Four of the most battle-scarred veterans at DICE went for a 10th anniversary lunch to celebrate Battlefield. They came to eat and they came to talk about Battlefield — past, present, and future. Had you been sitting at their table, this is what you would have seen and heard.
Co-founder with Johan Persson and Patrick Söderlund of Refraction Games where they developed Codename Eagle, the spiritual predecessor to Battlefield. Lead Programmer on Codename Eagle. Envisioned the original “Virtual Battlefield” concept together with Johan Persson. Programmer on all Battlefield games since. Still at DICE.
Artist on Codename Eagle at Refraction Games. Producer on Battlefield 1942 and nowadays Creative Director. Still at DICE.
Joined DICE as composer for Benefactor on the Amiga. Sound Designer on Battlefield 1942 and involved in most Battlefield titles since. Audio Director for Mirror’s Edge. Still at DICE.
Lead Artist on Codename Eagle at Refraction Games. Lead Artist on Battlefield 1942. Artist on Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142. Technical Art Director on Battlefield 3. Still at DICE.
Classic restaurant Gondolen near the DICE office in the southern parts of Stockholm, Sweden.
Mats, Lars, Magnus, and Stefan enter Gondolen. After sitting down and making their orders, they start discussing Battlefield. The opening subject: What if someone had said back in 2002 that Battlefield 3 would sell 15 million units?
STEFAN: Back then I was pretty naive, so maybe I would have believed it. Maybe I was even so naïve to believe Battlefield 1942 would make 15 million units. (laughs)
MATS: Codename Eagle sold 200 000 units. The talk around town was that if you sold one million, you had done great. Fifteen million wasn’t even on the radar. Fifteen million now maybe equates to two or three million back then?
LARS: I think we’ve sold more than 50 million across the series by now.
MAGNUS: That’s almost impossible for me to grasp.
LARS: I often get the question, especially at awards ceremonies in Sweden, what it feels like and if we ever counted on becoming this big.
The waiter enters and sets down four plates at the table. Stefan, Mats, and Lars have the salmon. Magnus has the meatballs.
Having seen the way people reacted to multiplayer in Codename Eagle, we always knew we were onto something really good. There was no doubt about that. But we had to get the game out there into the hands of people so they could see it for themselves. Sweden was such a small territory, so we jokingly aimed at beating Counter-Strike with their PSU of 60,000 I think. The second biggest game back then, Unreal [Tournament 2003], had something like 14,000 in PSU [Peak Simultaneous Users – The highest number of players concurrently online and playing].
MATS: The whole thing about selling units wasn’t really what occupied your mind. What I found interesting and fun was seeing how many people were actually playing the game.
I don’t know what the peak was initially. Maybe around seven or eight thousand, and I remember first thinking “Oh shit! 8,000 people are playing Battlefield right now!” and then “How can our buggy mess of a game hold up under this amount of pressure?”
Laughter all around. The warm and nostalgic kind.
LARS: Do you remember when we launched the demo? We went to Fenix [A local restaurant near the DICE office] to grab a bite the same evening that we launched the Wake Island demo, and Söderlund [Patrick Söderlund, Team Manager back then] kept calling me all night to update our numbers: “Now we’ve beaten this game, now this game, now we beat Unreal!” and we just sat there and toasted and shouted with joy. Sure we had high ambitions and high hopes, but this just felt crazy.
MATS: Yeah, those were the things you cared about, more so than the economy.
MAGNUS: I also believe that had we cared more about sales than what the game really was, I don’t think it would have turned out as great as it did. The whole reason we did Battlefield 1942 was to create a game WE wanted to play.
MATS: In a way, that’s what went wrong with Codename Eagle. I mean, we WANTED to make a true Battlefield game. But our backer said we needed a character and a story, so we had to build that. But our first idea had been to make the “Virtual Battlefield” game that we already had a concept for. It was supposed to be all war and no story. But then we had to fit in some kind of cool hero with a red cap.
LARS: Was the red cap their idea?
MATS: Yes, that was Michael Stenmark, the designer of “Drakar & Demoner” [A massively successful Swedish pen and paper roleplaying game from the 80’s, not affiliated with Dungeons & Dragons] who also designed Codename Eagle. But that meant we spent a lot of time developing single player, which left our multiplayer full of bugs. Capture the flag was still super fun, though. Had we had the same pressure to create a great single player game in Battlefield 1942, I don’t think it would have shipped at all.
