Hit Squad: Building Battlefield 3 Organically
October 24, 2011 Page 3 of 5
To go back to what you said a moment ago about not really handing down documents -- you talked about people very much wanting to build things, and being specialists in what they want to build. But in the end, how do you get to the place where people are doing the right work?
PB: I think it's creating the right inspirational material. And one thing that is -- you could call it a trade secret -- but showing people what they have built is actually magic. Because there are so many people that focus so much on exactly what they're doing, that they never have time to look at it -- and especially look at it together with what everyone else is building.
So just showing the game to the team inspires the team to build a better game. And you can see that. When I look at a game it's like, "Wow, this is starting to look really, really good." And then you do some adjustments, and then you feed that back to some people, and they keep working on it.
And then when you show that to the team, when they see it, they get surprised. It's like, "Wow, this looks really, really good. That's my part -- but the rest is also really good." And you have all these people that are experts, that the focus is so much on what they do, that they sometimes miss out on the whole picture. And that's what I'm looking at.
So you could call it very, very easy to control a team of this size, because when you have talented people working in a team like this; the only thing you need to do is to show them what they've done.
Do you have a process for that, like a formal meeting every so often? Or do you just grab people, sit them down for a while, and just go?
PB: If you build things by a process, you will get the same thing that you got the last time you used that process. A process in itself doesn't build good stuff. You can use a process as a core of building, but then what you build needs to be dynamic. It needs to be based on different emotions, and different focuses at different times. So I don't use a process on inspiring people.
But there is a lot of showing the game. Again, for the whole team. It's showing one person what another person is doing. It's bringing the right people together in a room, talking about the problem, or talking about an opportunity to do something better. And then that spark turns into a big fire that creates a great feature.
So there's a lot of people that know what they want to build for Battlefield, and they will fight to do it. And sometimes it's more work actually to keep people down, and cut scope, rather than adding scope, because there's no one trying to avoid working, that's for sure.
When you talk about "if you use process you end up with the same stuff that you got before," where did you start at the beginning, with scoping things out? That's what I'm trying to figure out. If it grows organically and inspirationally, what do you start with?
PB: Well, this project started with, more or less, a simple kind of sketch on "What parts do we want to focus on? What is the core of the game?" And then you do more or less a balloon chart on different features, or different emotions that you want to have a part of this.
And then you can see that, "Oh, all these things together will actually complement each other in this area," and then it starts to grow from there organically. When you start, then, to show that to people, then you get feedback. That then turns into a more and more solidified vision for what the game should be.
And you could argue that you only have to fix what is broken, and since we've been building Battlefield games for quite some time, we know exactly who can build this area, and if you just let that person build that area it'll turn into good. But then what do you need to add to turn it into great?
So having a very senior team and experienced people around you helps. If I only had a junior team, and this was the first game they ever built, the process would have looked completely different -- so I'm adjusting everything to the people that I'm working with.
How much of it would you characterize as preproduction? How long did you stay in preproduction, and did it seamlessly transfer into production?
PB: Different parts of the game are shorter or longer in preproduction. Some areas, you know exactly what it should be. "This should be exactly like this, we can start producing it today," more or less. Other areas are more risk-taking and we said, "Hmm, we don't know how this will work, so we need to try it out for quite some time." And then when you know what it is, you build it really, really fast. So it depends on what area.
But then for the game as a whole, you need to have different phases for it. But some stuff might be sliding in and out of that phase. So it's quite hard, actually, to define a project. And again, looking back at what we talked about before, if you have a process that is strict and stale, you might not use all the potential of that team.
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