Battlefield 3 is more than just one of the year's most anticipated games. It's also one of the most contentious, sparking all sorts of debates - some justified, some blown entirely out of proportion. Should the PC version have mod tools? And why isn't it on Steam? Is it a big deal that the game will run at 30 frames per second on console? And why can't PS3 and 360 support 64 players online? These were a few of the topics that have set the Internet alight this year. To get DICE's perspective on a few of these issues – as well as other topics, we caught up with Karl Magnus Troedsson, the studio's General Manager.
Karl Magnus Troedsson: Well, first of all, we have a lot of respect for the modding community. They've done some awesome things, and there's also a bit of a parallel there for a lot of us getting into the games industry; in the early days when we were looking at other games, making our own games, reverse engineering other games to understand what was happening, it's somewhat similar to modding a game - it's getting more and more close to actually making your own game. So we have a lot of respect for the modding community.
At the same time, we haven't had mod support in our games for a long time, and there's a lot of reasons for that. First of all, DICE is committed to innovation and quality, whenever we do something. If we were to do mod support, it needs to be proper mod support, not some hack that we've thrown out there and then people scratch their heads. If we let it out there, it's going to be a good tool.
It's a huge investment for us to do something like that, and also a bit complicated, and to some degree there's also [a concern] security-wise. It's a bit scary to take an investment like Battlefield 3 and just let people dig into that engine and do whatever they want. We're dedicated to try and really limit the amount of hacks and exploits that come out there, but as soon as you let something like that out, people have all the tools in the world that they need to sit there and try to create cheats that actually would destroy the experience for a lot of other people. I'm not blaming mod tools for hacks and exploits in any way, but there's a lot of things we need to consider.
Karl Magnus Troedsson: Naturally, we're very flattered by this, that other teams within EA want to use the engine, but it's also a bit of a challenge. We have a separate team – the Frostbite 2 team – that handles this, so it's quite a big difference from them supporting one game to supporting more games within EA, but it's also very cool for us on the game team for Battlefield 3 because when [multiple] teams are on the same engine they can really share a lot more things, so we're starting to see things coming back into the engine from the various teams that really can help each other out, and that's a really cool experience.
Mod tools won't be in Battlefield 3 when we ship it, but I can say this – we have heard the community loud and clear. We are talking about it in the studio. I'm not promising that we're going to do it in any way, but we have heard it, and we'll see what we do in the future.
Karl Magnus Troedsson: An example, which isn't a real example, but is what's probably going to happen further down the line – usually these integrations back into the engine will happen more when the games are done I would argue – but for instance, we have a physics system for our vehicles. Maybe the Need for Speed team took that physics engine and then implemented their stuff on top and made it even better, because their physics engine is much more complex than ours probably, when it comes to vehicles. Then maybe at some point we'll integrate that back into the Frostbite 2 engine all the way to the core of it, so other teams can use that as well.
We're dedicated to making sure each version of Battlefield 3 makes the most out of the platform it's running on, but there are some changes we need to make, especially with consoles compared to PC, naturally, the PC being more powerful. But we have a good grasp of this. Those who've been following the series for a long time know that in the old Battlefield games you could play it with 64 players, but also a lower amount of players, meaning that we then scaled down the maps and the amount of vehicles, and these kind of things. And it's a natural way of thinking about it when you then play it with less players on console as well. We have a lot of history of knowing how to do this, so it's more of a technical challenge to get the most out of that platform when it comes to visuals, audio, animation etc, and putting each console's technical features to best use.