At a recent Battlefield: Hardline event, we got a chance to sit down with Ben Gaciu, Systems Designer and Zach Mumbach, Multiplayer Designer, to talk about the way the game’s multiplayer mode was formed. There was a lot of thought put into themes, balance, and even the multiplayer narrative. Visceral Games did a lot to separate this installment of the Battlefield franchise from other past Battlefield titles. Check out how in our interview below!
Cheat Code Central: The first thing I wanted to talk about was the new cops and robbers motif. What challenges did you have in developing a Battlefield title based around this theme? It’s very different than many other shooters of the past. Did you have to overhaul multiplayer to fit the design? What general challenges did you encounter in the early days of design?
Ben Gaciu: A big challenge for us was turning up the speed for everything. When you look at movies like Heat and Bad Boys you see a lot of really super-fast car chases. All the gun fights are really fast. A lot of that conflicted with things that Battlefield had specifically been called out on in the past, like netcode.
You can’t have rubber banding when your cars are going fast. When you are trying to drift around a corner and shoot a guy in the face simultaneously, you don’t want your reticle jumping around a lot. That was a big challenge for our engineers, making the game stable, and making it run at a smooth frame rate so that everything can go just a little bit faster, making everything just a little bit more intense.
We wanted to give the game a more urban feel. It’s less about running down big open fields or heading into battle with slower tanks. It’s more about this sense of speed that you get from fighting in an urban environment.
Zach Mumbach: I think from an early pre-production standpoint one of the biggest challenges was just having the confidence to change what Battlefield was, to change the feel of the franchise. We did two betas and in our first beta we just kind of dipped our toe in the pool of change. We had a lot of stuff we wanted to try but it’s very intimidating when you are working on a franchise that sells what Battlefield sells and that is as popular as Battlefield is. You assume they have a secret formula and you don’t wanna mess with it too much, so early on we didn’t mess with it too much.
When the first beta came out, it empowered us in a way. People kept saying “change it more! Change it more! This is too much like other Battlefield games. You guys are supposed to be different.” That’s when the focus on speed came into play. That’s when we decided to give each faction a different set of weapons. That’s when we totally gutted all the gadgets from every class and completely redesigned each class from the ground up.
It was important to get the confidence to “own the game,” you know? Early on when you are working with someone else’s franchise, you kind of tiptoe around it. You ask yourself “I don’t know, what would the guys at DICE think about this?” But once we had that first demo and the feedback was coming at us, we said “you know what? This is our game. Let’s just go for it.”
CCC: Let’s talk about asymmetry a bit. Asymmetrical games are notoriously hard to balance. Did you find it difficult to balance the game considering so many modes are asymmetrical and both sides don’t even have access to the same guns?
BG: We have a whole bunch of skilled weapons guys upstairs that go through our weapons daily. They playtest this game for an hour a day, every single day, if not more than that. Sometimes we go over that time and end up playing for two hours a day or something. And issues come up. We are legitimately fans of this game and so when something’s overpowered you have guys screaming across the office “WHY THE HELL IS THIS GUN SO POWERFUL!!!”
We encountered that early on with the USAS shotgun. People were saying, “No, this thing’s too powerful.” We were getting into heated fights about it. Eventually it comes down to consensus, and we tried to balance that when we split the guns factionally. The current split we have now is not the split we had when we started.
It’s a lot of iteration. It’s a lot of playing with it and seeing what’s good and seeing what needs to be tweaked. It’s about splitting the guns first of all to make sure the split feels balanced and tweaking them to make sure we are giving our players on either side a unique feeling experience but a balanced one that is comparable to the other side.
ZM: Asymmetry is important to us because a cops and robbers confrontation isn’t the same as one soldier versus another soldier. It’s supposed to feel different.
So you know, tons of focus testing, tons of looking at the data, a lot of humbling yourself about the assumptions and thoughts that you had. Data doesn’t lie, especially when you release a beta. We changed the way the weapons work. We removed four weapons entirely because we realized that they were close but they weren’t quite right. We had the M16A and the M4-16 on the same faction and they just felt like they were too similar. We needed to kick one over.
When the game comes out, we will continue to keep an eye on the data and continue to adjust the weapons if we need to.
CCC: Speaking of weapons, all the weapon types from other Battlefield games are present in this game. Did you find it a challenge to find a place for classic military weapons in a cops and robbers setting?
BG: We do have a lot of the classic Battlefield guns, but you’ll find them in different places. For example you won’t find LMGs in your loadouts anymore because you wouldn’t really see a cop just getting a sanctioned machine gun from his department or something. It didn’t make a lot of sense when we were fooling around with a lot of that stuff to include weapons like that in an urban environment. You won’t find rocket launchers and stingers and stuff like that.
But where you will find those is hidden in the map. You’ll find a light machine gun stowed away by criminals in some house or something, but you’ll have to go and pick it up yourself. That’s a key way that we tried to make it fictionally accurate while still making a fun game where you still have all the Battlefield toys to play with, and keeping it balanced, keeping all the air vehicles balanced, keeping that Rock Paper Scissors feel between air vehicles, infantry, ground vehicles, keeping the Battlefield formula.
ZM: A lot of our influence for making this game came from cops and criminals movies from the Eighties and Nineties, which was sort of their heyday. We watched the Bad Boys movies and Heat and even The Town. In The Town all the criminals are rolling with M16s. So a lot of this stuff we would just see in movies. We would be like ,“OK cool, let’s try to do it like that.”
I think the LMGs are the most radical change. Moving them off the Enforcer class and giving them battle rifles is a pretty significant change for that class and makes that class feel very different in our game. But the feedback I have been getting has been really positive.
BG: I mean, we took the rocket launcher out of your loadout. That’s huge! Suddenly we saw the use of explosives go way down. People seem very receptive to that. That was one of the pieces of feedback we got from the first beta and between the first and second beta we took a look at all the loadout options, not only the guns but the gadgets and everything too. We tried to sit down with each one and think, “OK, what’s the purpose of this? Where does this fit into our world? Where does this fit into our fiction? Where does this fit into our gameplay?” That’s what motivated a lot of these changes.