Battlefield 4 feature

Ex-DICE Dev On EA’s Influence On DICE, Battlefield 4’s Launch Problems & Frostbite Mod Tools

In a Reddit IAMA, Tim “stormonster” Kjell, a 26 year old Swedish Game Designer that worked on games like Battlefield, Mirror’s Edge, Frostbite, Medal of Honor and more, answered a lot of questions surrounding the games he’s been involved with. In addition, Tim talked a bit about EA’s influence on DICE, the launch issues that Battlefield 4 faced, and offered an explanation as to why we have not received any mod tools for all Frostbite-powered games.

Regarding EA’s influence on DICE, Tim claimed that EA did not shorten their games’ development time. However, the publisher did force a number of things on the team, especially when it came to additional content that was never part of DICE’s original plan.

Well, there is always pressure from publishers, as well as internally in the studio to publish things. But as far as I remember, the actual development time on the project never got shortened in any way. I think with better planning and better demands to keep things simple, the quality of the game would have been much higher.” said Tim and continued:

“I would say that they [EA] have less influence on the creative side of things than people seem to think. For the years I was on the core gameplay team of Battlefield I didn’t once make a creative decision based on executives or marketing. However, indirectly management can of course restrict the creative side of things quite a bit if they were to for example cut down budgets or shorten the production time of a project. There have however been a couple of times where marketing have made decisions and promises to the community, without speaking to us in development first – such as the ACB-90 addition to BF3 Premium for example. I actually didn’t know that I was creating that until a community member told me he was hyped for it and sent me a link to our YouTube announcement. We didn’t actually have memory allocated for such an addition (and neither did we have a name for the weapon approved by legal, so I made up the name on my own using initials and the birth year of someone close to me) – so I ended up having to quickly find resources and solutions to get it in the game, because the last thing I wanted was to let you guys down on another promise.”

Regarding Battlefield 4’s troubled launch, Tim claimed that while he was not present during that period, it was almost impossible to manage and balance the additional things that DICE had implemented in it.

“My personal theory is that with new games the thinking seems to be “it needs more” and that eventually becomes impossible to manage and balance. Things will always go wrong along the way, and I think the development team did a really good job with the time that they had and I know I was very harsh during the first couple of weeks, but they cleaned it up quite well with patches. I think for the future the focus shouldn’t be on just adding more stuff, but to rethink some things to make every choice important and interesting. Like for example – does BF really need as many guns and attachments and gadgets as it has now, or can we cut that down and make everything feel even more unique and of higher quality?”

When asked about the testing procedures, Tim said that there were at least 70 people testing Battlefield 4 alongside a big QA team that was testing various parts of the game for its last 4-5 months.

“We started testing as soon as we had a build running (usually this was gray cubes everywhere just to get it running) and then we just never stopped testing. Every day we had playtests with usually somewhere around 70-80 people (at least!) joining servers and playing. Then on top of that we had a big QA team with experts in different areas working on finding the really nasty stuff every hour of every day and working pretty much around the clock for the last 4 – 5 months of the productions.”

Tim also shared his thoughts about the absence of modding tools for both BF3 and BF4. As Tim said, DICE may be unable to create a standalone editor that can be used outside its offices.

“I really enjoyed working on the Frostbite engine, both when I was on the Frostbite team and helped design the workflows and when I later was on the development teams and got to use the tools. I remember there being a lot of discussions regarding releasing it publicly, but the systems were so intricate and intertwined they simply became almost the “home tree” in Avatar. Everything was connected everywhere, which made it an immensely powerful engine and was really great to work with in-house, but it just wouldn’t work outside of the office. Trying to detach things from each other to create a standalone version would, at least in my head, be too complicated to be done in a viable way. But let’s hope some of the brilliant minds on the current team can figure out a way to solve this and get a version out for the community!”

When a fan asked later on whether DICE made a mistake creating such a complex engine that was pretty but not fully functional and without modding and customisation support, Tim added:

“That’s right, it goes one way but not necessarily the other way 🙂 I do think that the focus has shifted and I think it needs to take a little bit of a step back to calm down and settle in a position where it doesn’t grow out of proportion and collapse on itself, so to speak. Let’s try to go back to the roots of how we started and work on that as a foundation instead of going wild throwing money around as if it were growing on trees. Well, this was actually an interesting twist on the standard mod-tools-question 🙂 I think it’s hard to say which route that was the best to go, but I know for a fact that a lot of the features in the engine now wouldn’t be possible if it had to be supporting modding as well. I would love it if the brilliant minds on the Frostbite team were to find a way to extract and create a standalone version of the editor for the community to use to create their own maps, modes, etc – even if it was a “FrostLite” or something along those lines 🙂 Modding was one of the things that made BF1942 and BF2 so amazingly great to play and I hope from the bottom of my heart that there is a way to bring this back.”