A chat with a very creative director
On November 1st, Battlefield 4 will be releasing nationwide for current-generation consoles and PC, signalling the start of this year's FPS craze. One of the most talked about shooters on the planet, there's no question the fans are ready - but are developers DICE and publisher EA?
To find out, we sat down with Lars Gustavsson - creative director at developer DICE - and peppered him with questions about the title, before straying off to talk about Codename: Eagle - the progenitor of Battlefield and Lars' first game...
So the beta for Battlefield 4 has been running for a while, and loads of people have been playing it; how's it been going, from your side?
I was just sitting and emailing with people back home just before, and it seems like people are excited. We’re getting a lot of good feedback, and for us this is probably the main tool for making sure that we have a smooth launch with the steadily increasing number of users for Battlefield. We learnt the hard way that we need to have people hands on before the launch and plenty of them to feel confident that we can launch without the hiccups.
Battlefield 3 had a beta too; what did you learn from that process, and how has it affected things this time around?
We learned a lot from Battlefield 3, and I think we are in a much better position; the Battlefield 3 beta was in quite a rough state. Coming in, it’s interesting, I think we started with Battlefield 3 and we had never been so transparent with a game before. Where from the first GDC (Game Developers Conference) showing of Battlefield 3 and all the way until then we turned up at almost every event, and we’ve done the same thing with Battlefield 4 but we learnt a lot in how to manage all the different branches of the game code. The current gen consoles, and next generation consoles, your PC branch, as well as the E3 build, the Gamescom build, the beta build, and so on. So it’s been crazy and it takes a lot of management just to make sure all the fixes and improvements go into the right branch, and get transferred in between, and we’re learning as we go.
2013 is a pretty interesting time to be a high-profile developer (or, perhaps, anything else.) Social media is the norm now and people aren't afraid to reach out and let you know what they think. How do you filter out the noise and find the gems of feedback that also come through these channels?
That’s a very good question. Me, personally, I’ve got a lot of good people around me who filter on a high level what I need to act upon and what could be put in a bucket and potentially become a trend, since - just as you say - many times you need to separate the outspoken ones and loud community from forums and so on, from the ones who might be spot on in what we’re delivering but you don’t hear from them, they’re just kind of silent but committed buyers.
So I think part of my job is to look at the feedback we do get and make the final call on which ones of these points that people are bringing up should we actually act upon, and which ones are, either a matter of taste and we can’t please everyone to the last detail, or just forum frenzy and just things that we shouldn’t even pay attention to.
With so many options, I have to ask: which is the best version of Battlefield 4? Assuming I owned a high-end PC, and all of the consoles (even the next-gen ones), but only wanted to buy one copy of the game, which should it be?
(laughs) That’s a very good question! To be honest I would leave that up to you as a person; it’s a matter of taste and preference. A lot of people are hardcore PC and stay true to the direct input of keyboard and mouse.
I think we’re doing everything we can and I think we’ve proven with Battlefield 3 that we truly can deliver on PC, and with the current gen we’re squeezing all we can out of those machines, and I’m really happy with where we’ve gotten. Of course, with the next generation of consoles, we finally can bring 64 players, 60 frames per second, and also integrate the Battlelog into the game. We have a light version in the current gen but we’ll have full integration in next gen hardware.
So a lot of nifty things; it’s a combination of what does your wallet look like? Do you want to cling onto the current hardware, or do you want to invest in the next generation of platforms? It’s definitely an upside there with the possibilities that we do give you.
I don’t think there’s a correct answer there, I think that all of them – I think we’ve done our utmost to deliver the best possible experience given your hardware and that’s how we approach the whole project, from a prospective to make it truly scalable.
Continue reading on page 2.