Battlefield 3 Focusing on PC Gaming
Jimmy Thang at GeForce.com interviewed Battlefield 3 Executive Producer Patrick Bach, a man who firmly believes consoles are holding PC gaming back. Like PC gaming enthusiast, he is also dismayed by the fact that many game developers merely add anti-aliasing options to the PC version of games before calling it a day. Eager to buck this trend, Bach talks about how DICE will create one of the most visually-breathtaking games you've ever seen by using the PC as Battlefield 3's lead development platform. Here are a few tidbits that we found interesting from the interview (check out the full interview HERE):
Not only are the folks at DICE focusing on the PC for Battlefield 3, they think that console gaming is holding the industry back!
Do you feel the consoles are holding PC games back?
Yes, absolutely. That's the biggest problem we have today. Most games are actually still based on the same core idea that the consoles are your focus, the superior platform or something. I don’t know why. That was the truth 5 years ago, but the world has moved on. PCs are way more powerful than the consoles today and there are actually almost zero games out there that actually use the benefits of this. So for our target of what we want to hit, we are now using the more powerful platform to try and prove what we see gaming being in the future rather than using the lowest common denominator, instead of developing it for the consoles and then just adding higher resolution textures and anti-aliasing for the PC version. We're do it the other way around, we start with the highest-end technology that we can come up with and then scale it back to the consoles.
Can you talk about the benefits of that? That probably makes the PC version look better but does it then hinder the consoles in any way?
This is interesting. In theory you could argue that you're building it for a more powerful platform and that it will look crappy on consoles. That's not the case because when you build the target high, you can then pick and choose from the target and ask what actually creates this picture and then pick the best things from that and turn that into your console solution. The other thing that is very interesting is that since you're building the engine based on the knowledge that you will release it on the consoles, you actually streamline the whole technology to be able to scale back to the weaker platforms. So in the end, by, you know, painting this high-end target, you actually set a new bar and then when you scale it back, I think people will be surprised to see how good it looks on the consoles. We can't show it right now, because we're aiming to use the PC to set the bar, but it's actually helping us make a better console game.
For those unfamiliar with the Battlefield franchise or just the Bad Company series, can you explain what all the buzz behind Battlefield 3 is about?
It is the successor of course to Battlefield 2. It's not supposed to be connected to the Bad Company series. It's actually been more than five years since Battlefield 2, which, of course, has made us think a lot about how this next big Battlefield game should be. One of the conclusions that we made quite early was that if you really want to move gaming forward, you need to go back to the original idea. Look at the core of what you want to achieve rather than to just do an iteration on our existing technology for instance. We actually designed the game based on what we wanted to see in the future rather than what can merely be built today. And then we realized we had a lot of problems with the technology we had so we went back to the drawing board and just redid the whole engine based on our needs, rather than doing it the other way around. I think that's one of the big reasons why it's been taking so long for us to release anything from Battlefield 3 because the technology wasn't done. And also the fact that if you look back 5 years when the consoles, the high definition consoles, were released, they were actually better or good as high-end PCs back then.
Are there going to be any new destructible enhancements to Battlefield 3? Bad Company did a really good job with that.
Destruction was a bold move when we did it for the first Bad Company. We actually did the same back then, we asked ourselves, “what will be the new cool thing in 5 years that everyone will have?” And this is back in 2004 and still no one is really building destruction which is a bit weird in a way because you would have thought that the world would have moved on when it came to static worlds. There's a lot of work involved in it so the first Frostbite engine focused on making destruction just possible and it's not all about eye candy, of course, it's actually a strategic element of the Bad Company games so that using the destruction as a strategy, something that you need to adapt to, as it actually adds a lot of variety to the Battlefield core, and now we're taking that back into the core of Battlefield series. Battlefield 2 didn't have any destruction so Battlefield 3 will be the first core title with destruction and of course we're doing some bold moves by not only being in the more urban environments, where we've been before, but we’re going into cities now, so you need to have even more destruction where you can actually affect objects - the buildings around you, to make it feel like a physical world.
So what exactly is this engine allowing you to do with Battlefield 3 that you couldn't otherwise do with Frostbite one?
First of all, as mentioned, I think the rendering is completely new, we're using a completely different rendering model. Deferred lighting, we're using dynamic radiosity, combined with all the particle systems being rendered in the same world, looking completely different than what we've seen before in our engine, at least. That combined with, for instance, our animation system that will be working with a central EA tech service, where they created this animation system called "ANT," primarily for EA sports titles. So you can see it being used in FIFA, for instance, and the characters in FIFA look amazing, probably the best looking sports game out there, but taking that into first person experience was quite cumbersome, it took quite a lot of energy and time, quite a lot of collaboration to get that going, but if you look at the result today in the images you've seen from Battlefield 3, we're taking this to a completely new level. It looks completely different than other first-person shooters, just the fluidity of animations at any time is unseen in other games, I would argue. For us, that's a huge step forward.
So we have the rendering, we have the animation, and we have the improved destruction that we've talked about. We're going into the cities, and then, of course, the audio is something that we've been really good at before, I would argue that we're the best in class but we still have improvements to do and we're taking that step now with Frostbite 2. So there's lot of bits and pieces from everywhere that adds to the whole package, it's not just one part. It's actually all the parts that make a better game. We also have of course, the benefit that the consumer might not see directly, but it's on the development side. We have faster iteration times. We have sub-level streaming, you can actually stream things in real time on any level, in and out of memory, it's super-fast, which gives us room to scale down high-end PCs to console.
In terms of the visual style, are you guys trying to go for realism? Is that the end goal? Because it does look very realistic.
Yea. The goal is to give you a realistic kind of rendition of the world so it feels like, “Okay, I understand this world. I see people, I see the world, I can recognize myself in it,” and then add all the gameplay elements of the core Battlefield experience into that and if you remember in 2005 when people played Battlefield 2, everyone said that was the most realistic-looking shooter at the time, but if you look at it today, compared to what we have, it looks like a cartoon. (laughs) It's way better today and I think we can of course, in the future, hope that we can take another step forward so games should not look like games, but games should look like what you want to create. If that’s reality or more stylistic cartoonish style or whatever, then we can't blame technology anymore, because then we'll have taken that step. We can then in theory create whatever we want. And I think to us, a very creative team, that's the big benefit. Then it becomes a discussion of not what can we do, but what do we want, which puts a lot of pressure in the creative part, of course. Back in the day you could blame technology, but now it's like, “Okay, we can do whatever we want, we don't have limitations."
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