One of 2011’s most anticipated games, Battlefield 3, finally hits PC and consoles this week and TGL caught up with DICE Producer Patrick Bach for an eleventh hour chat about all things Battlefield.
We ask Patrick about the run up to launch, about the overwhelming scrutiny and dissection the product undergoes, releasing his game in a window already brimful of triple AAA titles and for the official word on what THAT Battlefield 3 E3 Dinosaur was all about.
Here we go…….
TGL: How do the team at DICE feel in the run up to Battlefield 3’s launch? Is this a particularly busy time for the team or can the team take their foot off the gas so to speak?
Patrick Bach: No it’s not a busy time. We’re past that. Most of the team is off; we’ve sent them off on vacation. The rest of us are slowly roaming the office because we don’t know what to do. In general, people are done. There are only a few people around just finishing off the practicalities of actually launching the game. Then we have quite a big team actually handling the launch of the game and the post launch focus of the game that we have. This is the first time we actually have a whole team focusing on post launch activities, not only with the Back to Karkand expansion pack but with taking feedback and listening to what people think about the game and what they want and picking up issues and fixing them. With a game like this, you’re not done because you launched it. You’re done when the game has been out for a year. It’s not until then that you know everything about the game.
TGL: Is this a time when you’re preparing for patches and things like that?
PB: Yes, we’re preparing for patches. But we can’t patch until we know what needs patching. But we still find things, we sit down and play and think “wait a minute, this could be slightly better”. We actually have a backlog of things that we have actually fixed for future patches. We just need to know what the gamers want, we don’t just patch what we think is important; we need to listen to what people think too. In general, people are very excited but it’s very hard to have closure on a project like this because we wanted to continue building.
TGL: In terms of excitement, is it frustrating for you and everyone at DICE to do interviews like this when each and every word you say relating to your game is scrutinized and analysed? Often times something that you say is misinterpreted particularly in relation to the game’s visuals, technical performance and/or last month’s beta. Are these things frustrating for you?
PB: Yes, it’s extremely frustrating. It’s a very dear subject to me, you can’t always have an open discussion with people and you can’t always explain what you really want to explain because people will take a sentence out of that discussion and make a headline somewhere. For example you’ll read something that says “Patrick Bach says this…..” yes, I did say that together with a two hour interview. So in general what you want is for people to understand what you’re trying to do and try to understand that we’re really trying to achieve that and finally that just because we can’t do it means someone else can’t do it. We often get kind of supernatural demands; “Why can’t you fix this?” and we can’t because humanity and technology hasn’t got to that level yet. I’m sorry we can’t fix that. “Why doesn’t the consoles look as good as the PC?” well <laughs> here’s a spec sheet for a PC and here’s a spec sheet for a console. It’s impossible to make console look as good as PC, no one can do it. Our console game looks better than any other console game. You can debate that but it’s at least as good as any other console game when it comes to visual fidelity. It’s just that the PC looks better. It doesn’t mean that it’s less of a game or you get more of the game if you get the PC version. So people should be really excited with what we are achieving on six year old consoles rather than being upset that we can’t achieve the 2011 PC quality.
PB: Absolutely. When I say ashamed, it doesn’t mean I feel like it’s a crap game, I just feel like that if we had another week we could have done “this” little extra thing. And the only things you see when you’re done with a game are the things that you didn’t do. The older things that you’re done with, the things that look perfect and are great, you don’t see because you’re past that. I’ve been playing this game for years now. So to me when someone says it looks great, I think “O really, you think so? Thanks. Don’t all games look like this?” Then sometimes you get surprised when you see other games and you think, wait a minute, our game actually does look pretty good. When I say I get ashamed, that’s the feeling a get when I say “ohhhh, that’s a bad bug!” But it’s something no one else would see.
TGL: So is it impossible for you to play your game to relieve stress?
PB: <Laughs> At certain times, yes, absolutely. Then it passes quite quickly and then in some cases it takes longer than in other cases but in general it’s like seeing a picture of yourself or hearing your own voice, it feels a bit awkward. It’s like a game you’ve been working on for a while, sometimes you feel that it’s not that good and you feel like you could have done more.