STEFAN: I remember when we were about to release the Wake Island demo that we debated whether we were giving away too much with all of the airplanes, boats, submarines, and everything. We were afraid it would leave no surprises for people who bought the game. But I think it was a good strategy in the end.
MATS: I don’t think it was only that. I think we were scared that the competition would catch up to us. But no-one was stupid enough to try and do what we did (laughs).
LARS: I still remember the E3 show in the spring before we shipped Battlefield 1942. At the show we won lots of awards and made it big. But then when we came back home everybody panicked because Medal of Honor [Allied Assault] was on its way and had much better graphics: “We need to crunch!”
- Lars Gustavsson learns the Wake Island demo was pretty popular
Speaking of the demo, I was travelling the other week and met a guy who said they had lost months of work because of our ”bloody demo!” (laughs). It seems everyone has a relationship to it. For a lot of people this was a true watershed moment that made an impression in the gaming industry.
The topic changes to the E3 2000 movie.
LARS: Do you remember our movie for E3 2000? The airplane couldn’t fly, so we used the camera instead.
MATS: Yeah, we had an airplane and the we just panned the camera like this…
STEFAN: It was like one hour until Patrick Söderlund’s plane left for the show when we rendered the final frames of the movie. He RAN down to the cab and drove off. Back then we didn’t have a proper game engine up and running so we couldn’t really do anything in the game. We took a lot of shortcuts. The planes just hung in the air and we panned around with the camera and locked it on different objects. That makes it look like the plane was actually flying.
LARS: And for the boat we just animated the water to make it look like the boat was moving.
STEFAN: And do you remember the tanks? It was Martin Hedlund [Programmer on Battlefield 1942] who created some code to make them follow the terrain. They didn’t have any physics or anything, they just rolled along.
LARS: And Marcus Fritze [Artist on Battlefield 1942, still at DICE] had those entry/exit animations. They STILL haven’t made it into the game (laughs).
MAGNUS: The entry/exit animation for the tanks?
LARS: Yep, but you basically just saw a soldier climbing up onto the back of a tank. I don’t know if he ever entered the hatch.
STEFAN: Yes he did.
LARS: I’ve been flipping through a lot of old binders now that it’s our tenth anniversary. Do you remember our Guadalcanal test bed? We had this tiling landscape, which meant you could snipe yourself in the back of the head! It was tiled so you could just keep on flying.
MATS: Why did we remove that?
MAGNUS: Exactly. I want a tiled map with tanks only!
LARS: If you see a tank in the distance, it’s you!
MAGNUS: Right, I remember you could fly out on one edge of the map and enter the other. But that was removed very late, wasn’t it? I remember flying like that on El Alamein.
LARS: I think that approach disappeared one year into the project.
STEFAN: I had so great aspirations for so many items in the game. We had this idea that vehicles weren’t supposed to spawn in front of players, but inside factories instead. Just because it looked better. The doors would open, the tanks roll out, and THAT’S when you could enter the vehicle. And we had huge shipyards for the boats!
LARS: That’s where the concept fell (laughs).
STEFAN: Yeah. We had to spawn the aircraft carriers somewhere! I had to build shipyards that were 300 meters long, then the carriers would spawn there and come floating up through a pair of opening doors. I think we realized pretty quickly how hard that would be to implement!
MATS: It was pretty insane that we kept the functionality to actually drive the aircraft carriers.
STEFAN: I don’t know. I think that’s one of the coolest aspects of the game; that you can drive EVERYTHING.
LARS: Not to mention the submarine.
EVERYONE SAYS: Yeah!
MAGNUS: When did that enter the game? Pretty late, right?
MATS: No, we had a sub from the start.
LARS: But did we finish that one? I always remember it like we pushed it into the game in the last minute and got it working in May.
MATS: The functionality was so-so, but the sub itself was there since the early days.
LARS: I remember having it already in the Codename Eagle demo. But in Battlefield 1942 we made a 2D view for it as well, so you could navigate via a tactical map that showed sonar pings from the destroyers. This way, we didn’t have to draw the terrain under the surface of the sea.
