Battlefield 4 Interview With DICE GM and VP, Karl-Magnus Troedsson

Despite a hectic week at E3 2013, MP1st had the very fortunate chance to speak with General Manager and Vice President of DICE, the studio currently at the helm the next iteration of the highly acclaimed Battlefield franchise.

Karl-Magnus Troedsson, who could often be seen on the E3 show floor either demonstrating the newly re-introduced Commander mode or speaking with other Battlefield fans, is currently heading development on Battlefield 4 at DICE back in Stockholme, Sweden, and is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Swedish Gaming Industry.

During his brief stay in LA, he took the time to talk to us about Battlefield 4 multiplayer and more.

Karl Magnus Troedsson - General Manager DICE

MP1st: When you first sat down with the DICE team to talk Battlefield 4 multiplayer, what were the big staples or the big items that you said, “these need to be in Battlefield 4 multiplayer, or else we’re not shipping it.”

Troedsson: “It’s not a defined process, but every time we start a new project, we look at the one we did just before and say, “that was okay and that was okay, that was almost good.” We’re pretty hard on ourselves. And then there’s a long list of things that we actually feel were pretty bad. Those are usually the things we say, “either we cut them or we fix them.” But at the same time, we also strive for innovation. We always want to bring something new to the table and that might be small things or it might be big things.

Some of the bigger things that we talked about in this game was that we really wanted to bring back the commander, to expand the teamplay in the game with also having that “eye in the sky,” and as I call it, a chess-like tug-of-war going on in between [commanders]. That was definitely one of the things that we wanted to do. With that came also the idea that we want to expand that experience away from the client, if you so want to, into tablets as well – so, to create even more of this connected experience.

A lot of that is based on how we play the games ourselves. I mean, when I’m on my couch playing in front of my TV, I always have either a lap-top or a tablet next to me and I do believe that a lot of people do this. I do this when I watch TV as well. It’s very rarely that I just watch one thing. So this idea we wanted to bring to it and in there is also the idea of Battlelog. If there’s one thing we definitely said we were going to do at the beginning was to make sure that Battlelog on the consoles, this time around, is equally successful as it was on PC for BF3. The Battlelog on console for BF3 we were absolutely not happy with. We’re not going into all the details there, but it’s going to be a big overhaul going on here, and that idea also then extends to – you can use Battlelog as a widget inside your client, you can see it on top of everything, but then of course we also want people to use it on the tablet and on the go.

So those are some of the things that we really set out early on that we wanted to change. We also wanted to bring back some more amphibious assault, more water-based vehicles. We wanted to change some things in the actual “second-to-second” as we call it, you know, just the running and gunning, so anything from movement to you can sprint-swim, you can dive under the water, you can customize your sidearm – a lot of these things that when you talk to somebody that perhaps doesn’t play the game says, “eh, but that’s just small details,” but for the people that are going to spend hundreds of hours in this game, its big differences – or you can have different kinds of grenades, etc. We wanted to do quite a bit of an overhaul on the second-to-second experience.

Maybe, finally, I should bring up the whole idea of what we wanted to do with the destruction. We wanted more destruction than what we had in BF3, more in the shape of a sky scraper coming down like we have now, but also in various parts ranging from micro to the big destruction, which I think we really achieved now. We like to wrap that concept in what we call “Levolution,” which is much more than just destruction. It’s about the interactivity in the world and how the world is affected by how you play the game. It can be things like bollards coming out of the ground, or elevators being now available. You can hear people when they run through, maybe, a metal detector, so there’s a lot of that spacial awareness thing going on as well.

From the top of my head, those are a couple of the things we talked about quite early on.

There’s some changes, to the single player, as well, that we were very adamant about in the beginning. We wanted to make a single player that was less linear than the one we had in BF3, meaning that we will have parts of it where we – sometimes we call it that we brought signature multiplayer elements into the single player, meaning player choice, choice of weaponry, choice of tactic, choice if you want to use vehicles, etc. So, that’s really what we’re developing in the single player this time around.”

MP1st: So, you have commander on display at the E3 show floor and a lot of people are really excited about that. I’m curious – how does it work? How do you step into the seat of the Commander? Who has the right to get in there?

Troedsson: “Well, you can apply. From inside the game, you can just apply to be the commander and then the player with the highest rank will be selected automatically. Then you can vote to get rid of of the commander and these kind of things as well, if you don’t feel that the person is suited.”

MP1st: So, if you’re on the go with a tablet, can you sort of “matchmake” your way into a game through your mobile device?

Troedsson: “I don’t think we’re entirely done with how that’s going to work. But basically, I think you’re going to be able to browse the servers, or maybe just quick match as a commander, but I’m not entirely sure if this is all decided.”

MP1st: We’ve got to play Battlefield 4 multiplayer on the E3 2013 show floor and we’ve managed to figure out a lot of the new features you guys are bringing to Battlefield 4, but there’s a couple things that are still, sort of, mysterious to us and I was wondering if I could ask you about them.

Next to the mini-map, there’s a little green bar there with what looks like different specializations at certain benchmarks. How does that work? How does that bar fill up and what am I exactly unlocking?

Troedsson: “Well, that’s a concept that we call “Field Upgrades.” Long-lasting fans might recognize part of this concept from 2142. Basically, it’s a non-persistant upgrade system that goes for you and your squad, meaning that if you play together and you have team scoring events, you will upgrade in various tiers on this Field Upgrade list. You will unlock things like more ammo, more grenades, and various boosts that can help you and your squad. But there’s a couple of twists, that is if your squad, for instance, is wiped out, you will fall down a tier, and it’s also, as I mentioned, not persistant, so this will just be per-session, and then you have to restart. We put this in there because we really wanted people to play – be recognized for playing even more together. It’s going to be interesting to see how people use this. This then replaces the old specialization system that we had.”

