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EA Goes Free-To-Play: Battlefield Heroes' Producer Speaks
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EA Goes Free-To-Play: Battlefield Heroes' Producer Speaks

March 31, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

There's a certain degree to which you wonder how limiting these choices are, even if they appeal to what is perceived as a broad audience.

BC: Yeah, I think there's a danger of marketing, or creating games for a niche within a niche, within a niche, and that doesn't get you anywhere. You need to think a little bit bigger than that. And I'm not saying that we're abandoning the gritty realism -- gritty realism's really cool -- but there are different kinds of ways of approaching that; fresh ways. And, you know, Mirror's Edge is pretty realistic, but it's got a completely fresh art style, for example.

But, you know, Battlefield Heroes, when you're in that game, and the sky's blue, and everyone's got a smile on their face, and they're waving to each other whilst they gun each other down -- it's a really cool, almost kind of a subversive-feeling experience.

That's what I want to ask about, actually. One thing that has come in the Worlds in Motion Summit, is that you can block and censor, but you can't stop people from acting like dicks online. They'll find new ways. What's the communication mode? Is it just emotes?

BC: We have text as well, but you can turn that off. But it's mostly just emotes, yeah. And that's the most readily available thing -- and I think I understand where you're going with this, in that our emotes are kind of fun, and they're happy. So you just create a fun and happy feeling.

I always loved the way that -- there was something about Phantasy Star Online, which created this positive kind of atmosphere. Probably because they had that kind of text-free system of talking to each other.

And as soon as you've got, like, people... You know, a kind-of Quake III "DOMINATING" kind of [feel], the guys with the pitched-down voices and that kind of macho crap.

Well the trailer was hilarious, because it started with a serious World War II-type feel, and the thing is, the dialogue was terrible.

BC: I wrote that dialogue. I'm proud of how terrible it is.

Yeah, but that's the thing! I've seen trailers with worse dialogue that wasn't ironic.

BC: Exactly. We're poking fun at this conservatism within, particularly, computer developers. And there's nothing about shooting a gun with a mouse control and WASD that means you have to take yourself really seriously.

I don't want to belittle the fact that people gave up their lives for their country in the past, but at the same time, do we really want to be making entertainment about this?

That's something I've wondered about. There was that period where developers made Vietnam games, because everyone was bored with World War II, and that period didn't last very long, because I think that Vietnam was a bit more contemporary, and a bit more fucked up, so people couldn't justify it.

BC: Yeah, absolutely. It's been nice for us, not to be bogged down by any particular historical setting; we're influenced by World War I and World War II, but we're not really there. The armies are fictional, the vehicles are fictional, and it's been nice just to be able to say, "Hey, let's just do that." Rather than, "Is this right? Is this sensitive? Or is this insensitive?"

To what extent did the design of the game come out of the idea of wanting to do a microtransaction free-to-play game, and to what extent did the game design, like, "We want to do happy, more colorful, more accessible game," and then you found the right niche for it?

BC: No, I think it came from the business model -- and that's interesting, because people assume business models aren't creative, but you can get a lot of creativity by the restrictions of the business models give you.

Once you start thinking free-to-play, and advertising revenue, you have to have a broader audience; to get a broader audience, you need lower system specs, that leads you to think about cartoony graphics. And before you know it, you've actually made a lot of creative decisions which kind of seeded themselves from that business decision.

You make creative decisions based on the limitations that are imposed on you.

BC: Yeah, absolutely. And there are limitations imposed on the boxed products as well, right? Let's not forget that. So, people are used to the limitations of boxed products, it's just that we've got a different set of limitations for free-to-play products.

And is this leading the charge of the free-to-play movement within EA?

BC: This was driven by DICE very much, strategically, and we're happy to be leading the way -- we love to lead the way, we love to take chances, and suffer the struggles of being the first guys out there. And if anyone else in EA wants to get involved, and learn from us, we'll absolutely happy for them to do it.

But I don't get the feeling that there's a concerted, specific, strategic movement within EA to do that. The new EA, which I work for now, since Riccitiello took over, wasn't really thinking these global, huge, monolithic ways; it's more about the creativity of individual teams.


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