Earlier this week, I was treated to a new demo of the rapidly approaching military shooter Battlefield 3, which promises to raise Battlefield’s sprawling formula to soaring new heights. After watching a 10-minute demo of the game’s campaign running on PS3, I secured a few minutes with DICE Producer Patrick Liu to address some questions from PlayStation community members…plus a few of my own!
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PlayStation Blog: There are a lot of military shooters these days. What’s the biggest thing Battlefield 3 is bringing to the table?
Patrick Liu: It’s a number of things. For a very long time, the core pillars of Battlefield have been the destruction, the sandbox experience, the scale, and the vehicle gameplay. Those are all still pretty unique to Battlefield, I’d say. My first Battlefield game was Bad Company.
PSB: You showed off some new, complex fistfights in the single-player games. How did those come about? Why not stick with knife swipes like every other FPS in the last five years?
Patrick Liu: Apart from shooting and driving vehicles, we wanted to bring something new — something we’d never seen before. We asked ourselves the question, “what happens when enemies come near you?” So we focused on melee combat, making it a more visceral experience. It feels different and unique, and breaks up the combat in the campaign.
There are different kinds of melee sequences throughout the campaign. Some of them are a bit more scripted, but there are also fancy execution-type kills if you can get behind your enemy — and if you do it in multiplayer, you’ll collect a dogtag too!
PSB: Tell me about Battlelog. Was the concept inspired by Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit’s Autolog?
Patrick Liu: In some ways it was. I would say that Need for Speed’s Autolog is more geared towards competing with your friends — beating their records and so forth. Battlelog is more of a social network: your battle feed shows what’s happening to you and your friends in real-time. We built the server browser right into Battlelog, so you can actually join all your games right from Battlelog. What’s good is that Battlelog is web-based, so we can update it on the fly. Some players have been concerned about how that works, but I can assure you it’s no problem: everybody can access it, and you can access it from any PC or mobile platforms. It lets you interact with your Battlefield 3 multiplayer experience when you’re not sitting in front on your PS3. Battlelog lets you form up squads, form up platoons, track your stats, compare your progression with your friends from anywhere.
PSB: Dense urban combat is a bit of a departure for Battlefield, traditionally. Why did DICE want to pursue it? What are you bringing to urban combat?
Patrick Liu: A lot of guys on the team, myself included, wanted to try out more urban environments versus the open landscapes you’ve seen in previous Battlefield games. We’re still doing those open landscapes and the sandbox experience, but now we’re offering a wider range of gameplay and flavors. The urban environments also give us more types of destructions, from the micro-destruction of chipping away at cover to the macro-destruction of big buildings in Paris falling down over you. If you stand below that, you’re going to die!
PSB: On that note, how have the destructible environments been improved or refined over Battlefield: Bad Company 2?
Patrick Liu: I’d say it’s mainly down to the range of different types of destruction. As we showed in the office shootout in the campaign mode, you can shoot through cubicles and walls in the office – papers are flying around, it’s chaotic. We couldn’t do that kind of destruction in Bad Company 2.
PSB: Shooting through the cubicle walls: I’d never seen a shootout quite like that.
Patrick Liu: Yeah. We’ve seen other games spraying out a lot of particle effects, but I’ve never seen destruction like that, integrated into the environment and into the gameplay in that way, where you’re shooting out cubicle panels to catch the enemies off-guard. It’s pretty fresh, I think.
PSB: You showed off a lengthy campaign scenario from the PS3 version, and it covered a huge amount of space – it was a very large level. But there weren’t any load times or hitches in the pacing. That’s technically very difficult for many games – is that a benefit of Frostbite 2?
Patrick Liu: You’re right — that’s Frostbite 2 and our new streaming technology. We didn’t have that in Frostbite 1. It enables us to build bigger maps, whether they’re interior maps or open exterior sandbox environments. We wanted to push the scale as much as possible, and our new streaming technology is essential for that.
PSB:That level you showed on the PS3 was huge, but it was also highly detailed — I saw mirrored floors, reflective surfaces, tons of special effects and physics with a smooth frame rate. Are you confident that PS3 players are going to get a great experience?
Patrick Liu: Oh yeah. We’re very confident – we’re pushing the hardware big-time. Of course, we have a performance budget that we have to hit. Everything counts into that: the scale costs performance, destruction, animation, special effects…those are all the things we cram in there. I feel really good about where we ended up with on the PS3.
PSB: On the multiplayer side, how does the character progression stack up? What will I be able to unlock when I play multiplayer, and what’s different from other multiplayer shooters?
Patrick Liu: Battlefield 2 kind of started that formula, with the persistent multiplayer character and unlockables, and we continued it with the Bad Company games. Battlefield 3 will push it even further, with tons of weapon customization. And for the first time, we’ve brought vehicle customization: you can increase your speed, increase your armor, add different gadgets to your favorite vehicle, different missiles for your jet, UAV-type radar to your jeep, and so forth.
PSB: So far, what’s your favorite multiplayer mode?
Patrick Liu: I would say probably any of the Squad versions of the game, Squad Rush and Squad Deathmatch. It’s a little more intimate: each player counts. It really brings out the teamwork.
PSB: And what about your favorite weapon in multiplayer?
Patrick Liu: Probably some of the LMGs, such as the M240, maybe. It’s fun to spray down the subway in the Operation Metro level — laying down suppressive fire is super helpful. Suppressive fire is something completely new that I’ve never seen in another shooter, and gives the Support class a much clearer role: supporting the team! If you spray fire near somebody, it will make their vision blurry and impede their aiming. It also earns you points, so it’s rewarding.
PSB: Tell me about the Sniper class — how are you balancing campers?
Patrick Liu: Either you love or hate snipers. We wanted to make snipers much more of a recon class, so we’re giving that class a lot more gadgets and features to aid their spotting ability. And to counter camping snipers, look for the gleam of his scope if you can’t tell where the sniper fire is coming from!
PSB: Just a few days ago, DICE announced that full-blown expansion packs would debut first on PS3. Can you give PS3 owners a peek at the DLC plan?
Patrick Liu: We have a plan of long-term support for Battlefield 3. The launch is just the beginning for us, so you can expect new content and tweaks regularly. The expansion we’ve announced is Back to Karkand, which is free if you pre-order Battlefield 3. It’s going to be an epic map pack and it’s just as ambitious as the Vietnam expansion to Bad Company 2. It brings back Strike at Karkand, which is probably the most popular Battlefield map ever in addition to three other popular Battlefield 2 maps, new weapons and mods.
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