STEFAN: Early on I think you could only see the submarine from a third person view. So you could see it on the ocean surface when you drove around. But when you dove too deep, the camera would tag along under the surface, which looked super ugly. There was nothing there!
MAGNUS: But I remember we wanted to cut it because we didn’t have the time to finish it. But there was pressure from EA to include it, almost like this do or die thing.
MATS: I don’t know that we had so much pressure from EA on design. I think we pressured ourselves if anything.
LARS: I think it was ME who pushed for the submarine, hrm!
STEFAN: In any case, we were extremely ambitious.
I mean, you could enter EVERY building in the game. We never stopped to think maybe you shouldn’t. The church? Of course you should be able to enter it and climb the tower! Or on Berlin and Stalingrad, where you could enter every building.
LARS: We even had cows and chickens. And cupboards with china in the kitchens.
MATS: That to me is the original Battlefield: You are supposed to be able to drive everything. Go everywhere. No limitations.
The topic changes to sound design, now & before.
MAGNUS: Our basic sound design philosophy is pretty much unchanged from the early days. A lot of the audio mix is done in real-time with input from what happens in the game. For example, distance and different materials change what audio is played and at what volume. We have always had a lot of variations on shot sounds, firing sounds, and reverbs. The reverb is also changed by the type of weapon used and distance. At long range it’s more of a “pop” and close up it’s a “bang”. It was very gameplay focused already in Battlefield 1942 – you could always tell what type of weapon was honing in on you: pistol, machine gun or sniper rifle. And you could always hear whether that tank shell you just fired actually hit or missed its mark.
LARS: One of the coolest audio bits was the artillery. When you shot with the Wespe, you first saw the explosion, then heard the distant thunder.
MAGNUS: I’ve dabbled in almost all of our titles, and the core audio team on Battlefield have crazy talent. In my opinion, that group of people is the gaming industry’s best audio team.
LARS: How many BAFTAs have you received, again? Three? The prize cupboard are getting full!
MAGNUS: The series has four BAFTAs in total, I think, two of them for audio. But as soon as we have hit a quality level we start looking at possible enhancements. So the evolution for audio in Battlefield is very quick, I would say. Things happen fast because everyone has so many great ideas. And we have people from so many different background: Musicians, movie people and artists. All this knowledge just melts into a big pot of audio magic.
LARS: Sometimes it’s like we get so many awards that I can’t keep track of them all. That makes me feel a bit ashamed. Do you ever feel that this is as good as it gets?
MAGNUS: No. I think the whole group feels there’s tons more to do. You can always do better.
LARS: Good! Then we agree! (laughs)
STEFAN: I guess it all depends on how much audio memory you get (laughs).
MAGNUS: I think it didn’t dawn on me until we received our BAFTA for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 how many awards we had received previously. I’ve always sort of worked heads down in a project and thought “What do I do next?”
The topic changes to the importance of Battlefield 1942.
MATS: Me and Johan Persson were studying together at KTH [The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm] and we knew that creating games was what we wanted to do. We had this dream of a vehicle based war game that we called “Virtual Battlefield”. Our second year into KTH, this was in 1993, we had begun work on a 3D engine. We never really finished it, but we came close enough to be able to start making a game in 1996. It became Codename Eagle, but our dream was to make a true Battlefield game. Eventually, we found a distributor in EA and we could realize our dream.
- Mats Dal remembers the emotion of finally launching Battlefield 1942
Looking back, it feels extremely gratifying to be able to say I accomplished my dream. I mean, our story could have ended differently if everyone had thought that Battlefield was too difficult and complex to deliver on.
LARS: A lot of pieces have fallen into place to get us where we are today. It could have gone to hell more than once.
MATS: Right. Our basic idea was that we like all manner of military vehicles and the rock/paper/scissors concept. That you create the fun while you are playing.
STEFAN: I think that’s what I feel most strongly for as well. Battlefield 1942. Professionally, I’ve never worked so hard or enjoyed anything as much as I did with Battlefield 1942. It’s hard to beat. I mean Codename Eagle was cool, too, but we didn’t take it all the way.
MATS: That’s how I felt too.
STEFAN: We got another chance with EA and man, did we take it!
