Battlefield 1943 Interview: DICE Talks PC Changes, Delay Conspiracies and Battlefield 3

"It's not supposed to be the game that's gonna replace your big games, like Battlefield 2 or 2142," producer Gordon Van Dyke tells me of the upcoming Battlefield 1943. "It's more action-based and it's not as heavily [focused] on the strategy, per se."

Powered by the Frostbite engine--the same technology that was behind last year's destruction-happy Battlefield: Bad Company on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360--the downloadable multiplayer shooter packs remakes of three Battlefield 1942 (PC) maps.

But make no mistake console Battlefield fans, this isn't just Bad Company with three different maps. Even though it uses the same overall technology, the gameplay has been tweaked, focusing more on fast pick up and play action than strategy.

Those that have played Battlefield 1942, you're in for some surprises too. Sure, you may know the maps by heart, but the addition of destructible environments changes things a bit. A fence blocking your progress? Go ahead and knock it down with a blast or two.

And while the diehard Battlefield community has been extremely vocal regarding its opposition to the game's regenerating health, unlimited ammunition and the 24-player limit, there may be good news for those willing to wait for the later PC version.

Though nothing's set in stone, Van Dyke explained that "those are all things that we're taking into consideration" for the PC release. "We know that the PC crowd, they look for some different things in games than maybe somebody on the console."

The later PC release of 1943--the $15 download hits consoles in June and computers in September--is because of the extra development time needed to bring the previously console-only Frostbite technology to the PC and "create a proper PC version of Battlefield 1943 and not a console port," Van Dyke previously stated.

One thing that definitely won't change, however, is the three class limit. And it's doubtful that any changes made to the PC version would come to the console editions.

But what about mod support? Once the Frostbite engine is on PC, does that mean that future games, like Bad Company 2, will hit PC and consoles at the same time? And what's up with the oft-rumored Battlefield 3? Read on to see what Van Dyke had to say.

Shack: There have been some rumblings that the PC edition of Battlefield 1943 could remove the 24-player limit of the console versions along with unlimited ammo and regenerating health. Any truth to that?

Van Dyke: Those are all things that we're taking into consideration. We know that the PC crowd, they look for some different things in games than maybe somebody on the console. So it's definitely something we're thinking about, but we're not gonna restrict one or the other.

Whatever we do come up with, we're gonna try and make sure we maintain the core values of this game that we've worked so hard on and the core gameplay features, but then look at what the PC can support and if it can offer some alternatives and things in that nature.

Shack: How far have you been able to push the player count? Can the Frostbite engine do 64 players on PC?

Van Dyke: Those are questions I can't answer. I mean, right now, we're not in a position where we want to start answering really heavy details about the PC version. That time is gonna come, I mean, we've got plenty of time to go.

Right now, we don't want to say "yes" or "no" to something because we do have that extra development time, and that's where we're going to be able to explore. One we get this [console build] and we put it to bed and we let it to rest then a lot more attention is going to go into exploring those additional things, above and beyond what this one has. BOOM video 1895

Shack: You've indicated that more maps could arrive based on player feedback. Any chance that more classes could be added post-release?

Van Dyke: I think we're gonna stick with the three that we've got with this game, because that's the specific formula for this game. It's not supposed to be the game that's gonna replace your big games, like Battlefield 2 or 2142.

We're not looking to really, just, steal those types of games or capture that much attention, but this should be the game that you really want to play, that's kinda quicker to get into, it's more action-based and it's not as heavily [focused] on the strategy, per se.

It's more about the fundamental cores of Battlefield, which is capturing flags, killing the enemy, driving lots of vehicles, or being a soldier and taking out lots of vehicles and feeling like, you know, you're David versus Goliath and I just bested this guy in a tank and you suck, because I'm just on foot, I'm just flesh and blood ...virtually.

Shack: A few of our readers speculate that Battlefield Heroes and 1943 are essenitally the same game, and that the existence of 1943 means that Heroes has failed.

Van Dyke: No. Battlefield Heroes... I wouldn't even call it a casual game. It's a different kind of game that took the elements of Battlefield and made a new flavor out of it. And it hasn't failed, at all.

I mean, it's doing what it's supposed to do, which is [to] be accessible on all levels of computers. Frostbite is not for the weak of heart. I mean, Frostbite is a serious engine. I'm sure people saw at GDC, one of our top programmers, Johan Anderson, did a presentation about DirectX 11 graphics and implementing things like that.

Our guys are thinking really far ahead, and also looking at what's going on currently. Frostbite is a really robust engine, and, for the guys that are really into it, they're gonna get some use out of, you know, their hardcore computers that they spend speccing and posting up those little signatures showing off how their PC rates.

