Q: From what I've played so far of the single player, it feels like there will be a lot of set pieces mixed into the action. If you look at Modern Warfare 2's campaign, it was almost like an extended set piece. What do you think is the optimum balance for this, to make a good first person shooter?
PB: I think we're getting to a point where we can actually prove that we know this is what we want to give the player. The balance with set pieces... A set piece is an awesome narrative tool to get you from A to B to C. You make sure that everyone sees this cool movie, but it feels like a game. Everyone will see the same movie, and you will get the same experience, and therefore you can orchestrate it and direct it to be exactly this or exactly that. But then again you want freedom - not only in terms of choices, but also the feeling that it's not on rails. This wall is not part of the maze, this wall is a wall. I wonder what's behind it. I'll blow it up and have a look. Because that's a very important part of how your brain works. You want to find out more, and to find out more in a classical linear narrative arc... you want the page-turner thing. I wonder what will happen next. But in a game, since you're in control, you want to figure that out. I wonder what will happen if I go this way? I wonder what will happen if I shoot that guy and take his vehicle and I drive that instead of running? I think the game wants me to run, but I will try to challenge it. And you don't want the game to break, you want the game to handle that in the way you expect it to. And I think that's the biggest challenge: how do you handle a maze where you can break the walls? Then you lose that kind of narrative pacing that you're striving for. So what we're trying to do is to build both. You build the path because you want the narrative arc, but on top of that you have to build a system that can handle when things break and when things change. I can tell you that is quite challenging!
Q: How important are the destruction mechanics to this game? Are you concerned it will just be perceived as "The destruction game"?
PB: When we talk to the marketing or PR people they want you to pick one thing about the game, "what's unique about this game", and we'll say the destruction so they'll build the marketing campaign about destruction. When we started we said we will build the engine to support the destruction in a way that we haven't seen before because we asked ourselves "what will all games have in five years?" And it was more than five years ago when we started, we saw that as a piece of the puzzle. You want physics in a game, you want rendering, you want trees, you want rocks, you want soil, you want all these pieces and we saw destruction as one of these pieces. It's not a feature you put on top of things; it's actually a piece of the environment. The environment is now destructible, yes, but it also can do other things where destruction is part of that system, so it's really more part of the sandbox rather than a feature or tool that goes on top of the sandbox. To your point destruction isn't a feature that you want people to say this game is about destruction, it's a game of Battlefield where destruction is a part of the environment. Of course destruction is all around you, the bigger the gun, the bigger the hole.
The cooler thing with our destruction is the result over time. Even in single-player when you start the map everything is pristine and tidy and when you're done it's just a burning wreck. Everything is changed, there are no more hiding points and you can't play the game the same way as you did at the beginning of the map. You actually have to change your play style and this creates a very dynamic game world. If somebody hides behind the same wall to snipe you can destroy this in the game. This keeps everyone on their toes and I think that's really cool, the way you can screw with people's behaviors by changing the environment.
Check back soon for part two of our interview with Patrick Back, in which he talks about MAG and the challenges in making a game that supports so many online players.