DICE on Battlefield 3′s new direction
Battlefield 3 executive producer Patrick Bach tells us that taking on Call Of Duty won’t mean compromising Battlefield tradition, and explains why the title’s authentic tone is married to an intentionally fantastical plot.
There’s a fear among Battlefield fans that the singleplayer will look towards the strictly linear action of COD. Can you allay those fears at all?
In a way I do understand, and in another way I don’t. Most people that hate singleplayer are the ones that love multiplayer. That’s fine – you don’t have to play it! We want the product to cater for the people who do like singleplayer and also the people who like multiplayer – and we are adding co-op, too – trying to fill the gaps all the way from the hardcore full-on Conquest mode, to the narrative-driven singleplayer. People just have to understand that we aren’t taking people away from one thing or the other. We’re just making the product bigger.
There’s a clear tonal shift away from the humour of Bad Company here.
Now we are going back to the core series, we’re throwing away everything that has to do with the tone of the Bad Company series, and creating a completely new tone and narrative based on the more authentic focus we had of Battlefield 2.
So what were the touchstones – Generation Kill, presumably?
There were plenty of influences. Generation Kill, obviously. Everyone likes Black Hawk Down. We’re looking more towards the more authentic Hollywood movies, rather than Transformers. Andy McNab has been working with us for quite some time now, talking to our writers about authenticity when it comes to mission structures. And he’s been involved in motion capture; since he’s been involved in, for instance, the movie Heat, consulting on gun handling matters, he knows what it takes to make his experience fit onto an entertainment product.
We’re selling fun, and he doesn’t come from fun, but he understands the connection between his experience and the fantasy that we want people to live through our game. He’s a really, really nice guy, and extremely useful to the animator. He knows everything from the fire rate of any particular gun to what mortars actually sound like depending on the propellant you use – there are so many details he knows about. We have some gun nuts here in the office, but they were like, wow, this guy knows his shit.
The plot of Battlefield 3 sees Russia invading France, and there are US troops on the ground. You aren’t saying much about the story yet, but can you give us the geopolitical context for the game’s narrative?
First of all: it’s fiction. We’re not trying to base it on any political or religious conflict – controversy is probably a good marketing tool, but we make games. Our goal isn’t to make controversy. I don’t want people to feel bad playing our game. Our goal is to create a fun, entertaining experience. So we are trying to stay away from things that are real – authentic and real don’t have to be the same thing.
So, with authenticity in mind, we won’t see cackling Russian supervillains?
No, no supervillains. But you still want your enemy to be clear; you still want your player character to have a clear motivation – that’s something we’re working on to find the right balance.
As creatives involved in the depiction of war, do you feel you have a duty to show the moral context of war?
Since we are Swedes, we are neutral on paper. We have a tendency to not take sides. I think that reflects in our games. When we say Russians versus Americans, it’s like Red versus Blue. We try not to depict the reasons for the war, because then it can end up in a very bad place. We depict it from the perspective of an individual rather than an army – it’s about you as a soldier on the battlefield, because no matter who you are or on what side you are, it’s still drama. I don’t want to create a war simulation or a game which picks sides. I think that would be tasteless.
This interview was conducted as part of our Battlefield 3 preview, printed in this month's issue of Edge, out now.