If all you’d see of the game was the reveal trailer and the subsequent backlash, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Battlefield V is all about female cockney redhead commandos showing just how much German soldiers don’t like it up ’em. Having had the opportunity to dig into the character progression and customisation at the game’s review event, we then also spoke to DICE to clear up some of the more niggling questions surrounding the game and its long term plans.
Firstly, we now know what’s in the game at launch, and though many of these customisation options are very much still there in the final game, it feels like the most sensationalised examples have been toned down – in a separate interview, Senior Producer Andreas Morell said this was more what BFV could look like in 2 years time. More importantly, they don’t really come to affect the second to second gameplay. With DICE having removed the ability to spot and mark enemy soldiers and replacing it with a more kind of warning ping, they’ve also had to do more to make soldiers stand out and contrast with the surroundings, giving them a slight specular highlight to their outline. From a distance, it doesn’t matter if someone’s wearing a fancy trench coat, whether they’ve got goggles on, or whatever. Even up close, it doesn’t really matter, in my opinion. Probably the most noticeable change is the presence of female voices as orders are called out, you ping enemy locations and so on.
Still, for people who want soldiers to have strict and regimented uniforms, Battlefield V’s customisation options are broad and often border on the ridiculous. The “God Save The King” trench coat is in there, there’s gas masks that are more commonly associated with the 1980s than with the 1940s, odd combinations of googles, helmets and scarves, paratrooper gear mixed with regular ground-pounding infantry. It’s an unholy mishmash, but I won’t deny quite enjoying playing around with dressing up my various soldiers and slapping gold liveries all over my guns.
Battlefield V doesn’t quite look like this at launch, but it might do eventually.
Progression is another interesting one, spread across Career, Class, Weapon, Vehicle, and Chapter. It’s wide, but within that it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. You level up with whatever you’re using, there’s unlockable attachments and perks, but now there’s also ‘Company Coin’ which is earned and goes toward unlocking cosmetics. All of that can then be customised on a per class, weapon and vehicle basis. Eventually that will be joined by a real world currency to buy those cosmetics as well, but it won’t be able to affect or gate gameplay.
Heading into Tides of War, a few elements have had players nervous of DICE’s intent and how these services can often lean too heavily toward pushing microtransactions. We spoke to DICE’s Ryan MacArthur for clarification on a few of the more awkward and picky points.
TSA: From the Tides of War reveal, it seemed as though chapters and in-game events can feature some exclusive unlocks, which also then extends to guns. Is that the case?
Ryan: So we will distribute guns through the chapters in various different ways. Chapter progression initially won’t have guns in it, so the longer level progression will have various things like cosmetics and stuff like that. We’ll do distribution of guns and gameplay stuff with weekly events, but basically no gameplay will be gated from players. If you’ve missed a gun, there will be another way to earn it. It might not be right after, but it’ll be pretty close.
Cosmetics are more likely to be exclusive for a longer duration of time, but gameplay won’t. If you’ve missed out on this gun? That’s cool, you can get it another way. Players will get a small amount of exclusivity with it, but not to the point where it’s unfair.
TSA: And are you saying that’s going to be true of cosmetics as well?
Ryan: Cosmetics, it’s not set in stone, but the way we’re looking at it is we want to thematically tie them to each of the chapters. So if you get cosmetic Y during the invasion of X, then unless we want to bring that invasion back again, we kind of want that to stay there. What we’d like to do for now is treat them as though they’re exclusive forever, that’s probably the best way of looking at it. We don’t want to promise that they’ll come back, but right now the plan is that we’ll see what people want.
The weapons we’ve actually got a plan for how those can be seeded back in with a fairly short cycle, so players can always have that loop of playing the game and earning things. Cosmetics we’re going to try a few different things throughout the live service to see which is the one that players gravitate toward the most.
TSA: With Tides of War, and this is mainly because Black Ops 4 seems to be messing it up, will it be reasonable in the amount of time that it takes to get to the end of the content stream and unlocks. How are you weighting that in relation to the length of each Chapter? Each Chapter is going to be roughly two months?
