LOS ANGELES — Electronic Arts has made a big bet with its Battlefield franchise, a modern combat first-person shooter video game whose latest edition appeared at the giant Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow this week in Los Angeles. Instead of pitting soldiers from armies against each other, as is the norm in the series, Battlefield Hardline pits cops against criminals.
The new game coming this year from EA’s Visceral Games studio features missions like bank heists where criminal stage elaborate jobs and then have to evade helicopters, armored vehicles, and heavily armed SWAT teams. Will gamers go for it? We talked with Karl Magnus Troedsson, the general manager of DICE, the traditional development house for Battlefield.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Magnus-Troedsson.
GamesBeat: Did you get some good reaction to Hardline?
Karl Magnus Troedsson: Absolutely. We’re cautiously optimistic. It seems like a lot of people like the game. Of course, it’s extra special now, where we can allow people to play it in the beta as well.
GamesBeat: If you have these large chase scenes, that works in an open world like Grand Theft Auto, where you have all that space for the chase to go on a long time, but it seems like this isn’t quite an open world. How do you handle that in a more limited space?
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Troedsson: The element of the cops versus criminals will be very present in a lot of the game modes we create. They’re going to be focused on the specifics about this new setting we’re introducing. But we’re building an FPS and we’re going to stay true to the core values of a Battlefield game, which means that we’re not building environments as large as a Grand Theft Auto or something like that. That’s a different genre of games altogether.
Will there be car chases, vehicle chases? Absolutely. But it won’t be over such a long, extended map. Going back to the modes, there will be game modes that are specifically focused on that kind of thing, driving vehicles, in line with the fiction.
GamesBeat: What are some of the things that inspired this?
Troedsson: When we started working with Visceral, they were helping out with Battlefield 3 and some other things. As we said on stage, we started talking about whether they’d want to build a full stand-alone Battlefield game. They came up with this idea, that they wanted to take it into the cops-and-criminals fantasy.
Immediately, I was like, “Yes, let’s do this!” All the way back in 2006, just after Battlefield 2 was released, we discussed this a bit inside DICE as well. We did some early prototypes. But it never really went anywhere. When Steve and his team took this on, they nailed the whole idea of bringing this new setting to Battlefield.
Over the years, Battlefield has visited very different kinds of settings and fantasies. For us it feels very natural to take the Battlefield formula into this setting as well, so long as we stay true to the core ideas of team play, destruction, vehicles, open environments, and so on. So long as we stay true to the core recipe of Battlefield, we can absolutely do this. What we’re hearing from players now is that they definitely agree.
GamesBeat: There are competing kinds of games out there. I wonder what you’re more like or less like. Sony Online has the Payday series. You pull off heists in that game. It’s an online game. That’s one example. Grand Theft Auto is another. It’s a well-populated genre, I guess? What do you feel like is the opportunity here?
Troedsson: I’m actually happy that we’re in this setting now, because I don’t think it is that populated in the FPS genre. If you look at a lot of shooters today, they’re going sci-fi, or near to it. I’m glad we’re not there with them. Naturally there are some smaller games out there in the cops-and-criminals fantasy, but we’re building a Battlefield game here. It’s not something where we look at what they’re doing, per se. That doesn’t really interest us. We have a vision for what we’re doing with our game and that’s what we’re going to build.
GamesBeat: How do you balance single-player versus multiplayer? How much emphasis does each get?
Troedsson: We haven’t announced much about the single-player just yet. We have a lot of new cool things we want to talk about there as well, but this is a typical big production where you have tons of people working on both sides. It’s not a real balancing act, per se. It’s just a matter of how many people you put into each experience to build it. I wouldn’t say we have made a distinction there between the two.
GamesBeat: Cops and robbers seems to lend itself more to multiplayer. I suppose you could create a story about one side or the other, though.
Troedsson: It fits multiplayer really well, but it goes well with single-player too. Look at the popularity of crime drama in TV and movies. It’s probably one of the biggest fantasies out there for that kind of entertainment. There just haven’t been that many games around it, at least in the FPS genre. That’s one of the reasons we’re eager to take it on and see what we can do.
GamesBeat: You guys have stepped up the quality of your stories in more recent games. Are you still shooting for something that’s what you might call emotional or powerful?