The Big Game: Battlefield 1

If you ever needed a solid indication that consumers weren’t exactly satisfied with the state of the shooter genre, you need only look at the reaction to Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare this year.

The reveal trailer for the former, a first-person shooter set during World War One has become YouTube’s most liked trailer, ever.

The latter, a first-person shooter set in space, however, is YouTube’s most disliked trailer, ever.

We were happy with the trailer and that we have a fantastic video team,” Battlefield 1’s creative director Lars Gustavsson says.

I’m so proud of the people making the game, too. You can’t plan for that success though. That just struck us by surprise.”

He continues: As developers, we can look at trends, dig deeper and try and find new angles. But being a part of these trends is like being in a race – you can’t look at the other runners and what they are doing. You have to focus on your track and what you are doing and stick to what you believe in.

From the get-go, we truly believed in Battlefield 1. Once we agreed to do it, we threw ourselves out there and I’m super proud of what the team has accomplished.”

Though clearly the concept of Battlefield 1 has been a hit with fans, EA and DICE were not taken with the idea at first. What would become Battlefield 1 was originally pitched by two DICE developers way back in 2008, and it took several years of nagging and pitching over and over before their concept for a World War One shooter entered production.

After Battlefield 4 we stepped back and asked ourselves what we were going to do next, how we were going to find new gameplay opportunities, things that will excite both our audience and us as a team,” Gustavsson explains.

"World War One really is the dawn of all-out conflict. This is the genesis of what we’d consider modern warfare."

Lars Gustavsson, DICE

In the back of our minds there was a pitch from two guys in our office, Stefan Strandberg and Martin Kopparhed, from 2008. They pitched the idea of a Battlefield game set during the First World War.

Modders have done Battlefield 1918 [by altering 2002’s Battlefield 1942] before and it’s been a long-time dream. Then we dug deeper and discovered even more about World War One. We quickly saw that it was a
perfect match to Battlefield – the diversity of the hardware, the variety of land, air and sea and the possibilities that afforded us. From there on we saw that World War One and Battlefield were meant to be.”

Battlefield 1’s World War One setting does help differentiate it from a genre crowded with modern day and futuristic shooters. But at first glance, the conflict doesn’t seem like a logical choice for a genre known for its fast-paced combat.

Think of the First World War and you’ll probably envision trench warfare where soldiers were just as likely to die of disease as they were enemy fire.

Yet this was also a time of great technological innovation. This was the first time tanks were used, when chemical warfare was developed.

It really is the dawn of all-out war,” Gustavsson explains. This is the genesis of what we’d consider modern warfare. Most of the weaponry we have used in the Battlefield series has in one way or another been invented or refined during this time. Many are still in service today.

That made us super excited – we opened the box and saw new things that we hadn’t heard about. There’s a perception that the First World War was all slow, trench warfare but there was so much more. It was a global conflict with so many battles and pieces of technology that we didn’t know of. It is very much a case of the old meeting the new: trench warfare with hatchets and bayonets, horses being on the same battlefield as tanks and airplanes. I can’t even imagine how inventive people were during those four years.”

War is not an uncommon setting for a video game. And many – including previous Battlefield titles – have used the backdrop of real-life conflicts such as World War Two. Yet, the First World War has not really been explored in video games, bar rare exceptions like Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts and EA’s own Wings of Glory.

It might be a pop culture thing,” Gustavsson speculates.

There hasn’t even been the big Saving Private Ryan-type movie for the First World War yet. And from that perspective, it might be that people don’t really know much about it.

When I was in school, I learnt everything around the Second World War, but World War One was barely mentioned. From that perspective, we have learnt a lot as creators during Battlefield 1’s development. That conflict really shaped the world we live in today – trench coats, zippers, tea bags and cigarettes all came out of that.

There are so many untold stories to be portrayed and that really helps us in the development; both in the multiplayer experience as well as in the campaign.”

Battlefield 1 is going up against Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Modern Warfare Remastered
and EA’s own Titanfall 2 at the end of 2016 in what is becoming a busy time for the shooter
market. Although Battlefield has a unique setting, four shooters launching in such close proximity seems excessive.

I’m a naturally worried person, but that competition is healthy,” Gustavsson says. Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty are both great games. We wouldn’t be what we are without that competition. I love great games and I am inspired by them. If we were alone in the military shooter genre, it would be very lonely. You wouldn’t get to see how everyone else is doing it.”

Ahead of E3, it was revealed that this year’s entry in EA’s FIFA franchise would be running on Frostbite, an engine made by Battlefield developer DICE. BioWare is also using the tech for its new Mass Effect game.

Gustavsson says that EA’s studios are working closer together.

As Frosbite has trickled into a number of EA products, the bonding and the networking is constantly on-going,” he says.

That’s the beauty about being part of EA: whenever you have a challenge, you can throw out the question to all the studios and there might be a developer that can help out. We have gone from isolated islands to much more of a community of developers, which is enormously beneficial for us.”

Battlefield 1 is the first entry in the series made purely for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As such, DICE was able to push what the game could do.

For me, Battlefield really stands for the fact that no match is ever the same,” Gustavsson says. In the past we have reflected that with the dynamic destruction [whereby levels were not static and could change mid-game].

This time around we have the dynamic weather. Overall, we have a much more intuitive and dynamic world that we want players to interact with and use as yet another tool for how you survive on the battlefield, in addition to the military hardware. Developing for the new machi

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