With less than a month to go until launch around the world, the team at DICE has hit the home stretch of development on Battlefield 4 while keeping itself busy implementing feedback gathered during the recent online beta test to help improve and polish the experience even further.
What have been some of the core philosophies driving development of Battlefield 4, and how has player feedback been implemented not just from the beta, but during and after Battlefield 3, too? How has the community helped to inform decisions at DICE and why do people still compare Battlefield and Call of Duty, year after year?
We spoke with DICE producer Daniel Matros to pick his brain about these and other topics, including the possibility of co-operative play in Battlefield 4, a Battlefield MMO, and if there’s space in the market for games like Bad Company 3.
- DICE producer, Daniel Matros
El33tonline: The biggest thing to happen with Battlefield 4 recently is the beta – will there still be time to include any changes and feedback from the beta into the final game, or will that only come later?
Daniel Matros: Yes, definitely. Feedback, in general, is kind of what drives Battlefield 4. So if you look at Battlefield 3, people wanted different experiences in that game, not everyone is an infantry player, not everyone is a jet fighter, so we came out with themed expansion packs, going from Close Quarters, to Armored Kill, to Aftermath, and also Back to Karkand I have to mention, that was a great expansion pack. So the post-launch team did a great job with that.
So looking at Battlefield 4, a lot of the community feedback that came in for Battlefield 3 is in the game. We’ve got a brilliant Spectator Mode…
El33tonline: … if you do say so yourself! [laughs]
Matros: [laughs] And for the team, they did an amazing job! You know, Commander Mode is great, we’ve got dynamic maps where we use the player to decide what’s going to happen on the map, naval warfare is back which was a huge requested feature from the community. So we’ve really nailed Battlefield 4 with that feedback and we can just see the excitement grow from show to show.
I’m a lucky bastard, I will say, to be able to go to every show in the world and see how players react to the game outside of the studio, and we really share everybody’s excitement approaching launch day.
El33tonline: Talking about that post launch content – playing Battlefield 4, there’s a lot that’s familiar, in a good way, and if you dig deeper there are so many different features. Do you think Battlefield 4 could become a platform for the future and extend further than two years?
Matros: I would say any game is a platform for trying new things, I mean look at Battlefield 3 – we came out with Frostbite 2 as a next-gen engine and tried out a few things there, everything from really tight infantry and urban maps to large scale maps. Now with Battlefield 4, we’ve reversed some of the ideas we had and implemented new ideas. Net code is snappier, it just feels faster and better to play, for example.
Obviously with the new features coming out… making a game is always a challenge and you have to figure out what’s in there, but the biggest challenge in all of that is finding out what our players would like to see, because our players are the foundation of the game. Together with the gamers we’ve created an incredible experience so I would say that going from Battlefield 3 was a different experience, Battlefield 4 is a different experience again, and the expansion packs kind of tie everything together for us, elevating the experience.
El33tonline: With the reveal of Battlefield 4, you opened with singleplayer and now the message is very heavily multiplayer focussed – before launch will we see more singleplayer or is it all systems go to launch?
Matros: The heart of Battlefield is always multiplayer, going from Battlefield ’42 going onwards, and with the singleplayer campaign in Battlefield 3 we got a lot of feedback on that. We actually reached some amazing results and a lot of players liked that, and looking at Battlefield 4 we really wanted a singleplayer that’s engaging but also preparing you for multiplayer this time around.
So you’ll be able to use your squad system there, you can customise your weapons, you’ll have an emotional drama going on as well as a political one, so there are different aspects to singleplayer [in Battlefield 4] as well to prepare players for multiplayer. And if that isn’t preparation enough we also have a testing ground for vehicles and to allow you to try out the different weapons – everything, you can just try it out to see if you like it or not.
I think that’s a great step into multiplayer, because obviously we’re going to have a lot of new players coming into Battlefield 4 as well and I think that’s one of the things we learned from Battlefield 3, is that, not everyone knows what Battlefield is about. So just introducing them to Battlefield 4, with an accessible [User Interface] to make it easy to view and see what’s going on, and we have an easy way to customise your weapons, so we have big tabs now and you can actually see the weapon you’re customising and see your soldier with the camo, so everything is more visual this time around and easy to comprehend.
El33tonline: You spoke about messaging, trying to make sure people know what Battlefield is – every year, people compare Battlefield and Call of Duty, even though the hardcore gamers know that these games are completely different. Why does this still happen? Is it a messaging problem?