- Stefan Vukanovic on the game of a lifetime
LARS: When I joined Codename Eagle it only had a year or less left in development, so a lot of it was already up and running. There were entire afternoons when we were just playing the multiplayer. But Battlefield 1942 was the hardest project ever. I think most of us nearly killed ourselves working on it. It wasn’t easy. That said, I just need to watch the intro movie to get goose bumps.
MAGNUS: We did some all-nighters, and I was at the Gothenburg office back then. I remember how good it felt if you were stuck or just tired, maybe having spent 48 hours at the office. You knew that if you fired up ICQ [This was THE messenger in the 90’s!], Lars would ALWAYS be online. It didn’t matter if it was ten thirty in the evening or six fifteen in the morning.
LARS: Well, my motto was “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t do to yourself”. So there were a lot of late nights for me sending game builds to the US. Sending it took like seven hours, and we didn’t have any fancy FTP or anything. You couldn’t split the delivery and you couldn’t resume a disconnected upload, so you just sat there. If you were lucky, someone found a bottle of wine or something, and then you sat there and played while the build uploaded.
MATS: Still, I don’t really remember the hard work. Time has passed and what is left is just the sensation that we created something that we were very passionate about. We still are, of course, but that era was truly unique.
STEFAN: With Lars playing ”Burning Bridges” really loud so everyone in the office could hear, to keep up morale.
LARS: Ha ha, that’s right. Kelly’s Heroes. Anyways, I was watching these ”Only in Battlefield 3” videos, like irontjunfisk’s jet stunts, and it dawned on me yet again how incredibly deep Battlefield is! I mean, already in Codename Eagle when you saw a double-decker flying out of the sun with the gamer tag LAXO above it, you knew it was Mr. Dal going for a stunt run.
MATS: Yeah, we always went stunting in Codename Eagle. Under bridges and stuff.
LARS: The train bridge was super tough, the covered one. But there was a lot of stunting going on in Battlefield 1942 as well. I remember Mats getting bread in the morning and me getting ham and cheese so everyone could have breakfast – and so people would come in to work after a late night. Then in the evenings I would sit on the phone with the US. I used to play on the Bocage map during these calls. Me and Ken Balthaser [Producer at EAD] and the guys over there talked in the phone conference while chasing each other and doing stunts, so any time I watch one of these fan made videos I really get the sensation that so much of what Battlefield is has stayed untouched. All of these movies that our players create, it’s epic.
MAGNUS: I remember people flying upside down under bridges and how they started talking about how cool it was. All of a sudden players started recording short, unpretentious clips where they flew around, or they would turn friendly fire off and shoot rockets at jeeps so they flew straight up in the air!
The topic changes to what makes Battlefield special.
MATS: Since day one, the same kind of drive has been there, I think. The whole concept of rock/paper/scissors and that you can train to become an expert in specific areas on the battlefield.
The waiter enters and sets down four coffee cups at the table. Stefan, Mats, and Magnus has theirs black. Lars gets a cappuccino.
MATS: Battlefield 1942 didn’t have as many tests and bug fixes like today’s games, so it had a lot of bugs. It wasn’t only crash bugs, but design elements that didn’t work like intended – But then the community used that to make the game even more entertaining. Like wing walking, for example!
STEFAN: Yeah, there are a lot of things we hadn’t planned but the physics engine allowed. Some pretty crazy things happened.
MATS: Precisely. It can be a nightmare for our designers, but like with Battlefield 1942, it can also make the game even more appreciated.
MAGNUS: I think those fan created videos sold the game for us. A lot of times, I ended up on servers where people had stopped playing the objective. They just stunted instead. And if someone joined and started playing the objective, he got kicked immediately (laughs). It was a fantastic sand box.
LARS: I agree. I remember when Patrick “Posh” O’Shaughnessey [EA Tester on Battlefield 1942, Vehicle Gameplay Designer on Battlefield 3] joined DICE. In our play tests, he started putting C4 on things and playing “the wrong way”. At least that’s what we as designers thought. But this way of using the game in new and creative ways has really grown strong. And like I said earlier, I think the “Only in Battlefield” initiative shows how strong this movement still is. Simply hearing the players’ heartfelt laughter recording their videos is golden. There’s no doubt both a competitive and leisure side to playing Battlefield. But for everyone who loves stunts, these fan made videos are like time machines. It all started with Codename Eagle and they are still coming. I even think the community created some of the best videos for Codename Eagle. I still have my favorites that I show when Codename Eagle comes up as a discussion.
