Visceral Talks Battlefield Hardline Backlash, Growth, Dead Space Easter Eggs

In the final installment in our series of Battlefield Hardline interviews leading up to its March 17 launch, we were once more able to sit down with Vice President/General Manager of Visceral Games and Executive Producer for Battlefield Hardline, Steve Papoutsis to hammer him with any lingering questions about the game.

Check our our previous interviews here, here and here.

[Hardcore Gamer] Obviously this has been a long road. You announced the game at E3 2014 and you suffered a lot of backlash from the Battlefield community. Were you expecting that amount of backlash?

[Steve Papoutsis] Yeah it’s an interesting and good question. When we started working on the game one of the things we wanted to do was instead of just announcing the game and then having people talk about what it is or what it wasn’t we thought we’d do that beta, which nobody had every really done. The idea behind it was giving the game to players and letting them play it so that they could formulate their opinion based on playing the game, because yes we did predict people were going to have questions, comments or not be sure about what we were doing. So, it wasn’t surprising that there would be a lot of questions. You know really if you think about it Battlefield has been going on for over ten years. There’s a huge passionate community and when people are passionate they’ve got opinions and they want to share them and they’ve got concerns and they want to share them. So we did expect that and we thought let’s approach it with a positive attitude, let’s get out there and let people try to play the game and then use the feedback that they provide to make it better before it actually comes out.

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So at the end of that beta how did you find people were dealing with the game? Do you think they were happy or upset?

I think there was a mix of both. One of the things that was a good example of the state of play was that we had a mechanic in the game where if you got taken down you could self-revive yourself and stand back up. Some people absolutely hated it and were just bad mouthing the game, said they’d never buy it if that shipped in the game. Other people really liked it. So you’re going to get a difference of opinion all the time when you have a choice. Rather than just looking at it and saying “oh we’re going to keep it or get rid of it” we thought “how do we make it work so both groups like it.” So our design team went off and thought about it and changed the way that mechanic works. Now if you get run over in Hotwire or you get blown up with explosive damage, now you can self-revive yourself. So instead of being able to be shot and stand back up, which people felt was cheap because then now “hey I just shot you and now you’re shooting me,” we took that out of the equation and I think that passion and feedback from both sides of that argument lead to a much better mechanic in the end.

Some of the backlash probably also came from Battleield 4, which was not a fantastic game at launch. How did you take what DICE messed up in Battlefield 4 and fix it for Hardline?

You know I think making a game for five different platforms is really hard. I think you can see over the last year there have been a lot of hard launches for teams, not just Battlefield 4. One of our things from day one on this project was we were going to make sure we were going to make a stable game and we were going to put that as the premium. To the point that if it comes down to making a change for stability versus adding a feature or anything like that we were going to go with stability. Again that was part of the philosophy behind doing that early beta. We wanted to get out and put the game out in people’s hand’s, but we wanted to prove to ourselves we could launch it stably. I think our beta was extremely stable. There were some issues with registration at the beginning because people just killed that webpage, but the game itself was extremely stable. Our most recent beta was also rock solid from a stability perspective. So we just put a premium on it and the team was focused on it the engineers and development team did a great job of making sure that when the people put this game in and play it, its stable. You can’t have fun with something that’s not stable and we make games for fun. We want to make sure people have fun, we want to make sure they’re able to get into the game when they put it into their PlayStation, Xbox or PC and that’s what we set out to do.

There are five platforms for Battlefield Hardline and I think a lot of people are wondering why it’s still on PS3 and Xbox 360? Why aren’t you just focusing on the new-gen?

There are a lot of people still playing on those systems. We don’t want to exclude them from the experience. EA also wants to make sure we don’t exclude those gamers. That was the plan, there’s many many people still playing today on those platforms so let’s let them have a chance play Hardline.

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The Battlefield Hardline Beta beat Destiny for the most amount of players in it. Were you expecting that many players to get on? I think it was 7 million versus 5 million?

