Fine-tuning the Deathmatch Experience in Battlefield 3™

When designing the multiplayer suite for Battlefield 3 it was important to appeal to a diverse player base with different competitive preferences. With a game mode as established as Deathmatch and its variants, the multiplayer team set out to provide a familiar experience that also retained the Battlefield aesthetic deep into the core design. In this week’s Inside DICE article, level designer Diego Jimenez explains one of the ways we’re continuing to fine-tune and improve on that design.

With Battlefield 3, the multiplayer team at DICE was eager to bring back Deathmatch to the series after a long hiatus. We wanted to provide players with a simpler, more focused combat experience that still retained the unique flavor of Battlefield. While we were quite happy with the end result, spending lots of time playing the game online as well as listening to the community’s feedback made it clear to us there were specific areas with room for improvement. Spawning too close to enemies when playing Team Deathmatch or Squad Deathmatch has been a common point of feedback, and is an area we’re improving. This is how we’re going about it.

Team Deathmatch Spawning 101
Due to the stripped-down nature of Team Deathmatch, a player spawning system that effectively shuffles players about the map as they die and respawn becomes absolutely critical for a good gaming experience. This system includes both the spawn system game code as well as the individual spawn points and spawn zones the level designer places by hand. Rather than trying to alter the level layout, we knew we had to focus on these items in order to improve the experience.

The way the spawn system works in Battlefield 3, the whole map is divided into different spawn zones corresponding to areas of the level that a team will naturally fall into or attempt to defend. As combat progresses, the system tracks which team controls which zone and attempts to spawn players close to their team mates. A good level layout will naturally encourage teams to move constantly throughout the map, while the automated spawn system ensures that, whenever possible, as players die they respawn near their team mates. The idea is to have the teams fighting each other around focused frontlines that ebb and flow as the combat rages on.

The first step: Back to Karkand
As the level designer responsible for the different Deathmatch setups in our levels, I had some lingering concerns in the weeks and months following the release of Battlefield 3. These problems centered around a few of the maps which were either showing an unacceptable rate of players spawning close to nearby enemies, or were prone to certain players spawn-camp opposing team members. Players would often die soon after they respawned into the game, making for less than enjoyable combat.

On a personal level, watching someone putting up YouTube clips where they spawn-camped some poor player over and over in say, Noshahr Canals, made me cringe. We want people to have fun, and if they don’t, we have to take it upon ourselves to improve our design.

The first step we took to address these issues was rolled out on the client and server updates that came with the Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand update back in December. Our spawn system is designed to randomly consider any potential spawn points within a given zone and reject those that include nearby enemies within each spawn point’s so called ”Protection Radius”. Since this radius was relatively big for some of the smaller levels like Noshahr Canals and Kharg Island, we decided to reduce it by half in order to avoid one wandering enemy suddenly invalidating a large amount of potential spawn positions for a given zone.

Another big improvement came from redrawing the spawn point configuration on Caspian Border, Damavand Peak, Noshahr Canals and Kharg Island — we essentially pulled a lot of unsafe spawns away from the high-traffic central areas of the map and shifted them towards the safer zones in the periphery.

The challenge: Kharg Island
While the Karkand update generally improved the spawning-related issues for the aforementioned maps, we felt over the following weeks that Kharg Island was still not up to par. Players proved to continue experiencing some issues in the form of spawning close to enemies, or being forced to engage in combat uncomfortably soon after spawning.

Here are two overview pictures contrasting the version of this map shipped with Battlefield 3 (picture 1.1) with the one included in the Back to Karkand update (picture 1.2). Spawn zones are denoted by colored geometries, while the yellow circles mark potential spawn locations.

Picture 1.1: Battlefield 3 version of Kharg Island (TDM)

Picture 1.2: Back to Karkand update of Kharg Island (TDM)

As you can see above, we decided to remove almost all of the spawn positions in the container area — aiming to discourage players from spawning in high traffic areas.  We also took away one of the spawn zones (shown yellow in the picture) to reduce the density of players on the northern end of the map.

