Announced earlier today, Battlefield Portal is a brand new content hub featuring 7 maps from Battlefield 2042’s All-Out Warfare in addition to 6 classic maps from previous games that have been optimized for next-gen quality and graphics. Via the Portal, Battlefield players will be invited to create their own custom content and imaginative experiences using detailed designer tools.
To learn more about Battlefield Portal, we sat down with Dustin Wiebe, senior design director at Ripple Effect Studios, to chat about this exciting new game type for the franchise, the process of selecting maps and what we should expect from the upcoming creator experience.
How did the idea of Battlefield Portal come about? Was this something that the audience had requested over time?
DW: I think it came from a few places, actually. I mean, the first is, there have been custom games inside of Battlefield for quite a while now. So, you know, it’s not a stretch or a leap to see why it would have transitioned the way it did. The reality is, this didn’t start out like that. It started as a love letter to fans, the initial goal was to recreate some of the classic experiences, namely 1942, Bad Company two, Battlefield 3 and then we’re sitting there, we’re looking at the amount of effort and all those great assets and all these things you could do and then we’re looking at this wider game saying, “wouldn’t it be amazing if we could actually take all of that stuff and like, actually play with it inside of the 2042 maps?” and we’re like, yeah, that’s that sounds great. Let’s do that. Then eventually we said well if we’re gonna do this, let’s do this. We started investigating what would it take to really just give players the power to build their own Battlefield effectively. If there are things that people like or dislike, and say, “Ah, the game would be so much better if we just took out x”, it’s like, okay, do it, you have the power now, so, have fun with it. We hope to be pleasantly surprised by the types of things that the community is going to build.
Why were was 1942, Battlefield 3 and Bad Company 2 the games that were chosen? Were they just immediately the obvious ones that the team wanted to go with?
DW: 1942, for sure. I mean, that’s really where it all started. I don’t know about you, but how long has it been since any of us have played 1942? And so that that was just a shoo-in. Then it got a lot harder after that. You look at all of these amazing experiences and we didn’t want to release anything that was just released, just around the corner, and we wanted to focus a little bit more on “what are those experiences that people maybe haven’t played in quite a while?” and of those experiences, which are the ones that are most longingly remembered by fans. So that really brought us to Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. They just kind of rose a little bit above the others. Then, of course, you start the painstaking process of figuring out, well, what maps? what weapons? what experiences do you bring forward in those games once you kind of settle on it? So that was not something we did lightly, it took a while. It was a lot of really fun debates and also looking at player data as far as you know, what were the most fan favourite maps or modes or experiences? What did the data tell us? So it was a bit of emotion, a bit of nostalgia, and a lot of data.
There are six maps at launch from three iconic games. Was it data? Was it just making sure there was the variety? Or was it just a combination of those things to land on the six that you chose?
DW: It was data, for sure and it was also making sure we had the variety. It doesn’t make sense to pick just desert maps, for example, you want the variety. When we think about it through the lens of a builder, well, then you also want to make sure that builders have choices on; “I want to make this like really cool game mode that makes a lot of sense in the snow, but doesn’t make sense anywhere else,” Right? So giving them a lot of flexibility and the choice to take what we’ve made and then make something completely different from it.
How much work has been done to bring these maps up to modern standards? The maps in 2042 are unlike anything we’ve seen in Battlefield in terms of scale and the crazy things going on. So, I guess your first question is how much work has been done? And is there a lot of contrast between the newer maps and the older maps?
DW: Well, I can speak for the Portal map specifically. It’s a scale, right, so Battlefield 3 probably had the least amount of work to do because it was already fairly modernized, I would say. So we didn’t have to put as much effort into some of those maps. 1942, however, it practically predates cover, when you think about it. There was no sprint, there was no cover and so there’s a lot of work to do. On the flip side, you want to modernize it, but you want it to feel exactly the same and so they’re completely at odds with each other. That’s where it took a while for the team to really nail down exactly where the sweet spot was between the two.
For someone that maybe doesn’t want to build and just wants to play on these old maps, like, what will that experience be like?