Keep reading for more on the costs of delays, a denial of "evil doctor genius-type guys up at the top of the ivory tower of EA," the "magic five" and some Battlefield 3 talk. _PAGE_BREAK_

Shack: By the way, I have to really hand it to you for making the most out of that "summer" release window. The console versions are due the first few days of summer with the PC edition...

Van Dyke: ...a few days before summer ends? Yeah. It's still summer. It's still summer. You can complain [but] we said summer 2009. You can play it in September, but it's still summer, technically. And in California, we have Indian Summer, which is even longer.

Shack: With the delayed PC release of 1943 stemming from the desire to properly bring the Frostbite engine to PC, will Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the next Frostbite-powered game, be hitting PC and consoles simultaneously?

Van Dyke: I'm not sure. It depends on the development of the PC version and then the console version.

Nothing's ever done intentionally. I know a whole lot of people think that there's these evil doctor genius-type guys up at the top of the ivory tower of EA going "one million dollars" with their pinky to their lip but it doesn't happen like that.

It's just about resources, it's about planning, it's about timing, it's about unforeseen things coming up that, you know, could affect it and change everything. There's a real ripple effect in game development. It's a very orchestrated event, and if you have one person that's just sick for a day, it could cause a ripple effect for the whole development and change everything.

To delay anything costs so much more money than it would to actually release it, ahead of time. If you ever hear of a game being delayed, it's definitely not this plan to make more money.

Shack: Unless the game is already done and delayed for marketing.

Van Dyke: Right, unless it is done, then yes.

I think the intent is always to try and release them as closely as possible. The thing is, Battlefield games are multiplayer games, so you log on online--the piracy thing isn't an issue like with single-player games. You don't have those type of fears, that's not what we're worried about.

What we're worried about is quality, and we're really trying to focus on that track, and then focus on this engine and really develop and make it really really strong and make it a powerhouse.

Shack: Any chance that we'll see cross-platform play for 1943?

Van Dyke: Definitely not on 1943, and I don't see us going that direction [in the future], but that's not written in stone.

The thing is, if you wanna do cross-platform play, there's too many variables that you have to give and take for both directions. I think with a game like Battlefield, you should focus and make sure that you're delivering it right for that platform and never give up something just for the sake of cross-platform play. I think you gain less from that--that's just me as a developer thinking.

For the Xbox 360, you can get Games for Windows [cross-platform play], but you have to make sure that your 360 controller is compatible [with the PC edition]. We don't want those kinds of restrictions.

As an example, we're gonna go forward and we're just gonna do, like I said, a true PC version [of 1943], so there's not gonna be 360 controller support and things like that.

Shack: Let's say you drop regenerating health from the PC version of 1943. Any chance that option would eventually come to consoles?

Van Dyke: I think we're gonna stick with what we've got for the console version. I don't see us making any changes like that. For one thing, we have to pick up the server costs, we maintain the servers, and we do everything like that.

Whereas in PC-type games, you can make that accessible to the users, and you can let them manage their server. But with this, this is our servers, and to put in those types of options, it just makes a confusing environment for the end user. I think we would definitely leave it as it is for the console version. BOOM video 1784

Shack: What about an SDK for mod support in the PC version?

Van Dyke: We're not gonna have one, not for 1943. But that's always something we're looking into.

Shack: A while back, DICE was said to be working on five Battlefield games in the works...

Van Dyke: The magic five [laughter].

I would say that a lot of things have changed since [then], that was when the executive producer was Ben Cousins. Now it's Karl-Magnus Troedsson, so, a lot of things have changed. Karl-Magnus, he is really a huge player, and he's really into Battlefield.

That whole thing about "what's the five, what's the five?"--I would let that go, but just know that he hasn't forgotten the hardcore groups. He played Battlefield 2 adamantly, he loved 2142. He and I used to play late at night at the office after release. I was the producer on the updates for that when it first came out.

He hasn't forgotten them, and I think in the future, the fans that are going "oh what's going on," I think that they'll be happy with a lot of the decisions that take place and go on with DICE in the future, but nothing happens overnight.

Shack: That said, I have to ask, where's Battlefield 3?

Van Dyke: There is no Battlefield 3 [laughter]. That's just a rumor! Where's that PDF? It doesn't exist! [laughter]

[People] just need to be patient and wait. DICE isn't going anywhere. There's going to be more games, and I think that those games are really gonna hit what it is that people are seeking from a Battlefield game in the next generation.

Developed by DICE, Battlefield 1943 hits PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as a $15 download in June, with the PC version following in September.