The next step
After we rolled out the Back to Karkand update, we continued to monitor how players reacted to the changes. With Kharg Island, for example, we could see tangible improvements from the aforementioned changes. But the experience of spawning into the map still didn’t feel up to the same level as some of the other maps, and so we got right back into it.

One of the proposals we had involved to further distance the spawn zones from each other in order to avoid players meeting hostiles too soon after spawning. As such, the new version of the layout we came up with involved opening up a previously blocked off area on the west end of the map (see picture 1.3 below). The extra space allowed us to add a new spawn zone on the southwest (colored as light brown below), bring back the yellow-colored spawn zone, and simultaneously shift the original blue zone farther to the west. We have been play testing this setup internally as of late and have found it to both significantly improve the flow of the level and relieve the spawn-related issues some players have been experiencing.

Picture 1.3: Upcoming update of Kharg Island (TDM)

Bigger or smaller playable areas
Aside from Kharg Island, we have also been busy with improvements on other maps. As far as post-release updates go, altering the playable area is one of the most drastic changes we do, as this can have the knock-on effect of affecting the game in unforseen ways if you are not very careful. Sometimes the characteristics of a map necessitate a bigger area — and the added frontlines and spawn zones that come with it — while others benefit from compressing the effective size of a layout in order to bring players closer together.

Tehran Highway is a good example of the former. Our feedback was indicating a general repetitiveness of combat due to a limited amount of available frontlines to fight on, and a lack of rotation among the different spawn zones — teams would often spawn and fight in the same areas. Through our recent playtests we’ve found this to be much improved by allowing access to the western half of the map and effectively establishing spawn locations on the other side of the highway. As players can now engage each other across the highway, or fire from elevated positions like the pedestrian overpass or the construction site, the action feels more unpredictable and caters to a wider range of playing styles.

Picture 1.4: Original version of Tehran Highway (TDM)

Picture 1.5: Upcoming version of Tehran Highway (TDM)

The opposite approach proved effective when dealing with the Squad Deathmatch layout on Damavand Peak. In order to address community concerns about the fighting being too spread out due to squads spawning too far from each other, we have now play tested a version of this level that removes two spawn zones we judged to be too out of the way (see the now removed orange and dark green areas on the pictures below).

Picture 1.6: Original version of Damavand Peak (SQDM)

Picture 1.7: Upcoming version of Damavand Peak (SQDM)

Looking forward
We have also managed to fix a code bug where a small amount of players would spawn within a cluster of enemies at the start of the round, and I have been busy with a whole slew of tweaks to individual spawn points and spawn zones for other Team Deathmatch setups in maps like Seine Crossing, Strike at Karkand, and Sharqi Peninsula. You can similarly expect significant improvements on the Squad Deathmatch layouts for Noshahr Canals and the aforementioned Damavand Peak.

Refining the Team Deathmatch and Squad Deathmatch experience remains a learning experience for myself, and for the whole multiplayer crew here at DICE. I strongly believe Deathmatch is a valuable addition to the Battlefield repertoire, and I am committed to continuing to listen to feedback from the community regarding Deathmatch game modes moving forward.

Diego Jimenez
Multiplayer Level Designer

Comments
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  • Lumos 04.21.12 at 11:45

    Have fun? I play the game to WIN, not to have fun. Fun is had when there is no competition. When there is competition, nothing matters more than winning. If winning didn’t matter, then why did you put up all the statistics, eh?

  • majinmax72 04.19.12 at 10:37

    @gandfinn i guess you’ve just seen the movie Hurt Locker when Jeremy would spot and Sanborn(dono name of actor) would snipe? Isn’t that?

  • gandfinn 04.17.12 at 20:25

    Please, PLEASE READ THIS COMMENT DICE! Something there is a GREAT lack of in this game, is the art of sniping. The concept with range, bullet drop and bullet time is awesome, but we NEED a distance finder! A range tracker for the recon so that he will know wich “dot” to aim at. A distance/range finder is so vital for many things and could be very helpful if you try to snipe f.ex in groups of two. Then one player could be the shooter, and another player the “spotter”. See what I mean? Please hear me out and discuss this! That would have been the greatest achievement in this game made possible for snipers. Thank you.

