Battlefield 4 producer discusses 'Night Operations' and how nightfall changes the game

It's easy to assume that a Battlefield 4 map switching to night is simply an aesthetic change, but the upcoming Night Operations update promises to be far more than that and change the game in ways the average Battlefield player may not be considering. To learn more about it, Shacknews spoke to DICE LA producer David Sirland.

2

It was largely easy to miss, given everything that Electronic Arts and DICE had to show off during Gamescom 2015 earlier this month. There was a lot of excitement surrounding Star Wars Battlefront and Mirror's Edge Catalyst, but one of EA and DICE's most exciting announcements was quietly revealed back at home.

Despite most of DICE focusing on new projects and a new Battlefield releasing earlier this year from Visceral Games, Battlefield 4 continues to chug along and pump out new content. And the latest content update looks to be one of the game's most exciting additions to date. The remaining members of the Battlefield 4 team quietly unveiled Battlefield 4 Night Operations, in which some of the Battlefield 4 maps have made the switch from day to night. This is far more than an aesthetic change, as the sudden shift to evening hours means teams will be working under the cover of darkness, so they'll have to utilize stealth, make better use of their tools, and be wary of light sources potentially giving their position away.

This sounds like a total game-changer, so Shacknews wanted to learn more about the upcoming Night Operations update. For that, we reached out to Battlefield 4 producer David Sirland to ask about how much nightfall will change operations as players know them.

Shacknews: What made you decide to add Night Operations content for Battlefield 4, especially considering it's been almost two full years since the game launched?

David Sirland, Battlefield 4 producer: It was a pretty easy decision. We have a lot of players still and we felt we wanted to do this and please as many players as possible. The reason we picked night maps, in that vein, is that we saw players toy around with dark maps using the cinematic tools and we thought, 'What better way to please that part of the community than by actually making night maps?' We have a lot of night tools and we saw this as an opportunity to tweak the night tools a little bit to make them better and we went as far as going to sound, as well, to make it even more possible to play a stealthy game, if you will.

Shacknews: I've looked at the Zavod: Graveyard Shift map and I wanted to ask, what has this map opened up to you in terms of weaponry and gadgets?

Sirland: In general, you have to play the game differently, especially since it's a map that you know. It's one of the base game maps. It's a map that most people have played before. The point here is that you have to play differently, so that's why we added lights to all of the vehicles and interior lights to the transport helicopter. Taking out a vehicle normally is like a safe haven. You ride around in a vehicle and you can survive pretty easily. But riding a vehicle here makes you a target.

The same goes for actually making sounds and all that stuff, as well. So it opens up a lot of flanking routes that wasn't possible on the sides of the map. You can sneak around and take the back flag in Conquest Large fairly easily now compared to before.

Shacknews: From a design standpoint, what goes into changing one of those base maps from day to night? I'd imagine it's more than just simply flipping a switch and just changing a setting.

Sirland: Absolutely! We could have just done that and flipped it to night, but that wouldn't have been as interesting as it is now. We've added a lot of lights that you can destroy that actually are synced over the network, so when you destroy a light, it gets darker. We've touched all the gadgets, so that night vision is more applicable during night.

We started with light, of course. That's the key thing here. But once you do that, we realized the map started to get too dark. We don't want a map that's too dark or too black, but you do need areas that are that way, because we want people to be able to sneak around. So you have to identify which areas you want to be the dark ones and the potential dark ones, where you put lights that you can destroy. For instance, the tunnel between "C" and "D" on this map was originally totally blacked out. That wasn't fun when we tested it, because once you turn all the lights out, you can spawn in blackness and see nothing. And that's obviously not fun. So we added small lights on the floor that kind of tells you where you are, even though it's really dark. And the same outside spaces and indoor spaces have different lighting, as you've probably seen. Indoors, it's more dark and you can actually hide inside in crevices, corners, and so on. Outside, it's actually moonlit or there are some lights, but surrounded by fog. That gives us a lot of fun gameplay differences from the regular map, where the key to the map is get on the roof and shoot people on the ground floor. That's kind of hard now, because there is this fog around, so you can kind of sneak around in the fog. So we wanted to add new dimensions to the gameplay, not just "go dark."

