it was at the Coca-Cola Dome, and I looked it up and saw it was a big arena and found out… this is big! That’s a lot of people!
I think game studios will move there when improvements come, it’s a very attractive country with a lot of talent.
Battlefield 4 is out on October 29th in the US and November 1st in Europe and the UK across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and will also launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.