MATS: That’s because we didn’t have Rolle [Roland Smedberg, Senior Video Editor at DICE] back then.
STEFAN: But we had so much exploiting going on before. People squeezing into the space between two walls that were placed too close to one another. Then they suddenly popped into the walls and could stand there and take shots at everyone. Or rocket jumping…
MAGNUS: Right! ‘Nade jumping onto roofs or other places that otherwise weren’t accessible.
LARS: We have things like that in Battlefield 3, with people standing on the MAV and then flying away. But on the other hand, it’s always been a hard call to judge, in my opinion.
MATS: Whether to make a patch that removes quirky things that people have come to enjoy?
- Lars Gustavsson appreciates creative ways to play the game
LARS: Exactly! Maybe it means they can get to places that breaks balance, but it’s a tough decision. Because we really love what people do, realizing the full potential of the game. The first time you got road killed by a MAV in Battlefield 3 was just fantastic!
MAGNUS: These kind of things are so appreciated. A lot of the fan videos really sold our game, I think. I had a small crew that created a few movies when I stayed in the US. There wasn’t really any marketing going on over there I remember, and our movies got such a huge response. I had this friend who hosted them on the server belonging to a record company, and when we released our third video the server went down because of the pressure. It just kept growing and the community did so much to sell the game.
LARS: The cool thing is we have Noken at DICE nowadays and I’m really a fan of his old Battlefield videos, like “Mine”. By the way, I attended this developers conference the other week and there was a lot of talk about old Battlefield movies and all of the crazy things you can do in the games. I also met one of the biggest publishers in the industry who turned us down back then when we were touring with Battlefield 1942 to find a publisher. We made the prototype in the spring and shipped Codename Eagle, then we became DICE and started building the Refractor engine up until E3. But publishers never really fell in love with our Guadalcanal movie, so all of our coders went to Rallisport Challenge while a few designers and artists struggled along for nine months before we found EA.
MATS: We did have a few coders.
STEFAN: Strange how difficult it was to sell in Battlefield 1942 to the publishers. We had it right there in black and white: “Here’s Codename Eagle, you can play the multiplayer, and this is how fun it is. And this is what we want Battlefield to be and what it looks like. It’s going to be World War II and these are the vehicles we’ll have and here are some mockup images.”
LARS: Those mockups looked really nice. I guess we’ll have to thank Tom Frisina and the EA testers for playing Codename Eagle every lunch. It was a good call from him when he saw what the testers were playing and realized it had to be good. It was him who dared believe in an unknown game from an unknown studio. His gut feel was that if these experienced testers at EA could play anything but chose Codename Eagle, there had to be potential in that studio’s next game.
The topic changes to what it is like to have worked on Battlefield for 10 years.
STEFAN: It’s good to have worked on Battlefield for 10 years, ant it’s very different now from then. It’s not as much of a garage feel to it anymore. It’s like… it’s for real now. We’re a real company with real working hours. Except when crunching, of course.
MATS: Do you feel as involved in the design nowadays?
STEFAN: No, there’s so much to grasp now. It’s too big, so you can’t be a part of EVERYTHING. That’s just something you have to accept.
LARS: I agree, you couldn’t do that even if you wanted to.
MATS: But that’s how it was on Battlefield 1942. Everyone chipped in.
LARS: I loved that. When you had a problem the whole team sat down to discuss as one group.
STEFAN: There’s a huge difference. It’s better today because you have more time for yourself and for your family. It’s more secure as well, with the salaries and working conditions in general. In that respect, it’s more real now.
MAGNUS: I think your own mentality changes as well when you’ve worked for so long. I think it has to, otherwise you’d burn out completely. Sometimes you can almost feel a bit jealous when newly hired people come in with such a glowing passion. I usually get reignited just by spending time with them.
LARS: Instead of with us old geezers (laughs).
MATS: I sort of miss that, that feeling of creating something for the very first time. That’s the feeling I connect to Battlefield 1942. The knowledge that a lot of people tried, but WE were the ones who succeeded.