  • zakrocz 04.12.12 at 05:07

    Since the arrival of rent a server with bigger ticket counts I’m really enjoying tdm. It’s a great way to test out the guns and also get the unlocks but it’s also a great mode in itself and bigger ticket counts allow a more tactical & experimental approach when you know the round isn’t going to end in 10 minutes. I don’t know how you can achieve it, but the best experiences in tdm are when you have both teams facing off against eachother with an imaginary frontline rather than the mindless headless chicken gameplay that cod is notorious for.

  • KaiserVII 04.06.12 at 07:33

    Why are we waiting??? Where the hell is the decison makers? EA / DICE should have a POLL of what we think about the recent patches : Do gamers want back the pre-patch?? YES or No

    Yes for me!!!!!

  • DysonKings561 04.04.12 at 07:00

    wuz up with the glitching r u going to fix that i go one way it takes me to another way than i get killed every time

  • sfjmcPicket 04.01.12 at 05:28

    where is the filter to weed out private servers?

  • FiNchMisTEr420 03.29.12 at 21:19

    I don’t know but what I always hated about COD was the “Team Deathmatch” respawning. That’s why I stopped buying the game after COD 4. Rainbow Six 3 (before Black Arrow) was an awesome close quater shooter. To me the idea of a “death match” means to the death, meaning everyone in your team gets one life and the last team standing wins. I didn’t mind waiting around, this mode made for a much more exciting game because there is nothing like being outnumbered 3-1 or ever 5-1 and somehow managing to kill all 3/5 enemies to bring your team a victory. I also encourages teamwork more then constant respawn does, if people know they only have one try to get points they will try to stay alive longer and stick with their team. Respawing really destroys the whole teamwork idea in Team Deathmatch, people just run around like idiots getting shot. Ofcourse if you are going to do a no respawn game I suggest you make the maps smaller and have each team spawn at opposite sides of the map. I think dice should really think about this even consider opening up a server or two with these options and see how people like it. Currently I don’t even play Team Death match or Deathmatch in any shooter, they all went the COD way. Respawns make more sense in objective based game types.

    • christoffer93 04.03.12 at 00:34

      I like your idea…. although it seems a little too simple. Adding some other things could make it REALY fun to play (like dividing a map like Caspian Border Conquest Large into “smaller maps” and then who wins the majority of the Deathmatches wins or something like that).
      But whatever! Thumbs up for your iniciative!

  • Foxhol3-Norm4n 03.29.12 at 15:10

    Today after the new patch i noticed on karg at the crossing of offices next to the silo when you look around the whole terrain disappears walls buildings any player in or out of vehicle you can actually see the ocean through the ground, i have not seen this before trying a re install of bf3 now

    • Foxhol3-Norm4n 03.29.12 at 15:11

      actually it is construction site, sorry

  • AUTh0rity 03.29.12 at 09:40

    I miss the following options in the Poll:
    - [list]B2K Maps
    - “I don’t play deathmatch at all”

  • ElloOnFire 03.28.12 at 23:28

    TDM is for leveling really ur guns. Conquest is for leveling up ur kits. then Rush promotes you. im pretty sure that once people start putting claymores in front of spawn points they will fix that in time. we just need patience

    those without strong wills though cannot survive on the Battlefield..

  • DaSquirrelsNuts 03.28.12 at 15:22

    Thanks for this very informative blog. One question I have – do you consider the presence of enemy equipment (claymore, grenade, spawn beacon) when invalidating a spawn point? Only I see people spawn in front of an enemy claymore, move and die immediately. There was no mention in the blog about this.

