Interview: DICE GM Karl Magnus Troedsson on Battlefield 3 and the 'dying' PC platform

The Battlefield franchise has been circling in new directions on console and even on PC but not since 2005 has the original series been treated to a new instalment. All that changes in 2011 when Battlefield 3 arrives for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. Deciding to cancel development on a long-awaited PC version of Battlefield 1943 as well as the Onslaught DLC for Bad Company 2 for PC, developer DICE focuses its attention on the series that popularized the franchise. At a press event during GDC 2011, Shacknews saw the first live gameplay demo of Battlefield 3 and then had an opportunity to discuss the franchise and DICE's plans for the future with the developer's general manager, Karl Magnus Troedsson. BOOM video 8283 Shacknews: Today we're getting our first look at Battlefield 3's single-player campaign, which is something that is very new to the main Battlefield series. What was the decision behind bringing a single-player component to a game that has been a primarily multiplayer-focused franchise? Karl Magnus Troedsson: I would argue our games, this game and the other games we've worked on with single-player, that the core of the game is online. That's where the franchise was born and it's going to keep being like that. The idea, actually, is that we want a bigger proposition. We want to introduce more people to the game. People like to play offline and then perhaps try out the online part of the game. We wanted to add more components to the game. We want to introduce more people to the Battlefield franchise. That's why with Bad Company we introduced single-player, that's why we've been trying out co-op now with Bad Company 2. Now, with Battlefield 3, we have these components coming together to just have a big blockbuster proposition. Shacknews: I think this might be one rare instance where some people might feel a game is taking resources away from the expansion of a multiplayer component by making a single-player games. Usually, we talk about how single-player games are trying to throw in added multiplayer modes and the fear is that they won't focus on the aspect that made the series popular. Is there even a split here? Is Battlefield 3 a multiplayer game with a bonus single-player or a single-player game with a multiplayer component? Do you think of it in these terms? Karl Magnus Troedsson: Well, Battlefield was born with the online element. Everything we do will focus on the online first and foremost. That doesn't mean that we put less of an effort into the single-player. Like Bad Company and Bad Company 2, we put huge efforts into both. This might have something to do with me. I'm an online player and that's why I love Battlefield and why I still work at DICE. I would argue that our games are built multiplayer first and that there are other components that are latched on to introduce more players into that experience. Shacknews: At a certain point do you feel like you're competing with yourself? What I mean is, if you look at EA's library of shooters over the last few years there's Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and then Medal of Honor [DICE developed the multiplayer component of MoH], and now Battlefield 3. All of these games in the same genre pool. Do you feel like you're fighting your own games along with other shooters in the market? Karl Magnus Troedsson: I don't think so. I mean, you have to manage the different titles within EA's catalog and when they are released. There's a lot of smart people helping us with that. We're focusing on building the game. When it comes to the amount of titles we put out? As the General Manager, I'm pretty adamant that we shouldn't "sequelize" things. We shouldn't just ship a Battlefield game every year. When we put out a game we need to put our focus on it. Sometimes we jump in and help other studios, we've done that in the past. But our focus is always going to be on the core Battlefield games.

The original Battlefield series adds destruction to its menu.

