Battlefield 2042's 'goofing off with friends' potential just shot off the charts. Today, EA revealed Battlefield Portal, a way to make, share, and play custom Battlefield game modes. It's not a map editor and it doesn't open up Frostbite's innards to modders—it's a web tool, in part—but it does look powerful enough to make some pretty wild custom Battlefield game types. 128-player knives vs defibrillators? Sure.
The cherry on top is that Battlefield Portal doesn't just let you muck with stuff from Battlefield 2042: It also includes a selection of maps, classes, weapons, and vehicles from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3.
Essentially, Battlefield Portal (which is included with Battlefield 2042 as one of its three main modes) allows everyone to create custom Battlefield sessions and invite friends or the public to play whatever weird custom game mode they've concocted. You could equip a 32-player team with K98 rifles from World War 2 and have them fight a single squad of specialists from the year 2042.
That would be pretty easy to set up, even, and the tricky part might just be attracting players. You can play any mode with bots, though, and they'll do their best to make sense of it. Or you can design a mode specifically to be played against bots, with friends if you like—that's what I'm most excited about. Me and some friends with a bunch of Battlefield vehicles vs an army of bots? Seems like an excellent use of time.
To back up a bit, there are two main parts to Battlefield Portal:
- A sort of "server browser" where you can join custom Battlefield modes made by EA and other players, or start your own instance of a mode.
- A web tool where you can design your own game modes, modifying variables such as map rotation, weapon tuning, team sizes, vehicle availability, and movement speed. There's also a logic editor where you can create more surprising rules, such as swapping a random gun into each player's hands when a condition is met.
Earlier this week, I watched a presentation and spoke to Battlefield Portal senior design director Justin Wiebe, learning lots of granular details about what's in Portal and how it works. Here are the important facts:
What maps are in Battlefield Portal?
At launch, Battlefield Portal will include:
- Battle of the Bulge (Battlefield 1942)
- El Alamein (Battlefield 1942)
- Arica Harbor (Bad Company 2)
- Valparaiso (Bad Company 2)
- Caspian Border (Battlefield 3)
- Noshahr Canals (Battlefield 3)
- All seven Battlefield 2042 maps
Though they'll be very similar to the originals, the classic Battlefield maps have been "rebuilt for the latest version of Frostbite" and are not 1:1 recreations. Destruction has been added to the buildings in the Battlefield 1942 maps, for instance.
All of the maps support up to 128 players. Shoving that many people into Bad Company 2's Arica Harbor sounds absurd, but you can do it. It'll be messy!
What weapons and vehicles are in Battlefield Portal?
Along with everything introduced in Battlefield 2042, Portal will include more than 40 weapons and more than 40 vehicles from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. Here's an incomplete list of what will be available:
Battlefield 1942 vehicles: Sherman, Panzer, and Tiger tanks, Spitfires, Stukas, B-17s, stationary guns, and more.
Battlefield 1942 guns: The M1911, Thompson, M1 Garand, MP 40, STG 44, Walther P38, K98 and K98 Sniper, Panzerschreck, Bazooka, and more.
Bad Company 2 vehicles: M3A3 Bradley and M1 Abrams tanks, UAV-1 (remote control helicopter), Humvees, and more.
Bad Company 2 guns: The M93R, G3, AKS-74U, M416, MP-412 REX, SPAS-12, M60, Type 88, XM8, and more.
Battlefield 3 vehicles: F/A-18s, AH-64 Apaches, a bunch of tanks and light vehicles.
Battlefield 3 guns: The P90, DAD-12, A-91, AN094, M16A3, ACW-R, and more.
There'll also be 30-plus explosives and gadgets from across the three games, including Battlefield 1942's basic explosives, binoculars, and wrench. Bad Company 2's mortar strikes, C4, and defibrillators are there, as well as the EOD Bots from Battlefield 3. You can create an army of EOD bots and fight an army of Battlefield 2042's Ranger robo-dogs if you want.
How are the guns balanced?
They aren't, really. Updated tuning is available for classic guns, but you can also select "historical tuning" if you want the M1 Garand to behave more or less like it did in the original Battlefield 1942. It's up to the mode designer to deal with questions of balance or imbalance.
Obviously, a team with M1 Garands is going to have a hard time against a team carrying M16s. A designer could make the M1 Garands more deadly by increasing that team's damage multipliers, or just let them have weaker guns and make their team larger, or give them some other advantage, like more vehicles, or special gadgets.
