Star Wars Battlefront Interview: We talk multiplayer and heroes with DICE
We recently visited DICE over in Sweden to go hands-on with Star Wars Battlefront, and talk to Sigurlína Ingvarsdottir, senior producer on the game. You can read our full feature in issue 130 of X-ONE, but here’s what she had to say about the game…
X-ONE: Obviously the battle of Jakku is going to be free DLC for everyone, and it will give fans their first real taste of the new universe. How does it feel to be introducing JJ Abrams’ vision of Star Wars to the fans for the first time?
Sigurlína Ingvarsdottir: Now that you’ve put it like that, pretty daunting! [laughs] No, it feels like an incredible privilege to get to do that with this game, and I think that we’re excited about it. We’re excited that this is a new world that people haven’t seen before, and we’re excited about how it’s connected to The Force Awakens as well.
XO: Was single player ever a part of the internal conversation when you started to develop the game, or have you always had a focus on it as a multiplayer game?
SI: The core of the original Battlefronts, the sort of the DNA of them, was the multiplayer, it was a multiplayer experience. And that’s very natural for us, but very early on in the conversation we also talked about what we wanted to bring in, and we wanted to bring you these experiences that you can play on the couch with a friend, or you can play by yourself. There’s much more than the multiplayer content; the missions, which are a sizable chunk of the game, are designed with replayability, and with coop in mind.
XO: So what made you decide to just focus on the multiplayer?
SI: Well, it was really just that this composition of multiplayer and missions felt like a good package, that was logical together. I don’t think with the original Battlefronts you think of them in terms of their standout story campaign, although they had an aspect of that. But for us that was the concept that we came up with and that’s what we pitched.
XO: You have obviously spent a lot of time getting the details really perfect. I know you visited LucasArts and photographed prop studios. Do you have any little things, little details from those visits that you included, that only a super fan would understand?
SI: I think there are a million of those. The level of detail of some of the assets is stunning. You know, I think if you were to look at our Falcon model as an example, you would find that there are a cluster of scorch marks on it that exactly represent the way it looks in he movie. It’s these little details that it needs to have in order for it to feel authentic. And I think that goes for many other items in he game.
XO: The other thing I’ve noticed is that once you’re playing it really feels like you’re in Star Wars, like you’re in the movie. Of course the game world, the weapons and the graphics are all part of that, but the sound design is fantastic. How did you get it to that level of perfection?
SI: By having probably one of the best audio teams in the world, that also has the privilege of having the John Williams music at their disposal, and all of the original sound stems from the movies. And as I said, incredible talent. Battlefield has been known for its stellar audio, and the team are as much Star Wars geeks as everyone else on the team. One of the first presentations we did in a team meeting was our audio director Ben Minto. He did a presentation on The Sounds of Star Wars, and he explained things like… did you know that the sound of the TIE fighter is actually the scream from an elephant that has been modulated into the sound of a TIE fighter? And many of the sounds are actually modified sounds from animals, or everyday items that are used in odd ways to get those sounds. So in the same way that our artists have geeked out about bringing the visuals to life, the sound guys have done the same with the audio.
XO: There’s obviously a lot of pressure simply because you’re dealing with a huge and well-loved movie franchise. But fans of the original Battlefront games are just as passionate. Do you feel just as much pressure to please them, or perhaps even more?
SI: I think it all combines into one massive sense of expectation and anticipation, and the pressure that comes therewith.
XO: But you’re handling it?
SI: [Smiles] so far, so good.
XO: Of course Fighter Squadron mode means there are dogfights in Battlefront, but they’re not set in space and that’s been a point of contention for some fans. Why did you decide to stick to surface-based aerial combat?
SI: One of the things that we wanted to give [those battles] is a sense of three-dimensionality. We wanted to have Starfighters fighting – and they are part of both our Supremacy mode and our Walker Assault mode, so there is a ground-based battle, and a battle in the skies above where Starfighters are participating in the battle on the surface of the planet. Fighter Squadron mode is lifting them up a little bit, into the clouds. But we have the power ups basically on the surface of the planet; that’s where you swoop down to pick them up, and the environment becomes part of your combat area as well. We feel that this adds quite a lot of variety to the battle, if you will. It’s a design decision that we made.
XO: How will respawning work in vehicles?
SI: Of course when you’re playing Fighter Squadron obviously you respawn in a Starfighter. On the Empire side you will have the TIE fighter and the TIE interceptor that you can select at the start of the mode, and then when you die and respawn you have that selection again, so you’re not tied to a single vehicle. And then of course you have the hero vehicle pickups, which is how you become Slave 1 or the Millennium Falcon, depending on which side you’re on. In the ground-based combat, like on Walker Assault or Supremecy, you will find vehicle pickups, you spawn into the vehicle if you choose to, and then when you get killed you spawn again on the ground. And then you’ll have to find a new vehicle pickup if you want to fly again.
XO: DICE titles are known for a lot of weapons, and lots of customisation options. Is that the case with Battlefront as well? Did you have to add your own weapons to the Star Wars franchise?
SI: A little bit, yes, we did that. Particularly for what we call the power-ups that you find. In the levels you find these icons that give you power-ups, and some of those are something that you recognise, such as an orbital strike. But then we had to invent our own as well, to complement the rest, where we felt like ‘Okay, Star Wars really doesn’t have that class of weapon and we need it in the game.’ Like some of the turrets that we have, and what have you. So we have made additions to the arsenal in order to satisfy the design needs. In terms of the customisation, there is customisation for your soldiers, which has a number of options.
XO: Of course you don’t want one person become a hero and having them kill literally everyone on the other team. So how has that worked with team balancing?
SI: That’s a tricky one, because when you have a really, really skilled player as a hero, and they really figure out what to do, they can survive for a while. And you need to feel rewarded for playing skillfully, but at the same time you cannot become too frustrating for the other players. And I think that’s… I mean, we’re still iterating on that. You want that fantasy of being as super powerful as Darth Vader, you want to feel like you’re really much more than [a normal solider]. And what we’ve seen happen is that any time someone spawns in as a hero, they will become a magnet for the opposing force; they become like a mini-boss. Then you have one hero is fighting a few opponents which makes it feel more balanced.
XO: Sounds great. Will Jar Jar ever be a hero? Can we kill him over and over again? Please?
SI: [Gives us a stern look]