How DICE fell in love with destruction
There's no shortage of video game design that relies on destruction -- stomp on a Goomba, blow up a building, shoot an alien, etc.
Battlefield studio DICE has taken the concept of wanton in-game destruction seriously, as it's become a central differentiator for its Battlefield games and its Frostbite game engine.
Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager at Electronic Arts-owned DICE told Gamasutra how more powerful game hardware led the studio to a concept of destruction that would fundamentally change how DICE would design games and tech, going forward.
"[The concentration on destruction] definitely came out of discussions [about] how we would differentiate ourselves to others," said Troedsson. "But also there was a lot of discussion at the time, about how we might utilize the [sarcastic] awesome power of the next gen consoles. It was almost like everyone was a bit high on their own Kool-Aid. You know, people are saying 'You can have so much power -- we can do whatever we want!,' But of course we couldn't."
Troedsson admitted that the current generation of consoles did introduce a lot more power, but the question was what to do with that power, and how to push the (very real) limitations of new consoles.
"From the beginning when we started talking about [more extensive destruction], I didn't think that we actually foresaw how much it would change the gameplay," Troedsson said. "I remember the first playtest that we had with it, and it was almost like we opened Pandora's Box; it was like, "Holy crap, what just happened here?" And everyone just came back and said, 'This is so cool.'"
Earlier DICE games, like the Refractor engine-powered Battlefield 2, did feature destruction, but in limited doses. The Frostbite engine debuted in 2008, powering Battlefield: Bad Company, which allowed players to destroy objects such as parts of walls and parts of vehicles. Battlefield 3 (pictured) uses Frostbite 2 and cranks up the use of destructibility in game design.
"We had one demo I remember [of Battlefield: Bad Company]," recalled Troedsson. "It was the first time there was a helicopter chasing a guy into a house. The guy was in a room and I didn't think anyone had seen him. And there was tank just sitting in this square -- the player was running around in the houses around trying to flank the tank to get to an RPG or something, and the tank was just going 'boom boom boom,' shooting holes in the houses all the time. That meant that [the guy on foot] had to move.
"Compared to what we had before that was so different; that's when the light went on and we thought, 'Okay, this is really going to change what we do.' We actually got a bit nervous there, because that was such a huge change; it was like, 'This is going to alter the core recipe of Battlefield.' But then after more and more playtesting we realized that, wow, it was going to change it for the better."