"It feels good," to be compared to Call of Duty, Battlefield 3 producer Patrick Liu told Gamasutra. "Theyíre behemoths, and just the notion that we would be able to take a chunk from their gamers is awesome."
DICE's Battlefield 3 is only a couple of weeks from release, and all eyes are on the game this year. Now that military shooters have become the most dominant genre in console gaming, everyone's wondering if DICE can deliver a blow for EA against its rival Activision -- in a way that the Medal of Honor reboot, while ultimately successful, did not.
The ascent of the military shooter is not a surprise to Liu. "Since the old days, itís been clear that itís a dominant form of playing games."
Still, the comparison may not be apt, Liu suggests. "Theyíre both military shooters, but in terms of flavor and style theyíre different. But we offer so much more than they do, I think; but thatís me." Fighting words all the same.
Perhaps that has to do with how the game was conceived. "Battlefield 3 is the true successor to Battlefield 2, and it meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people." Working to better a game from 2005 is much, much different than aiming to one-up last year's model.
"We always set a very high expectation of ourselves in raising the bar of the game, and that pushes us more than anything else," said Liu.
What also pushes the team is identifying what different types of players want, Liu said. "I think we wanted to have a lot of variety, and different flavors within the game, so we could appeal to different kinds of gamers, and the co-op was one of those things that we identified as like, 'We probably need this. A lot of people want to play together, and they donít want to compete.' So we offer that because of that."
"We are trying to grow the franchise in different ways, always, and to do something new for us, whether itís a feature like the destruction that was added in Bad Company or the single player that was also added in Bad Company. Since then, it's grown and grown as a franchise. Single player has become a core pillar now, and we're adding coop for the first time. We'll see what happens with that; if people like it, if it's fun, it will probably grow into a core pillar, as well," said Liu.
That leads naturally to a discussion of the team's development philosophy: "Nothing is really forced upon you -- nothing in multiplayer -- but we give you the tools to cooperate and work together. Same thing with co-op; itís much more fun to play with someone else, and we give you the tools to do that."
This new co-op mode comes on top of a single player campaign -- the first for the mainline numbered Battlefield series -- and of course robust multiplayer, which has been the focus of the series since its inception. This is augmented by the new Battle Log functionality, which hooks directly into an all-new social website designed at DICE.
This is, of course, said Liu, because DICE is "moving more towards games as a service," like many studios. Of course, Call of Duty has its Elite membership program, and Halo has Waypoint. That's before you even look at the external pressure from mobile and social games. "Eventually, all games will be services, in my mind," he said.
And, of course, robust DLC plans are a must. "Thatís one of the big things; the launch of the game is really just a start, and then we plan to support the game as long as itís needed with new content, patches, balancing, and tweaking the game. We have a team dedicated just for that," said Liu.
The social/mobile evolution of the marketplace has evolved the team's thinking, he said, though change will continue. "You can access the Battle Log from an iPad, for example, or any device. Thatís one way of doing it. We will release a mobile version of the game, of course. I think, in the future, we will see a much more natural and much more coherent tie between different platforms and versions in the way you just engage in the game. So thatís definitely influenced how we think about it."
The team also put a lot of thought into supporting the e-sports community with Battlefield 3.
"We always had that in mind while we were working, definitely," he said, though he does admit the recent boom in e-sports is "surprising". Still, "Especially with shooters, I would say that something is needed in that base. I think we can fill some of that," he said.