Battlefield V has been in the headlines an awful lot since its announcement, and not always for the best of reasons. With the game releasing in the middle of next month, though, we got to go hands on with a few sections from the game’s single player, sampling the various War Stories that it will feature at launch.
We then also sat down with Daniel Berlin, Franchise Design Director on Battlefield, and asked him about more than just the single player, but the reaction from the community, how the live service has changed Battlefield’s design and more.
TSA: You seem to have really settled into an anthology format for your storytelling, but what is it that you feel works better with that than what you were doing in Battlefield 3 and 4?
Daniel Berlin: This format kind of comes from the nature of Battlefield. Battlefield’s format is about driving vehicles, flying planes, being in infantry combat, being a sniper, a machine gunner. There’s so many sides to Battlefield and for us to depict that in a believable way in War Stories, the anthology format lets us do that. It wouldn’t make as much sense if you were a single character in a location, let’s say Norway, and you’re a guerrilla fighter, but then all of a sudden your flying a plane and then driving a tank.
TSA: I guess if you fly the plane down to North Africa and join the Desert Rats there? [laughs]
Daniel: Yes! That’s a good idea!
But from that perspective and the style and tone that we’re delivering in War Stories, it becomes that structure that we need to make sure we get Battlefield moments into single player and that the ‘play it your way’ comes into single player. You can approach any challenge the way you want, basically, to show the diversity of gameplay and to show the different people that were involved in these conflicts.
TSA: On that topic, there’s a lot of variety there, and I’m curious how you’ve picked the sources and built stories around them. Are they pseudo-factual? Are they from real accounts?
Daniel: Yeah, I’d say that’s a fair statement. The way we see it is that the War Stories live in the cracks between what is factual in history and what is fiction. So the battles are real, the contexts are real, and what’s happening is often real, but the characters that you’re following are fictional.
So we infuse fictional character, based on a lot of inspiration from real people that were there, the Tirallieur for example, and then we infuse them into real situations. It’s still fictional, but it’s heavily inspired by historical events.
TSA: And one of these stories will also have you playing as the Germans in The Last Tiger. You don’t see that in World War 2 games, and I think there’s a cautiousness around the American market, the taste, the tone. How are you striking that balance?
Daniel: So some of the main feedback we got from Battlefield 1 was just that; why is there not a German perspective? So we decided that what we were going to do for War Stories in Battlefield V, and as we’re looking around, the first thing we do is look at the gameplay experiences, and we saw that the tank experience in Battlefield 1 was hugely successful, so we wanted to have a tank experience in Battlefield V as well. If you look at the tanks that were fighting in WW2, you have to look at the Tiger, which is the definite tank. What the Spitfire is for airplanes is what the Tiger is for tanks. This is a daunting vehicle where the Allies were told to retreat if they saw it, the cannon itself is longer than a full Sherman tank!
So to depict that tank, we had to take a German perspective, and by doing that we then decided to tell a story about this tank crew and how they start to question why they’re fighting. Without giving away too much, it is a story where your actions have consequences and you have to live up to those. It’s not a hero’s story, but it’s an interesting story nonetheless.
TSA: That isn’t there on day one, though…
Daniel: No, it’s part of the Tides of War.
TSA: And that’s what I’m curious about. Is that something you’re going to continue to do in future, adding stories and single player through the Tides of War?
Daneil: We don’t know yet, actually. We’ll see what people like, what people want, but what I can say is that we’re really dedicated to the Tides of War. It’s a complete reset for us as a studio and how we work, because we now have the ability to add stuff to the game that’s not behind a paywall, so the way we approach building Battlefield V is just completely different structurally to how we’ve built games in the past.
So since everything’s going to be available to everyone without having to pay, we can just say “Hey, we put quality first, so it’s not ready now but it’s going to be ready soon and we’ll give it to you then.” It fits really well into the Tides of War and how that’s going to take you on this journey through WW2 and even beyond that. I can’t give away what we’ll be giving you guys in the future, but we’re super dedicated…
TSA: Give me the numbers! [laughs]
Daniel: Tell me how many maps! [laughs]
That’s the thing; as soon as you start talking about Tides of War, you start talking about content. It’s more about the experiences and making sure the experiences are unified. So if we deliver a new map, we need to make sure that the vehicles make sense on that map, that the weapons make sense, and deliver a full experience in that sense.
TSA: I think how you at DICE are revealing all of you plans has looked like it’s been difficult for you. Everything you reveal feels like it ends up being contentious, which lets you say you’ve got a passionate audience, but can also be a sign that it’s backfiring. You’ve had the women, the customisation, most recently some of Battlefield 1’s guns reappearing… is there a point where you feel like you need to hit a reset button in how you’re talking to the community?