We talked a lot about what we thought our peak would be, but we definitely exceeded our expectations. Yeah, we had 7 million. It was great to hear and thankfully we had the infrastructure in place and enough servers to make sure the game was stable. It was nice to see that many people showing interest and I just hope we have that many people that get in there at launch too. What was awesome about having so many players was there was always a great match. You could always just get in there and play and it was just awesome so hopefully that continues with launch.

Can you break down the numbers? How many weapons, gadgets, cars and different maps?

There are 51 weapons split between the asymmetrical sides. There are 27 new vehicles. There are 7 new game modes, and there are 9 maps that ship with the game.

Something that Battlefield 4 was also criticized for was that not every map worked with every game mode. For example Rush felt like it just didn’t work on any of the maps. Are you avoiding that by limiting certain game modes to certain maps?

Yes, absolutely. I think the idea of supporting every mode on every map is a good concept, but from a execution perspective it’s challenging. You wanna make sure you marry the maps with the modes that are most fun on those maps. There are certain maps you won’t be able to play Hotwire on because it wouldn’t work or be fun. I think it’s ultimately about letting the designers marry up the best modes with the best types of maps. That should create the best and most fun experience for people.

One game mode that isn’t returning is Rush. Is there a reason why Rush isn’t returning?

I think for us we felt that bringing back two of the classic modes was a good amount and that 7 modes was a lot of modes. We were hoping that people would gravitate towards our new modes, like Blood Money or Heist. They’re a little Rush-esque. So that was our thinking. It’s not that we don’t like Rush it’s a great mode it’s just we wanted to steer people towards things that we made. That we felt were more seated in our fiction.

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We’re seeing games like Destiny, Call of Duty and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront go towards the sci-fi future. Why did you want Hardline to be in the present when other franchises are starting to move towards that future?

I think it’s primarily because of what you just said. There are so many people doing that and we wanted to be different. We wanted to create our own unique game that could stand out from the crowd. That coupled with the fact that we’ve spent the last seven or eight years working on a science fiction franchise with Deadspace we thought we’d do something different. We just love a lot of TV crime dramas and a lot of the great action films. To us it was like a no-brainer that combination of cops and criminals just works in that context of Battlefield. You’ve got these two sides that are kind of fighting against each other and it just felt like a natural fit for that franchise. Battlefield 2142 was an awesome experience and maybe that comes back someday, but Battlefield Hardline was Visceral’s first crack at making a Battlefield game from top to bottom and we felt passionate about the theme that we had.

You announced that there were going to be four packs of Battlefield Premium as compared to five in the last two Battlefield games. Why is it down one pack?

It’s funny you bring it up because in that announcement we also talked about super features that we’re creating and the idea of creating these additional enhancements for premium players just felt cooler. Like it would have a bigger impact not only on a map, but across the whole experience. We felt that that was a good trade-off.

Are you worried that there is going to be backlash about these features being locked behind the premium paywall?

We haven’t really talked in-depth about the features, but we do have plans on how it’s not going to feel locked behind the paywall. That’s really more about the way it gets exposed to players as they play. We have a concept right now that we’re working on and we may or may not ship this so take this with a grain of salt, but the idea of tournaments. The tournaments aren’t only for premium players, but if you’re a premium player you get access to some special tournaments and you can invite your friend to join you. That’s just an example of how a feature that is focused for a premium player obviously gives that player the advantage in the sense of they get first opportunity to participate, but is not completely gated. They’re still able to invite a friend to join them. Again it’s our effort to drive people to be a community and play with each other and share things with each other.

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Premium users still get two weeks before everyone else?

Yes.

I know with Battlefield 3 you did a PlayStation exclusive deal where PlayStation users got a week before everyone else. Is that coming back?

I don’t think so, I haven’t heard anything about that. We have EA Access happening this week. I don’t think we have anything else planned.

In a lot of EA games you see little easter eggs from every franchise make their way into each other’s games. Can we expect to find a lot of Dead Space easter eggs in Battlefield Hardline?

People should keep their eyes peeled. We definitely love that stuff. I think the reason why you see that stuff is because developers love making that stuff and I think our team is no different than any other team. We love the games that we’ve worked on we have a lot of admiration for other games within EA and I think there will be some little easter eggs in there for people to see.