LARS: I still remember that Edge feature in March or April 2002 when they said that Battlefield 1942 looked very promising but they had seen promising prospects before. The proof lies in delivering the game. I feel an enormous sense of pride that we succeeded in delivering, against the odds.
I’ve been involved in most games at DICE, but I still think it’s rewarding. I mean, I just came from a meeting where we discussed the future, and if we pull some of those things off, it’s going to be a pretty exciting future!
I think the strength of Battlefield 3 is that when we needed to finish so much in the last year, we simply had to rely on having great people. Which we had, because people took the ball and ran with it.
STEFAN: It definitely isn’t easier developing games today. But it is different, and you have to make earlier commitments that you stick by. Make a decision now, and after a month, there’s no turning back. You need to see it through.
LARS: By contrast, I remember the Codename Eagle wall where you looked at what potentially could make it into the game. If you didn’t fancy what you saw on the list, you could just start working on something else, more or less.
STEFAN: Yeah. “I’m going to make a motorcycle instead!” (laughs)
MATS: And you had more of a personal connection to everyone on the team. You had probably had lunch or a beer with all of them since the team was so small by comparison.
LARS: I thought about that earlier. I meet so many people in Free to play or the indie scene and other areas of game development. Sometimes we’re not held in the same regard as these because we’re a big company creating big games. You can see that with a few journalists as well, saying we’re not indie, ergo we’re not real artists. But with the experience we have today I think it would be way easier for us to make a small game with a small budget. Having a huge budget can actually sometimes be a heavy burden to bear, in my opinion. If we spend this much money, the game better be worth it, you know? I think some of us would be glad to lose that burden. At the same time, I just love what we do.
Patrick Söderlund, co-founder of Refraction Games and Executive Vice President of the EA Games Label, enters. He asks what the occasion is, and our quartet answer they are celebrating having reached a mature age. Patrick laughs, agrees, and leaves for the office.
MAGNUS: But that performance anxiety you mentioned, it has to be there.
LARS: Yep. The day you don’t have that is probably the day you should quit.
- Lars Gustavsson
MATS: I don’t know if it’s anxiety so much as the constant strive to outperform yourself.
LARS: Yeah. I think it was during Battlefield 2 that Sean Decker [Executive Producer on Battlefield 2] coined the phrase that you’re no better than your next game.
MAGNUS: You mean “latest game”?
LARS: No, your next one. Even if your last one was good, you will be judged in the future based on the NEXT game you ship. That feeling that you always need to do better. I remember when Tom Frisina was at our office at Maria Skolgata and delivered that speech: “Great job, guys. Now you just need to deliver something that is even better!”
Then we entered a planning meeting for the future and we said we wanted to implement full destruction. We had promised it [Internally, that is] in Battlefield 2 but it just turned out to be a couple of fences and a bridge. Now we wanted to take it all the way and we had given some thought to how we could destroy forests and cluster objects, but he didn’t buy into it. So we took our design papers and put them in the drawer for a rainy day.
The topic changes to how Battlefield is different today.
MATS: I think one big difference is that we now have Battlefield on all consoles. Sure, we had Modern Combat on console, but that was a separate game. Now it’s the SAME game.
MAGNUS: Rendering wise I think Frostbite ushered in Battlefield as a true multi format title. That’s where every modern Battlefield title comes from. Modern Combat was maybe our second or third try to take Battlefield to consoles. We had been struggling away at that in Gothenburg for quite a while, and I remember it as a pretty chaotic project. After multiplayer was done, we threw single player in there on a separate renderer on the same disc. So we really had two game engines. But yeah, I’d say that Battlefield 3 is the first time we have the true Battlefield experience across all formats.
MATS: Also, single player has become important again.
MAGNUS: There was NOTHING wrong with single player in 1942!
LARS: You could even play the maps in succession, like a proper campaign! But on the topic of single player, of course we’re always striving to find more players. And there’s no doubt some players are hesitant to go online. Single player is for them, or almost like a preparation for multiplayer. I think we all felt that we stretched a bit thin on Battlefield 3 by also including co-op, but I think it turned out great.