Ryan: Yeah, so the first Chapter is going to be short, it’ll be about four weeks, and then it’ll be somewhere between eight and twelve.
So without going into the time, we want most players to be able to finish [the unlock chain]. Each week they should be able to finish the weekly event while also giving a normal player time to do other stuff as well. The goal is not to require players to do only the event, so if you like to just do Conquest, you should be able to finish the weekly activity and then go and do that.
The Chapter progression, we want average players to be able to finish that, and how we’ve done that is that if you just play Conquest and you don’t feel like doing the weekly activities, you still earn XP toward chapter progression. You can just play the game and get stuff. The thing that the weekly rewards give you is XP bumps for the chapter progression, so the fastest way is to play all of the weekly events as much as you can.
We want to be as fair as possible, so we’ve tuned it to leave it open and we can balance it so that the majority of players are having the time. Hopefully everybody gets to it if you try for it, but we’re going to be tuning as we go, and one of the big things about the Overture chapter is making sure we get that balance right so we can feed that into the next ones.
TSA: I think you’ve answered it already, but progression is based on XP and actions instead of time played, which I think Battlefront II started with?
Ryan: Ours is action or score based. Basically, XP is equal to score and then everything feeds into that XP bucket. So if you score with a weapon, you get XP plus weapons XP for that weapon. If you do the chapter reward, that gives you a bonus bump of XP into your chapter XP, that kind of stuff. You have to do things to earn things, you can’t just stand there.
TSA: In terms of the overall volume of content, people are looking at Tides of War and thinking about it in relation to Premium, which was obviously big drops of four maps at a time. I guess it’s not purely about maps now?
Ryan: Yeah, the way we want to look at it is to provide a deeper experience as opposed to a deeper amount of content. That’s why we’ve shifted away from, “Here’s four maps, we hope you like them.” It’s now, “Here’s a game experience that you get to partake in, and here’s a piece of content that supports that.”
The good thing by going that way versus how we’ve done things in the past, is that we can take a bunch of the stuff that we’ve already made and then accentuate that as well. We can create a much richer experience based on what the players are actually going to do versus where they’re actually going to do it. That’s the direction we’re going, so I think it’s not an apples to apples comparison.
What we’ve seen from BF1 is that maps are super cool and people like to talk about them, but then when they get them, playing them is more problematic because they think this map is better than that one, and there’s not enough people playing the ones they want to play. What they gravitate towards is gameplay experiences, so what we want to do is change that dynamic and take advantage of what players are gravitating toward and give them content experiences that fit the way they want to play. That keeps them in the game longer, that keeps them more engaged, that makes it more fun for everybody.
That means we need to focus on gameplay first and then build content that fits the gameplay. What we’re going to see from players is whether or not that makes sense.
TSA: Finally, how reactive are you going to be with your plans? Are the first three chapters kind of set in stone, or is there scope to manoeuvre?
Ryan: There’s scope within all of them. So, what we want to do with the chapters is communicate with the player base that each of them has got a gameplay theme and a couple of foundational features, but inside of that is all the room for how weapons get tuned, how do we fix issues, how do we create more experiences? These are things we know for a fact we’re going to do and try, but the rest of it comes from where the players are taking the game, so we can adapt to that. That’s going to be the big change in what we’re doing, because developing four maps? You’ve got to start that six-seven months in advance, but now we can go, “Here’s an idea we have, let’s try it!”
I think it’s fair to say that, even with DICE’s assurances, a lot of this is still in wait and see territory. Tides of War launches a few weeks after the game’s release on 20th November, while it’s heading into PlayFirst Trial on Xbox One and PC tomorrow, 9th November. However, even without that, there’s plenty of game to tuck into, and you can check out our Road to Review to see how it’s coming together with all of its new and evolving ideas.
Our advanced coverage of Battlefield V came from a review event held in Stockholm. Travel and accommodation were provided by EA.