Battlefield 3 preview

Craig Pearson at

This ends the demo. I start to wonder about using rubble as an offensive weapon in its own right. There’s technically nothing stopping DICE from allowing the player to shoot out a ledge or a hunk of concrete from above a dug-in enemy, but it’s not yet a feature. There’s a question of balance to consider, especially in multiplayer. They can do it easily enough, and the idea of winkling out a particularly well concealed enemy by blasting rubble from the wall above him feels like something that could make BF3’s single- and multiplayer a thing of beauty. But there’s a flipside. Injuring or killing someone by not aiming at them? There’s the vocal fanbase to consider, and ‘rubble is overpowered’ threads on forums.

It’s a quintessential Battlefield dilemma, according to Troedsson. “When we talk about it, we talk about it in pretty much the same way as we did with 1942. We have a core idea: the all-out war. It’s three-dimensional war, it’s vehicles versus infantry, different kinds of vehicles, land, air, sea, and there’s always this background idea of the rock, paper, scissors. There’s always something to counter the other thing that comes out. If you’re sitting in a jet fighter you can’t be almighty powerful and rain death on the people below. There should be something that can take you out.”

Which is something you can’t really do with rubble.

One refrain I hear from DICE again and again is that this is a sequel to Battlefield 2, and not an extension of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. They’re aware that they’ve taken a long time to return to their PC-specific blockbuster. But it’s been an interesting ride. Without the time they took to build up a fanbase on the console, Battlefield 3 would probably be a hell of a lot different.

Troedsson explains the detour they took after 2006’s Battlefield 2142: “We had one instalment of Battlefield out on Xbox, which was Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, in which we were very happy with the multiplayer, but very unhappy with the singleplayer. We felt that it was a lame addition to a game that did pretty well without it, but at the same time we felt ‘you know what, we can make this really right.’ We felt we needed to be successful on the next-gen consoles in order to be competitive, in order to maximise the interest in our franchises. In order to do that we decided to build a new engine.

“We started to build Frostbite 1. We put a lot of years into that engine, not something I would recommend doing again. It was a huge challenge for us, a challenge that proved to be so hard that trying to do PC at the same time would have been impossible. The engine guys couldn’t have put together the whole PC pipeline either. Maybe we could have thrown something together which would have been a 360 version running on PC, that’s not the way we do it. Then, when we moved over to Bad Company 2 that seemed like the natural next step, let’s make sure that we add PC in there as well. I know there are people in the PC community that say ‘oh Bad Company 2 is a sellout on PC, blah blah blah, it’s a port’. I don’t agree with them.”

There are reasons for those grumbles, though. Bad Company 2’s server browser came out completely broken, you can only buy a dedicated server and not host your own. PC gamers demand more from their games regarding connectivity and control. If DICE are honest about their intentions for this to be a direct sequel to Battlefield 2, they need to consider such things as mod tools and custom maps. We are a different platform from the closed ecosystems DICE have been tinkering on for the past few years.

Troedsson is at least considering the implications. “I should say that we haven’t decided on exactly how we’re going to do this. One thing you can take away is that we’re having a big discussion about it here at DICE. How are we going to handle mod tools in the future? How are we going to handle the fact that the PC community wants a standalone server they can run themselves? I’m not promising anything. We need to take care of our business, that’s what it comes down to in the end. What they can expect is that it’s going to be a huge leap forward from what we had, generally, PC gamewise from what we had in BC2.

“PC is the leading platform, conceptually, for this game, definitely. We are going to make this game on 360 and PlayStation 3 as well, [but] we need to scale it down to those platforms. The PC players are going to love to hear that I’ve said that, but that is a fact. The hardware specs, on the console, are limited. At the same time, for each iteration on these console platforms we can utilise the power of them better and better, so what we do on the other platforms is going to be amazing, and look much better on the PC, too. There’s going to be unique features on the PC version of this game, some of which I think people are going to be very pleased about. I can’t reveal all of them here, but I can reveal that there will be a lot of extra love put into the PC version of this product.”

You’d better

This is only appropriate. I honestly couldn’t care what type of game ends up on the other platforms, or what concessions are made. If DICE are looking to make the best Battlefield game they can for the PC, then it needs to include the basics we’re used to.

And what of multiplayer? A few snippets of information were dropped during the day. The single- and multiplayer will have the same destructible environments. The PC will support 64-man multiplayer, and jets will return to strike fear into the hearts of everyone on the ground. DICE’s audio team have spent a lot of time recording super-loud planes so that people on the ground will know what direction these sky-beasts are coming from.

Troedsson confirmed there would be co-op as well, without dropping any details. DICE rarely disappoint when pitting gamer versus gamer, however. As Troedsson points out, they can’t help themselves: “It’s at the core of what we do, and the reason the company exists: people here play a lot of multiplayer games, and co-op games. People like to play together. People are sitting upstairs or here in the game room and they’re playing Left 4 Dead, people still play Counter- Strike, or they’re playing StarCraft. It’s about playing together a lot. It’s rooted in our DNA.”