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Battlefield 3 Interview: Patrick Bach On BF3, DLC & Patching Issues

Adam Barnes

Feature


We chat to Battlefield 3’s executive producer Patrick Bach about the new DLC pack for DICE’s popular FPS.

Published on Apr 26, 2012

The biggest thing that strikes me about Close Quarters is just how unlike Battlefield it is, was that a conscious decision to get away from that and provide something different?

I understand what you’re saying; I don’t agree, because what we’ve seen with Battlefield is that – back in the days with Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 – it was all about the big, open landscapes with lots of vehicles and stuff going on.

What we’ve experienced as we’ve been experimenting with the game, it’s not only about that experience. It’s actually a great shooter at its core, from the gun and out and what we’ve proved with Battlefield 3 is that we could have a wider spectrum of experiences in Battlefield.

For instance, the whole close quarter fighting that we have in some of the maps of Battlefield 3, such as Operation Metro, proved to a lot of people that ‘hey, wait a minute, Battlefield is just as fun just as an infantry game’. 

What we wanted to do with this expansion pack was actually to take that one step further and say if you have Battlefield and you do a close quarters game with the destruction, the teamplay, the tactics and with the guns and gadgets, what would that be?

I think when we see this we’re proving not only to ourselves but also the audience that this is also Battlefield and it’s kind of cool.

PC gamers will be in for a treat here.

It’s kind of old school as well. The new mode reminds me of Unreal Tournament with domination mode and the different capture points, so it’s almost taking a step back while still retaining that forward-thinking attitude…

Yes, and that’s exactly what we need. We need to always think about new ways of what can Battlefield be, how can we move Battlefield forward without destroying the core of it.

And that’s also why we’re introducing the Armoured Kill expansion pack at the same time, because we won’t want people to shy away from the franchise saying ‘oh, they’re going all indoors and all infantry fighting and removing the vehicles’. That’s not forward-thinking. 

We’re just proving a point where Battlefield can be everything from close quarter indoors to the huge open maps with loads of vehicles and the more tactical slow pace gameplay, but you’re still using the Battlefield cores. I think that’s the brilliance of Battlefield.

One of the newest features to Battlefield 3 is the inclusion of rental servers on consoles, have you found a lot of people have taken that up?

Yes. It’s completely crazy. People are renting all the servers that we get up, we’re kind of pacing it so we’re releasing more and more servers everyday but everytime we release some they’re out. 

So if people are having problems renting a server it’s because they’re all rented, so we’re adding new servers every week more or less.

Do you think that’s something other multiplayer games should look into? Obviously a lot of FPS players demand dedicated servers, and this is a kind of a solution to that.

It is a dedicated server still, it’s not a server that’s standing next to you because then we could not guarantee a great gaming experience because we need to make sure the hardware is the right hardware and the right balance. 

And obviously the whole machine thing is a big problem because if you have a machine at home, there’s so many ways of cheating. So we want to make sure we get the best of two worlds, you don’t actually have to buy stuff to rent your own server and you can get all the benefits of having your own server without any of the hassle.

I think it’s a very good thing and apparently other people agree because we’re out of servers.

Ziba Tower's destruction physics are quite impressive.

Do you think more FPS games should offer similar services? 

Well this is probably the first example we’ve seen, no one has done this before so we’re extremely excited about doing this and just trying to prove that it works. So, to me, now when we see that works of course everyone should do it, why not? There’s not really a good reason to not do it now we’ve opened the door for it.

You mentioned cheating earlier, how exactly do you tackle that with rented servers? Is it harder to control on console than on PC?

On console it’s really, really hard to cheat. It’s close to impossible to cheat. When people have some crazy network lag you can see that’s cheating but there’s not really any cheats going on console – that we know about at least.

On PC it’s worse, because there’s so many things you can do with your PC that we can’t control. So the only way for us to deal with it is bring in the reports, try to find the problems and patch it. And we’re doing that everyday, we have a team at DICE solely focused on cheats.

You recently released quite a huge patch for PC and, later, PS3 and Xbox 360. I’m sure you’re aware there have been a few issues with it, but looking at various forums it seems to be that for as much criticism there is there seems to be just as much praise – for the focus on teamwork and things like that – how do you know what to fix and what to leave?

The biggest challenge when you release a big patch like this is to wait. Because we know that if you have a favourite gun that we have balanced down or you score in a certain way by doing certain things and then we nerfed that down then you will get upset, period. 

People do not care and they do not know about the big picture, but we do. Because we don’t care about single individuals, we care about everyone. We try to make sure that everyone has a great time and that the balance is overarching. 

So we have a lot of statistics, we look at all the data and we try to listen to people and ask ‘is this really an issue?’. And in most of the cases it is not an issue. There are two big things that we’re doing right now, we’re evaluating all the feedback we’re getting to see if something is a problem or if it’s just someone thinking ‘I’m not used to it, so I hate it. You just ruined my game, therefore I hate you’. Which you get a lot.

The other thing is to let it sink in. So people keep playing for a while and they say ‘oh, okay, now I get it’. And, as you say, we get a lot of praise for it but the biggest problem is that the people that like it don’t go on forums and write about it, they just keep playing. 

We can see that our player numbers are going up as we speak because of the patch. It’s not going down even though people say ‘I’m not playing because of the patch’. So we can say, well people are playing thanks to the patch now its better – it’s better balanced, we’ve fixed a lot of things, there’s a lot of cool, small things that no one really gets because it’s just there.

And I think if people went back to the old patch now after a couple of weeks they would see the big differences. But then again it’s not that it’s hassle free, so of course we are looking into any real issues that we need to fix.

Like the M26 with MASS?

Yes, that’s one of them. 

Will that be the first to go?

We’ll see. [laughs]

The close quarters maps are well designed for... well, close quarters.

So Battlelog is a pretty important aspect of Battlefield, and now you’ve released the app to run alongside it. Are there any features you might be looking to implement in the future? 

Right now we want to make sure, again, to have it running for a while to see how people are using it or what stats they are looking for, and also what stuff they’re not using at all because then we shouldn’t waste your screen space on stuff you don’t care about.

But in general we are looking at the different ways of feeding you data and giving you information about the game. But I think Battlelog as a whole is a great way for people to just read their stats and get all the data they want. 

And again, the game is not only about stats but it is also about stats. Some people do care about their stats quite a lot but we don’t want to turn it into like… you play Battlefield and there’s your stats and there’s nothing in-between.

We want it to be a smooth experience whoever you are. If you’re into the whole social play and the teamplay then this is your Battlefield and if you’re into headshots and statistics then this is your Battlefield. So we want it to be the ultimate first-person shooter.

 

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