  • 6346332342713276402303600939067 03.28.12 at 01:23

    i dont understand why noshahr has a lot of votes, personally, i find i cant walk 5 meters out of my spawn area without getting shot, the only people that are mvp, just have MGs and just spawn trap people, i personally dont like to use the MGs to spawn kill. And if its not MGs, its claymores (but thats getting fixed i think) or just people with shotguns

    also, great idea on expanding some of the map sizes, im really looking forward to the fixes, because usually, i just play 16 player tdm, but if these fixes work, then i can play 64 player games, and have a true bf3 experience

  • ArchePerception 03.28.12 at 01:05

    Also for PC: if your going to tone down the maps for death matches you’ll have to do multiple versions then if you can have 24, 32, 48 and 64 player TDM. No?

  • ArchePerception 03.28.12 at 01:00

    Well…. spawn points are obsolete. The fact is that they always have problems. Medal of Honor, I thought changed that…with the parachute into the battlefield. Since then it has not been implemented as much as I would have thought. Really, duct taping up the problems here may help but removing the source of any problem is the true cure. Just like cancer.

    Why are their helicopters? Why are there APC’s? Why is there a parachute? I see/ have seen others do it but this game has spent too much time trying to be cool like COD that its left gaps where it should have excelled.

    Just spawning leaves a gap, creating less immersion. Simple as that.

    If vehicles aren’t allowed in BF’s death match to differentiate it, that’s…”OK”. Just make it rounds for points , kill off the opposing team and reset. Head off for a new round of points. Some will say the waiting will deter others…perhaps only to other game modes hopefully. If they don’t want to wait give them something to do while dead. ” this is my IDEA also” – let them spawn AI bots from a map screen, these AI bots will finish off the remaining players of the opposing team. VOILA! ( you can buy that Idea form me if you’d like). The bots can remain for the next round or just disappear for the next round. Either way the losing side of a round would spawn with more AI bots. It would be best not to annoy players with AI allies on a new round.

    Either way SPAWN points are OBSOLETE. It is disappointing how MARKETING and old DESIGN regimens can hold back the evolution of an entire genre (FPS). Do I really have to come up with all the good ideas or theories for a genre?

    PEACE

  • Diego Jimenez 03.27.12 at 19:19

    Thanks for the comments guys!
    Regarding the issue of small vs big updates, we hear you. Unfortunately there are many level design changes that can only be done through client updates instead of server-side. These tend to require a lot more testing and have to undergo certification (for consoles), which means longer turnaround times. Hopefully this is something we can improve moving forward.

    • St4rgun 03.27.12 at 19:38

      Hey Diego, it’s nice to see some DICE employee to explicitly read and COMMENT the ideas we wrote here. :)
      We clearly understand the client certification issues which is a pity as long as it holds back the PC patches also, so they can not roll out much faster than the console patches.

      If we are speaking about fine tuning ideas then beside of the previous one I wrote about the spawn system let me copy here the other one I wrote about the resupply system in another thread:

      1. The ammo box should be deployable like the SOFLAM, but if the support soldier switch to ammo box it should NOT drop it automatically, but just carry/handle it like a weapon (as it was in BF2 and BF2142). As long as I carry the ammo box I can’t shoot, so I explicitly have to switch back to a weapon to defend myself. If I decide to drop the box (by clicking FIRE button), then it will be “deployed” like a SOFLAM or a mortar, so I should have to explicitly PICK IT UP to further carry it with me. With this setting we could eliminate the “running and dropping the box then running to a different location and dropping another again” game style (slowing the pace a little bit).

      2. All of the weapons should have limited ammo whose limits can be set on a per server / per map (!) basis as a server variable. I.e. on a “Metro” map some server admin should want to change the maximum RPGs per soldier set to 2. If the limit set to 0 for a given weapon, then that weapon CAN’T BE SELECTED (greyed out) on the loadout selection UI. It’s much better then setting “server rules” for banning different weapons.