Initially, people play exactly the same. Then they realize after a while, "Oh, wait, this is not as effective as it used to be, because I'm just getting killed all the time." If you run or sprint, your footsteps are really heard and I can pinpoint. I don't even have to aim. I just wait for you and shoot you.

Shacknews: You kind of touched on this already, but in what other ways do some of the other standard game modes like Conquest, Rush, or even Team Deathmatch change when you make the switch from day to night?

Sirland: I think this will be very interesting when it goes live, because we've seen this in our play tests internally and we've seen it on our testing environment, which we've been testing this map extensively on. Initially, people play exactly the same. Then they realize after a while, "Oh, wait, this is not as effective as it used to be, because I'm just getting killed all the time." If you run or sprint, your footsteps are really heard and I can pinpoint. I don't even have to aim. I just wait for you and shoot you. Once people start realizing that, the game changes. Everyone starts trying to be silent, everyone starts using tools, using smoke to cover even more. Flares even started getting used now, because it negates IR and night vision optics. It's like this evolving meta-game. I don't know where it'll end just yet, but I know it makes the game very different.

Shacknews: Talking about the Community Test Environment (CTE), how has that feedback factored into the design for the Night Operations content and the Graveyard Shift map, in particular?

Sirland: I'd say extensively. This was for the community, almost initiated by the community. We had ideas of doing night versions of maps internally, as well. But then a couple of YouTubers started having a little get-together, where they tried darkening a map and seeing how it played. It looked interesting to us from a gameplay point of view, so we thought, "We should try that. Let's a pick a few maps to test this on." And Zavod was our pick to be released, because we think it has a nice balance between infantry play and vehicle play. And also, from a memory standpoint, it was easier to finish for all platforms.

Shacknews: I'm checking out the Zavod map, but is the team also open to giving the same nightfall treatment to other maps, as well?

Sirland: We did have a Halloween event last year on the Community Test Environment, where we made Pearl Market and Dragon Pass dark. We also added a crazy CTF mode with a banshee that could run and jump really fast. But the darkness of those maps, we have those still, so we could start toying around with that. We also have a Golmud Railway night version that we are working on and we are also working on Siege of Shanghai. Those are not finished, they're in a prototype stage. We'll see what happens with them, but we are a small team, so we have to pick our releases and do a map at a time, more or less. But they're there and they're playable on the Xbox One CTE and the PC CTE.

Shacknews: In the original announcement post, you also noted that some of the game's weapons will receive some tweaks. Can you go into more detail on how they'll be adjusted?

Sirland: It's a fairly large patch notes list. I've actually finished creating the patch notes list since [Thursday]. In general, we've touched all night optics and made them function better at night and worse during the day. They're affected more by lights, flares, and flashbangs, really negated by their use. There's a tactic right now where you can lay down smoke, use IR, and use an LMG to kill everyone. There is counters, but we've made it even moreso.

We touched sound and improved the sound obstruction engine. That makes it very easy for you, with some training, to pinpoint where people are, compared to before. Sounds gets affected by things between you and the guy making the sound. Let's say he runs behind one of those tanks, you hear that he's behind the tank, instead of hearing that he's to the left behind you. That really helps.

And we've touched vehicle night vision. Vehicles have lights, both front and rear lights. Transport helicopters and miniguns have floodlights, so they have spotlights on them when they're occupied! So it's a very good spot for a sniper to just wait for a light to come up, so you can just shoot them.

Shacknews: I know the obvious assumption is that this is coming to PC, since Battlefield 4 still has a large, dedicated following on PC. But is Night Operations also coming to consoles?

Sirland: Yes! It is coming to all platforms; all five!

Shacknews: Same day?

Sirland: That is a good question. I can't tell you that. Probably not. Like normal, it will probably be staggered. It's like a normal Battlefield release, like the spring patch. I can't give you a date, but they should be very close to each other. There's no "Premium" or anything like that. Everything comes down at the same time, as much as we can.


The Battlefield 4 Night Operations pack is set to release on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in September.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty