interview

DICE On Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam

by Matt Bertz on Oct 01, 2010 at 11:34 AM

The Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam expansion is scheduled to drop this winter, but we still have several questions about the franchise's return to Southeast Asia. We asked DICE executive producer Patrick Bach to shed more light on the highly anticipated addition to one of the best shooters of the year.

What compelled DICE to return to Vietnam rather than visiting a new environment?
Firstly, we have a legacy with the original Battlefield: Vietnam from 2004, and we wanted to build on that. Many of our developers who worked on that game still have merchandise lying around constantly reminding us that the game has such a strong history within DICE. We have also received a lot of requests from the community to go back to Vietnam. Secondly, I think the Vietnam setting stirs something in people. The instant you mention the Vietnam War, everyone gets these images: whether it's the jungles, the classic vehicles from the era, or even the ‘60s music. We think it makes for a really strong package. Also, I want to point out that this is not a remake of the old game that came out six years ago. This is Battlefield: Bad Company 2 gameplay in our Frostbite engine that goes to Vietnam on brand new maps.

How much inspiration are you taking from Battlefield Vietnam in terms of the game design for the expansion?
A lot of the elements that gamers loved in the original Vietnam game are implemented here as well. For example, you can listen to (and blow up) propaganda speakers, and you can enjoy ‘60s music on the radio in your vehicles – the latter being one of the features that really brings a unique feeling to this expansion.


Are there things you wanted to achieve with the original Vietnam game that you couldn’t do due to technical limitations that you can do now?
Well, a lot has happened in the Battlefield franchise since 2004, both gameplay wise and technically speaking. From a purely technical standpoint, our upgraded Frostbite engine handles destruction on a whole new level compared to the engine we used for Battlefield 1942. So simply taking our latest engine back to Vietnam automatically means we get closer to our vision of all-out warfare.

Will we see a lot of the same unique weapons and environmental hazards return from BF: Vietnam, like the bouncing Betties and the punji stick booby traps?
No. Actually, looking at the telemetry for Bad Company 2 across the different formats, we can see that we have achieved an extremely well-balanced game. This is something we take pride in and want to maintain, so while introducing booby traps might sound like a good idea, we would much rather focus on keeping our finely tuned game balance.

These are all brand new maps.
 
How are you changing your approach to map design for this expansion pack? Will these maps be more wide open or are they going to be more streamlined like they were in Bad Company 2?
I wouldn't say we are changing our design sensibilities for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam. We are designing the maps to offer a great sense of variation, from the tight and up close to the more wide open spaces with plenty of vehicles. Much like the difference between, say, White Pass and Atacama Desert in the base game.
 
Are you going to include jets like the F4 Phantom and MiG-21? If not, why not?
The jets are used for ambience and are not flyable. They just don't fit within the scope of a Bad Company 2 expansion. The helicopter is awesome, though. :)
 


How are the eight radio stations that players can listen to in vehicles different?
There is no style of music designated to a specific channel. This is mainly a way to sort the two hours worth of music so it is easier to browse for the player. There really is something special about getting into the helicopter and flying over the beautiful Vietnam scenery while blasting “Fortunate Son” through the speakers.

Are you making any infrastructure changes alongside this expansion that alters the way the game sets up matchmaking, rotates maps, etc?
Not really. We are watching the server loads as always, so we are prepared to increase the number of dedicated servers as needed, though.

When you’re playing the expansion will it only rotate through the four expansion maps or does it integrate the Bad Company 2 maps as well?
Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam will have its separate map rotation. It is, however, integrated into the overall persistence, so you will keep leveling your soldier up as usual, no matter if you play the base game or the Vietnam expansion.
 


Are you going to be able to transport tanks around the map with the helicopter like in Battlefield Vietnam?
No, we don't see that it brings any value to the gameplay. It was a function that wasn't really used extensively in the past.


A lot of the technology used in Bad Company 2 has no historical analog in Vietnam. What is going to replace futuristic weapons like the UAV, motion sensor, and spotting sight?
Rather than inventing some kind of retro sci-fi tech that wasn't used in the Vietnam War, we are simply removing some of these modern war items from the Vietnam expansion. This in turn has an interesting effect on the gameplay – it's more gritty and up close and personal now, which feels like a perfect fit to the theme. Other items have been redesigned to fit the theme, so the C4 is replaced with dynamite sticks, while the defibrillator has turned into an adrenaline shot.


Is spotting still a central mechanic to Vietnam?
Of course! Battlefield Bad Company 2 is very much a team-oriented game, and Vietnam is no different in that aspect.

Are teams still divided into squads of four?
Yes.
 


Have you made a conscious effort to make the gameplay feel different than that of BC2? If so, how do you want the expansion to stand out?

This is an interesting question, since the answer is both yes and no. Our goal for the Vietnam expansion was to create something that is instantly recognizable as Bad Company 2, yet different enough to the point of feeling like a completely new experience. The gameplay is definitely Bad Company 2, but the feeling when you play the expansion is new. Part of it is down to some of the high tech helping items being removed, part of it is the fact that most of your weapons are unscoped, rusty, and tied together with band aids. The dense jungle environments with its trenches and foxholes also affect the style of play. Add to this the ‘60s music and the vehicles from the era, and you get a special vibe to the whole experience. This is mainly done through design choices that aren't technically changes in the gameplay mechanics as such.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 has certainly sold well, but after starting out strong on the Xbox Live charts it has steadily plummeted out of the top 10 while FPS competitors like Call of Duty and Halo keep going strong. Do you think the absence of new maps is the chief reason BC2 slid down the rankings, or is it something else?
We're very happy with both the initial weeks of sales of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 but equally so with the long tail of the product, how it keeps selling week over week now long after launch. We don't consider the lack of paid content to be a key factor in why the game is now selling less. This is part of the natural life cycle of a product, and we still have a huge amount of active players. We don't think it is a surprise that people are playing Halo at the moment, and frankly speaking we know that Bad Company 2 Vietnam has taken its fair share of time to be finished. Now that it is close to completion – and if our epic play tests here at DICE are any indication – we feel confident that our fans will have a blast come winter.

If you had a chance to go back and do it again, would you have released more map packs earlier rather than using the VIP strategy, which simply opened up pre-existing maps for new modes?

We think doing the VIP program was a good way to give our fans complementing features that we did not have the possibility of implementing in the base game at launch, and we have received good feedback for our VIP program. That being said, we are currently evaluating the VIP program to decide how to best approach this in the future.

Is this the last batch of Bad Company DLC we can expect, or does DICE have more plans for 2011?
You never know. :)