EA will have seen the success Activision has had with its Call of Duty franchise and want a piece of the pie. Medal of Honor is making a comeback later this year, but in the mean time the publisher's first-person shooter success rests on the shoulders of Swedish developer DICE. The Battlefield creators are finishing up Bad Company 2 in preparation for a March launch, and we caught up with senior producer Patrick Bach to get the inside story on how they went about an all-round improved sequel.
Q: The first Bad Company did really well, lots of people liked it, but the consensus seems to be that the single-player was slightly weaker than the multiplayer. Is that your perception as well? What's been your attitude going into single player this time?
Patrick Bach: I think you're completely right. That was more or less the first time we had a stab at a single-player component for Battlefield in the studio. Not only were we creating Battlefield on a console, we also did single-player, and we created a completely new game engine on top of that. So why have a few problems when you can have plenty of them? So we kind of stacked up all the problems and of course in the final product you can see that there are some really positive sides, but there are also some weak spots where you can say, hmmm, that could have been done better. So it's an obvious answer to focus on the weak spots, but if you only focus on the weak spots and try to mend them, you kind of lack the vision of where you could go. So we tried to take that aside, and then create a new vision for where we wanted to go in the end. What's the ultimate goal for the single player for a Battlefield game?
And of course Battlefield is all about the sandbox, the vehicles, the variation and stuff like that, so those were the keywords we took into single-player. On top of that we took what's good about the single player [in the last game]. A lot of people liked the squad, but some people felt it lacked military focus. It's a military shooter, so why does it feel they're just playing around? So by adding the back story, making sure that people got the back story, making sure that all the weapons and vehicles and all the military stuff gets more focus... It's not that it wasn't there, it's just that people didn't see it. It's also partly due to how the game was marketed. It was marketed as a goofy, happy gun-gun game, and that's also something we took with us here - to show what the game is all about, to market it in the right way so people "get" it.
Q: So you want this game to be perceived as being less goofy - or taken more seriously, perhaps I should say?
PB: "Taken more seriously" is probably better because the squad is still there, and they still have the same personalities. We got a lot of positive feedback - extremely positive feedback - that the game felt more personal, in a way more realistic, than other shooters. It wasn't a superhero game; it was a game about people in a war. So that is of course something you want to build on, and make sure that you get the same feeling and the same warmth from the actual people, so they're likeable. You don't want the hard-ass guy that no-one cares about - you want the guy that, you know, I can relate to that person. That's probably something I would say if I was in this situation. So you want likeable characters. And then of course one of the big things that we found lacking, and that we felt we could expand on, was the variation. Not only from a vision standpoint, because we can make pretty visuals and go from place to place, but also in terms of gameplay - making sure it's not the same run and gun all the time. When it's the infantry experience its how the enemies behave, how the squad behaves, and also the gameplay objectives - why am I here, what am I supposed to do? And then on top of that you add all the vehicular action that is a part of when you play multiplayer - you can man a machine gun, take a ride in a helicopter, drive this vehicle to wherever you want - and you make that a part of the single-player as well. You give people the full spectrum battlefield, so to speak, instead of just having a maze and a rail.