When it comes to sophisticated and intelligently-designed online shooters, DICE has proven that they know what they're doing. Not just with Battlefield 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but the online component of EA's Medal of Honor as well. No one can question the franchise's PC roots with Battlefield, but with the extra focus placed on single-player story with Bad Company 2, it's difficult to know what to expect from DICE's next project: Battlefield 3.
With the latest leaked GDC footage of the game showing serious time has been spent on the campaign, it's hard to know exactly where the multi-player and PC experience will fit in the overall product.
Wonder no more, as DICE's General Manager Karl Magnus Troedssen has confirmed that the developers haven't forgotten their roots one bit. With Battlefield 3, the team is building from the online multi-player out, and giving the PC version of the game some much-needed attention.
The balance between single-player campaigns and online multi-player is becoming a serious challenge for plenty of developers.
The increase in narrative quality that military shooters have experienced over the past few years has shown that a campaign can be a rewarding experience, so a game without one can seem like a lost opportunity.
On the other hand, adding a completely well-designed and bug-free online component is a tall order. The task is one which could merit the attention of an entire development team all by itself, so the challenge of a game like Battlefield 3 is practically making two games side-by-side.
While that issue may lead to a crisis of overall direction for some, Troedssen made it clear in an interview with Shacknews that they know exactly what audience they're aiming at, and what kind of an experience Battlefield 3 needs to be:
"I would argue our games, this game and the other games we've worked on with single-player, that the core of the game is online. That's where the franchise was born and it's going to keep being like that. The idea, actually, is that we want a bigger proposition. We want to introduce more people to the game. People like to play offline and then perhaps try out the online part of the game.
"We wanted to add more components to the game. We want to introduce more people to the Battlefield franchise. That's why with Bad Company we introduced single-player, that's why we've been trying out co-op now with Bad Company 2. Now, with Battlefield 3, we have these components coming together to just have a big blockbuster proposition."
The developers have proven that they're designing a new level of perfection in PC graphics, which is a nice thing to hear if you play a majority of your games with a mouse and keyboard. It's common knowledge that custom-made PCs are capable of pushing graphics even further than consoles, and DICE is looking to cover all of their bases by delivering not only the best looking PC game ever, but bringing next-gen gaming to current consoles.
Even with sights set so high for the Xbox 360 and PS3, the developers of Battlefield 3 know that they may have strayed from their PC roots in the past few years. Troedssen promises that their previous games aren't a sign of things to come, and will be giving the PC even more love than ever before:
"I felt that we had, maybe, set PC aside a bit too much. I've said this publicly before, we were very unhappy that we were not able to get a PC version out of Battlefield: Bad Company. It was down to sheer manpower, or lack thereof. We felt that we couldn't just bring out the Frostbite engine, and bring the game to consoles, and get the PC version out. We just failed there. It's something that we regret but it was a pure fact that we were faced upon.
"PC gamers are probably the most hardcore players we have out there. Sure, online gameplay has been on the rise on the Xbox 360 and PS3. There are a lot of hardcore online players there too. But on PC? That's our core audience."
Pleasing the hardcore fanbase is all well and good, but with Battlefield 3's stunningly realistic combat, we all want to know how it will manage to go toe-to-toe with Call of Duty. The developers have explained their need to create the brand new Frostbite 2 engine to achieve the amount of innovation they seek.
Those who played Bad Company 2 know just how much time DICE spent on mastering and refining destructible environments. Troedssen expressed his belief that the addition didn't just differentiate themselves from their competitors, but changed the way players interacted with eachother in a fundamental way.
For Battlefield 3, the team is going one step further. Players will now be facing the threat of their opponents blowing their cover to bits, while also experiencing major earthquakes that could potentially change the entire face of a battlefield. We can imagine how this could be of use in the single-player campaign, but the possibilities for multi-player are truly mind-blowing.
Even if the team is developing the game with a focus on multi-player, the single-player game won't be lacking any depth. Aside from the adrenaline-fueled gameplay and combat, Troedssen revealed that players will travel from Iraq to Paris, and even New York. They aren't giving any details on the story just yet, but they've obviously got something special in mind.
While the multi-player fans out there will be happy to hear that Battlefield 3 will unabashedly be an online game first, some fans of strong narratives and story might be disappointed. EA and DICE both have plenty of faith in Battlefield 3 though, so the campaign doesn't seem like it will be an afterthought.
We'll see how successful DICE's return to PC dominance turns out when Battlefield 3 is released for the Xbox 360, PC, and PS3 this fall.