TGS 2013: Battlefield 4 Interview - Daniel Matros Talks Toppling Buildings, Breaking Dams and Single-Player
Written Wednesday, September 25, 2013 By John Robertson
Over the years, Battlefield has carved itself out a robust reputation as the large-scale warfare first-person shooter with the vehicles and the massive destruction. Battlefield 4 is aiming to take that rep, and up it to a whole other level, with the game's new 'levolution' feature dramatically changing the multiplayer maps.
DICE is going big, with toppling skyscrapers and naval warfare on a much grander scale than what's gone before, which bodes well for Battlefield 4's multiplayer. But what about single-player? Is that getting the care and attention it deserves? How will Battlelog work?
And what about next-gen tech? How is that changing the game? We tracked down DICE Producer Daniel Matros to get the skinny on Battlefield 4, it's 'emotional' single-player story, multiplayer destruction, vehicles and battling on a grand scale. Boom.
The underlying tech in Battlefield has always been impressive, and it's something you guys have always been keen to show-off. What does the technology driving Battlefield 4 allow you to do that you haven't been able to do before now?
Obviously we're moved on from the Frostbite 2 engine that powered Battlefield 3, we're now on the Frostbite 3 engine. I think the biggest thing Frostbite 3 allows us to do are the things around 'levolution' - the big player triggered things, like bringing down a skyscraper in multiplayer.
In general, the levolution events are massive in scale and that's because of Frostbite 3. We've got dams breaking down, aircraft carriers crashing into islands and other equally huge events that really alter what the map looks like and how it plays. For me, the other really cool tech upgrade is the waves in the water which are the same for everybody in multiplayer.
Does every map have its own 'levolution' moment equivalent in scale to the skyscraper coming down?
Every map has an equally big moment, yes. We kind of spoilt the world by showing a skyscraper coming down, how do you top that? But, yeah, when the dam breaks and all hell breaks loose that's really cool, too. There's another moment with a big satellite dish in the sky, and the satellite bowl crashes and breaks the whole thing.
But, it's not all just to make things look good. A levee can be broken to flood a whole city, which means the vehicles change from tanks to boats - that kind of thing really changes the gameplay. The opposing team is now not the only thing that you need to watch out for, you really need to stay aware of how the environment is changing and reacting to what players do.
Being player triggered, the players decide if and when these things happen.
Naval warfare is back in Battlefield 4. Why choose now to bring that back in a much bigger way?
To be honest, we were sick of just having our boats and jet skis being just transport vehicles. Yeah, the boats had a machine gun on them but it still wasn't very exciting. Really, all you could was drive around in them - it felt like you were taking a bus somewhere. That's how we felt, anyway.
Once we saw the kind of waves we could produce in single player, we thought that that would be cool in multiplayer and we had to put it in. First we put the small boats and jet skis and stuff in and then we started to experiment with adding bigger boats, like real gunships. The variety of boats and the waves all come together and it plays really well.
It's great to get away from just having the regular stuff like tanks and helicopters.
Are we at that point where tanks and helicopters are just 'regular' now?
Ha! Yeah, and that's the sad part. When I play Battlefield I'm like 'Oh, it's just a tank. I wish it was a boat or something'. That's how I feel, anyway. I don't know if everyone would agree with me, but... y'know, boats are very nice!
Battlefield is most loved for its multiplayer, but how much attention are you giving to single player?
Multiplayer is at the heart of Battlefield, but there's a lot of focus and resources that go to single player. The single player and multiplayer teams help each other out, there's a lot of cross-team sharing.
Battlefield 3 single player was about saying to players 'go over here, stand in front of that door and mash this button'. And even after that it's not even you that opens the door, it's some AI character. Like, what the fuck is going on? We wanted to get rid of that in Battlefield 4.
This time around there's a storyline, but that's the linearity of it; you need to follow the story to unravel things, like any game. What's cool though is that you get options. Do you want to attack alongside your squad, or by yourself? Stealth or not stealth? What loadout do you want? The game changes depending on what you like and want to do.
The story in single player is geopolitical, but it's just as much about the emotional stories of the characters.
Giving more focus to the characters, is that trying to get back something that was lost between the Bad Company games and Battlefield 3?
Yes, certainly. All the characters in Bad Company were different and interesting. Compare that to Battlefield 3 and everyone was just a basic army character that spoke basic army lingo like 'hey, dude!' kind of stuff. In Battefield 4, not everyone speaks like that.
In Bad Company 2 the characters were army dudes, but not everyone was the same army type guy that spoke in the same way. Sweetwater would be talking shit while the basic officers were talking in a more basic army style. I think that combination of humour and a good storyline works.
Battlefield 4 has a pretty dark theme - so, there's not a lot of humour unless you're into some weird shit - but the emotional trip is what's really going to take you forward.
Are all the multiplayer maps based on single player locations?
Yeah, because we want you to be familiar with the areas that you're playing in. Where we kind of failed with Battlefield 3 was that the single player didn't represent multiplayer in the slightest possible way. We really tried to mend that with Battlefield 4.
When we first thought about single player we were thinking about how to introduce players to multiplayer. My favourite example of how that didn't happen in Battlefield 3 was that in single player you were flying in a jet, but you were in the backseat instead of actually flying. That was because we didn't want you fly off and move away from the script of the mission.
Battlefield 4 single player definitely prepares you more for what is coming in single player.
There's been some talk recently that you're looking at having Kinect be able to track your head movements. Is that true?
That sort of thing is something we're still discovering and messing around with, but right now we're mainly just focused on shipping the game. Once we've done that, and got the game into players' hands, we'll see what we can do in terms of adding all the extra fluff.
We don't want to do something just because we can do it or because it looks cool. It needs to be worthwhile, it needs to work and it needs to be accessible; people need to know that they're investing in this because it's going to make the Battlefield experience better. Really it comes down to everything we do having to make sense.
Battlelog has been a very successful feature, what's changed, what's better about it in Battlefield 4?
There's a new battle screen and geo-leaderboards which tell you whether you're the best player in your block/city/country/continent. I really like the geo-leaderboards. You have to go in and set your privacy settings and that determines which leaderboards you appear on. So, if you're from London but you want to rank yourself against people from Cameroon you can change your location to Cameroon and that's fine.
The battle screen lets you see what's going on during a match on a second screen, which is cool. Then you can customise your own emblem which will appear on your weapons and vehicles if you want it to.
Is Battlelog independent of your console? For example, if I play Battlefield 4 on my Xbox 360 and then I get an Xbox One with Battlefield 4, will all of my data carry across with me?
Your solider ID progresses Xbox 360 to Xbox One and from PS3 to PS4. We don't want people to lose out and feel they've been short changed if they buy a copy on another console.
Battlefield 4 is coming to current-gen on October 29th in North America and November 1st in Europe. The next-gen version will follow for launch day in November.