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EA's Core Strategy: Tech, Teams, Brands
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EA's Core Strategy: Tech, Teams, Brands

June 18, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

One thing with you at the helm there, too, it kind of speaks towards the possibility of the EA Games label being more tech driven, because DICE [where Soderlund was previously CEO] is quite known for advancements in that area. What's your approach to pushing technology under the label?

PS: So I think tech, for me, is an enabler to do great things. And I think if you look at Battlefield 3 when we introduced the Frostbite 2 engine, all the things that we made in there were gameplay-driven or experience-driven; we didn't just make tech for the sake of making tech. We looked at Battlefield: Bad Company 1 and 2 and asked, "How do we take this to the next evolution -- what are the things that break the experience? And we identified certain pillars.

Animation was a key component that we said, "That ain't cutting it." And how do we not just make a little leap, but how do we make a gigantic leap in animation? And that gravitated us towards our FIFA team, who have an advanced animation system. So we took that, and we then rewrote that and implemented that, and iterated it into a first-person shooter, because different things happen when you put that first-person versus third-person like in FIFA, right?

Audio is another thing. Audio is such a big portion of a product that you don't really think about, but we said we have to nail audio. And I think audio is one of the signature pieces of DICE and the Frostbite engine. We win basically every single audio award that you can win, and there's a very deliberate effort on that.

And then the other part is rendering and destruction. And destruction is cool, but we said we want to make gameplay-altering destruction, not just destruction for the sake of it. It needs to be, "Okay, I can shoot through that wall and kill someone; I can take away cover."

You certainly see that in Battlefield 3, with a lot of emergent gameplay. Someone rockets your building and then changes the map's landscape.

PS: And that's cool, because that adds a different level of gameplay. So yes, tech-driven for sure, but we shouldn't make tech for the sake of making tech; tech needs to be an enabler for consumers to have a better experience. That's how we look at it.

So part of this iterating on tech, you're intentionally overshooting [average PC hardware] a little bit to prepare for the next consoles?

PS: Yeah, I'll be honest with you -- Frostbite 2 was built for the next generation. That's how we started it. We had that in mind and we said, "We're going to have to build something that can scale." It doesn't mean that what you see in Battlefield 3 is the end state. That's the beginning; that's where we start and then we go forward. But we have a tech base that makes me feel really confident in how we're positioned for what's going to come in the future.

So Frostbite 2, Danger Close is using that now [on Medal of Honor: Warfighter]. Why was there that decision to use Frostbite 2, and what was the engine it was running on?

PS: They were running [Epic Games'] Unreal before.

Was this a case where you wanted the team to use internal tech?

PS: We take the philosophy on not forcing tech upon anyone. It was basically a desire from that team, when they saw the results of Battlefield, and they saw the results of what that engine could do at the time. I'm not saying [Epic has] a bad engine -- I'm just saying comparing the two at the time it was like, "Okay, we can do more of what we want with the Battlefield/Frostbite engine."

And also you have other things: the economy of scale, if you want to call it that. This is boring business stuff. But at some point in time, we want to transfer resources between studios, and if they have the same knowledge on the tech base, it's going to be a hell of lot easier for us to do that efficiently, and for them to get help or for them to give help. So that's why we decided to center on one tech piece, and that was Frostbite; it was the obvious choice.

If the team wants to use Unreal, then you're cool with that? Or are you going to say, "Check this out, we should probably stick with this because..."?

PS: Well, you know what? It needs to be validated by the same business sense, but in theory I'm cool with them using different tech, if they have a good reason for it. So we're not going to force anyone. There will be other games on Frostbite as well. You know, you saw Need for Speed was on Frostbite last year, and hopefully more to come.

The other big part about giving back to the players [through tech], is we have a team of 40 or 50 people in Stockholm working on the runtime and the core of what Frostbite is -- the game engine, but also the toolset developers use to create.

But if we now have the Danger Close guys working on things, they're making some things in Medal of Honor that you couldn't see in Battlefield, taking it a step further. So for us, they're not only using Frostbite -- they're pushing it forward. And then our guys -- the Frostbite team -- takes the code and decides if these parts are going to get integrated back into the main branch, and then we can use it for more products.

If you take this and multiply it by more teams using it, you've got an ecosystem where there's a continuous push in the engine that's not led by just 40 or 50 people, but maybe 500 people. And that's how we scale our advantage, I think.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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