EA Games’ and Visceral Studios’ cops verses criminals shooter, Battlefield Hardline is now available in stores. I caught up with the game’s senior producer, Scott Probst, lead multiplayer map designer, Jeff Zaring and senior multiplayer designer, Evan Chaplin, during their recent visit to Sydney.
What’s it like taking the franchise in such a brave new direction, especially considering the issues that DICE had with Battlefield 4?
Scott Probst: I think that it has been a huge opportunity for us as a development team, as a studio, as well as a company. It’s been a collaboration between the team at DICE and the team at Visceral to make sure that ultimately we’re respecting the pillars of the Battlefield franchise. We have a long standing franchise in Battlefield and building upon it, taking it into a whole new world of cops and criminals, has been a huge opportunity for us and really exciting.
How does the PC version compare with the other console versions?
Scott: There are all amazing! Evan do you want to take that?
Evan Champlin: I think visually they are very similar. Obviously the hardware for PC allows you to do some other things like increase the resolution, but visually they are very similar. From a gameplay perspective I would say that the console experience is just a little bit slower because of the controller, but I think in the good way- the gunfights last a little but longer and the vehicles are a little bit easier to control. But it’s generally a fun experience on all platforms.
Most people view Battlefield as a multiplayer experience, but what has your main focus been on delivering the single-player campaign?
Jeff Zaring: We built this game around three pillars which are story, strategy and speed. I think looking at the single-player campaign, one of them, the story in particular has been very important from a campaign perspective. Obviously, stories come along with campaigns, it kind of goes hand in hand, but we wanted to take a step back and look at what we have as a cops and criminals fantasy.
Given the fact that this is such relatable fantasy we wanted to figure out how we could make a campaign and a story that focuses on relatable characters and personal characters. So I think our main focus has really been on creating a story that people can relate with and will give us a new way to look at story inside of first-person shooters.
Hardline’s multiplayer is a bit more involved than in previous game especially the heists. What have you done to ease players into these new game modes?
Evan: One of the things that has had the most impact is the updated user interface. That’s one of things that we went around and around on. Basically, trying to identify where players were having difficulty understanding what the next step was in the gameplay and trying to figure out how we could resolve that problem. I think that we resolved it pretty well in every mode. The results that we get now indicate that people really do understand where the objective is and how to go from point-to-point in the game.
How many multiplayer maps and modes with you have at launch?
Scott: We will have nine different maps available at launch and seven different modes. For the most part all of the maps will be playable on the modes that we have with the exception of Hotwire. I think we only have five Hotwire maps. For the most part there’s fifty-nine different combinations of maps and modes.
What has be done to avoid the netcode issues that players have complained about in Battlefield 4?
Scott: Well there are already netcode improvements that have been rolled out inside of Battlefield 4 though the community test environment, and those changes were actually done by an engineer at Visceral Studios. So that netcode change has already been implemented into Battlefield Hardline. It’s something that we’ve taken and put into Battlefield 4, got feedback on from the community and we will continue to improve.
The Battlefield series is famous for its vast selection of military vehicles. Does Hardline feature a similar amount and how have you given each one a unique role in what is really a civilian environment?
Jeff: In the cops verses criminals fantasy it didn’t really limit us on what we could add in terms of the rock-paper-scissors for the vehicles. It is different, we do focus more heavily on transport vehicles and things that go much faster. The game, from a vehicle perspective, is very much about speed. But we still have armoured vehicles that kind of allow some offensive combat between two of them on the street.
What aspect of the game are you most proud of?
Scott: As a team, we came aboard a franchise that has a long standing history and a lot of greatness associated with it. I think this has been a big challenge as a development team, to jump into this game and make sure that we are giving the franchise, the justice that it deserves in making an awesome multiplayer single-player experience.
I would say that the thing that I’m most proud of seeing how this development team has been able to take on this challenge. In making this game within a long-standing franchise in a whole new world everyone has come together and really worked together as a team. It is probably one of the biggest achievements that I have ever seen in my career at EA.
Evan, do you have anything that you want to add?
Evan: I feel very similar to Scott. It’s just amazing to see how far we’ve come from a production standpoint. We had a lot to learn. We had a new technology and we were relatively new to the franchise. We had to learn DICE’s philosophy and how they built their maps and then develop our own. It’s really neat to see through iteration, communication with the community and a lot of hard work by the team where we’ve rocked.
What about you, Jeff?
Jeff: I would say, for me, one of the things that I’m really proud of is the fact that we were able to deliver a wide variety of gameplay experiences. To me that’s one of the pillars of Battlefield, We provide a lot of tools and toys for the player to choose their own role out in the world and I think that we really executed well on that. I think that we’ve provided something for everybody in this game.
And finally, can you tell me anything about the game that you’ve not told anyone else?
Scott: There’s so much stuff that’s in the game that are like Easter eggs and things that we’ve buried that are a tradition to the Visceral Studio. These are just things that we put in there to make sure that there’s that long tailing cool things to discover. We talk less about it or rather we don’t talk about them at all. Hopefully players find them and experience them. There’s not really anything that I’d want to say other than there’s more stuff that I want players to discover. There’s cool stuff in there, I promise.
Battlefield Hardline is out now on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.