Battlefield Hardline Story Aiming for "a Tone That Games Don't Often Have"

But, the game "doesn't reinvent the video game storytelling wheel," writer Tom Bissell says.

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Electronic Arts announced today that Grantland contributor and author of video game novel Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, Tom Bissell--who also wrote for Gears of War: Judgment--is one of the writers for 2015's Battlefield Hardline. A detailed blog post on the Battlefield website explains how he synced up with Visceral Games for the game and what his approach was for writing it.

Bissell says he was growing bored with contemporary military shooters and was initially skeptical about writing for Battlefield Hardline. However, when he was informed that EA was aiming for Battlefield Hardline's story to be tonally similar to Elmore Leonard novels like Out of Sight, he wanted in. "I've always viewed him as the single greatest genre writer in the history of American literature," Bissell says.

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In explaining Battlefield Hardline's story, which unfolds like a TV show in some ways, Bissell adds that it's not groundbreaking, but it should be memorable. "Battlefield Hardline doesn't reinvent the video-game storytelling wheel," he says. "Our goal, however modest it might sound, was to try to achieve a tone that games don't often have."

"Our television episode presentation format gives us the opportunity to be dizzingly meta sometimes, and our wonderful actors gave us the opportunity to bear down into the characters when we needed to," he adds. "We also tried to approximate Leonard's signature 'goofball seriousness'--a drollness that's often comic but never silly."

"Our goal, however modest it might sound, was to try to achieve a tone that games don't often have" -- Tom Bissell

Bissell goes on to say that he's most proud of Battlefield Hardline's "thug dialogue."

"We needed a lot of guard and thug chatter," he says. "Hardline is stuffed with so much ambient guard and thug chatter--the total game script is well over a thousand pages."

The writing and audio team's efforts should come together to create a more believable world, Bissell explains. The chatter you hear from enemies won't just be throwaway lines.

"So when you sneak around, listen to and watch those guards," Bissell advises. "I promise they don't talk about the weather or how they hate being guards. There are Easter eggs galore in their conversations, and other things, I hope, that simply make people laugh."

Finally, Bissell explains that working on Battlefield Hardline has firmed his belief that "storytelling is the stately presentation of What Happened." Video games are "rarely very good" at this, he says.

"Why? I think because shooter gameplay, and its considerable cognitive demands, constantly competes with the player's awareness of what's happening," he says. "Shooters are not stately; shooters are narrative rosaries strung with beads of pure chaos. Video games are at their storytelling best when they introduce you to memorable people and give you memorable things to do, and everyone at Visceral did their best to ensure the Battlefield Hardline campaign had plenty of both."

Battlefield Hardline is in development for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC. It was originally targeted to launch this October, but EA in July delayed the game to early 2015 so that Visceral could improve the game from top to bottom. Though we won't have a new Battlefield game this year, EA does plan to release the final DLC for Battlefield 4 sometime before the year is out.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

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