The vehicle tuning will be a little looser, I'm told, so the disparity between a Spitfire plane and a modern jet probably won't be rendered literally. We'll have to examine that when we can fly the planes around ourselves.
How powerful is the mode editor?
There's no spatial map editor or access to Battlefield's code or assets, so you can't redesign maps, place your own objectives and spawn points, or create new vehicles. It's not quite Halo Forge, and you won't be building your own battle royale mode (I specifically asked if that was possible and the answer is no), but you can make some pretty wild-sounding modes. A couple cool features: You can change variables per team, making asymmetrical modes, and you can tweak AI settings for solo and co-op experiences to play with your friends.
Variables you can edit, as a small example, include class, weapon, gadget, and vehicle restrictions, toggles such as friendly fire, HUD visibility, and whether or not early reloading is allowed, and numbers such as movement speed and body part damage multipliers. For the game rules, you can use a mode preset, such as Conquest or TDM, or create your own mode with the logic editor, which lets you trigger actions when certain conditions are met. "When a player gets a kill, restore their health to full," for example.
Based on the walkthrough I saw, here are some potential designs you could try:
- A 64v64 defibrillators vs knives mode
- A VIP mode (teams only get points for killing a specific player on the other team) in which you start with a new loadout every time you die
- A snipers vs shotguns mode
- A "hardcore" mode with no HUD, no player IDs, no sci-fi gadgets, and custom weapon tuning
- A mode in which there are no guns, only vehicles
- A PvE mode in which you and a handful of friends fight an army of bots
- A 1v127 mode (good luck!)
There will be some limits out of consideration for not crashing the game: You can't give 128 players one F/A-18 Hornet each. Disappointing, I know. (It was one of the first questions I asked.)
How will you play and share Battlefield Portal modes?
It's kind of like everyone gets to run a customized dedicated server with their preferred map rotation and ruleset, though of course you're not really renting a physical server. You're running a custom game instance on EA's servers that stays up for as long as players are using it.
So, on your personal Battlefield Portal "server", you can load the rules from a game type you made, or one that someone else made. You can password protect it and invite only friends, or leave it open to the public. So long as one person is in the server, it'll stay up and you can rejoin it. If the last person leaves, it poofs out of existence, but you can just start a new one and load up the same mode the next time you want to play.
Wiebe acknowledged that it won't be easy to get 127 other players into a mode you just designed, but pointed out you can design smaller modes or use bots to backfill your server until people show up (if they show up). I'm not completely sure how well random new servers will be surfaced, or if they'll get any attention at all without promotion, but big forum and Discord communities will probably rally around modes they like and keep instances of them populated. That's what I imagine happening, at least, if Battlefield Portal is at all successful.
EA will also feature official Portal modes and community-made modes it wants to highlight. Those you'll be able to matchmake into like normal playlists, so they won't be as ephemeral as the games you run yourself.
You'll be able to share your mode as a code that others can use to run their own instances of it, and also share it in editable form via a web link if you want to let a friend tweak it, for example. (Funnily, you can use the mode design web tool even if you don't have the game and can't actually play the modes you design.)
In a nutshell, it's the dedicated server and modding culture of old, but smoothed out for the modern world of cloud hosting and "no code" development (a big Silicon Valley buzzword right now). It's not limitless like modding and server administration, but it's easier for everyone to mess with.
I'm particularly excited about the PvE potential. I don't know that I'll ever rally over 100 people to play a big custom competitive mode I made, but I could get five friends into a stupid game where we fight WW2 soldiers with F-35E Panthers. That in mind, I'm now extra curious about Battlefield 2042's bots. DICE says they're pretty smart, so hopefully they don't spend a lot of time walking face-first into walls.
I'm more excited for Portal than I am regular Battlefield 2042. Conquest is fun and all, but making up stupid co-op games with my friends sounds more fun. Ripple Effect (formerly DICE LA), the EA studio leading Portal's development, won't say what future plans it has for the mode, but it doesn't sound like more advanced tools or more classic maps are off the table.
Battlefield 2042 releases on October 22, 2021. Battlefield Portal will be there at launch, as will the typical Conquest and Rush modes (labeled "All-Out Warfare" this time), and another mode, called Hazard Zone, which we're still waiting to hear more about. EA also said that a Battlefield 2042 open beta will take place in September.