Star Wars: Battlefront II is one of the most accessible shooters to date. It debuts on November 17 on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. The game should draw a broad mix of both hardcore shooter enthusiasts and casual Star Wars fans.
EA crafted the multiplayer experience to scale across those audiences, according to my interview with multiplayer leaders Paul Keslin, producer at EA DICE, and Pete Lake, producer at Criterion. We talked about the design process in part one of our interview.
And in part two of our talk, we focused on tips for multiplayer combat. Whether you’re new to shooters or a veteran, you’ll find a few things that will pay off. You could start out easy with Arcade mode, where you can learn in a solo or co-op experience how to play as heroes or villains. Then you could go online and hone your skills against human enemies in Heroes vs. Villains mode. You can be a cog in the wheel in Starfighter Assault or Galactic Assault, and level up over time.
I played the game at a review event at EA’s headquarters in Redwood City, California, and then I interviewed Keslin and Lake. And yes, I asked them the all-important question about whether you could play as Ewoks on the planet Endor, or whether you could shoot them. You’ll see their answer below.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: In Call of Duty I usually play a heavy gunner, because I can shoot people farther away, kill them with one or two shots, get lucky with headshots. Is that something you can do here in Battlefront? Is heavy an easier class to play?
Paul Keslin: Heavy is something people gravitate toward earlier on. Typically it has a bit more health. Its firepower is pretty good, but it’s also slower than other classes. There are tradeoffs for these things.
In terms of general ground-based tips – or this might apply to starfighters as well – playing as a team and trying to work with your squad maters, work with someone else on your team—one thing I do really well with heroes versus villains, for example, is I try to find out who in my squad complements the skills of the character I’m playing. Then I try to follow them around. We can do much better together when we’re trying to complement each other.
If you’re playing with a friend online, it’s the same thing: pick characters that play well with each other. Even if you’re not talking with someone, you’ll pick up some of that stuff, just knowing that you have a buddy at your side to do things. You mentioned that you’re not the best at getting headshots and sniping people all the time. Maybe, like myself, you could play the officer. You support others while they’re doing things and help keep them alive so they can continue to mow people down, because they’re better at that. The class-based gameplay allows for those types of situations. Team play is where it’s at.
Pete Lake: That mirrors in Starfighter Assault as well. You want to find your role that you’re comfortable playing, but also, how can you play as a squad with the four of you that come in? If you’re the attacking side, you’ll be doing much more objective-based play, so coming in as a squad with a couple of bombers and some interceptors to defend them could be a good suggestion. But we also reward players in the game for playing as a squad. If you’re attacking the same objective as one of your squad mates, you’ll do more damage and get more rewards for doing that.
When you’re playing, watch out for when things go kind of yellow. That means that your squad is attacking. If you all pile in at the same time, you’ll be much more effective as a team than you would be on your own.
GamesBeat: Do you have any tips for mastering the flying? That seems to be one of the harder parts of the game.
Lake: We have a good system for pick up and play. There’s a lot of different options and assists that you can go in there with. If you’re not as comfortable flying with two sticks and having roll and everything else on, that’s fine. You can go in and turn those things off. We’ve designed the ship to be flown with one thumb if that’s what you’d like. You can turn off roll, turn on auto-leveling, and it’s an amazingly fun experience. You can get in there and just worry about shooting. But if you’re a player that likes to have ultimate control of your ship, you can turn on the expert mode, turn off all the assists, and you have full control of roll, pitch, and yaw.
Another thing people need to remember is that just like with the troopers, you can aim down the sights in the starfighter, which helps you focus in and target a little bit more. You should use the aids we have in the game. We have a leading reticle, a little circle ahead of the thing you have targeted to help you aim ahead of where you need to.
GamesBeat: You have to remember what all your special functions are, too.
Lake: At any time, in any of the modes, you can press up on the D-pad, on console. That’ll you give you a reminder screen with your abilities, which change per class and per ship. Get used to those. Get into a role that you like. The interceptors have a lot of moving faster of focusing your target, while the bombers have a lot more countermeasures for defense and more aggressive missile attacks.
GamesBeat: I learned to give the debris a wide berth. Half the time I was crashing into that.
Lake: The more you fly, the more you’ll get used to the distance you need to keep away from things. We’ve tried to mix up the levels. Some levels, like Endor, which we’ve been playing a bit more today—that’s quite a debris-filled level. The debris of the Death Star and the battle around it, there’s a lot of weaving in and out. Some of the other levels are much more open. There’s a mixture of experiences depending on the type of level. You may want to choose your ship against the level you’re facing. Bombers are naturally a little slower and easier to move around than the interceptors.
GamesBeat: I think I successfully caused somebody else to crash while they were chasing me. I just started bouncing up and down, making it hard for them to tail me, and they hit something.
Keslin: Whatever works, right?
Lake: There’s a look-back camera if you ever want to watch those moments behind you.
GamesBeat: Can you think of any particular things you think people don’t realize at first?