      3. The maximum ammo contained in an ammo box should be LIMITED also based on ammo type. Like the maximum number of the 5.56×45 NATO ammo should be 1000 per ammo box, the number of RPGs should be no more than 10, the number of M320 grenades should have a limit like 30 per box. Of course these limits should have be changed also on a per server / per map basis as a server variable. With these changes we would have a very flexible system which gives the admins the possibilities to set the right situation on their server (restricting or completely disabling any weapon). No more endless RPG/M320 fights at the Ticket Hall on Metro map and so on.

      With this system it could be possible to set the RPG limit to 2 per soldier, but imagine, that the ammo box restricted to contain 0 (ZERO) RPGs. Which means no reloading for RPGs, it this case you have to think twice before an RPG shot because the lack of reload possibility. No more “RPG-wars”.

      What do you think?

  • St4rgun 03.27.12 at 18:10

    You can never be sure that you are behind cover enough. By the way it’s totally legal to spawn in the middle of an open space when no one can see or shoot at you – because they are the ones who are behind cover! :)

    Of course I’m not telling that defining a spawn point in large open area is a good idea, but just wanted to justify the need for the sophisticated line-of-sight check algorythm before spawn.

  • St4rgun 03.27.12 at 13:12

    For the spawn system it would be really nice to ensure that the spawning player is NOT in the line of fire of any enemy soldier or vehicle. To solve this promblem the soon-to-spawn player’s predecided spawn position and ALL the enemy assets should check in a straight line for visibility / line of fire. If no direct in-line connection between the player and any enemy units can be found then the spawn is granted, otherwise the algorythm should choose another spawn point.

    If you do NOT use this algorythm then it’s highly possible (how it’s happening a lot nowadays during the game) that someone can spawn directly in the field of a sniper or any other enemy asset who is far away but having the line of sight oriented toward the spawning player. It’s obvious that the spawning player will become a sitting duck when this spawn is granted. The program thinks it’s an OK spawn point because it’s far enough from enemies, but it’s a false safety because the spawn point is in a direct line of sight / line of fire of an enemy so this should NOT be used at the moment for spawning.

    • ZkyRazorZ 03.27.12 at 15:27

      you could also just place the spawns in tighter areas of the map where you are behind cover at spawn.

  • DK_Dusty_82 03.27.12 at 02:59

    Well personally for me TDM has never bin a mode I have liked and never have I understand those that like this mode. I rarely have fun playing TDM and it is boring to me not having an objective to go after other then getting some kills. I do play some TDM but that is only to level up weapon attachments faster and practice reaction times/awareness of my surroundings and aiming skills, or to support a friend/platoon member(SQDM) If I want to have fun it is Rush and CQ, so if TDM was not In BF3 I would not miss it one bid, so I don’t care have much or have little effort you put into this mode, you could leave/dump the mode completely for all I care…Oh well each to he’s own…

  • waldo15 03.26.12 at 18:45

    Diego,

    Great insights! However the TDM spawn system is just not up to par with other games in the genre. I have to say one of the best systems (if not the best overall) was in the Halo franchise. Rarely if ever you would get spawn trapped or even spawn in front of an enemy to be insta-killed. It is true the size of the matches was different, but even in the big 8×8 battles you’ll never run into that problem. I am weary the CQB DLC will be a much more worse experience as the maps are further reduced and choke points will be easier to become traps.

    I have many a times experienced the two sides in Kharg Island, among others. Spawn right in the middle of the enemy spawn area and also have had times when enemies just appear in front of me, as a gift of the gaming goods for me to increase my K/D. I do hope the upcoming patch fixes this but if not, may I suggest a future system where the spawn system can be updated real time from the server side and does not need a client update? That would allow more flexible and dynamic adjustments on-the-fly.

  • BOY-RACER-92 03.26.12 at 15:23

    You could always just let us spawn on our squadmates rather than being forced to use “random spawn point”. Just saying

  • sfscriv 03.26.12 at 03:50

    Death Match! That sounds like something out of a Call of Duty game. Return the Conquest game mode to the Battlefield Veterans.

  • SMKGuy 03.25.12 at 22:49

    The new Tehran Highway TDM layout looks like it makes a lot of sense.

