It's only three weeks away (two weeks if you're in the US), and anticipation is mounting as Battlefield 3 creeps closer, and closer. The war of words between EA and Activision has cranked the hype up to stupid levels, but Strategy Informer endeavours to cut through it all and to bring you something tangible. We spoke to Producer Patrick Liu about the game's final hours...
Strategy Informer:So, we'll start off nice and easy - you're a few weeks away from release now: How do you feel?
Patrick Liu: Both stressed and relieved - relieved that it's so close, we are pretty much done now, but stressed because it's not done yet. I mean launch is just the start, right? There'll be updating, balancing, patching... so a lot of work ahead of us.
Strategy Informer: Obviously you have the Open Beta running right now... what was your thinking there? You only have one map and one mode live on the consoles, and that seems restrictive even for a beta...
Patrick Liu: The plan we had once was, since the alpha, was to have that map as a benchmark for where we're heading. With the beta - it's a 'true' beta - we were wanting to use the same map and mode to benchmark how far we'd come, and the main purpose of the beta was to test the backend.
Strategy Informer:Do you consider this a true 'technical beta'? There's been a trend recently of companies, especially console companies, using betas more of a marketing tool because they didn't think they could risk doing a proper beta.
Patrick Liu: I think the term 'beta' has been misused actually, in other games where they are more demos, but they are calling it a beta. In our case it really is a beta, and because it's such a huge game we can't really fail, we need to make sure it works, we need to make sure the backend is tested, and yes there is that perception because this is seen to be so close to the final product. But now I'm telling you so you can tell the rest of the world!
Strategy Informer:What's the feedback been like so far? Anything in particular stand out?
Patrick Liu: I think a lot of people have been caught up with Battlelog and how it really works. Not a lot of people really grasped the concept earlier, but now they do. We've been getting both good and bad feedback, but it's just a matter of time before people get used to it. For us though we can service it much better than we can an in-game menu, especially on PC where in a blink we can update the server browser, and respond much quicker to feedback.
Strategy Informer:You've mentioned that you'll probably have to do Day One patch - do you have an idea as to what that will include?
Patrick Liu: I don't have the details, but it will include feedback from the beta.
Strategy Informer:Talking about single-player briefly, some companies like to convey a specific point or a message with their narrative - are you guys doing the same here?
Patrick Liu: We try to push the narration and the emotional engagement with the player, it's a much different experience than the multiplayer, obviously, it's a much more directed experience. The story itself is fiction, but inspired by real events, and the big question we want to ask is "How far would you go for your country?".
Strategy Informer: The PC screens of the game look phenomenal... but you would need a high-end rig to get it looking like that. How far are you guys going to ensure that consumers are aware that the game won't necessarily look like that for them? Especially on the console.
Patrick Liu: We need to be honest about the game, that's for sure, but we are pushing the technologies, pushing what we can do with Frostbite 2, but if you want to play the game and have it looking good you will need a high-spec machine. We're not covering it up in anyway. Again we just try to communicate as well as we can.
Strategy Informer: There's been a bit of a 'War of Words' between EA and Activision, is that putting any undue pressure on you guys to perform do you think?
Patrick Liu: Yeah, it can get kind of tiring - well, it DOES get tiring at some point. The only thing we can do to handle it is to focus on our own game, focus on making the best game we possibly can. We put pretty high bars for ourselves, and the main pressure comes from within the team.
Strategy Informer:Do you think the game is ready? If EA turned around and said you could have another couple of months dev time, would you take it?
Patrick Liu: We could always do with more time, that's for sure. I don't think any game developer thinks that their game is done - if we could have more time we'd certainly take it, we could continue working on this for a year or two, maybe more, but that wouldn't make any sense. I think we will in the coming months rebalance the game, tweak, etc...
Strategy Informer:Obviously for the past few years you've been developing the Bad Company games, do you ever think we'll see those loveable foursome again?
Patrick Liu: Well I don't know definitely, we don't have any plans right now, but they are very loveable characters, a lot of the guys at DICE love them so we will probably see them again.
Strategy Informer:What was your thinking when you made those games? In many ways the BC titles were a different and more focused experience than the previous games...
Patrick Liu: It was the first time we made a proper single-player campaign really, it needed some strong characters that people could relate to. Battlefield otherwise is quite anonymous, there aren't any specific characters that you identify or relate too. We always had tongue and cheek humour - the Battlefield games aren't super serious most of the time, it's more of a cowboys and Indians thing... we learnt a lot from making the single-player campaigns in Bad Company.
The current Open Beta may not be the greatest Beta in history, but so long as it served the purpose that DICE intended for it then that's all that matter. To any of you worried about the game because of the beta - fear not. The final product is going to be much, much better.