DW: I would hazard a guess that like 90% of players just want to play but it’s that 10% that fuel the system, they keep the engine turning. The number one thing for us was to think about this, as experiences first, not tools. We didn’t set out to build the best tools, we set out to enable players to build the best experiences. To do that, we needed to think about how to surface those experiences for people. That’s really going to come in two forms; there’s going to be what we call the “featured experiences” page, which is the landing page and they are the three or four experiences that we want to highlight to the community as the must-play experiences. Then they can choose and they can matchmake into those and they can play with them and it will spin up infinite numbers of servers to supply that demand. Or they can choose to go the community route where they say, “well show me what are all the community hosted experiences out there”, and they can play the community built games.
Meanwhile, what we’re doing as developers is we’re going through those community experiences day in and day out to find the true nuggets, to find the cool things that people have built so that we can spotlight them. I think Christian [Grass, general manager of Ripple Effect Studios] mentioned that earlier; when we spotlight something, we take it out of the community games, and we put it up on the front page, we highlight the builder and it’s their moment of fame, to have their experience promoted basically for the world to play for a duration of time, maybe it’s three or four days. Meanwhile, as developers, we’re also looking for ways to change up those featured experiences. So, at launch, you know, you’ll see 1942, Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 and then maybe the next week, we might do a Battlefield 3 versus 1942 experience and maybe we make it lopsided so there are only 10 Battlefield 3 three soldiers against 80 1942 soldiers and things like that and have had a lot of fun with it and create some new and interesting ways for the non-builders to just constantly come back every week knowing it’s going to change. It’s going to be different stuff to keep them engaged and playing.
We’d love to know more about the creator experience. We saw the PC creator experience on the web, is the console creator experience the same?
DW: So it’s all done on the web. You log in with your EA credentials, you get into the web and anything that you create, the moment you go onto the console, whatever you’ve created is going to be there, so that you can just go and play. Now if you’re a console player, and you don’t want to go and build something on the web, there is also the URL that you can select or a QR code and if you just hold up your phone or your tablet, it will actually bring it up and you can just build it right then and there. So that you can basically build on whatever device that you have available to be used. Then the other thing that we’ll have is a bunch of pre-made featured experiences I was talking about if you just don’t want to go and build, you don’t want to go to a website, you just want to go and you want to create an experience. Well, there’s all these pre-made experiences that we’re going to have right there. So on the console, you can just select it, launch the experience, and you’re playing and other players can choose to join you or you could host it against AI.
Was it hard to create something that allowed for a high level of customization, but would still appeal to a lot of gamers?
DW: Yeah, that’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? The way I like to think about it is if I don’t want to scare anybody away, I’d like to introduce it in a manner where it seems very familiar for anybody who has ever made a custom game in Battlefield. When you go in, there are a few settings, you can choose your mode, 90% of it can be built by people that don’t need to touch the logic editor. They can go in, they can use sliders, and they can make some pretty crazy stuff. Let me tell you the things that the team has built, just using sliders and mutators and things like that is insane. Then you got the cliff, right, which is what separates the casual builders from the advanced builders and that’s where you get into the logic editor. I was able to learn and pick things up pretty quickly, I could make a new rule and give everybody health on kill immediately and bam, it just works. That’s the difference of using that block style visual editing where it makes sense and if you watch a few tutorials, and you watch how somebody plays, or you use an example template that we’ve created, you can actually start to figure out pretty quickly how this thing works. So maybe it was intimidating at first but after you put a little bit of time into it, it’s surprising how quickly you can pick it up and do some pretty cool stuff.
What is the craziest thing you’ve seen so far? Anything that has just blown your mind and felt like something that everyone would want to play on day one?
DW: So it’s actually an experience we played just the other week. It’s an infection gun game and so you know, either you’ve played infection mode, where you know, it’s the last man standing, or it’s gun game where you rotate through guns, but somebody had created a gun game infection mode. So it’s a team deathmatch, one team, most of them start off playing gun game and every time they get a kill, they cycle through the guns. However, on death, they swap to the infected side where they’re no longer playing gun game. They’re these crazed mechanics with drills, that’s all they got is just drills so they’re running around trying to drill you to death but they have super speed, and things like that, so they’re really, really fast. So, you got one team playing gun game, you got one team who’s growing over time becoming the crazed mechanic infection mode, until there’s of course, the last man standing who wins the gun game. So even taking examples of what you’ve seen in the past and being able to mash them together in unexpected ways, is starting to highlight some of the power that we’ve seen so far.
Battlefield Portal is a love letter to fans of the franchise and long-term players alike and will be available with the launch of Battlefield 2042 on Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, October 22nd, 2021.