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Interview with Patrick Bach on Battlefield 3

Bovell April 21, 2011 User blog:Bovell

ComputerAndVideoGames conducted an interview with DICE Executive Producer Patrick Bach. He had quite a bit to say about not only Battlefield 3, but also its competition, and the next-generation of consoles (questions are in bold):

Battlefield 3 looks amazing from what we've seen but so far everything's been shown on PC. Is it going to look as good on console?

That's always hard to answer. We need to show pictures of it to make sure that when people see it they can judge for themselves. There are of course technical advantages with the PC. PC: brand new technology; Consoles: five year old technology, so of course there will be differences. Our job is to make sure that the core and the emotion of the game is exactly the same. We're not trying to build a lesser game on console. The interesting part is since we have the stretch goal of creating something amazing on PC, scaling that back to console gives us an advantage because we actually see stuff being run on the console today in Battlefield 3 that looks so much better than we anticipated just because we're aiming so much higher rather than trying to build a console game based on the competition or our latest game. We're building it aiming for the stars. We're seeing some really cool results.

How does the console version compare to something say or Uncharted 3 on console?

I'm not too worried to be honest. I think we will be, if not the best-looking console game this year, up there with the competition. Honestly we're not even trying to compare it, we're just comparing to ourselves right now because if we were to look at other console games I don't think we'd get the quality we are striving for. My goal is of course to prove it rather than talk about it, but I wouldn't worry too much because I think it will look amazing.

BF3 Shootout

It must be pushing the consoles to the absolute limit...


And I think you guys have talked about it being a next-gen experience on current-gen technology...


Epic and other developers have been pushing the next-gen experience. Are we on the edge of this generation do you think? Are you guys expecting the next-gen soon?

I don't know what the big corporations are thinking but definitely we are desperate to move on into the next generation. I think Battlefield 3 will look like a next-generation game and all the technology we're building, the whole Frostbite 2 system the animations, everything is trying to aim for a couple of years in the future rather than looking at what we have today.

We are already there; if they were to release a new console tomorrow the engine would scale onto that platform because we have been looking at not only the PC technology today but also speculating what will happen tomorrow when it comes to these things. So everything from streaming technologies, rendering technologies is scalable onto future platforms.

And what kind of things are you expecting from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 that you've kept in mind for this?

Well I think multi-processing is a must, everything we're building now is multi-tasking and we're really good at moving memory between specific memory and common memory. And, of course, graphics; HD will not go away.

But I think in general it will be more of the same but there will there will probably be new creative online features and that kind of stuff, which we are of course already supporting.

And what about things like 3D and, for the Playstation, Move capability, what's the status on that for Battlefield 3?

I don't have any status to give you at this time. There's a lot of talking going on about what we should and shouldn't support and we're trying to do what's best for the game.

When Battlefield 3 was first announced one of the things fans had concerns about was the inclusion of a single-player campaign. For Bad Company 2 the single-player was overshadowed by the multiplayer. Should fans be concerned about the inclusion of single-player in Battlefield 3?

BF3 Gogogo

No. Of course I would say no. I think the worry is that we would take people away from multiplayer to create the single-player and that's not the case. Our multiplayer team is way bigger than the multiplayer team we had building Battlefield 2 for instance. So, it's not that we don't put energy into creating the multiplayer. We have a lot of confidence in the multiplayer so we are pushing quite a lot to make it something amazing.

And single-player is something that we want to build, it's something that adds to the experience - a good training ground for a lot of people that want to try out different bits of the game. We love a great single-player, for sure, as well as a great multiplayer so we want to include both.

What would you say to the idea that, in military FPS games especially, multiplayer is bigger than single-player?

I think the whole kind of hunter/prey behaviour of people is quite deeply in your DNA so that won't go away. People want to show off that they are better than their friends or anyone out there, so that's a bit part of it. People want to play the sport of hunting and shooting so it's not that first-person shooters will go away from multiplayer, it'll probably grow even further.

But I also think that single-player will continue to develop because having a great campaign is something that people love to do, but the hours will be put into the multiplayer for sure.

Do you know, at all, what your completion rate of single-players in previous games is? Because I bet a lot of people buy FPS games for the multiplayer alone.

I don't have any good numbers on it. I think most people try the single-player at least and actually a lot of people finish the single-player. But I think the multiplayer component is so strong so if you start to play it you will continue to play it. We still have a huge amount of people still playing Battlefield Bad Company 2, even today more than a year after launch. So there's no doubt we have that strong... I wouldn't call it addictive but something you like to keep doing.

We see it as a sport; it's like the rules of football, they are set and now you find new ways of playing it.

Obviously the 'other one' is Call of Duty but EA's come out fighting almost, you seem very confident this time around. Is this the COD killer?

When we build a game, we're not even talking about the competition. We're inspired by media in general, we're inspired by a lot of things. When you're selling a product like an FPS of course you're looking who's around you, what's the competition and that's where that discussion comes from. We think we have the best game on the market, looking at last year reviews and also consumer feedback, we had the stronger game, that did not result in more sales, of course. So it's a question of sales vs. quality is it the same or is it different? Is it the marketing machine that sells copies or is it the quality of game that sells copies?

