The Battlefield is a brutal, unforgiving place, but when you've got Bad Company by your side, it's even worse. Thankfully, we've enlisted the help of DICE producer Gordon Van Dyke to take us through all things Battlefield Bad Company 2, due out in March. Read on for his take on everything from Modern Warfare 2, the depiction of war crimes in video games, to even Uncharted 2.
VideoGamer.com: How do you approach toying with the Battlefield formula for Bad Company 2? There's always that if it isn't broke then don't fix it argument. How do you go about tweaking what you've got? In your own words, how do you see it?
Gordon Van Dyke: Hm. That's a good question. A lot of it has to do with gut feeling. When you're making these games now, it's about how can you improve the experience? A lot of people who don't play Battlefield are interested in it, but it's like the scary cousin that's way bigger than the rest of you, and you don't know why he's so big. So you're nervous to play with him. Is he going to crush me? Is he going to hit me on the head? Is he going to sit on me? You don't know what to do with that situation so you just avoid it. The biggest thing is we've tried to maintain - we always need to maintain that nucleus of Battlefield, right? The core things that make Battlefield, which are big sandbox environments, with a mix of vehicles, you have infantry, and now, since Bad Company 1, you have destruction. Those four key elements encourage what we call Battlefield moments. As long as you focus and keep those four core things the same, it's okay to experiment with different ways of doing the game.
Take 1943, for example. We did replenishing health, which we'd never done before, and replenishing ammo. People freaked out about that. People freaked out so much that some of the more senior people at DICE started freaking out. The lead producer of that and myself - we were both on that project - we were like, don't freak out, we've seen people who have actually played it and they loved it. Just trust us on this. It took a lot of coaxing, but they finally did say, okay, fine, we're going to trust you on this one. And it worked out. People realised that you don't have to - those outer layer gameplay mechanics aren't going to change you feeling like you're playing Battlefield. You don't have to have the medic pack to feel like you're playing Battlefield. You don't have to have an ammo crate to feel like you're playing Battlefield. You need vehicles to feel like you're playing Battlefield. You need the open world, sandbox environments, you know these huge maps. You need the infantry combat, and now you need the destruction. If you took one of those out, then you're really changing things. But if you're changing the small things, those are things you should never judge until you play it, because it might actually turn out better than you thought.
One of the big things people were upset about was the kill cam. A majority of the responses - not everybody's going to like it and maybe some of their gut feelings were right - but the majority of people were like, we like this. But we're also trying to make sure that, come release time, we do have a lot of variety, and we'll reveal more of that later, but a lot of variety that will appeal to a broader group as well. You have options and choices you can make, and that's a big thing as well. Especially now with games, people want some options and they want variety.
VideoGamer.com: At the same time though, you've got to have that balance of giving people options but not flooding them.
GVD: Yeah, absolutely. It is tricky, and that's something you work on. We're, at DICE, trying to make sure we encourage and retain the core group of guys that are working on these games, and make sure their knowledge is being shared and communicated through DICE, so we keep learning and grow and get better. We're focused on the Frostbite engine, so you're going to see, as long as people want them, I'm sure you'll see more games come from DICE on the Frostbite engine. It's a big focus of ours. If you look at a lot of companies, they do really well by focusing on one engine and building up that core knowledge on that platform.
VideoGamer.com: Speaking of Battlefield 1943, are there any plans to release downloadable content?
GVD: It's not cemented plans, but right now it's not in the plan to start working on it right away. It's about smartly managing your resources, and we want to make sure that our games, more and more, the quality just gets better and better. If you're branching off your team and trying to throw out some map packs - we know people have said they will buy them - but is it what's best for our current project that we're working on? Will we impact that and hurt it in any way? Unfortunately, you do. We could throw it out there and make a quick buck. But, to us, people's feeling of quality and the value they're getting is more important than turning around and churning out a map pack for an easy dollar.
VideoGamer.com: What about Vietnam? Is that a particular idea you'd like to do?
GVD: I'd love to do any of them. We have such a wealth of back catalogue stuff we could pull from and do something similar to that, that it's almost mind-boggling. Right now, anybody's guess is as good as mine on what we could do. But definitely know that the back catalogue is a great resource for us, and we definitely would look there first - for a little inside scoop!