The details of the Limited Edition of Battlefield 3 were leaked before any of the gameplay details came to light. Now, courtesy of an exclusive reveal in Game Informer (again), I can now give you a better idea of the things to expect from Battlefield 3.
The single player storyline takes place in the year 2014. The section of the game that was demonstrated to Game Informer saw the 1st Recon Marine Team travelling through Sulaymaniyah, part of Iraqi Kurdistan. However, there will be more than one setting; the story will not be entirely grounded in the Middle East, and an advert for the game on the Best Buy website specifies North America and European locations too. Certainly the Sulaymaniyah storylines are affected by natural phenomenon – earthquakes play a big part in this area of the world as it is near a major fault line. This will lead to some impressive destruction sequences (more on this later). There will be a co-op mode, although details on this were lacking, but the game only supports one player locally.
The multiplayer maps will be able to support 24 players, and the maps will be bigger to compensate for this. The executive producer Patrick Bach stated that four multiplayer classes is the “sweet spot”, so it is more than likely that there will be four classes in Battlefield 3. Jets will be returning, although these will have their speed balanced to suit the size of the maps. The ability to go prone, one of the notable absences from Bad Company 2, is also returning. Other players will be able to use visual cues such as muzzle flash and vapour traces to locate their prone enemies. The most exciting addition, or certainly in my mind, is that DICE are planning to implement some sort of theatre function, like that found in Call of Duty: Black Ops or Halo: Reach. Bach was very cagy about revealing details on this, but promised that more information will be coming soon.
Although the game is not related in any way to Battlefield: Bad Company 2, DICE have learnt a few lessons from the multiplayer section of that game. The Commander function present in Battlefield 2 is unlikely to return, as the majority of players didn’t use it. DICE prefers the approach of the multiplayer in Bad Company 2, where special equipment, such as the UAV, could be used by everybody, and all players had the option to issue orders to other squad members. The killcam present in Bad Company 2 will stay, despite objections from some players. The developer has also learnt a lesson from the distribution and availability of new maps in Bad Company 2. The number of players on their servers dropped dramatically in the large gap between the release of “Map Pack 6” and the arrival of “Map Pack 7”. To combat this, new maps will be distributed in a “better way” in Battlefield 3.
DICE severely underestimated the number of players that would rank up to level 25 or above in Bad Company 2, and have listened to the complaints about the lack of incentives to progress any further. Bach states that they’re “looking into the numbers of how we scale up, what we give away, how we give it away, with the understanding that some people put a lot of time into the game”. There will be a lot more things to unlock, and these will not just be weapons and treats. They’re also making sure that there’s a reason for reaching the top rank. Players will be able to personalize their characters more than in previous games, but they don’t want everybody to look completely different; the two sides have to be easily discernable.
The original Frostbite engine, used in Battlefield: Bad Company and Bad Company 2 was able to handle dynamic lighting, destructible environments and believable animations. However, it became very time consuming for the developers to deliver this. This engine would not have been able to support Battlefield 3, so the engine has been completely rewritten. The Frostbite 2.0 engine has introduced streaming technology, deferred rendering, real-time lighting, high dynamic range audio, large-scale destructibility and rapid-prototype animation system. This can be done in a way that has actually reduced the workload for the developer. Here’s a summary of some of the improvements in these areas:
The pre-calculations of this engine mean that the correct lighting can be done in a fraction of time it used to need. DICE have integrated a “probe system”, where probes are placed in each level with important information of the level of light needed in that particular area. Each probe contains more information than that present on an entire level of Bad Company 2.
The sounds of war were recorded during a Swedish military exercise that featured infantry combat, tanks and helicopters. Samples were collected from various distances; this will make it easier for players to use audio cues during the game. For example, the footsteps of a nearby soldier in the same house will be more audible than the shots that are being fired between two soldiers in a confrontation outside of the building. Players will be able to hear the difference between when a vehicle is facing you, and when it is moving in another direction. Sound effects will also be the key cue to inform you when a gun is about to overheat, rather than the previous visual cues.
Nothing on the battlefield will be safe from destruction, not even a seven-storey building, but large-scale destruction will not play out like that in Split/Second. Bach said:
It needs to be believable. You can’t have earthquakes all over the place while you’re running and gunning. We want to have set pieces that fit the map. Set pieces can be more than big explosions and big animations. We have some cool things up our sleeves.Animations
When looking to improve the animations of the soldiers, DICE actually thought about using other engines, such as Havoc, to do this. Then they saw the ANT system, used in EA sports games like FIFA, which operates a series of plug-ins that anyone at EA could use. DICE has integrated this into Frostbite 2.0, but they’ve added their own variances. Now, there are two separate sets of animations for AI characters and multiplayer characters, and the AI moves with more sense of purpose. Their behaviour is conditioned by waypoint technology that issues directives depending on the character’s location and other actions in the vicinity. The characters that you play have also altered. Soldiers now move their heads and guns before they move their bodies, and they transition aggressively into and out of cover. The animations are seamless between running and dropping to the floor.
Battlefield 3 is due to be released in Autumn 2011.
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