IGN’s user community asked nearly 2,500 questions they would like IGN to ask DICE at Gamescom 2013. After narrowing down the questions to a management level DICE’s Battlefield 4 creative director, Lars Gustavsson, was kind enough to answer more than a dozen.
Q: How do you guys feel about the rent-a-server model? There’s quite a bit of chatter on IGN about admin abuse and players feeling as though they’ve been punished for skill as opposed to any kind of infraction.
A: Lars Gustavsson: We’ve definitely heard the community and we experience it ourselves. What we’ve done is we’ve introduced a new system where basically we have pre-defined scales, so if you’re within certain boundaries it will be an official server, which means that people who use – for example – quick match, will be slotted into this. You will be guaranteed a good Battlefield experience. You’ll know what you’re getting into. If you start tweaking around with the settings a little more, it will go down to being ranked which means that you’ll still get your persistence and everything, but some settings might be a bit different from what you’re used to. And then [finally] you can go crazy and change all of the settings, but then it will go down to unranked, so we give you as an admin the freedom, but also to take responsibility for the end user who wants to have a good experience.
So we definitely listened to them. And also we’ve been revisiting how we can ensure that your skill or your XP can be better balanced from game mode to level, so it’s not like some levels are so much more popular than others, just because of a higher XP ratio.
Q: Will Battlefield 4 have bot support?
A: Lars Gustavsson: It’s not in for Battlefield 4. We have our single player experience, we have our multiplayer experience and we’ve been focusing on delivering those. If we had to choose, we’d focus on delivering a good experience to the 64 players that we cater for, as well as adding two commanders on top of those 64… so it’s more possibilities than ever. We’ve also learnt that when we try too much we kill ourselves. (Laughs)
Q: Is it something that you’d look at experimenting with in the background?
A: Lars Gustavsson: We did it with 1942 and Battlefield 2, we had, kind of, the bot war, which was appreciated by people, even though most people went to the online experience. Who knows for the future. If the voice keeps on getting stronger then that’s something that we need to listen to.
Q: A lot of Battlefield players find vehicles like helicopters and jets daunting. Will you have any kind of tutorial or training in Battlefield 4?
A: Lars Gustavsson: We’ve definitely heard that people are afraid of getting in there [and using vehicles like helicopters] and that’s not our intent, so what we’ve done is, we’ve added a test range, which allows you to try out all the hardware ahead of time so that if you want to learn to fly a helicopter you can get in there and you can find the settings that work best for you. And then start doing some stunt flights just to feel safe before you go out and get the responsibility of a bunch of other people sitting in your helicopter, so I truly hope that this will help people feel more safe about trying out the whole battlefield.
Q: It’s a running gag, but… Dinosaur mode?
A: Lars Gustavsson: We definitely hear them and I like the thought of it too, so who knows. It definitely sounds extremely sexy and sounds like something that would fit the battlefield universe very well.
Q: But it’s not something you’re working on?
A: Lars Gustavsson: Not right now, we’re focusing on Battlefield 4.
Q: Will you be able to play Battlefield 4 on the Vita via the PS4’s remote play?
A: Lars Gustavsson: That is the intent. That’s something we’re looking into and working on to see if we can guarantee it.
Q: Do you have it up and running?
A: Lars Gustavsson: Yep.
Q: And how does it feel?
A: Lars Gustavsson: It’s getting there, so it’s, yeah. As always when you’re working on a game you’re still taking one day at a time, but it seems like we’re getting there.
Q: Will the PS Vita be integrated with Commander mode much like tablets are?
A: Lars Gustavsson: No, that’s not in the plan today at least.
Q: Will Battlefield 4 have splitscreen?
A: Lars Gustavsson: No, not for Battlefield 4. What we’re trying to do is really up the visceral experience, the dynamic experience, to give a more complete experience than ever on the battlefield. And with new friend join functionality and a lot of focus on playing together as a squad, and what we’ve done for squads, what we’ve done for commanders, we felt that’s the social gaming focus that we’ve had.
Q: DICE seems to be leading the charge with second screen functionality.
A: Lars Gustavsson: We took a brave step with Battlefield 3 and Battlelog, and it’s probably like Christopher Columbus or someone who set out to do something new and people called them crazy, but it’s proven to be a good strategy and now it’s established. Now we’re pushing the boundaries: we bring it to your tablet, we integrate it to all clients, and on top of that giving you second screen so you as a squad leader can provide orders to your squad or use it as a map. And on next-gen and PC you can use it as well. And of course, Commander, so it’s a plethora of possibilities! On top of that you have customisation of your kit, you have joining servers, there are so many things. And maybe not every player will adapt to use everything, but we’re not telling you how to play: you use what you feel matches your way of playing.