Shacknews: Getting to the actual story in Battlefield 3. We saw some of it with the gameplay demo. Battlefield 3 takes place in 2014, and coalition forces are attempting to restore stability to the region that circles the Iraqi/Iranian border. What more can you tell us about this conflict? Karl Magnus Troedsson: We can't talk about the backstory yet. As you can see here, there is a conflict around the region. It's a fictional conflict; we're a few years in the future. What we can say is that there will also be places like Paris and New York in the game as well, so it won't only take place in the Middle East. Shacknews: There's a moment in the demo that notes an insurgency is makings its way across the border from Iraq to Iran. Is this a revolt? Karl Magnus Troedsson: It's more of an uprising. And then an earthquake hits, which definitely destabilizes the region and sets it all on fire. Shacknews: Did the team at DICE just think, "What's the one thing we can easily throw in to guarantee absolute destruction and show off our engine? Oh! Let's throw an earthquake in." Karl Magnus Troedsson: (laughs) Well, destruction is very important to us. It's definitely something like that. Shacknews: I saw the pictures of your hometown, everything seems so neat and in place. No decimated buildings. Why do you guys hate buildings so much? Karl Magnus Troedsson: (laughs) That's the thing! People usually say the Swedes are peace-loving people but we like blowing stuff up! Shacknews: Bad Company had destruction and Bad Company 2, I think, evolved it somewhat. In what we've seen here tonight, you level an entire city using Frostbite2. How much of that is DICE saying, "we need to do things better" versus "we need to do things bigger"? Karl Magnus Troedsson: Destruction is one of those areas we wanted to take one step further. To us it was a "game changer" and we introduced it because we wanted to--not just something that puts us ahead of the competition, which I think it does--but actually change the game. Campers have to move because the wall they were hiding behind was taken out or the house has collapsed. The goal with Battlefield 3 was to take that into the urban environments and do even more there. It's important for us when we introduce something like that. The team that has been working on this game, there's people here who worked on Battlefield 1942 and actually Codename: Eagle. The lead multiplayer designer, Lars Gustavsson is still with us and he's been with us since the beginning. There's people from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Vietnam, and Bad Company and Bad Company 2. It's pretty much the same team that goes on from the next project. We believe that's core to make the experience better. To have everyone understand, "Okay, we did this. That was good, that was bad. Throw that away, try this." We learn and keep going.

Battlefield 3 includes a dedicated single-player story.

Shacknews: Let's focus on the tone for a second. The first Battlefield: Bad Company was very lighthearted and even comical. Bad Company 2 took things in a slightly more serious direction. Where does Battlefield 3 fall in terms of the game's tone? Karl Magnus Troedsson: That's probably one of the biggest changes from Bad Company to this game. This is the sequel to Battlefield 2 in so many ways. It has to be much more authentic. I wouldn't say it's a realistic game because that implies it's a simulator and it isn't that. It's going to feel like proper US Marines. The way that your imagination would probably have them speak. That's what we're going for in the game. Shacknews: There was a Beta announced for Battlefield 3, which was attached to limited edition purchases of Medal of Honor. Is there any update on when that will arrive? Karl Magnus Troedsson: We're not talking about that right now but there will be much more information on that later. Shacknews: Something I know Shackers will be happy to hear is that the lead platform for Battlefield 3 is the PC. Is that based on technology? Is it a matter of building it to a high point on PC and then making sure it works on consoles afterwards or is it more balanced? Karl Magnus Troedsson: I felt that we had, maybe, set PC aside a bit too much. I've said this publicly before, we were very unhappy that we were not able to get a PC version out of Battlefield: Bad Company. It was down to sheer manpower, or lack thereof. We felt that we couldn't just bring out the Frostbite engine, and bring the game to consoles, and get the PC version out. We just failed there. It's something that we regret but it was a pure fact that we were faced upon. We fixed that with Bad Company 2. Now it's Battlefield 3 and we thought, "Now it's time to give some extra love to the PC community." But also, we strongly believe in PC gaming. Two years ago, maybe one year ago, people talked about "the decline of PC gaming." Or "the death of PC gaming." These kind of words were thrown around and, honestly, that's bullshit. PC gamers are probably the most hardcore players we have out there. Sure, online gameplay has been on the rise on the Xbox 360 and PS3. There are a lot of hardcore online players there too. But on PC? That's our core audience. Shacknews: There's a heritage there. Karl Magnus Troedsson: Yes. Shacknews: To that end then, does that mean the PC version will get the same support as the consoles? I mean, you mention Bad Company 2 coming to PC and it did, but some of the content didn't. Onslaught never made it to PC gamers. So, the PC platform is leading in the development phase but will it also be the lead platform when the game is already on store shelves? The "lead platform after launch." Karl Magnus Troedsson: I wouldn't call it "lead platform after launch" but it's definitely going to get the same post-launch campaign or whatever we do there is going to apply to the PC as well. In many ways, when it comes to Bad Company 2, the PC has been getting more love than the console versions. When it comes to more patches and these kinds of things. But, yes, I'm sorry we didn't get Onslaught out there for PC gamers. Shacknews: If Battlefield 3 turns out well, I suspect our community will gladly take that apology.