The Battlefield series seemed like a strange fit for consoles, given its rich heritage on the PC side -- that is, it did seem like a strange fit, until Battlefield: Bad Company came out and became one of Electronic Arts' larger hits of this generation.
Here, senior producer for the series at EA's Stockholm-based DICE studio, Patrick Bach, discusses how the philosophy behind the series has evolved as it has made the transition to consoles -- and how that transition has fundamentally shifted the way the developers think of the series as a whole.
Bach, who "make[s] the quality decisions on what should be in or out of the game" is the perfect person to discuss these shifts, as well as the evolution of the gaming audience on both PC and console.
How long as your development cycle been?
Patrick Bach: We actually started right after, or actually a couple months before, we ended Bad Company 1. It's been 18 or 19 months.
And how big is the team?
PB: The team has of course been scaling up and down depending on where we are, but I think we peaked at 70 or 75. One of our big focuses in the studio is to have the team as small as possible at all times.
You get more focused, you get better traction, and you have high quality if you have the right people. We talk about ownership a lot -- owning the quality in the end.
Coming onto this right from Bad Company 1, did it feel like a direct continuation? Were there big things in particular you wanted to change or retain, based on lessons learned during that project?
PB: [When] building a Battlefield game, we have a lot of history. Since Battlefield 1942, we've kind of known what the formula is and what the strengths are, but when we went out to consoles, the audience changes. You know, the PC audience is much more forgiving in some ways, but they're much more demanding in other ways.
I'm a PC gamer, so I know what you mean.
PB: Yeah. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
I always see PC gamers as more forgiving when it comes to certain types of technical polish, but not as forgiving of certain design aspects that they find very important to the platform.
PB: Yeah, right. That's of course a balance. Going over to the console, we had to take it to that console audience but also retain the values of what Battlefield is.
When we added destruction to Bad Company 1, we were actually thinking, "In five years, what will every game have? We need to build that now." Then five years later, no one had it. We were the only ones who had destruction. So now, that's of course one of the things that we've said, "We can do this even better."
Another thing we brought with us from the first game is all of the tweaking and tuning of Battlefield. Even if you're a console gamer, you still want that high-quality, fast-paced action. I think console games are starting to be more like PC games, and PC games are starting to be more like console games.
You still want the usability of console games on a PC, and you want the nitty-gritty detailed action of a PC game on a console. We learned a lot about that from the first game to the second. It makes it more hardcore in a way, while also more accessible.
We focused a lot on variation. [Bad Company 1] was a good first try. It was a good game, but not more than good. There are a lot of things that we've improved -- for instance, you have the variation not only when it comes to visuals but also the gameplay variation, game modes, multiplayer, and so on.
For example, for the multiplayer "hardcore mode," we changed all the game modes into something else. That's a nudge towards the PC audience, and that will be a part of the PC package as well.
It's hard to point specific things out. The goal was always to focus on quality, and achieve more of what Battlefield stands for.