Exclusive Interview with Lead MP Designer for BF:Hardline

20 Dec 2014 12:00pm

Our returning Battlefield player CryptiK was able to nab an exclusive in-depth interview with the Lead Designer for Battlefield Hardline. 
Take a look at what to expect when the game releases!

Hi Thaddeus, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. So first up how does it feel working in your very own “Cops and Robbers”-themed Battlefield?

Hi Nathan. It’s my pleasure, as you probably know I love talking about the game.

To be clear, this isn’t my very own Battlefield – this is a huge franchise, with a long history, with hundreds if not thousands of peoples’ input into it constantly, and a complexity so immense no one person knows all of the details.  The franchise was created by DICE, this game was developed by VISCERAL, and the community’s input has informed it - it’s a colossal monster of a project, and I am honored to be allowed to represent the hard work of so many people.

How do you feel about that Battlefield eSports community? And how does Visceral intend to support that community?

I’m a very competitive player, and I love the idea of being able to find like-minded people of similar skill to play against.  I think the surge of eSports we can see in popular media is a great thing for gaming, and one I whole-heartedly want to support.  

Our design approach is highly iterative – we make something, we get feedback, and we change it.  This applies directly to our approach to eSports and competitive play.  We think the best path forward is for all of us to have an honest, transparent discussion about what is needed and what needs to change in order to best support eSports moving forward.

In comparison to Battlefield 4 how big is the push for eSports? Will we see ESL One/International like tournaments?

That’s our hope!  If Hardline is loved by the competitive players, we would be delighted to see it adopted by the major eSports communities and see it show up in sponsored tournaments.

So you guys have announced one of the small format modes, a take on hostage rescue. Under play testing how do rounds play out? Does destruction stay around and is there a lot of it? Can you revive more than once?

The rounds play out lightning-fast and super intense.  With a 3 minute time limit, you’re really encouraged to be aggressive on the attacking side, but with no respawns you have to do it smart.  Hardline’s toolbox gives you a lot of different tactics to use, and I’m excited to see what kinds of strategies develop at the top levels of play.  Just start to think about the possibilities ballistic shields, flashbangs, effective smoke and tear gas grenades, sabotage bombs, deployable cameras, grappling hooks and ziplines all bring to a tactical mode - and that’s not even half of the list of tools.

One amazing improvement our hardworking engineers have managed is reducing map reload times – it currently takes between 5-10 seconds to reload a map.  Now, that’s a relatively recent improvement; it used to be the case that reloads took as long as initial loads (which was upwards of a minute).  This kind of long load time really breaks up the flow and tension of a match, as you can imagine.

Destruction cannot be reset without a map reload.  When we were playtesting the maps early in development, we decided to disable map reloads between rounds during a match because it destroyed the flow and pacing.  This meant that destruction could not be reset between rounds - anything you destroyed one round was present as destroyed the next round.

This actually turned out to be great for gameplay.  Deeper strategies started to develop, round over round.  “This round, let’s flank around the back and explode the rail car to create a back entrance – but don’t go in that way, go in the sides.  NEXT round, rush the back and swarm that new route!”  Players started to note what had been destroyed or not and took advantage of it in their play.  Now that we have lightning fast map reloads, we could reset the destruction each round – but we’ve chosen not to.  What started off as a limitation turned into a feature!

In regards to the revive question, we made it so that you can only be revived once per life.  It reduces the importance of the revive mechanic, helping to balance the Operator class, but still allows for careful teamwork.

We also have heard of the yet to be announced second small format mode. Can you give us one hint Single Life or Respawns?

I’d love to tell you all about this mode, but we’re keeping it secret for now.  I will drop you an exclusive hint – it’s also a 5v5 single elimination that pairs nicely with Rescue.

How about large format? What do we have in that regard? Will we have a competitive mode for that?

How large are you talking?  You might have seen that we’ve talked about 64 player Conquest and Team Deathmatch for XB1 / PS4 and PC.  I’m not sure how interesting or effective spectating would be in these modes, and I can foresee logistics challenges with handling teams that large, but if the community wants us to support this style of play for competitive, we’re listening.  We don’t have Obliteration or Domination, but we hope some of our other modes might be better suited for competitive play, like Blood Money or Heist.  All of you will tell us what you like, though!

There have been lots of talks about Matchmaking and that it will be coming to Battlefield 4, what’s your opinion on that addition and are we going to see something similar at launch for Hardline if not at launch possibly in the future?

I think skill-based matchmaking as an option would be very positive and powerful addition to the existing system.  It’s something we will not have at launch, but we are very much interested in providing it further down the road.

Will the matchmaking have ranks akin to CSGO?

We’ll develop our own system, based on best practices and the systems that work well in the real world.  When the time comes, we’ll talk more about this.

A big problem in the recent Battlefield games for competitive players has been suppression and its randomness. Are you addressing this? If so in what way?

