The Battlefield 1 revelation video raised a lot of questions about what the new World War I first-person shooter game will be about.
But Electronic Arts is holding back on a lot of information about the game until the playable version shows up at the EA Play event on June 12 ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
The Battlefield games have a lot of staples, such as playing on land, air, or sea, or fulfilling different roles, such as medics. A lot of those are in the new Battlefield game, but some of the features are bound to be different. So we sat down with Daniel Berlin, lead game designer at EA’s DICE studio, for an interview today at EA’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif…
The worldwide release of the game will be October 21, well ahead of rival Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare from Activision Blizzard.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: What’s your position on the project?
Daniel Berlin:I’m lead game designer.
GamesBeat: I’m curious how the World War One idea originally came about. Did you have a lot of discussion back and forth?
Berlin: When we set out to create a new Battlefield game, we look at gameplay first. We need to support the main Battlefield pillars in terms of gameplay. There were a lot of people at DICE who’d wanted to go to this era for a long time. It’s a passion project for us this time around. DICE chose the setting. This is what we want to do.
Diving into the research around the era, it’s so rich. There are so many gameplay opportunities, so many different vehicles, so many weapons to make use of. It’s a common misconception that they were still just using single-shot rifles, and that’s not true. Everything you saw in the trailer, those were real weapons used by soldiers in this time period. Shotguns, pistols, automatic rifles, everything. It’s such a rich world, too, with so many locations. It’s not just Europe. It’s all over the place – the Dolomites, the Italian Alps, the deserts.
GamesBeat: When things started leaking a bit, people were positioning this as an alternate history of World War One. Is there any alternate history to this, or is it purely historical?
Berlin: It’s definitely rooted in history. There’s no alternate mix of anything else. All the stuff you see is equipment that was available. All the vehicles you see were available at this time.
GamesBeat: No time travel?
Berlin: No time travel. This is our depiction through a modern lens, looking at World War One, the Great War.
GamesBeat: How many concessions do you have to make for the sake of gameplay? Back then tanks were extremely slow, and they didn’t come in until 1917. Reloading took a while. Lots of things would bog down the pace of the battle.
Berlin: Like I say, for us gameplay is king. We need to make sure the vehicles and weapons are fun to use. With the variety of stuff that’s available, we can push and keep the pace you see in previous Battlefield games. We can also deliver the kind of rock-paper-scissor gameplay you’re familiar with. It’s a good fit. I know that’s surprising to a lot of people, but it’s been so fun to be on this journey and learn so much.
GamesBeat: Will, for instance, tanks feel more like they would in a modern Battlefield game, like a Battlefield 4?
Berlin: I’d put it like this. The soldiers who saw these tanks for the first time—these were the newest and most—the pinnacle of innovation, for a soldier in the trenches seeing a tank. They didn’t believe the stories at first, these metal monsters coming at you on wheels. That’s what we’re trying to express, the power and weight of these vehicles as they roll in. That’s been the goal as we design the vehicles.
GamesBeat: The single-player campaign story might have a challenge taking a single soldier around the world, right?
Berlin: Our single-player will focus on different stories and different personalities across the world.
GamesBeat: The character you have on the front of the promotional stuff you were showing, the guy in the cape with the club and stuff, why that particular character?
Berlin: We thought it was a cool image for the cover. When we set out on this game, we wanted to depict not just the common view of what the war was like. We wanted to challenge some preconceptions. We want to delve into some of the unknowns of World War One. Maybe people don’t know that this person fought or that person fought, that this army was involved. We’re stretching out and bringing all those stories into the game. But I can’t go into any specific details as far as which armies or characters we’re depicting at this point.
GamesBeat: You’re talking about revealing sides of the war that people don’t necessarily know about. A lot of people have made note of the fact that your cover character is black, even though obviously black people fought in World War One. For you guys, was that a conscious decision, an opportunity to show that there was more breadth to this war than people know about?
Berlin: That’s the thing. People don’t know that this was the case. We want to show diversity in the game. That’s been a key goal. You can see in the trailer that there’s a Bedouin woman warrior on a horse. She’s a playable character in the single-player campaign.
GamesBeat: In a multiplayer game, can there be more than one Red Baron?
Berlin: Oh, I think that was just a reference, talking about the feeling of being the Red Baron. But you can have multiple biplanes fighting in the level.
GamesBeat: Is it going to be like Battlefront, where you have particularly special units like that, people from history?
Berlin: We can’t touch on anything like that right now.
GamesBeat: Is there going to be a World War One megalodon?
Berlin: Again, I can’t say anything about that. But it’s the most important question.
GamesBeat: The trailer showed a battleship. Do you plan to have multiple kinds of sea vehicles?
Berlin: There are lots of vehicles we’re going to unveil in the future, a lot more to come. The battleship is just one of them.
GamesBeat: It seemed like the four roles are similar for multiplayer — assault, sniper, medic, support.
Berlin: We have classes like in previous Battlefield. To be honest, though, we’re still tweaking that end of things. We’re still throwing weapons and gadgets around. That rock-paper-scissors quality is important. The classes need to be perfect for this setup. So we’re still working on it.
GamesBeat: One thing that got mentioned was vehicle classes. Could you be one of the main classes plus a vehicle class, or is the vehicle class a completely separate thing?
Berlin: What was mentioned in the video—there will be a tanker class and a pilot class.
GamesBeat: With support, that implies you can call in artillery.
Berlin: Did you spot something like that in the trailer? [Laughs] We’ll definitely have a lot of different weapon types, but I can’t go into any specifics in terms of gadgets.
GamesBeat: What can you talk about in regards melee combat, how that slots into all of this? That seems like it would be a focus with trench warfare.
Berlin: That was definitely a focus for us. It was a big part of the era, that mix between powder-based weapons and hand-to-hand combat. It was important for us to lift the importance of hand-to-hand combat, and also the depth and meaning of what weapon you choose or what types of gameplay you want to focus on. I can’t go into detail on how the new system works, but we did mention the bayonet charge. That’s a very powerful melee skill.
GamesBeat: Would you say the player’s survivability is about the same as in other Battlefield games?
Berlin: With the available machinery and available weapons at hand, we can keep the same type of pacing that players are used to. It’s not slowed down in any way. We can push the pacing up or down. It’s a scale that we’re always working along.
GamesBeat: Battlefield 4 had a very rocky launch. What are you doing to ensure that’s not going to happen again?
Berlin: It’s a focus for us. We know it was a difficult launch. We’ve been working on this for a long time. We released Battlefront, which did really well. We’re pushing an open beta to ensure stability. We’ve taken a lot of learnings from that experience, and we feel like we succeeded with Battlefront. We’ll take everything we learned there and apply it to Battlefield One as well.
GamesBeat: Were science fiction or a return to World War Two temptations for you at all?
Berlin: Everything is a temptation. We look at the gameplay. We wanted to do this and create this, and then we look for a setting that enables those gameplay ideas. But then there was such a strong desire from the studio to take on this era, and it turned out to fit perfectly. The puzzle came together and this was it. This was what we wanted to do.