Lake: There are some subtleties in the starfighter controls, lots of different layers. One that I use quite a lot is you can dumb fire your torpedoes. If you double-tap the fire button it’ll shoot them straight ahead of you, rather than doing the lock-on mechanism. If someone’s right in front of you and you want to quickly do a lot of damage, or you want to do a run on an objective, that can be quite useful.
GamesBeat: Is it just whenever it says “Attack” that you’re in range for something like that?
Lake: The default action for a missile is, if you tap it, it’ll start locking on, like a traditional fire and forget missile. But if you double-tap that button it immediately fires it in a straight line ahead of you. You have that depth of strategy.
Keslin: As far as troopers, the biggest thing for me is just keeping educated on things that I like to — what I think will suit my gameplay, and then reading up on the star cards and trying to focus on my gameplay once I’ve unlocked that thing. How can I maximize this and utilize it? Getting good with something that feels comfortable. Maybe try out a few things first, to figure out what you like, what suits your gameplay, and then try to focus on that going forward.
Lake: That’s a good way to take on Arcade. Arcade isn’t so much a separate mode. The entire progression is tied together. Anything you unlock in multiplayer you can try out offline in Arcade and have that safer space. Even in a completely custom game, you can choose down to—say I want to practice fighting against heavy units. You can go in and see what that’s like.
GamesBeat: Did you learn anything interesting from watching players in the beta test?
Keslin: A lot of that comes down to balancing, whether it be individual characters or systems. We get a lot of data, a lot of feedback from players on forums, Reddit. I hear stuff on Twitter. There are tons of channels and we get a lot of feedback. We’ll see, once the game’s out, what we’ll need to tweak, the big things we’ll need to fix, what’s overpowered and underpowered, stuff like that.
One of the big things we took from the beta was people being confused by or not liking how we had implemented progression and loot crates. There’s a lot of stuff we tried to tweak there to make a much better player experience for launch. It’s not necessarily easier to earn them now, but there’s clarification around what we wanted to do.
We made a few changes from the beta. In the beta we had epic star cards in crates, our top tier star cards, and people were concerned about that ruining the system if someone came in and put money into the game to get all the best things right away. One thing we’ve done is put in rank requirements, so you have to play the game in order to use specific tiers of content. You need to earn cards in a class to continue to put more into that class and make it bump higher and higher as far as the rarity of the cards you can use.
We’ve also given people tailored rewards. If you’re really good at playing the assault class and you just want to keep playing the assault class, you’ll earn rewards for the assault class by doing that more and more. That wasn’t in the beta. It’s about allowing people to focus on what they like and allowing them to level up that thing.
GamesBeat: Were you joking about the Ewoks? Are they in the game?
Keslin: [laughs] They’re represented on Endor. But they’re not playable.
GamesBeat: Or shootable?
Keslin: Who knows what the future has to bring? I think everyone would agree that playable Ewoks could be fun.
GamesBeat: The thing I found from just playing the Arcade was that — it seemed like Yoda was the most powerful hero.
Keslin: He’s one to watch for.
GamesBeat: He’s hard to shoot and he’s pretty strong.
Keslin: He’s challenging. We’ve tuned him a lot. I think that he’s on our watch list, to see how players react to him over time. Initially a lot of players, when they’re not used to him — because he’s smaller than anything else, it throws off your perception. How do I fight against something that small? We’ll see over time. Again, he’s on our watch list of things to potentially re-balance.
GamesBeat: You’re earning the heroes throughout each round, right?
Keslin: It’s our battle points system. As you play, whether you’re getting kills or assisting on kills, playing the objectives, pretty much doing anything that earns you points in a match, you’ll earn battle points for that. Even if you play and you don’t happen to do much, we still give you something so you can potentially try to become a special unit, a vehicle, a hero during a match. Every action should reward you so that you can hopefully become something stronger for that life, and hopefully break a stalemate somewhere.
Lake: It’s the same in Starfighter Assault. We don’t have the special units. It’s just the classes of starfighter and the heroes. But the heroes can really turn the tide in a battle, because they have these—it’s like bringing in the cavalry at some point. They can be formidable enemies. If someone comes in with the Millennium Falcon, they’re much tougher, much bigger ships, a big target, but they’re very difficult to take down. You need to work as a team to take down that target.
GamesBeat: I got Luke Skywalker, and I didn’t quite realize what to do with him.
Lake: Yeah, it’s a whole other set of abilities to learn. Luke flies the same X-Wing, but he has his own — the way we thought about it with the starfighter heroes is it’s both the pilot and the ship. There are two versions of the Millennium Falcon, where we have Han Solo flying the classic version, but then we have Rey flying the new one. Each of those pilots brings a different set of abilities to the ships. One is much more agile and does more damage. One is a bit more of a strategic tank player.
We even have Yoda in his starfighter. He’s consistently trouble across the game. He almost has more of a support role, because he has this ion shock wave that can go out and disable ship abilities around him. He’s a great one to send in, blast out, and then fly away.