Did I mention we’re constantly listening to the community?  ;) We heard you on this one – we’ve removed the randomness from suppression, it no longer kicks your aimpoint around.  Instead, a black vignette darkens the edges of your screen, giving you more of a “tunnel vision” effect (not a blur), reducing your situational awareness.  This means it’s less about who shoots first, and more about the clever teamwork and positioning needed to take advantage of the suppression feature.

How is the team going about the balance of fire rate vs damage? I have noticed we now have the Vector with its 1200 RPM, how have you balanced that gun for example?

Gun balance is a favorite topic of mine.   You can typically balance one aspect of a gun by changing another – for example, a classic is increasing dispersion per shot for high rate of fire guns, meaning that the gun gets less accurate the longer it fires.  You can increase recoil, too.  The real key is damage per second, though – how many rounds can you land on target with this gun, and how damaging are they?  If you think about it this way, there are some other knobs to tweak.  One of the great things about Battlefield’s unique “through the gun” experience is bullet damage falloff.  In Battlefield, the farther a projectile travels the less damage it does (to a point).  We use this for guns like that 1200 RPM beast – the .45 cal round does a lot of damage up close, but it falls off quickly, meaning it can get out-DPS’d by slower rpm guns outside of its effective range.  There are a couple of other little tweaks, too, such as having a 25 round magazine, that all collectively add up to help balance the weapon.

Our general philosophy is that each gun has a job.  Whether it’s a flexible mid-range weapon like an assault rifle, a slightly more specialized close-to-mid range gun like a carbine, a long range striker like a sniper rifle or DMR, or a close-quarters specialist like an SMG, we’ve tried to give each gun a character and different feel as well as an optimal situation.  This helps prevent things like “the best gun”.

An issue that made its introduction after BF2142 is Spawn protection. Will it be present in Hardline? If so, would it be possible for a server side setting to disable it?

There is no respawn protection in Hardline.  When they can see you, they can shoot you.

Now one of the bigger questions is Server side options, how greatly have you expanded on Battlefield 4’s options in this regard? And will we be able to have all attachments unlocked in Unranked?

Battlefield 4 had a reasonably rich set of server options.  We’ve got the same set, with a few additions.  This doesn’t really get at the real issue in my opinion, though, which is the lack of options for Official servers.  We’ve got some ideas on how to bring a richer experience to Official, but we won’t have them for launch.  For example, we’d love to bring an official “Pistols Only” experience to the Official playlist, it’s something we are investigating.

We’re also working on the ability for admins to lock or unlock whatever weapons and gadgets they like.  Want a smoke grenades and knives only server?  Can do.  Want to make a stun gun only Rescue variant?  Can do.  We embrace the Battlefield sandbox philosophy and want you, the player, to have the power to play the game how you’d like.

Yes, everything is unlocked in Unranked.  All of the goodies!

Pausing games between rounds is at times a must. Will this be an option? For example a teammate drops out during the round, will I be able to Pause during countdown for the next round?

We’ve heard this before, but it’s not something we were able to achieve in time.  It could be added in the future.

Have you made any adjustments and improvements to the spectator mode?

Visceral designed and implemented the Spectator Mode for BF4, so we’re quite familiar with it.  We have ensured that Official servers have 4 spectator slots by default, and these don’t occupy client slots.  I’d ask the community – what improvements to Spectator do you want to see?  Besides BattleRecorder, obviously, which we’ll talk about in a couple of paragraphs.  ;)

Will the game have a Community Test Environment?

Yes.  DICE LA has done an amazing job engaging with and supporting the Battlefield community, and we want to continue this trend.

As with every Battlefield this question has to be asked will we see the return of the Battlerecorder?

Short answer?  No.  Long answer, we’d love to.  It’s difficult and time-consuming.  It’s definitely been talked about and is on the table, but don’t expect it any time soon, sadly.

It’s a stretch but how about LAN support? Will we be able to LAN up and hold competitions without the worry of needing fast internet connection?

This is another one of those topics that we’ve talked about but are unable to support at launch.  Again, give us your feedback as to how important this is to you, and we can begin those discussions about what the most valuable and important additions to the game from a competitive standpoint are.  To paraphrase Lars Gustavsson, “There are a million things we would like to do, but we can’t pick them all”.  Help us prioritize the feature set with your input.

DICE have held community events in general, will there be any events centred around eSports or in general? E.g like CSGO’s Sticker betting.

It’s too early to tell, but that sounds like fun.  I’m sure we’ll have something for you!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this.  Drop us your comments on the Battlelog forums, we’re always interested in your feedback.

Regards,

Thaddeus Sasser
Battlefield Hardline / Lead MP Designer
Electronic Arts - Visceral
Twitter:  @dirtydeathdog

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Again we really appreciate that you could take the time to go over the questions. I can tell you right now that the transparency that you have displayed with the community over twitter and via news has brought hope back to the Battlefield series. Some of the changes that have been made show that Visceral are really listening to the community and I hope that when the game releases this continues forward.  

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