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

After seeing the first gameplay of Battlefield 3, Shacknews spoke with Karl Magnus Troedsson, General Manager of the series developer DICE. We discuss the game's tone, adding single-player, and the "hardcore" PC market...

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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. 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.

Filed Under

From The Chatty

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 8:52 AM

      Lengthy interview with GM Karl Magnus Troedsson on Battlefield 3. More info from this interview coming in a preview for the game later today.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 9:02 AM

        Xav, I really think you should consider either adding in an excerpt or something more meaningful in these summaries, or just exclude them.

        Your first sentence, almost half of your post, is almost identical to the title of your article, which is visible in the parent post.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 9:05 AM

        Hey Xav, how's ur DCUO?

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 8:54 AM

      GREAT article!!

      He says all the right things, multiplayer first, then tack on single player to draw new folks in.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:04 AM

      Good, I'm looking forward to this. PC of course

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:07 AM

      what about the dicktits steam ?

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:10 AM

      Good read, thank you.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:10 AM

      Whoa that was a GREAT read. Thanks Xav.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:11 AM

      Are we still waiting for answers to the community questions from yesterday? Or was that it?

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 9:13 AM

        That's what I was looking for.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 9:22 AM

        There will be mention of the community questions in the preview a little later today. But don't expect many answers.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:12 AM

      Man, I'm looking forward to the audio in BF3 based on that video. BC2 had some amazing work done in that regard and it looks like BF3 will have the attention to sound.

      The single player campaign certainly looks pretty and will be a good "bonus" to the multiplayer :)

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        March 2, 2011 9:24 AM

        i think there was a lot of extra audio added to that trailer.

        for example for some reason they added audio effects to "bleep" out two of the three F-bombs (why?).

        • reply
          March 2, 2011 12:06 PM

          ESRB ratings. You can shoot people all you like but dont you dare swear mister!

          • reply
            March 2, 2011 2:07 PM

            thing is, they bleeped only two of the three "fucks"

            • reply
              March 2, 2011 2:33 PM

              PG-13 allows ONE F-bomb. Maybe the trailer has to fit that bill. :)

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:17 AM

      He's *sorry* he didn't get Onslaught for PC gamers?. He should be fucking ASHAMED.

      If they weren't thinking about making more dough from selling dedicated servers by removing LAN and not releasing server files, there would have been no problem at all with releasing Onslaught on PC. The greedy bastards dug their own hole.

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        March 2, 2011 10:02 AM

        ashamed? lol

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 10:28 AM

        ashamed I say!!! ashamed!!!

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 1:41 PM

        Yea, lack of public server files is pretty annoying and a lot of devs are doing that now. But maybe it is what it takes to make PC look like a worthwhile platform these days?

        Anyway, after they made that decision, it would have been too complicated to have Onslaught for PC. Beyond the original choice it isn't greed, just a big pain to get done.

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        March 2, 2011 2:21 PM

        Yeah....DICE/EA didn't generate any additional revenue by not releasing to the public the dedicated server files for BC2, nor will they for BF3. All they did was require a GSP to get "approved" to rent servers (i.e. they were "vetted", etc.) There was no upfront or ongoing licensing fees or royalties paid to DICE on server rentals.

        In other words...they don't make a dime by "selling" dedicated servers. (something that can't be said for Activision and their agreement with gameservers.com for exclusive rights to CODBLOPS.

        The truth is, DICE/EA decided to not distribute the server code in an attempt to slow down the rampant hacks/exploits that get generated as a result of anyone and everyone getting their hands on it. Whether or not that made a huge difference, I don't know, but THAT is the reasoning behind not releasing the server code into the wild - not profit.

      • reply
        March 3, 2011 12:23 AM

        were people really going to run 4 player PC onslaught servers along side 24 players or whatever the limit was?

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:20 AM

      <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 I like that guy a lot.

      Also, Xav. You're a hell of a gaming journalist/interviewer. So many interviews with developers are like "herp a derp, tell me how this game compares to CoD. Herp herp derp, how many weapons will there be?"

      You do an excellent job of asking pointed, interesting questions that can be answered in direct and interesting ways. Kudos.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 9:59 AM

        Thanks. Very nice of you to say.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 10:37 AM

        Agreed, good questions. Though he didn't quite answer the "lead platform" one, at least as far as the tech goes.

        • reply
          March 3, 2011 7:50 AM

          I'm hoping his non-answer wasn't his way of avoiding telling everyone that once the game is released, PC is gonna get screwed.

      • reply
        March 3, 2011 6:37 AM

        FYI I do agree with this, you do ask good questions that I like to see answered.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:23 AM

      Xav, I loved this bit -

      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?

      Great job on the interview.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:39 AM

      that video was AWESOME. I am so pumped for this

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 9:59 AM

      I'm normally a huge fan of Xav's stuff (interviews and especially reviews) but this interview didn't feel like it provided very much new info at all. :(

      But thank you for doing it, either way, Xav.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 10:00 AM

        Read the upcoming preview to find out why that might be the case.

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      March 2, 2011 10:01 AM

      It's a shame nobody wants to ask the tough questions.

      Like asking them to explain this and why it still hasn't been fixed:

      http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=+site:forum.ea.com+bad+company+2+loading+screen+crash

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 10:16 AM

        When I have ten minutes to ask them questions about a game they are showing off for the first time, I'm not going to dwell on their older games.

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          March 2, 2011 1:48 PM

          We need you to be the avatar of the bitter resentment of PC gamers. Dwell on all that has been lost, forsaken, and denied. Unleash that anger and rage and strike down the interviewee. Only then will your journey to the PC gamer side be complete.

          • reply
            March 2, 2011 2:28 PM

            He needs to be the Dan Hsu of shacknews.

          • reply
            March 2, 2011 2:35 PM

            Yeah and Shacknews won't be granted any interviews or exclusives.

            • reply
              March 2, 2011 2:48 PM

              if you want to make an omelet, you need to run a few business enterprises into the ground

            • reply
              March 2, 2011 7:14 PM

              but there will be much rejoicing!

              • reply
                March 2, 2011 8:14 PM

                I don't mind talking about elements that might be harsh or asking tough questions. One of my proudest moments was an hour and a half long video interview with Denis Dyack the week Too Human launched. These were back in my Joystiq days.

                I just don't want to waste my time. The GM for the company won't be able to tell me why a specific programming element was "broken."

                • reply
                  March 2, 2011 8:33 PM

                  Unfortunately, I think you should have stabbed Karl in the face after his spiel about sequels considering 75% of their catalog is playing off the same IP.

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                  March 2, 2011 10:29 PM

                  You could phrase the question in a way that asked why their support for games is so terrible.

                  No wait that still sounds harsh.

                  How about why they take people's money and then don't care anymore the next day.

                  Hmmm, I guess there's no nice way to ask this.

                  THE FUCK IS BC2 STILL BROKEN AFTER A YEAR!?!??!!?

                  Just how incompetent is your programming team on a scale of 1 to retarded?

                  Does EA give you enough time to polish a game, or they force it out the door before you have time to even playtest?

                  If 500 thousand people are having the exact same problem, but 1 million are not. Do you give a fuck?

                  Do you give a fuck from only a business sense or do you care about people that can't play your game at all because of something YOU did and they can't fix?

                  Do you read your game's forums at all?

                  What IS the meaning of life?

                  • reply
                    March 2, 2011 11:22 PM

                    Someone needs a timeout.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 10:43 AM

        Because that question has no place with BF3, except that BF3 will likely not run on the aging systems that seem to be experiencing those problems.

        Also, most of those threads are from 2010, release week.

        • reply
          March 2, 2011 8:14 PM

          Well this runs on a completely different engine. So, it's unknown.

          • reply
            March 2, 2011 8:31 PM

            O_o

            Not sure how your response relates to my response to the OP.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 10:56 AM

        This has nothing to do with Battlefield 3.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 1:05 PM

        The tough stuff

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 10:03 AM

      Good interview, can't wait for this game.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 10:36 AM

      no talk of ship to ship combat?

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 1:01 PM

        It's based in 2014. There isn't much in the way of ship to ship combat anymore, unless you count launching a missle at someone from 100 miles away.

        • reply
          March 2, 2011 2:15 PM

          yeah that is why you treat the ships like tanks though, you can still have ship to ship combat but its going to be with guided tomahawk missiles.

          Desert combat had this and it was so much fun.

          • reply
            March 2, 2011 2:51 PM

            I'm sure I'd have endless enjoyment with it. But in reality, in BF1942 99% of the time the ship to ship combat was just people goofing off, and had nothing to do with any strategic approach to the gameplay.

            • reply
              March 3, 2011 2:22 AM

              Not if your team had captured all but the beach in wake island and someone parked the destroyer in range of the beach ;)

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 10:57 AM

      Aww no question about having to rent servers or if we can run our own.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 12:58 PM

      I liked how clicking a link to an interview brought me to this page, and as I scroll to the bottom, the video starts at maximum volume, at the top of the page, while i'm down here at the bottom wondering which program exactly just started screaming AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA into my ears. Lovely redesign.

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      March 2, 2011 1:54 PM

      * I N F ' D *

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 1:58 PM

      That's sort of a misleading title, but ok. The video made me wet myself, at least.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 2:23 PM

      Awesome interview, Xav!

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      March 2, 2011 2:45 PM

      "Two years ago, maybe one year ago, Shacknews talked about "the decline of PC gaming." Or "the death of PC gaming."

      FIXED, shacknews was one of the leaders in the charge spreading vemon of PC gaming dying when the 360 was released. It constantly posted every negative PC gaming article it could find. While in the same instant never mentioning positive stories. I knew it was wrong and 2010/2011 is proving me right. ;P

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 2:47 PM

        Personally I think console games are pure garbage but you have to admit PC gaming as we knew it 10-20 years ago is absolutely dead.

        We're nothing but a niche with a handful of faithful developers like Paradox, 1c, Tripwire, etc.

      • reply
        March 2, 2011 8:15 PM

        I wasn't here then. Sorry!

      • reply
        March 3, 2011 8:03 AM

        Excuse me? You might want to back that up with some fact. Remo was still running things then iirc, and the topic was discussed, but never leaning in direction you're painting. Perhaps on the Front Page you were getting that vibe which is a land of console kid fanbois, but definitely not in the meat-and-potatos Chatty.

        • reply
          March 3, 2011 8:10 AM

          I'm pretty sure Chris Remo wrote about console games at some point, which in of itself was a direct affront to PC gaming. How much more proof do you need?

          • reply
            March 3, 2011 8:25 AM

            I heard that Chris Remo was in the same room as an XBOX once and frankly I am disgusted

            • reply
              March 3, 2011 8:32 AM

              If that's true, he just lost all journalistic credibility in my eyes.

      • reply
        March 3, 2011 8:23 AM

        Death of PC gaming was an inside job.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 6:44 PM

      Any chance this game will actually run out of the box?

      BC2 took a few months before it was playable. So has most of the previous BF titles.

      • reply
        March 3, 2011 11:57 AM

        My hope is that BC2 was a bit of a "test lab" for DICE, and that they learned alot of lessons as far as what PC gamers/server operators want and need for the game to be successful. A strong API for backend server administration, along with (working) reserved slots will go a long way towards getting the independent server operators/communities behind the game. (the reserved slots that were FINALLY implemented on BC2 were actually a very solid way to do it, and I hope they use that same queue system for BF3).

        Since this engine is essentially an upgraded version of the BC2 engine, alot of the bugs they squashed with BC2 should prevent the same thing(s) from occurring to BF3. My only real fear on launch day is EA once again failing to anticipate the demand placed on their authentication servers, and most of us will get locked out as they scramble to add capacity for several days. My advice to EA would be to lure away some of Amazon's network engineers, and build a system that can scale regardless of load.

    • reply
      March 2, 2011 7:01 PM

      This just all sounds too good to be true, a while ago I've turned by back on EA / Activision. The trailer though looks fantastic and the PC development sounds fine, will wait for a demo.

    • reply
      March 3, 2011 12:00 AM

      Xav is the man when it comes to these articles. Thanks mate.

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      March 3, 2011 12:38 AM

      Well worded questions, especially the approach on asking about PC focus. Good article.

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      March 3, 2011 1:42 AM

      So their motivation for choosing PC as the main platform was guilt? That's a terrible reason if it's true.

      • reply
        March 3, 2011 7:54 AM

        I don't care what reason they have as long as PC gets some love.

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      March 3, 2011 8:23 AM

      The game looks great, 64 players, jets, prone, PC as lead platform, but by reading the comments you would think the game was a 3 vs 3 Wii exclusive. Even when we get everything we want it seems PC gamers only know how to complain. I love PC gaming but sometimes I think the community has gotten so used to feeling hard done by that we have actually come to enjoy moaning about our unfair treatment so much that even when we get what we want we stil find something to bitch about.

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        March 3, 2011 8:47 AM

        Not sure what you're going on about. There's been pretty much nothing but praise for BF3 from the PC folks. It's just that the interview is pretty light on the more nitty gritty details of what we can expect from MP --- which is what BF is about regardless.