TGL: So obviously the next two weeks are crucial because this is when you start seeing reviews and the thorough dissections of the game, its visuals, load times and platform comparisons. It must be intolerably frustrating to see the product being dissected and analysed this way, especially since the final product will be of high end quality. The bigger the game, the more scrutiny it receives.
PB: That’s the problem when you get hype like this. I don’t think we’ve been over hyped because we’ve only ever shown the actual game. We’ve never shown a render or anything like that, only gameplay and different parts of gameplay. So, if people believe the “actual” hype, they will love the game. If they think that the game is something that we have not shown, and then they might be disappointed. I don’t know what they are expecting. If you look at some hype discussions, some people think that it will be something that they can’t even explain. No. It will be this, it will be exactly what we’ve shown you and we’ve shown you quite a lot.
TGL: It’s been over a year since you first started promoting the game and its being heralded by many as possibly the best shooter of the year. But it is actually possible to live up to that sort of hype?
PB: I don’t know. I think honestly if you play the game and think what you think about it, please play another game and compare it. Don’t just look at the game and think, compared to what I was hoping it would be, it’s not as good or it’s not THAT or it’s different.
TGL: So when it comes to games like Modern Warfare 3, how do you feel about coming out first and generally releasing in the same release window? Do you guys actually consider these release dates or did it just happen this way?
PB: It just kind of happened. DICE is not involved in the exact ship dates. We get a deadline. We get asked when can be get it done and we say that we think we can get it done around here so we try to hit a proposed deadline. We came out with our date and we didn’t know about anyone other game coming out at that time.
TGL: But it’s not just Battlefield and Modern Warfare, there’s a ton of other big games coming out around this time like Uncharted 3…
PB: There are some really great games coming out around the time we are so you could argue that we should have picked a spot where there were no other games, but how were we to know? You have to have a release date and when you release that date you have to stick with it. It’s also about how does your game compliment the other games. In some cases it’s a great compliment because there are different types of games and you get a two great games coming out at the same time. Then you have other games in the same genre and you can argue about which one you have to choose because some people will have to choose games because they can’t afford them both. Other people will say that they don’t care and they will pick both up because they’re both great games.
TGL: Can I ask you about the dinosaur at the start of that E3 demo? There’s a story going around that it was put in there as a reference to something else on the picture board 4Chan. It was suggested that a thread on 4Chan, with reference to another franchise, was opened up for players to give feedback about what could be done to make that franchise better. It was then jokingly suggested that it needed more dinosaurs. A couple of years later, you have a dinosaur in your game and apparently people from DICE are confirming that it’s relating to that initial thread on 4Chan. Is that story legitimate? Can you tell us about this dinosaur?
PB: Well, <laughs> I can’t confirm or deny that part of it. But the official story is that we wanted to connect the player to the world back home. We had this idea of having a photograph of your family, that wasn’t the end goal, but that was the mental picture behind it; we wanted you to think about the ones you love at home. We wanted to find a metaphor for that and find a visual language for that and we had this toy dinosaur on a desk at the office and we thought about what it would be like if you actually brought something that your child gave you to war. That would give you the feeling that you not only have a son or daughter but you have a wife and the illusion that you have a family back home. Bringing a toy to war would also be a good symbol for toys in war and how it’s contradictory and gives you vulnerability. So that’s it. That’s the official story. It’s not the unofficial story but yes, we’ve seen that thread to refer to.
TGL: So what’s next for you now Patrick?
PB: Well, obviously now we have to launch the game. I don’t think people understand how complicated that is. People always get upset because something doesn’t work as perfect as they want. What they don’t get is that it’s a super complicated thing with millions of people logging on at the same time and throwing data into the same pool. It’s only then if we know if it works or not. That’s why we had a beta. The main reason was to test the back end and it actually worked better than we expected so we have high hopes for launch day. In general we are looking at the future like with Back to Karkand and of course stuff that is further ahead in the future, whatever it may be.
Battlefield 3 is available in Ireland and the rest of Europe this October 28th on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC
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