Daniel: First and foremost, the thing you need to realise is that when you have a community the size of Battlefield’s community, which is millions and millions of players, you can’t appease everyone all the time. There’s always going to be someone who’s upset about this thing and someone who’s going to be upset about that.
The most important thing as a studio is that we have a vision and we believe that this vision is the right way to go. We’re really giving everything we’ve got to deliver on this vision, but more than ever, with the game working as a live service and the way we’re building these systems, we’re more than ever working with the community.
I’d encourage people to see what we’re doing, like how we’re having the Battlefield Dev Talks. You’ve got to look at the amount of changes that we made from the alpha to the beta, and now from the beta we’ve got the changes that we’re doing for launch. We’re continuously morphing and shaping this game based on feedback, and we’re not afraid to put stuff forward.
We’ve been that way before, I think, kept our cards close to our chest…
TSA: So the main thing I see is that people haven’t quite grasped is what Tides of War means for the game, and I think there is a very palpable worry that people have because of Battlefront II and the difficulties that game has gone through. I think you’ve got a roadmap coming out soon, but how are you addressing those fears?
Daniel: Yeah, so we hear you! We know people want more information and we have some information and some things we just haven’t said about yet. There’s some things we want to get reactions to and find out what it is that people actually like.
Because of the way that we’ve built this game, I will stress that we have a much more flexible Battlefield this time around. It’s a game that can actually handle a live service set up. We can change systems, we can alter things, we can build things faster.
Right now we’ve got to make sure the base game comes out and it’s the best it can possibly be, and from there on our we’re super dedicated.
TSA: Are we going to see a quick cadence to updates and additions?
TSA: Because Premium was every three months or something like that, so seasonal content can be one month, two months…
Daniel: Again, this is something that we’re going to see. What is the cadence that people want? There’s not going to be a set format either. Sometimes it could be a smaller drop, sometimes it could be a huge one. It’s all about listening to the broad community, looking at the forums and possibly even the telemetry of what people are playing.
TSA: And that’s something we don’t see outside. When you’ve got a very vocal audience, it could be a minority, but you’ve got more telemetry that can help you to know more.
Daniel: That’s a very real possibility, but we have the actual data where we can see that when people play this, they play for longer, they like this. Maybe it’s not the people that are super vocal online, but we can give something to that part of the community, then listen to this part of the community over here and give them something as well.
TSA: You’ve done a lot of stuff in the gameplay around what I feel is an almost unsolvable problem to get people that aren’t talking to play in a squad and work well together. How have you seen the changes that you’ve made with resources and stuff like that affect people’s play styles?
Daniel: So we’ve seen that the amount of ammo from the support class has gone up significantly! [laughs]
But I mean, in previous Battlefield games when you were playing Support, you gave ammo because you got points. Now you give ammo to someone because they need ammo, and they need you. You’re not just some guy who’s stood next to them and then you’re getting points sometimes, they need you and so the squad play comes together.
Looking at the beta, the feedback we got and the telemetry, we repositioned ourselves once again. If you look at the history of the public tests, alpha 1 had one set of balancing, we could quickly turn it around and try out another set for alpha 2, and then going into the beta we had a mix of alpha 1 and 2 – this would not have been possible with the old systems. Now we’re taking all that data and we’re reshaping the game again to be even better for launch.
One of the main things that came out was “When does my friend need ammo?” and “Who needs health?” These things weren’t clearly communicated in the beta, so we’ve put a lot of effort into making that communication much more clear. Also, the inputs of how to give things have been much more streamlined, so we’re doing a vast array of things for launch to improve upon these systems.
TSA: Personally my motivation was always just that I know what it’s like! [laughs]
Daniel: Yeah! But one of the things that we’re doing is we’re giving you more ammo at every spawn, and we’re actually increasing your max carry as well. We were on a harsh level of attrition in the beta, now we’re making it not as harsh, but it’s still something that you need to be mindful of. It’s more the experienced players that do really well and have seven, eight, nine, ten kills per spawn. It raises the skill ceiling for those people, where people that spawn in and just get a kill aren’t going to notice it.
TSA: Finally, Firestorm! Battle Royale! It’s interesting to say the different takes on it, and I think all you’ve shown is that tiny snippet in that one trailer, but is there anything more you can say on how you’re keeping it feel like Battlefield?
Daniel: We are actually quite tight lipped on this, so we’re not going to share many details on this, more than it’s going to be leaning into the Battlefield nature.
We’ve got so much stuff going on right now: we’ve got the main game coming out, there’s Grand Operations, there’s all these things. We want to focus on that now, and there will be a time in the future where Firestorm will have its place.
Thanks to Daniel for talking to us about Battlefield V. The game is out on 20th November for PS4, Xbox One and PC, and you can head here to catch our thoughts on the War Stories single player that we went hands on with at the event.