The top FPSes over the last couple of years–Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor and Bad Company 2–have all seemed really tethered to the mundane. Not that the play experience is mundane, but more like they’re done in an almost documentary style. Why do you think there’s such a focus on that right now? Because DICE has done Battlefield 2142, which is a far-future sci-fi…
And we’ve done the WWII games as well. If you look at the core game as a sport again, for us it doesn’t really change the core game, what setting you’re in. But I think the contemporary world of what you watch on TV is very attractive to a lot of people. They get really attached to it. They can recognize the guns. They can recognize the vehicles. They could connect to the situation in a way that might be harder with sci-fi like shooter.
But I still think there’s room for both. And I’m not trying to say that this is the only way to do it. Because we just did Bad Company 2: Vietnam, which we think is an awesome setting to have a first-person shooter in.
You’re treating the time periods like a palette of colors…
Yeah, it’s more, again, what is the flavor you want today. It’s not ‘how do we change the game?’ So even we get fed up with stuff sometimes. That’s why we did the Vietnam DLC.
Still, you set a game in a hotspot area on the Iran/Iraq border. Medal of Honor got into some trouble with that kind of thing last year and even Black Ops caught some heat with the Castro assassination mission. Do you think there’ll be a controversy surrounding your game?
The point isn’t to be controversial. Some connection to reality is important but, even as you’re referencing reality, you can still do a what-if scenario. We believe we can create a more grown-up experience than our competition. We can do more with character drama and player expectations than is presently being done. Controversy is not a mature way to sell a game. You still want to be proud at the end of the day.
So basically you guys see BF3 as a transitional game?
Well, it’s a transitional game in the sense that I think we will see a lot of games trying to copy us from where we are because they will see that, oh, wait a minute, you can do it differently. It’s not just about fixing one thing, it’s about fixing the experience.
It’s creating a new groundwork to move forward. Rather than just doing it, take your old engine, do a new story, and ship a new game.
The model that you’re talking about with Battlefield 3 is building new technology from scratch. This is a very different model than what Activision uses for Call of Duty where they’re going to rotate talent in and out of the franchise every year. Do you feel like there is something categorically wrong with that approach?
I think what you might end up doing is losing what made it good from the start. You’re diluting the core idea. One, you’re trying to build it on the same core but you’re using different people at a time. With us at DICE, again, it’s the same people building this game that built Battlefield 1942.
So, there are some core ideas that people still think we can do better. Then, on top of that we add the new talent to expand and grow in different directions so we just try to kill our weak spots. Because we know we have some pretty decent peaks. It’s just killing your weak spots, making sure that we create that coherent experience.
You keep talking about the core design ideas of Battlefield. Can you explicitly state them just so it’s clear? I know I said something before about…
It’s the whole balancing of rock, paper, scissors, where there’s always a counter to whatever. If you have a big gun, I can get a tank. If I have a tank you can get a gun that takes out tanks. There’s always a counter for whatever tactics you’re using. It’s just a question of, if you pulled a rock, I would pull…
You still have to acquire the scissors.
Yeah. You will get beaten once but once you get back in you can find new strategies. You always have to be flexible. And that creates a very vivid and living battle. You can play the same map twice in order to complete the games because people change the way they play.