BF3 Kick the Door

Our strive is to build the best Battlefield game ever and that's what we're going to do. We're not going to let ourselves get disturbed by the discussion of the fighting or who's better because that's not important to us because we are not building the same game; we are building Battlefield, they are building whatever game they're building. Let people choose. We think we have the best first-person shooter experience on the market.

EA said the competition's getting lazy and you're coming for them. Do you think there is a formula that the competition is using that you've broken away from and diversified a bit?

Not really, Battlefield has always been more or less the same formula, to us it's the winning recipe - don't fiddle with it too much. We should add to it and enhance the experience but we shouldn't change it.

I think the whole lazy discussion comes from, in general, technology. Everyone is building technology based on consoles rather than trying to move into the next generation and our engine is based on stuff that we've been speculating on for quite some time. When we started with it we thought everyone would be here - it's like the element of destruction that we added to Bad Company 1, we thought everyone would have destruction and still no one is doing it because they are still selling copies based on old stuff.

So I think the whole lazy discussion is based on the 'good enough', you know you only have to be better than your last game, you're not trying to envision the future or see where you ought to be. It's more 'Let's get stuff out there.' And I'm not talking about any specific game I'm talking in general people are building games based on old console technology.

Do you think that's a problem with the industry? That people are trying to churn things out? There are annual releases for things like Call of Duty...

Yeah. Of course there's always money and there are stock prices that kind of drive and change things but I think the goal for game developers should be to make that game and if you make a great game then people will hopefully buy that. There is a challenge between just making another game and making the game.

Having said that do you have plans to make Battlefield 4, 5 and 6 as well?

Oh no we're not planning on that. No, there are probably more strategic people that are thinking about those things. I don't know EA might plan for things like that but we are DICE we make games so we're focusing on the game we are building right now to make sure it's as good as possible and when we're done with that we need to evaluate the situation, see what people want and what they don't want.

If we're a success maybe we should focus on maintaining that success rather than building a new game. If we fail then let's fix that.

So you wouldn't want to go down the annual release route?

BF3 Novac

No I think that would be... Making a game per year is too quick, you need more than a year to build a great game.

You guys are obviously at the top of the military FPS ladder, if a developer was coming into the genre with a new IP what would you tell them?

That would be difficult, I don't want to give away any secrets [laughs]. No but in general you need to have a strong multiplayer to be able to fight. Multiplayer alone is a hard sell, if you want to sell a blockbuster game you need all the components in this genre to be up there and you need to do it really well. That's kind of the bottom line.

Is there space between you guys for more IPs?

I think there are more IPs than two. I think though that the quality bar might be fluctuating in some areas and that's the challenge; keep the quality high and even because if you have any bumps in the road people will stop playing the game, they won't like it.

So, whatever your game is, that game needs to be great. One, don't try and copy the competition because then you will only be second fiddle, you won't ever be number one. Second, whatever you do, do it well and that's what the game we're trying to build is based on - make sure that you focus on what's unique for you.

So you've no concerns about genre fatigue? A lot of FPS fans are saying they've seen it all before. Is the genre a bit saturated, a bit fatigued with the same old stuff?

In a way yes, but then again the genre is very specific. It's like racing games, "Oh I'm getting fed up with cars." Yeah maybe you shouldn't play racing games because that's what they are. If it's a first-person shooter and you're not first-person shooting then there are other games for you.

This is a very specific genre and there are people that want to play this experience. What we're doing is building the game that we want to play in this genre and if people don't like it then, really sorry, I think you should try something else. And I think that's fine, I'm not claiming that everyone should buy our game. If they don't like it, they don't like it. We love it.

We know that we can make the best Battlefield game, that being the things that we claim as Battlefield. There are other games that try to do different things. My only worry is that if everyone is trying to build the game that the competition is building then we will get fatigue. But then again you're actually giving someone the opportunity to fill the gap where no-one is.

We've seen that before; when Battlefield 1942 came out, no one had really built that type of game before. It's not that no-one could have done it, it's that no one did it because they were trying to build something else.

So fatigue can give openings for the competition to try and find new ways and I think that's great. We want harsh competition because it makes everyone better.

BF3 Alley

Finally, if you were asked, would you want to put Battlefield on things like the NGP and 3DS?

Well there is an iPhone version of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which we didn't build. I think it's... First person shooters are hard. First of all the were invented on the PC. Well that's not really true but that's where they became big.

Then when first-person shooters came to consoles people hated it and said you can't play it and we have the same transition now. Who can build the first great iOS shooter? Today it's kind of not really there, it's not the same experience, but if you can create it for handhelds you just need one game that is great and everyone will try and take that knowledge and start building new ones.

Because the NGP looks geared for it doesn't with its power and dual thumb-sticks?

Yeah, yeah. We haven't looked into it yet because we have enough with the HD platforms right now and that's our focus and you never know, in the future, if you should explore more platforms.

Original/source article: CVG | Interview: Battlefield 3: 'The console version looks so much better than anticipated'

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