Matros: I think it’s in the nature of everything, I mean it’s an FPS game. I think people compare the label of ‘FPS.’ Yes, you are running around with a weapon on the battlefield, as well as in any FPS game, but for me Battlefield is a completely different game and it’s good for the industry if every game does well, we get more attention with more game shows and more cool things to do, but at the end of the day Battlefield is a different game. It’s a much larger game, it’s way different to any other FPS game out there.
El33tonline: What can we expect from the five-part downloadable content plan for Battlefield 4? What kind of experiences will we see there?
Matros: We’ve already confirmed Shanghai Rising with new weapons and new scenarios and new maps, all that stuff, but we haven’t really gone into detail on the DLC, we really want the game to sink in first and let players get their hands on it first, and then we’ll talk about the other expansion packs.
But all in all, when we create expansion packs we don’t just want to create maps or just create weapons, we want more things in there. Looking at the expansion packs for Battlefield 3, we had new things coming in, new dynamics coming in, like the AC-130, for example, you needed to capture a point in order to enable a huge gunship. We had small tremors in Aftermath, a new game mode in End Game with Capture the Flag and Domination in Close Quarters… so we just want to bring out new things for our players to play around with.
I think at DICE, we have this idea where we always want to challenge ourselves and I think it’s inherent in everyone who works at DICE, how do we challenge ourselves at the next level and going forward, what can we do differently this time around, but still having the core quality and the core mentality of rock-paper-scissors, always being able to counter – you know, the Battlefield formula.
El33tonline: Any chance that co-op is going to return in Battlefield 4?
Matros: We loved co-op in Battlefield 3… good question, we’ll see! [laughs]
El33tonline: Is there any desire at DICE to do a Battlefield MMO? It’s already a big game, but would you want to do something larger and persistent?
Matros: No, that hasn’t crossed our minds at all. The Battlefield experience is always at a maximum of 32 versus 32, we’ve found that it’s more fun to play that way and we think that it benefits our players the best – it’s fun. If it’s not fun don’t do it, right? Looking at our overall quality, too, what do our players expect from us? They expect Battlefield and the Battlefield brand needs to carry a certain weight, and the weight is in the fun and the game modes you’re playing.
El33tonline: Lots of people are still calling for a new Bad Company…
Matros: Every game show we’re at, people ask about it…
El33tonline: ‘Battlefield is cool and everything… but what about that Bad Company 3?’
Do you think there’s space in the market for another military themed shooter? Medal of Honor kind of got squeezed out for different reasons, do you think there’s enough space for a third big military shooter?
Matros: I think so. Gaming numbers are growing, budgets are growing, sales numbers are growing, so everything is pointing upwards so why not?
El33tonline: What is Battlefield 4 to you?
Matros: Across the board, Battlefield to me has always been about large-scale maps, all out warfare, and more recently it’s been about destruction, and it’s been about tight team play as well. You’re in the battle with your squad, you’re moving around taking capture points or you’re taking flags to your own home base – all of that is done via team play.
That’s what Battlefield is to me, and I think for all gamers that’s what Battlefield is for them as well, and they’ll be able to experience that even more in Battlefield 4 with Commander Mode, a new real-time strategy element inside Battlefield 4 where you as a commander get to chill and sit back and be very quick with your movements, using operational assets – there’s a UAV you can send up and you can EMP the enemy commander – and seeing how many enemies are on the battlefield by using the vehicle and infantry sweep to check out the battle.
And I think that really ties into the team play, because you order squads to go to certain points and hold certain capture points. Say a capture point has a Tomahawk, and move to that point and capture it and you get the Tomahawk, what happens with your squad is that your Squad Bar goes up so they’re performing actions that benefit them in the end – we didn’t have that in Battlefield 3.
So we’re pushing squad play, and overall team play, more in Battlefield 4. There are a lot of lone wolves and you can play as a lone wolf if you want, but at the end of the day sticking together as a squad will definitely make you the winning team.
El33tonline: At gamescom we spoke about your favourite game mode – has that changed? What is currently your favourite map and game mode combination?
Matros: My favourite combination at the moment is actually Domination on Paracel Storm. I love what the designers have done with it, I love to play it and it’s just an honour and a privilege to work with them – great people doing great things.
The map plays really well, with Domination which is a three flag setup with Battle Pickups this time around. Run around the map, be quick and fast, stick together as a squad. It’s still good for competitive play, we’ve heard some feedback from the competitive community saying that they would like this as a five-versus-five mode. We originally came up with this for Close Quarters and tweaked it a little bit for Battlefield 4 to make it feel more like Battlefield 4, and I think it plays really, really well.
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.
Also don’t miss our previous exclusive interview with Daniel Matros who spoke about changing careers from a community manager, his favourite feature of Battlefield 4 so far, and lots more besides.