I remember this interview in Moscow when we launched Battlefield 3, and the journalist was a hardcore multiplayer only kind of guy. The entire interview was all about why we had included single player and co-op in Battlefield 3 instead of doing a multiplayer only title. I mean, the ENTIRE interview. He thought it would have made Battlefield 3 even better, but I don’t agree. I don’t think our team would have been as big if that had been the case.
STEFAN: I do think single player is the big difference comparing Battlefield now and then. If you look only at multiplayer, the core values are still there. You can see it in the Only in Battlefield videos. Even if you haven’t played the games you can see that the old thrill of doing stunts in Battlefield 1942 is still in Battlefield 3 today. People keep doing stunts. How many games allow for that?
LARS: The core really is intact. We also talk a lot about the “through the gun experience”, to build from the crosshair and out. That is also almost one hundred percent intact. But we keep refining everything and adding new elements like vaulting and new game modes and persistence and the whole social layer of Battlelog.
MATS: And look at Battlefield 2, where we flirted with the Command & Conquer crowd by implementing Commander mode. I think we’ve kept that line of thought by expanding on squad order functionality and so on.
LARS: Back then the game was pretty hardcore. I don’t know that it was exactly what we aimed for, but we delivered a game with just one game mode and no real single player except bot wars, and that still got us our highest rated game ever. So I believe there is some truth to the idea of a focused approach paying off. Looking at the game today, I do think a lot of things have improved. It’s more accessible in tempo and the overall quality is much higher.
MATS: The user interface has evolved enormously from 1942 to now. We hated UI back then because it was a pain to work with (laugh).
STEFAN: Yeah, no one wanted to take that on in Battlefield 1942.
LARS: That’s the fascinating thing with Battlefield 3. I think we had more people on UI than the entire Battlefield 1942 team!
LARS: Battlefield 1942 wasn’t terribly good, quality-wise. It was ALMOST impossible to play 64 players when we launched, and a lot of bugs everywhere… The design doc we signed with EA actually said we would have 128 players.
STEFAN: Someone edited that rather quickly, I think.
LARS: Sometimes the whole thing just makes me laugh. Doing this is like living life in the fast lane. I get to experience so much. Review events aboard aircraft carriers and I don’t know what…
MATS: The one on the USS Hornet? I wasn’t there, but can’t remember why.
LARS: You were busy finishing up the game in the summer. We were there in mid-August before the game was done. On August 23rd you were still finalizing the code, but it was hands off for everyone else. So it was me, Magnus Walterstad, Mattias Hörnlund [Programmer], Tobias Karlsson [Programmer] and Oscar Carlén [Art and Special Effects]. And we met Jamil Dawsari [Assistant Producer at EAD] and Ken Balthaser [Producer at EAD] over there.
The topic changes to the future of Battlefield.
MATS: Personally, I have this fantasy about Battlefield having even larger environments where everything is seamless.
STEFAN: That’s like ten years from now, maybe.
LARS: One interesting thing is we’ve talked about player counts over the years. A lot of people still feel that 40 or so players is the optimal number where it plays the best. Sometimes 64 players doesn’t necessarily mean a better experience. On Operation Métro, for example, 64 players gets pretty hairy.
MATS: Speaking of Battlefield Moments, I remember in Bad Company when we were shooting a video that Rolle was setting up. It was supposed to be a transport helicopter with someone on the minigun and someone with a grenade launcher on the ground looking up and shooting the helicopter. When we looked at the replay later we saw that the grenade had hit the guy INSIDE the helicopter!
LARS: Oh, yeah! That was in Battlefield 2. We needed it for an EA event in England. We had played for quite a while but nothing exciting happened. It wasn’t an RPG though, it was Jamil Dawsari [Designer on Battlefield 2] who flew a Russian jet and fired a heat seeking missile at our tester Johan Östman [Lead tester on Battlefield 2]. I flew the helicopter and I thought the missile had missed us. Jamil thought it was a bug and entered it as such in his notes. Östman was the only one who saw what REALLY happened: The missile flew past him inside the helicopter cabin! It wasn’t until Rolle edited the video that he noticed it. Talk about a Battlefield Moment!
MAGNUS: And in Battlefield Vietnam you could transport vehicles under the helicopters and use the pendulum effect to hoist tanks like this… across to the other side of the map.
