Armored Kill is the next expansion pack for Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3 military shooter video game, which has shipped more than 12 million copies in the past year. EA’s DICE game studio in Sweden is preparing to ship the new expansion for gamers in September. It’s the third of five packs coming from EA, and it’s free for players who subscribe to the Battlefield 3 Premium service.

As the name suggests, the expansion is all about vehicular mayhem in multiplayer combat. The modern warriors playing the game can drive tanks, all-terrain vehicles, mobile artillery, and even hitch a ride in a helicopter gunship. The pack of four maps includes the biggest map in Battlefield’s history, where players can trade armored rounds in tense tank duels.

We caught up with lead designer Niklas Fegraeus (pictured below) of DICE at EA’s recent summer showcase at EA headquarters in Redwood City, Calif. He says that fighting with armor against armor is a “purifying experience.” Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

GamesBeat: So you’re the lead designer of…?

Niklas Fegraeus: The lead designer at DICE. That’s the simple way of putting it.

GamesBeat: And this expansion is coming when?

Fegraeus: It’s coming in September. It’s called Armored Kill. It’s the third one, the third of five.

GamesBeat: This sounds simple enough from the name. You get to drive around in a lot of tanks, I take it?

Fegraeus: Yes, it’s about the vehicles. [Chuckles]

GamesBeat: What map are we looking at here?

Fegraeus: This map is called Armored Shield. It’s in Russia. The mode that we’re looking at is Tank Superiority, which is a new mode that we introduced with the Armored Kill pack. It means that you have two tank platoons that go at it and try to control this central area here. You’ll see lots of big formations of tanks duking it out. They’ll be flanking each other and trying to seize control of this area. Lots of tank shells and explosions.

GamesBeat: There’s only one marker to grab, right in the center of the map?

Fegraeus: Yeah, only one marker to grab — and lots of tanks trying to stop you.

GamesBeat: How many players can go play on this map at the same time? How many vehicles are in there?

Fegraeus: It’s 12-versus-12. When you play a normal Conquest round with tanks, it takes a while after they’re destroyed for them to come back. But for this mode, we’ve tweaked that. Now tanks immediately come back, so that everyone can have a vehicle and bring it into battle.

GamesBeat: So you don’t really have too many infantry running around. Everybody’s in a vehicle.

Fegraeus: You can, of course, jump out of the vehicle if you need to repair, to set up mines, or to do things like that. But you’re very vulnerable. This takes place in pretty open fields, and there’s lots and lots of tanks around. It’s not safe to run around on foot. If that’s your thing, then go ahead. But this is really a tank battle.

GamesBeat: How many maps are in this collection, and does it feature other styles of play?

Fegraeus: There are four new maps in the pack. We’re introducing a bunch of new vehicles as well: two new tank destroyers, which is a lighter tank. It’s faster, and it has the same firepower, but it lacks the armored defense of the big tanks. Also, [this has] the four-wheeled ATV that some of you might recognize from Bad Company 2. That acts as a fast transport. Then we have the mobile artillery, which are these big trucks with artillery cannons on them. You can find a good firing point, deploy them there, and start suppressing areas or shelling bases to soften them up for an attack from your friends. Then we have the gunship, which is tied to a base; if you capture the base that gunship becomes yours. It starts circling the area and you can spawn in on it to parachute out. You can jump down onto the gun positions, the AA positions, where you can deploy flares or fire the AA cannons.

GamesBeat: Are you piloting that gunship?

Fegraeus: It’s on a path to cover the area. Players can utilize the weapons system and the spawn systems on it. And then, of course, they can pilot jets to protect it. It’s a big bird; it can take a hit. But it’s a big target as well, so you need to protect it.

GamesBeat: Have the players been asking for these kinds of things?

Fegraeus: Yeah, definitely. There’s always a big demand that we hear a lot, like, “C’mon, let’s make some really big maps, some awesome vehicle warfare!” We took that as our focus for this pack, and we just tried to make the coolest, biggest vehicle war experience we could make. That’s what we’re showing off.

GamesBeat: They haven’t had that so much before, right? This is the first real focus on armored….

Fegraeus: Well, Battlefield has always been known for big maps and the vehicle warfare aspect. This is just kind of purifying that experience and introducing some new modes that really emphasize that theme in that pack.

GamesBeat: Are there other air-versus-ground options in these maps?

Fegraeus: There’s no new jets, if that’s what you mean. The gunship has turboprops, I think?

GamesBeat: This series of five packs seems like a lot more than you’ve ever turned out so quickly. What’s that like for you?

Fegraeus: It’s exciting, actually. We were both surprised and really excited about the success of the game, Battlefield 3. We didn’t know it was going to become so popular. I don’t know the latest numbers, but it’s a lot. We said we really need to give something really great to all the fans. That’s when we came up with the idea of having these themed expansions, rather than just giving out new maps or something like that. We wanted to focus and do something big. So far we’ve had a positive reception. Now, with Premium, where you can just get all these in one go, no hassle, get them early, plus a bunch of other neat stuff that comes with Premium…I think that if you’re a core Battlefield fan, you’ll really appreciate it, and you can feel like Battlefield 3 was the best investment you could have made.

GamesBeat: If you buy them separately, how much is it?

Fegraeus: Separately, they’re $15 dollars each. If you get the Premium, it’s $49.99, but you get all the packs, the premium dog tags and knife, some Battle Log features, and, of course, the early access, so you can start playing this before anyone else.

[Image credits: EA, Dean Takahashi]