Skip to main content

Loading the DICE

Creative director Lars Gustavsson on the birth of Battlefield, the changing PC gaming landscape and the importance of community The PC gaming scene has changed significantly since 1999, particularly with respect to the shooter genre, which conventional wisdom once dictated would never be a success on console... What's it been like working through that time and what do you think are the reasons for it?
Lars Gustavsson

I came from the PC audience before starting up here and for a long, long time - to be honest all the way up to Bad Company - I was knee-deep in PC titles, which probably coloured my opinion on what a shooter is, and what it should be.

To me, Battlefield: Bad Company was an eye-opener, and for a very long time I think the PC audience was seen as the hardcore, the most competitive and dedicated audience. Maybe at one time that was partially true, but now we definitely see a fanatic shooter audience on console.

I think one of our biggest mistakes with Battlefield: Bad Company for example was that when we started making it, laying out the plans, the view on the gamer was that it's a console audience, and we need to treat them a bit more gently, since they're less experienced...

Well, when we shipped it - it was quite a long project - the audience had grown, matured, played more online... so they knew what a shooter on a console should be like, what to expect.

So I think in some areas, as lead designer on that project, I feel that we could have done a better job of meeting those expectations, even though I was extremely pleased with the project. Is that something that influences the way you think about future projects?
Lars Gustavsson

It definitely does. I was lead designer on Battlefield 2 for example and on that one we picked out the elements that we felt were missing from Battlefield 1942. And then in 2142 we tried to make it easier to find friends to go out and play online, and so on.

Now, looking at our console audience, we just had this discussion that we should more or less handle them on equal terms. A lot of PC players like me have become old farts, with children at home, and it's harder to find the time to sit in front of the PC. Therefore, when they find a good shooter title they'll expect more or less the same possibilities when they fight it out in a console game as they would in a Battlefield PC title.

It still means that what we've always had as a mantra but never really succeeded in delivering on is that we've always had quite a high entry level into the franchise - it can be overwhelming to come into, especially the early games where we didn't have any proper matchmaking. But that's something we're working with, regardless of whether it's PC or console, we just want to give people a more gentle way into the franchise. The Battlefield franchise has always had a strong community - the videos with people performing stunts in-game spring to mind - that's quite a testament to the product, isn't it?
Lars Gustavsson

I think a lot of that comes from the heritage of Codename Eagle, where we'd designed it to a certain point, but we found a lot of different ways of playing it. And the community definitely found different ways of playing it...

At that time the key thing was that it's an open sandbox - we don't tell you what to do, it's up to you to solve the problem. We hand out a number of tools, and they're balanced according to a kind of rock, paper, scissors idea. In following through the franchise, we can never expect what the audience is going to do, and that's the beauty of it to me, especially since it's a challenge to balance all these pieces.

But when you see what the community makes out of it, it's totally amazing. Everything from stunts, different approaches to solving problems and taking out an enemy, to all of these movies... they make cool stuff with our game. How difficult is it to keep on good terms with your community?
Lars Gustavsson

I think we've been pretty honest about what we've done right and wrong. We're a bunch of normal blokes trying to make good games that we enjoy playing, and give the people around us the same experience. We've definitely had our problems with how to support a game properly, how you test a game that requires 64 players online properly, and so on - but with constant communication and the will... it's been a long road but it seems like it's appreciated by the community.

We're fortunate to have a self-cleansing community in that if somebody gives feedback and is going over the top, a lot of the time the rest of the community will help to clarify things. I'm not saying that we're perfect and we constantly work with new initiatives to better talk to the community - it's an ongoing effort.

Also the methods of communicating have changed over time - it used to be forums, but now it's anything from forums, to Twitter, to God-knows-what else... it's a hassle just to stay on top and learn what the audience prefers. How is the Battlefield: Heroes title coming along?
Lars Gustavsson

It's going well, they're working hard at it upstairs, and they've had some good attention. It's interesting for the Western market - we're all so unused to how this works. You can see from journalists to consumers to developers that we're not used to working with this [free-to-play, micro-transactions] model, so it's a challenge for us as well.

But it's coming on nicely, and the team has done a good job. Many times you can get the idea that beta tests are a kind of concealed marketing tool, but the team definitely at this time wanted to use the beta to guarantee that we have a good experience, to not rush it just because more people want to get in and try it out.

Come June the open beta should go live, if everything holds up.

Lars Gustavsson is creative director at DICE. Interview by Phil Elliott.

Read this next

Related topics