Q&A: EA DICE on Battlefield: Bad Company
EA DICE on Bad Company's DLC backlash, in-game advertising, and why the game isn't coming to the PC.
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Bad Company, EA's newest console Battlefield offering, takes the famed multiplayer PC game into single-player territory. With the game just weeks from release, GameSpot AU spoke to senior producer Karl-Magnus Troedsson about why the game has no PC port in the works, how the company dealt with the recent backlash about downloadable content, and much more.
GameSpot AU: We've heard no mention of a PC game in development. Why have you opted to skip the PC?
Karl Magnus Troedsson: Well, there are a couple of reasons. One of them is we don't want to do straight ports. If we do a console game, which is a true next-gen game we've been working on from the beginning, then it's just porting it over to PC, and we wouldn't feel happy about that. There are so many things that need to go into creating what we think is the perfect PC game. I mean, Battlefield was invented on the PC, so if we do a PC or a Battlefield game, it needs to be spot-on. The major goal of this game is to create a true next-gen game for the next-gen consoles.
GS AU: So do you think you will release a PC version further down the track, if you can find a way to bring it to its full vision?
KMT: It's not that we have forgotten about the PC players. We know that the franchise has a big heritage on PC and there will be other interesting things coming out there that aren't official at the moment.
GS AU: Can you run us through some of the playable vehicles in the game?
KMT: Absolutely. It's a Battlefield game, so it has a lot of different vehicles. First of all, we have them for land, air, and sea. So, for instance, with the boats, we have a light-patrol boat, and we also have more of a heavy cutter--a bigger boat with offensive skills. We have light-attack helicopters and heavy-attack helicopters. Then of course there is a wide variety of land vehicles, ranging from light jeeps, light tanks, to the main battle tanks--the heaviest enemy on the battlefield.
GS AU: Will you be offering PS3 Sixaxis support for any of the vehicles?
KMT: No, we have decided not to.
GS AU: What was the design choice behind that?
KMT: Well, we didn't really feel it added that much to the vehicle control. Vehicle control is a complex thing to nail on a handheld controller anyway. There are so many things you want to do. For instance, driving the tank, you want to rotate the turret, rotate the body, you want to fire the main gun, and deploy smoke. There are a lot of different controls. If you add Sixaxis to this, it just makes it more complex, which is not what we wanted to do. It's definitely something we will look at doing in the future--to see if we can continue to optimise the controller for future games. In this case, we thought that it wasn't the right focus for us.
GS AU: With the title nearing completion and almost ready to ship, are you any closer to confirming the time frame for the Conquest mode?
KMT: It's not been set. We're working on it right now, testing out the game mode and maps as they are. We don't have a set deadline, but I would expect it later in the [Northern] summer. The goal is to get it out as quickly as possible.
GS AU: Let's talk about some of the user backlash from the DLC. Five of the weapons are now available through promotions like signing up for the newsletter and ranking. Do you think that this disadvantages players who don't purchase the Collector’s Edition?
KMT: We can start from where all these weapons come from. They have all been balanced out by design. Battlefield has always been about the sandbox experience, which is a bit of a rock, paper, scissors experience. So, there's always something that can shoot out or shoot down a vehicle (which might be good against something else). The same goes for the individual weapons, when you compare them against each other. So for instance, if you have a shotgun with a higher rate of fire, it causes less damage or is less accurate. Another weapon might cause more damage, but has a reduced rate of fire. So, the easy answer is no, there is no silver-bullet weapon that you can find, that will break the game--or at least that's been our goal. So, the weapons that can be unlocked are more about [what] individuals might prefer [as] a weapon. For instance, if you unlock the M-60, that might have a different iron sight than the MG-36 LMG--individuals might prefer to use that weapon in the game, because it gives you a wider field or view, rather less of the gun in your face when you use it. It has a lot to do with individual gamer preferences, so they shouldn't unbalance the game in any way.
GS AU: You've said you want to keep it balanced and that you made the changes because of community feedback. Why not, then, make weapons single-player and unlock items to level the playing field when people go online?
KMT: I think this comes back to the fact that Battlefield is a multiplayer game from the beginning. We wanted to keep the unlocks and the persistence tied into the multiplayer achievements. So, that if you see somebody with a specific shotgun, you know that they've ranked up, you know that they've unlocked or spent those points on that weapon. If somebody has a wide variety of weapons, you know they're pretty skilled and they've unlocked a lot of different things.
GS AU: In a previous interview, DICE producer Jamie Keen mentioned that all of the five unlockables would just be a free download. Do you have an intended time frame for that?
KMT: We don't have a date for that. Some of the weapons will continue to be part of the promotion programs, because some of the promotions can continue to run--like signing up for the newsletter, for instance. The ones that cannot keep going, like the preorder promotions, they will most likely be given away for free, but we don't have a date for that.
GS AU: Does that undermine the Collector's Edition offering, then? If players know that at some point they'll get the bonus stuff for free?
KMT: The actual weapons that you have in the promotions campaign are not the same as the Gold Edition. The only way for a person that didn't buy the Gold Edition to get those weapons is for him to rank all the way up to rank 24. So, that will take people quite some time, but it's still achievable. People can unlock these things for free in the actual game. But, to answer your question, no, I don't think it undermines the Gold Edition.
GS AU: Keen also mentioned that the DLC weapons situation is a way of recuperating some of the high cost of development. Given the community backlash with this, will it affect the way you approach alternative revenue streams for future games?
KMT: We can put it this way: The microtransactions that we were looking at for this game were not something we would make a great ton of money off. I know there are a lot of people out there saying that EA's evil and only thinks about money, but that's not true. Well, not in this case, because we wouldn't make that much money from the microtransactions. However, it is true that we want to try and find different revenue streams because games cost a lot more to develop these days, but they don't cost a lot more in stores. We have a lot of problems with piracy and these kinds of things. Generally, the entire business is trying to find ways to get new revenue into the game development and game publishing.
GS AU: Have you considered supplementing the costs with in-game advertising?
KMT: Absolutely, there will be in-game advertising in the game.
GS AU: Can you give us some details on what's planned?
KMT: It's similar to what we have done before. As it is now, we don't have any advertising actually planned. We don't have any people doing ads for it. Right now, we're just using it for community messages, but we have the support in there if we want to. It's pretty much the same way it works in 2142. If we see a decline in interest for in-game advertising, it's most likely going to be used for community messages. We have the opportunity, if somebody wants to make a deal with us, of making in-game ads.
GS AU: So, the infrastructure's there, but the game itself won't ship with any in-game advertising?
KMT: No, unless someone calls us up and brings us a deal with something we find interesting. We say no to a lot of deals because we don't want to put something in there that could wreck the experience. We have the support in there; we can use it mostly for community messages. We'll have to see what happens in the future.
GS AU: Karl-Magnus Troedsson, thanks for your time.