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Star Wars: Battlefront III Wish List

by Matt Miller on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:55 AM

We lay out our best-case scenario for the long-awaited sequel. The Force could be strong with this game.

It’s been a long wait. Star Wars Battlefront II released to consoles and PC way back in 2005, and the past six years have only given fans two PSP games and a host of rumors about a true console sequel. Variously rumored to be in development by Free Radical, Pandemic, Rebellion, and Spark Unlimited, the actual fate of Battlefront III is shrouded in mystery.

Even so, an enthusiastic fan base remains. Perhaps someday soon we’ll receive definitive word on a new installment, but in the meantime we’ve wracked our brains for the best ideas we could come up with for Battlefront III. We’ve combined some of our favorite features from previous installments with new ideas, some of which are inspired by other games on the market. How would the Battlefront formula have changed to respond to recent changes in game development and design? What technical innovations would be possible? How many TIE Fighters would we shoot down? Read on to find out, and share your own personal wish list in the comments below.

The Classic Experience

Before we start talking about all the new-fangled craziness we’d love to see included, it’s worth noting what made the series fun in the first place. In the first installment, Battlefront aimed in many ways to emulate the fun of the Battlefield games, but transferred into the rich sci-fi backdrop of the Star Wars universe. Battlefront III should maintain that classic large team experience in at least one of its core modes. Team battles between two opposing forces should still sit as the centerpiece of the Battlefront experience, at least on multiplayer. Keep the experience pure, and free from the hero characters that populated Battlefront II – though those same heroes could show up in a separate, more story-focused mode.

Single-Player Independence

Battlefront II attempted to make single-player gameplay feel meaningful by tracking the experience of the 501st Legion through its many battles. It was a cool idea, but one that ultimately felt limited by shoehorning a single-player campaign into a gameplay experience designed for large numbers of simultaneous players.

Instead, Battlefront III should feature a complimentary single-player campaign that’s fun on its own merits. Instead of copying objectives you’ve played a dozen times in the multiplayer experience, introduce situations that are uniquely shaped for a narrative experience. Perhaps a Bothan spy must sneak into the enemy base. Maybe a Jedi needs to save some prisoners before execution. What if your smuggler has to fly his ship through the imperial blockade? Using the technology and visual style of the multiplayer game doesn’t mean that single-player has to take a back seat. If LucasArts makes the single-player campaign meaningful and feel different from multiplayer, but offers touch-points between the heroic actions depicted in the single-player campaign and the events and objectives that unfold in the multiplayer maps, then players will enjoy both all the more.



Surprising Story

The Star Wars universe is vast and varied, and it’s time to let it breathe. Tight creative and story constraints from the top levels of LucasArts have often hamstrung developers seeking to tell their own story within the Star Wars mythos. Take off the training wheels, and let Battlefront III explore some new territory.

Making the Star Wars universe feel fresh shouldn’t be too hard. Give players choices and objectives that change the familiar course of the story. Travel into areas of Star Wars history that have yet to be fully fleshed out. Alternately, explore battles and moments from within the history of the movies or books that have yet to be seen. Heck, if it’s done well, we’d even be happy to see some twisted mirror universe of Star Wars where everyone’s roles are reversed. No matter what direction the game takes, let’s stop reliving the same battles and cinematic moments we’ve seen for years. Everyone loves the Battle of Hoth, but it’s time to experience some new battles, character moments, and locations that are equally exciting and memorable.

Destruction

Modern game tech has shown the potential for insane onscreen destruction, and Star Wars would be well served by the new possibilities. Vehicles, turrets, and even pieces of the environment itself should exhibit persistent damage over the course of a match. If the map looks the same at the end of a battle as it did at the beginning, then there’s something wrong. Imagine traveling across a field filled with shattered AT-ATs, or navigating your space fighter through the debris left behind by a decimated Star Destroyer. Persistent damage makes the battlefield feel more real, and helps players believe their efforts make a difference.

In addition, destruction should have gameplay possibilities. Blow a hole in the side of a ship with a thermal detonator, and enemy troops could get pulled out into space. Give players the opportunity to use environmental destruction in meaningful ways, and the fights become more dynamic and less focused on who can pull the trigger fastest. 