MP1st: Another thing: How do the reversible knife kills work? Not a lot of people are getting into that situation to test it out on the show floor and we’re really curious to know how it works.

Troedsson: “This isn’t entirely done, but as it currently stands, if somebody comes up to you and you actually have the opportunity to see them – so there’s an element that you can actually sneak up behind somebody and they can’t counter you, as it is now. But basically, if somebody melees you, and you melee them back with the right timing, you are actually the winner instead. We know how interested people are in taking people’s dog tags, especially ours. They keep hunting us all over the internet. Very frustrating. Thank you players. So actually we implemented the feature just for our own sake [laughs]. No we didn’t. We think a lot of people are really interested in this, but sometimes it can be a bit frustrating – you know, somebody managed to just press the melee button before you and you actually want to have a chance at countering it. But currently, it’s not like it turns into a sword fight. You can counter once and if you miss, then you miss, and if you manage to do it, then you manage. It’s something I think we’re going to need to test a bit and see how it works out, but it’s definitely a feature we’re excited about.”

MP1st: To reconfirm, on the next generation platforms – so the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – are we looking at 64 players and 60 frames-per-second?

Troedsson: “Yes, I can confirm. That is some of the most important parts of where we want to spend all this additional memory and power that we get out of the new platforms. We’ve had this experience on PC for quite some time, not being locked to 60 FPS – I better say that or the community will kill me – but we know how really visceral this experience can be when you play with so many other players and we’re really excited to bring that to next-gen consoles a well.”

MP1st: What about the current-generation? So, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3?

Troedsson: “We’ve proven so far, I would argue, that we can make really good games there as well, but they’re going to stay at 24 players and the 30 FPS rule that we’ve had before. We know that we can make really great games from that as well and in order to have all these huge, open environments with all the vehicles, all the players and all the destruction, etc., you know, that is where we land when it comes to how much power we have out of those platforms.”

As a reminder, Troedsson mentioned that when we’re talking about next-generation platforms and the PC, we’re actually talking about 66 players if you include the two commanders, or 26 on current-generation platforms.

MP1st: It might be a bit early, but a lot of people are wondering if, for example, they buy Battlefield 4 on, let’s say, the PlayStation 3, and then later on for the PlayStation 4, are they going to be able to carry over any sort of stats or unlocks?

Troedsson: “We just started having this discussion, so this is not settled yet. But we have heard that – I don’t know if this came from inside or outside of DICE – but that is being discussed. It might not be entirely up to us. We have to wait and see how first-parties see this.”

MP1st: You guys almost stole the show here at E3 2013 with some really big announcements, including the return of Mirror’s Edge 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront. I’m wondering if you can tell me when we might hear a little bit more about Battlefront?

Troedsson: “Well, we’re keeping all the secrets very tight and it’s very early on. For both of those games, it’s very early days, so people should be ready to wait for a while. But at the same time, we really wanted to bring it to the world’s attention that we are working on this because we are super excited about it as well. What I can say about the Battlefront game is that, at DICE, when we heard about this opportunity, when I talked to my boss, Patrick Söderlund, for instance – he was involved in the whole deal that EA was making, etc. – you know, he just casually brought it up and we actually asked [in a raised voice], “why haven’t you brought this up before? We absolutely want to do this. We want to work with this game.”

We actually already have a lot on our plate with everything we do, but we just felt like we need to make this work some how and that’s what we’re doing now. So, we’re very, very excited about the opportunity and, actually, the reaction from back hom in the studio, when we had our studio meeting and were told this, was quite similar to the reaction at the press conference. It was a lot like, “woooooo yeaaahh!” – you know, whooping and fist-pumping in the air, etc. So, it’s really, really cool. We’re super excited about it. Then, in combination with now that it’s the right time for us to bring back the Mirror’s Edge franchise. It makes for very exciting times.”

MP1st: What are some of the upcoming games, either announced or shown here at E3, that you’re looking forward to?

Troedsson: “Well, as a typical working at E3, I have had pretty little time to actually walk around and get hands-on. I watched The Division, which I’m really excited about from what I’ve seen. I haven’t played it myself just yet, but what I’ve seen, I think it both looks good and has an interesting concept. It’s also very cool to see another Swedish studio that’s actually from Malmö, my home town. It’s not in Stockholm but it’s another Swedish studio building that, so kudos to those guys and girls. I would like to see more from Metal Gear. That’s going to be very interesting to see that as well, see what Mr. Kojima-san can come up with. Those are some of the games I’m pretty excited about.”

MP1st: Anything else you wanted to add about Battlefield 4 multiplayer that we might have missed?

Troedsson: “There’s so many new things under the hood in that second-to-second experience that I think a lot of people will like. I tried to remember all of it but I can’t. Small things like we’re really revamping the entire suppression system. So, in close quarters fights, we actually don’t have that much suppression and suppression is actually toned down on a lot of the weapons. It’s more the LMG’s role to actually be the suppressor. Things like making carbines and DMRs for all the kits. So, we’re doing some changes there with the kits.

We have an additional feature now which is zoom-peek. So if you’re behind cover and you zoom your weapon, you automatically lean over the cover. We’re not entirely done with it just yet, but, actually, it’s testable on the floor if you want to try it out. We’re not done with it but I think that’s going to be pretty cool. I mentioned spring-swim and diving and these kind of things. Melee combat. There’s a lot of these things that are smaller details but actually get me really excited because I love to play the game as well. You know that that’s what you’re going to do over and over and over again when you play.”

Look for Battlefield 4 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC this October 29, a little later for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

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