  • Brokedyck 03.25.12 at 01:47

    You guy’s should get ride of the frag rounds for the shotguns I hate coming into games and geting killed by it every time I move.

    • Brokedyck 03.25.12 at 01:55

      And could you please fix it so the flying bots run you over, just trying to make this game a little bite more fair.

  • Prisma01 03.25.12 at 00:32

    You guys do a good job but look at steam games like sc, css and other halflife2 based games. they do those changes in days and release a lot of small updates. you guys make a loooong list, take a loooong time and release each update months after the last. why dont give us small improvements asap?
    Please change that strategy soon.

    • LordJuggernaut 03.25.12 at 01:44

      I know a lot of people that would disagree with you. DICE wants to make sure their updates fix things. They don’t want to rush it out. They identify a lot of problems, take their time to smooth them a out and make sure the don’t come back again.

      • DK_Dusty_82 03.27.12 at 03:04

        Well thats all good dandy, and they do fix a lot of things, but there are all ways something else they break, no matter have long and sure they want to be that they will not break/create a new problem. So sometimes I think they take there time with the patches a little bid to far/long…

    • RNP_Ghost 03.25.12 at 16:45

      All the games you mentioned are PC games. As a PC gamer, I’d love to see small, ‘quick’ (not rushed) patches. That way DICE could see how something plays in practise, and if the community doesn’t like it, they can change it quickly. However both xbox and ps3 patches require certification from microsoft and sony respecitively, and so patches take a lot longer to get through, and take up a lot more time. It makes more sense to put a lot of changes through certification at the same time, as opposed to repeating the process over and over with different patches.

      • GRAFX21 03.27.12 at 04:14

        I agree but that was what beta was for. The game is not much different from beta BF3. Yes alot in terms of bugs have been revised. However nothing major since its release has been updated/patched. Many people complain because it takes away from a good gaming experience like cheaters or people who seem to love camping and killing spawners. (boring) finally the patch is on the way. However this game has been waiting for a patch since October 25, 2011. I feel like I need to restart my rank because of all the non-sense deaths i recieved from cheaters or “bad luck”

        DICE, please fix the darn parachute. It is horrible! Make it easy like BC 2.

        tHANKS

    • SHB-Magoo 03.26.12 at 08:06

      The one essential bit you forgot is that STEAM is for PC only. And since DICE/EA went all out on multiplatform with BF3 everything takes longer time to develop, test and implement. So thx to consoloes we now must wait for their certification for all releases. My rage is mostly with all console-kiddies who persists on playing proper pc-games on console, thx to them all games is getting dumbed down and looses quality, content and a proper gui.

      • 19Sarge55 03.26.12 at 18:41

        And the one essential bit of information is that both the PS3 and X-box at their core are PC’s with the PS3 being more on the level of a Super Computer with its Parallel processing Cell Broadband Processor based on the Power PC G5 chip that shipped with Apple Macintosh Towers in 1998. So when you boil it down to the truth this generation of console is just a PC locked down to function only as a gaming platform.

        This is why more and more games are becoming multi platform like Battlefield 3. And why there is more deference to consoles when patching them.

        My biggest question has been when playing games and finding that I am being “killed” by Battlelog ID’d players whose platform is PC and not showing stats or the ability to report them through the profile reporting system. If we are able to play cross platform then Dice/EA needs to come clean on that fact and put those stats on the Battlelog for all to see not just platform specific. And it could be that these are PS3 players using a proxy server to get an advantage in the game and that would be really sad. That some script kiddie feels the need to cheat on a game that only he and his friends play on and has no real world value except to waste your time for entertainment.

  • wii_hizzle 03.24.12 at 23:59

    Hey DICE/EA guys.

    How about making it so when you join with friends as a squad, you stay on the same team? Its a fairly elemental gaming concept.

  • FufuhBR 03.24.12 at 22:40

    Great work! Some of those changes can be used on some Rush maps as well (regarding the OOB areas).

  • growking 03.24.12 at 21:53

    awesome guys

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