[Next up: 128 person battles in a persistent galactic war]



Go Big Or Go Home

While we support the idea of dedicated modes for small team skirmishes and special operations, Battlefront III should have some of the biggest battles around. It’s not too much to ask that the game include massive 128-person battles. Recent games have explored extremely large team battles with varying degrees of success. By giving small groups of characters unique objectives within any given match, extra-large scale battles can still offer meaningful experiences to each player. Developers could also explore giving leading players the option to set tactical orders and dictate the flow of the battle from afar.

Going big means something more than just player count. Star Wars is a fictional universe about huge planets and vast reaches of space. The Battle of Endor scenes in Return of the Jedi played out across earth and space alike. Battlefront III needs to include that profound sense of scale into the scope of the gameplay experience. Early glimpses of the possibly scrapped version of Battlefront III by Free Radical showed ships rising off the ground and flying directly into space. That’s just the kind of ambitious style a game like Battlefront III needs – here’s hoping whoever finally makes the game will keep this exciting concept in place.

The Modern Dressing

Shooters have come a long way in the last half dozen years. Battlefront III would do well to look at games within the genre, and adopt some of the more successful ideas, particularly in the front-end experience and player progression.

Games like Call of Duty and Halo: Reach have established the addictive nature of a fun leveling system within a shooter. Battlefront 3 should implement that same concept and let players rank up through the Rebel Alliance, Empire, or whatever other period-appropriate organization the game features. Include persistent rankings and unlockables – from cosmetic uniform changes to weapon upgrades and perks – as players advance in skill and rank. Let players set custom loadouts. Introduce a theater mode to allow players to relive great battles, and also to foster the enthusiastic machinima makers who might love the opportunity to play around with Star Wars characters and tell their own stories.

Feeling Grounded

Previous games in the Battlefront series felt floaty – characters seemed disconnected from the world on which they ran and jumped. Similarly, vehicles often felt weightless and the physics felt off. Battlefront III needs to put the mechanics of movement and navigation high on the list of priorities. Characters need to feel grounded and affected by the world around them. Explosions and blaster hits should have a visible effect, staggering or throwing characters off course. Characters need to have weight and look like they’re held to the ground by gravity.

The sense of connection to the game world also comes across through the way that the environment affects character animations and speed. When a character runs up a hill, show them scrambling along the rough ground, not running at full tilt the way they do on a flat surface. Enter a swamp, and the character should slow down as they push through the muck. Come up to a low wall, and a visible animation should show how the character mantles over. Single-player video games like Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed don’t get a pass on third-person action that is missing this kind of detail – it’s time for large-scale shooters like Battlefront to follow suit.



The Galactic War

Several games have tried it, but Star Wars: Battlefront III could be the game to finally get it right. The new Star Wars game needs to exist as a persistent war playing out between the different factions, and the results should affect the game as it moves forward over days, weeks, and months.

MMOs have long recognized the value of in-game events that change the nature of the world and move it forward. Battlefront III could do the same thing within the shooter genre. As battles are won or lost by different factions within the game, future battle scenarios should be created to reflect those victories and defeats. The battle for Coruscant takes on a much greater value if you know that winning the match more times than the enemy will result in special bonuses or access to a special vehicle for your faction. At the same time, losing teams need tools to help win back the war. Offer losing factions the ability to adopt insurgent and guerrilla tactics not available to the winning team.

Dynamic content and a persistent galactic conflict would offer Star Wars fans a big part of what they love about the mythology – the sense that they are in the midst of an epic conflict that stretches across the stars.

Make It Star Wars

While talking about the concepts that would make a better Battlefront game, it’s easy to forget that it also needs to be a great Star Wars game. The allure of the long-running sci-fi series lies in both its broad stroke story conceits and the little details, and developers would be wise to recognize what fans love. At its core, Star Wars is a sweeping tale of romance, friendship, and conflict played out in classic archetypal storytelling. Hard as it may be, even a multiplayer-focused shooter needs to acknowledge these ideas and try to integrate those top-level concepts. At the same time, Star Wars: Battlefront III needs to have the little things we all remember about the series. Lightsabers, Jedi, exploding space stations, climactic music that crescendos into cathartic victories – give the people what they want.

Battlefront III needs to be more than a shooter with Star Wars window dressing. Keep the Star Wars themes and aesthetic at the center of every design decision, and Battlefront III can emerge as a game that draws the same crowds as the theatrical films.

What would you like to see in a sequel? Let us know in the comments below.