Q: Hardcore mode?
A: Lars Gustavsson: Yes.
Q: Will you be able to utilise civilian vehicles to get around the city?
A: Lars Gustavsson: Overall what we’ve tried to do is focus on military vehicles, and overall we’ve always tried to make the most of each and every vehicle. They’re there for a reason, and if you have 64 players we don’t just want to put vehicles that are there to fill up [the map]. We want to make the most out of them to make the most dynamic battlefield, so military vehicles only.
Q: How about bringing Onslaught mode to Battlefield 4? AI controlled enemy troops, tanks, helis, jets etc, that would be grand.
A: Lars Gustavsson: Thank you! I worked hard on that one. It was a really fun project. Not at launch. Right now we’re focusing on this, but I’m happy to hear that people enjoyed the Onslaught mode, so who knows for the future.
Q: Day and night cycles? Night vision?
A: Lars Gustavsson: We definitely have change of state experiences. Paracel Storm for instance, starts as a beautiful, sunny day and goes into a raging storm, but we haven’t taken the full day/night cycle. What we’ve really tried to do with the whole Levolution package is to ensure that even though it’s dramatic and epic, we want the level to be fun and guarantee good gameplay, even when you play it two years from now, it can’t start being annoying, so even though randomised stuff is beautiful, sometimes a certain amount of predictability is good, particularly when you go into competitive gaming.
Playing Paracel Storm and going from a sunny day to darker gloomier stormy [conditions] definitely gives you an advantage with your IR night site. By initiating these events on the levels we want people to reconsider their customisation and be able to move into another approach to try and outsmart the enemy.
Q: Will you lose bullets remaining in the magazine on reload?
A: Lars Gustavsson: No, we’ve gone with the Battlefield 3 system. I think it was Battlefield 2 where you lost ammo if you reloaded early, but we’re a bit more forgiving [now].
Q: Will, say, helicopters have a limited supply of rockets? Or is that unlimited?
A: Lars Gustavsson: It’s unlimited, but we have been looking into a kind of reload of weapons in general on vehicles to find the balance, because there needs to be a clear advantage of sitting in a vehicle, but you can’t go in and cause mayhem to the whole base. So it’s finding that balance. We’ve worked with a disabled state and we’ve worked with homing missiles to find a better balance and battle experience, and we’re still fine tuning as we speak.
Q: People are really pumped about naval warfare. Can you tell us a little more about the naval-focused DLC that has been announced?
A: Lars Gustavsson: I can’t go into detail on the naval pack yet, but having been with the franchise since the very first prototype, I loved Battlefield 1942 for Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Midway, but what struck us there was really that as soon as one ship faced the other one, it’s the one that fires first that wins, and of course sometimes we had islands in between, but it was still quite a staid battle.
But now, introducing the new system, powered by Frostbite 3, we’ve been able to deliver – which I think is for the first time in a first person shooter – a dynamic water network. Previously it was quite a staid battle – many people were just trying to get off the water to go into battle. Now we’ve seen that people start battling it out and it’s just like the tanks fighting amongst the sand dunes in 1942, it’s now about coming around your enemy, using the waves, learning to master the waves or even diving underwater to slam C4 on the other boat, so where previously it was transport, now it’s gameplay, and it makes me super happy.
Q: Why do we still use the Huey when virtually every branch of the military in the U.S. uses a variant of the Blackhawk. What about adding a Chinook? How cool would that be with 64 person multiplayer? Maybe the Osprey?
A: Lars Gustavsson: We went from having Huey in the old games to Blackhawk and then we went to the Venom, so I think from game to game we’ve opted to stay fresh with reality. Chinook is definitely a wonderful helicopter, but overall we try to vary and stay up to date. The U.S. army now has got the MRAP instead of the Humvee, so we constantly evaluate the different armies to see how we can up it. Same thing, we freshened up the airplanes: stealth fighters, we introduced a whole new army: the Chinese army, which is great to have back, we haven’t had them since Battlefield 2. It adds a lot of cool new stuff, in combination with new vehicle customisation, so there’s a lot there.
Many times at events like this you talk about the big features, but I could probably talk for hours about all the little tweaks that we’ve done to the game, with sliding ladders, sprinting up ladders, diving, peek over cover, a lot of little things that we hope improve the core combat loop, since we always go from crosshair and out – that’s what’s important. Yes, it’s beautiful, with Battlelog and a lot of things, but if the core isn’t good, if it’s not worth playing for years, then the rest doesn’t matter.