Battlefield 1942 Q&A
Producer Lars Gustavsson tells us all about his company's upcoming WWII-based first-person shooter.
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Electronic Arts recently held a press event at its offices in Redwood City, Calif. It showcased its entire lineup of upcoming games for 2001 and early 2002 at the event...that's no less than 30 games for platforms that included the PC, the Xbox, the PlayStation 2, and the GameCube. The most surprising among all those games was arguably Digital Illusion's Battlefield 1942, a first-person shooter set during World War II that, until now, has taken a backseat to some of Electronic Arts' higher profile games. The game is being developed by the same team that worked on Codename Eagle, which was also set during the war. And unlike similarly themed shooters like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Battlefield 1942 is a decidedly lighthearted game that focuses on simply being fun rather than being realistic or historically accurate. It also has a robust multiplayer component, which, judging from our short demonstration, looked quite addictive. To learn more about the game, we sat down with its producer, Lars Gustavsson from Digital Illusions.
GameSpot: How long has this game been in development? Did you start work immediately after Codename Eagle?
Lars Gustavsson: The thoughts of creating the ultimate multiplayer gaming experience have been with us for a long time, even before we made Codename Eagle. After completing the Codename Eagle project, we felt that, however good Codename Eagle was, it still wasn't the ultimate experience. Therefore, while the rest of Refraction put the last touches on Codename Eagle, our designers sat down to sketch the outlines of a new game. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the team joined in and the creation of the Refractor 2 engine and Battlefield 1942 had begun. This was around Christmas 1999. Now Refraction is merged with DICE and the team is working hard to finish the game.
GS: At a recent press event, Electronics Arts was showing off Battlefield 1942's multiplayer component. Is there a single-player element to the game? How is it structured?
LG: There sure is a single-player element in the game, and it is not only there to prepare you for your multiplayer sessions, but also to give you an exciting experience even if you don't have an Internet connection.
There will be four different campaigns, which take you to North Africa, the Pacific, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe. Each of these will let you take part of some of the most famous battles during the whole war as a member of either the Axis or Allied forces. There will be more than a dozen missions for both sides. Each mission will contain one or more tasks for you to complete. Unlike many games, where your choice of actions is very limited, Battlefield gives you a goal to accomplish but doesn't tell you how to do it. Can you take the risk to close up on the village through the minefield, or would you rather try to call in the artillery and then grab a Sherman tank to go head-to-head with the well-dug-in Tiger tank?
GS: If you can play as the Axis, how does the single-player campaign end? Can you change the outcome of the war?
LG: Yes, you can play the Axis in Battlefield 1942, but how the single-player campaign ends is for me to know and all you gamers to find out. You can change the outcome in the various battles you play but not [the entire war] as such. We all know how that ended.
GS: Codename Eagle was an innovative first-person shooter, but it suffered from serious flaws. Have you addressed any of those concerns in Battlefield: 1942?
LG: What flaws?! Are you implying there was anything wrong with Codename Eagle? No, seriously, there were some issues with Codename Eagle that we discovered after release. I mean, some things you will never discover before they are put to the test, like that of real gamers playing. I still think we did a pretty decent job considering this was our first game. We've gotten a lot of feedback and most of it really positive at that. But to answer your question: Yes, we have noted all concerns brought to our attention by people playing Codename Eagle. And since the interest for Codename Eagle has grown bigger and bigger lately, we get new feedback every day that we use to avoid less appreciated features in our new productions, while at the same time keep the good stuff.
GS: Battlefield: 1942 looks like a simulation, even though it clearly has more arcadelike qualities to it. Why did you opt to go for visual realism in a game that's a little over the top?
LG: We strive for as much realism as possible while still delivering a fun gaming experience. The realism is there since we all love a good-looking game and we have chosen a style that doesn't force you to study the manual for hours before playing. Why make it harder than it has to be? Good fun is what we are aiming for!
GS: How many types of vehicles will players be able to control in the game? How are you handling larger vehicles--like aircraft carriers--that require thousands of crewmen to operate?
LG: We still have to set the exact number of vehicles, but I can assure there will plenty of different ones for you to use.
To control larger vessels, like battleships or bombers, and get full efficiency out of them, you need a crew. Depending on the vehicle, each person controls one specific station--that is, one driver, a couple of gunners, and so on. One player can control the entire vehicle, but when you don't have every stationed manned, you don't reach the vehicle's full potential. It's the same thing with this as the whole idea of the game--it has to be fun! Therefore we have chosen to man the most important parts of [the vehicles] so no one will have to play as the knife-throwing chef! Or maybe you want to...
GS: How many multiplayer modes will Battlefield 1942 have? Describe the game's "ticket" system.
LG: The total amount of modes has not yet been set, but you will find the most popular ones and some new.
The ticket system is our way to re-create the actual settings for a specific battle. Each ticket represents one respawned soldier. If you, for example, take the Russian front, where the Russian army had an enormous amount of people to face the technically superior German army. In that case, you provide the Russian team with more tickets, which give them the chance to stand up and meet an enemy that otherwise would have annihilated them.
GS: The game's Refractor 2 engine looks amazing. How much of the original Refractor code still exists in Battlefield: 1942 and how much of it is new? What's the most impressive aspect of this engine?
LG: The Refractor 2 is a completely rewritten engine. We have taken our experience from the Refractor and created a much more structured and open system that gives the team a much wider range of freedom.
The most impressive part is probably the way that you can combine foot soldiers in first-person style with vehicles that behave in a correct physical way, whether it's land-, sea-, or air-based.
GS: When can we realistically expect the game to hit store shelves?
LG: We're looking at a release sometime in mid-2002.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about Battlefield 1942?
LG: Yes, I want all readers to spend as much time as possible with family and friends this fall, because once released, Battlefield 1942 will change social life as we know it.
GS: Duly noted. Thanks, Lars.