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EA PLAY Interview with Battlefield V’s Franchise Design Director

EA Play this year was anything but calm. Yet we managed to carve out some quiet time with DICE’s Daniel Berlin, design director for Battlefield V™, to discuss some of the work that went into bringing World War 2 to life, his thoughts on the recent hands-on multiplayer at EA Play, and what makes an only-in-Battlefield moment.

The Real World as Reference

It’s been almost a decade since the Battlefield franchise explored WW2, and although DICE has plenty of reference material to work from, the team dedicated themselves to an approach of showing the unseen and the untold from a conflict that has been portrayed quite frequently across various media.

“That’s one of the reasons why we are here at EA Play, to show it’s not going to be the Omaha Beach landing, for example. We showed it won’t be the usual parachuting behind enemy lines in the French countryside – it’s in Norway, it’s different,” Berlin said.

He added that Battlefield V will still deliver familiar WW2 fantasies, such as wearing the boots of a paratrooper in Airborne mode, but that they’ll happen across locations, events, and equipment seldom depicted.

EA Play attendees did just that. One of the playable multiplayer maps at the event was set above the Arctic Circle in German-occupied Narvik, Norway. Berlin explained that capturing the region – as well as the other settings in Battlefield V – for use in both single-player and multiplayer, required a dedicated team of photographers and audio capture artists.

“The artists get to go on these awesome photo scanning trips. They use drones and photo scanning technology to capture the landscape and whatever ruins and assets actually exist there,” he said. “This is basically what we do to also get the general composition of an area . . . [and] it’s fit on both a large and small scale.”

Likewise, the DICE audio team might also have the best job in the world.

The Sounds of Battlefield V

According to Berlin, the audio team were tasked with going on field trips equipped with weapons, explosives, and audio equipment, so that they could capture every decibel of each whizz, bang, and crack that will have players flinching in Battlefield V.

The audio team took no shortcuts. As just a small example of their efforts to bring the full scope of battle to players, Berlin detailed how they set mics at different lengths to capture the echoes of each weapon and explosion from varying distances.

A grenade detonation will sound and feel distinct when it happens at your feet, as opposed to when it wreaks havoc on a fortification in the distance. Similarly, the cadence of each weapon sound was captured – be it full auto, single shot, or burst fire – to heighten in-game immersion and credibility.

“This is one of the reasons that we have probably the best audio in the game industry with Battlefield,” Berlin said. “We use the real world as our reference.”

The Specter of 1942

Creative Director Lars Gustavsson previously talked about how the latest entry is a return to where it all started with Battlefield 1942. No doubt, Battlefield V will portray WW2 as you’ve never seen it, but if you’ve been around long enough, you may feel a tinge of nostalgia come October.

“For me and the team it’s also been about — not just the [World War 2] era itself — but an era for DICE. We want to give an almost nostalgia to our players sometimes when they are playing [Battlefield V],” Berlin said.

As an example, players might see a particular tank in North Africa for the first time, but they’ll feel vibes from Battlefield 1942. Berlin described it as looking at something again, but also for the first time.

Berlin also hinted at some more overt winks to Battlefield 1942 that are “spiritually” captured in the upcoming installment.

“There has been a spiritual inspiration for all the [Battlefield V] maps in terms of gameplay that we are tapping into, and when we go further and reveal more maps, we can point out and say this [map] is actually a spiritual successor to this one.”

What Defines an Only-in-Battlefield Moment?

Battlefield veterans know the feeling, the sudden moment when all the ingredients in the Battlefield sandbox come together for an improbable encounter straight out of a Hollywood director’s dreams.

Or as Berlin puts it, “unscripted, sandbox chaos,” distinct to each Battlefield game.

“I remember in Battlefield 4 when, all of a sudden, there was a 4x4 [vehicle] up in the hotel rooms driving around and players would strap it with C4. It was like what the . . . is going on?” he said.

Berlin predicts players will enjoy the chaotic moments that come out of the new way planes crash in Battlefield V. When planes hit the ground, they don’t just blow up any more, they land and skid across the terrain, spewing debris and twisted steel in their wake.

Berlin said he experienced more than a few of these moments at EA Play. One cheeky example he gave was when he toyed with the new towing feature while playing against a few attendees. If enemy players were in a vehicle towing an unmanned field gun, Berlin would jump in, flip the gun around and wipe them out.

“We pretty much built a rock/paper/scissors sandbox. Yes, we have boundaries, but pretty much everything is fair game,” Berlin said. “Just do your thing with destruction and the new Fortification system – it’s putting as many cool ingredients together that make cool Battlefield moments.”

The Squad That Stays Together

Much like the believable sights and sounds, nostalgia, and sandbox moments, it’s not a Battlefield game without cohesive team play.

Battlefield V introduces a different pace and flow to squad play with the addition of attrition, the squad camera, reinforcements, and other features detailed in our deep-dive. This means your best chance at success is to “stick together,” according to Berlin.

“We incentivized team play, but we don’t necessarily punish. If you want to lone wolf, it must be an active choice. When you join a match, you will always be in a squad, so you won’t ever be in a position where you will automatically be [alone],” he said. “If that is your thing, then you must choose it, but then you lose the team benefits that we have added in the game.”

Outside of the more explicit changes to squad dependencies, Berlin talked about some of the subtler design choices that encourage team work. When designing the multiplayer maps, Berlin said the DICE team could consider more than just where to place strategic entry points, they could now design for “capability.”

“A good squad should be able to, with a short time investment, completely fortify a [position],” Berlin said. “After an engagement, it just becomes matter of building the Fortifications and supply stations. A single squad can actually turtle a point and make it theirs.”

- Jeff Landa (Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffLanda)

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