We had the chance to have a chat with DICE’s General Manager, Oskar Gabrielson, about all things Battlefield 2042 – from his excitement bringing the series back to modern day to the challenges of making the game across multiple generations of platforms.
Talk to me about how excited you and the team are bringing Battlefield back to modern times!
Oskar Gabrielson: Coming from Battlefield V, the creative team spent a couple of months looking at different concepts — I think we looked at 12 overall. Some of them took us far into the future, some back in time and some to some places that were completely unexpected. But when we saw this pitch of Battlefield 2042, we had an amazing combination of bringing back the superpowers of Battlefield 3 and 4 and then just sprinkling in some cutting-edge hardware that we haven’t seen before in Battlefield.
The wing suit, the grappling hook, recon drones… there’s some really cool stuff in there. And I think if you then combine that with a new generation of hardware and the brand-new version of Frostbite, not only are we going back to modern day, we’re re-imagining and revolutionizing modern sandbox shooter gameplay. So the team’s super pumped. It’s been a great three years building this game, even with the circumstances with COVID.
I’d love to know why the team decided not to include single-player in 2042. Was it a time or a vision thing?
OG: The team was super clear when we kicked off this project that our ambition was to revolutionize sandbox shooter, multiplayer gameplay. And multiplayer is what DICE has always done best, so we really leaned in there and doubled down. So today you saw all-out warfare, which is the first of our three experiences. And now when we’re delivering all-out warfare on such a big scale, infusing AI, 128 players, all the cutting edge gear… there’s just so much in this game and multiplayer really is what we do best. So that was the core vision of the game from start to finish.
You saw our first introduction to the world of 2042, but there’s just so much more — we want to tell everyone about the locations, about those specialists… We just touched the tip of the iceberg. For players out there that love narrative, that love storytelling, that love deep immersion, there’s going to be loads in this game.
How hard is it to design an online game when there’s so many different dynamic systems going on?
OG: This is some of the secret DNA and culture of DICE as a studio. We are relentless when it comes to play testing – play testing from the very first day. One big challenge with this game, of course, is we are now gathering 128 human beings in our play tests. So we’ve not only used our teams in Stockholm, but our teams in Gothenburg and Guildford and even in Romania to really rally everyone around these play tests. And of course that then in combination with all this gear, it requires loads of balancing. But I think the most awesome thing, as I said, is that the vision of Battlefield is all about creative freedom and combat freedom.
You’ve stressed Hazard Zone will NOT be a battle royale. Do you feel it didn’t work in Battlefield V or was it more about making something unique for the franchise?
OG: I’d say the team in that early design phase of 2042 came back with an idea that was just hard to say no to. It’s something very contemporary, something that leans into the superpowers of DICE as a studio but also the Battlefield franchise. We just said, “we have to build this.” So we’re really looking forward to showing Hazard Zone in just a couple of months, it’s something very special.
What’s it been like working across an array of different platforms?
OG: I think we’re lucky enough to have the Frostbite Engine at EA. One of Frostbite’s superpowers is its scalability. We can take and run it on a super high-end PC with the most expensive graphics card you can find down to a more kind of low-end platform like the last-gen consoles.
I think the challenge that we have as a team is to make sure that the design works and we put so much time and passion into that — making sure that if you get a next-gen console or if you run the game on your high-end PC, you get that full-out all out warfare with 128 players. But you also get a great experience with 64 players on the last-gen consoles as well. Kudos to the Frostbite team for pulling that off and then kudos to the design team for really being able to balance both and [make it] like a magic light.
How different is the gameplay with smaller maps and player counts? What kind of challenges did the team face while rejigging 2042’s maps?
OG: So I can’t go into actual details of the map sizes in square kilometers, but really what we’re after is a specific Battlefield pace to the gameplay. It’s about agency for the players. The maps we now design for Battlefield 2042 give you options as a player: if you like close-combat gameplay, there are specific areas on the map that you’re probably going to elect to spend most of your time on. If you’re a person that really loves air, land and sea battles, there are locations that will suit that. If you like that verticality and the crazy ‘only in Battlefield’ moments, there are also places for you.
We’ve really optimized both the last-gen and next-gen land masses to make sure that we have that choice for players and that agency to choose how you want to play. I think that the level designers we have across the studio have done a really good job. They’ve kind of thought about that challenge from day one and then have been able to design the levels accordingly.
What have you learned over the time Battlefield V has been out and how are you looking to take those lessons into Battlefield 2042?
OG: So DICE actually turns 30 next year! We’ve had a chance to build a wide array of different games, starting with pinball games to Mirror’s Edge. I think the single thing that’s stayed true is how much we learn from previous installments of our games. We take the things we do really well and the things we can do better. Battlefield 2042 for us is taking the best of all of the previous games and hopefully delivering the optimal and ultimate Battlefield experience.
What are some of the big new features coming to Battlefield 2042 that really excite you?
OG: I’ll start with epic scale. You’ve never ever played an army-scale warfare game on this level. Both through actual land masses and player counts. If you think about that from a Battlefield perspective, what makes Battlefield really special is that you feel like you’re part of something bigger. You’re in a squad, of course, but if you look to the right or you look to the left, there’s 63 other players trying to achieve the same thing as you as a big, big army. That sense now with the new land masses and player counts is really elevated. It just feels really different.
On top of that, the introduction of cutting-edge hardware, as we showed in some of our presentation today: the syringe pistols (you can revive teammates at a distance!), the wing suits… and then this introduction of a new generation of levolution and weather systems.
That real-time tornado — that’s been a good three years of development. But it just causes a massive amount of mayhem when you play… and it’s just a really cool thing. You can actually use it to your advantage!
You’ve personally been working on the Battlefield series for some time now. I’d love to know some of your favourite moments during the development of the game?
OG: I’d say first and foremost that moment when we, as a team, looked at the concepts and we picked the world of 2042, that stands out. But there’s actually one moment that we, as a team, sat and looked and we thought of this notion of adaptability of the game. Given that we wanted to create a dynamic world this time around, what could we change in the core gameplay formula to give players more agency? One of our designers came up with this idea of the plus system, which was just a mock up on a whiteboard — like this idea of being able to swap attachments on your gun while in-game.
We’re like, “Yeah that could maybe work. Let’s just give it a try.” Just like we try many features in the game development process. And then it was in a play test and in that play test, I ended up in a situation where I was standing up on a ridge playing a sniper-esque recon role. In a normal Battlefield game, I would probably need to stay on that ridge because I have a certain set of gear. Yet in 2042 I could actually start swapping out my scopes and my ammunition and I could morph into an infantry soldier, run down that hill and go into hardcore combat. That single moment for me has changed how I think about Battlefield. And it just started with a whiteboard sketch of that plus system! Now it’s really hard to play any kind of shooter that lacks that system right now. It’s changed how I think about shooters.