LARS: I think whatever we do, as long as we keep that Battlefield essence, we will survive anything. We have survived so much. And we have obvious proof that the game works on anything from PC to consoles, to an XBLA title [Battlefield 1943] and Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield Play4Free. As long as we take care of that Battlefield essence, it’s only the business model and platforms that will vary.
MAGNUS: I’d love to see a remake of the big and beautiful El Alamein map.
MATS: Yeah, that was a real favorite of mine.
STEFAN: It was so much fun just flying around on it, doing nothing. Just looking around at everything.
LARS: M-hm. It would be great to return to the Second World War. There is so much left to do.
MATS: Yeah. And we picked 1942 for a reason. EVERYTHING had cool design.
MAGNUS: I’d like to give people back the possibility to modify Battlefield in the future.
MAGNUS: I remember this dude making the craziest mods for 1942. He remade a Tiger tank into a spider…
LARS: …And put a tilt rotor on the B-17 bomber!
MAGNUS: Awesome stuff!
LARS: And I remember a Pirates versus zombies mod and a Formula 1 mod.
LARS: Maybe Stefan knows, but if you do a mod tool nowadays I think it has to be pretty thorough since everything is so complex. You’d need to put a lot of work into those tools.
MATS: Wait, wasn’t it MORE complex in Battlefield 1942? Those mod tools were pretty basic.
LARS: Yeah, you pretty much had to reverse engineer the game! Could it be any more complex?
MATS: But seriously, it would be cool to make it moddable again. It makes the game live longer, not just because of us.
LARS: Yes. The game takes on a life of its own.
The topic changes to what they are doing at DICE today.
MAGNUS: Working on games at DICE with my friends, both old and new, is like a boy’s dream come true. And having seen the company grow from a small group renting a house in Växjö [A smallish town in the south of Sweden] to the amazing talent and facilities we have today is like a fairy tale. Nowadays, I’ve moved back to my hometown Sundsvall, trying to prioritize my family while working part-time as Audio Director on a secret project at DICE.
MATS: I’m on the Frostbite team now, but of course I’m still very interested in what’s going on with Battlefield. I often run downstairs to talk with the team and check out the latest progress. But right now I want a little time out from the Battlefield games themselves since I have worked on each and every one of them since the start. I think it’s very rewarding to do more overarching work that the other studios at the EA Games Label can benefit from as well [Dragon Age III, Command & Conquer, Army of Two, and Medal of Honor are some of the games currently in development using the Frostbite engine].
STEFAN: I feel pretty well rested. I’ve been on parental leave for almost a year [Come work in Sweden!], so it’s good to be back and at it again! It’s not exactly the same anymore. During Battlefield 1942 my title was Lead Artist, but in practicality that pretty much meant everything from Art Director, Content Director, Technical Art Director, Art Development Director, and Artist. With today’s massive projects you either need to specialize or take more of an overview role where you’re not as hands-on with the actual game itself. But I still enjoy my work immensely.
LARS: That’s where I am now. The growth of DICE has really brought great people here. In some respects, it feels like I am sprinting along at the same pace now as I was doing back when we developed Battlefield 1942. I’m still sprinting, but making sure to find the right balance. I need to be able to give feedback on a low level while doing my job on a high level at the same time, and I still think it’s highly rewarding. And again: There are so many things we haven’t done yet!
MATS: Like really great submarines!
They all nod approvingly and smile. They then get up and leave for the office, where they have a future to shape.
BATTLEFIELD 1942 CREDITS (DICE)
Producer Lars Gustavsson
Assistant Producer Niklas Persson
Lead Design Romain de Waubert de Genlis
Design Ola Holmdahl, Niklas Persson
Level Design Johan Belking, Niclas Svensson
Original Concept Johan Persson
Lead Programming Johan Persson
Programming Mats Dal, Christian Grass, Jonathan Gustavsson, Martin Hedlund, Mattias Hörnlund, Tobias Karlsson, Michel Schmidt, Thomas Sköldenborg, Torbjörn Söderman, Jonas Åberg
Lead Art Stefan Vukanovic
Art Oscar Carlén, Zoltán Feföldi, Lars Gustavsson, Tommy Hjalmarsson, Magnus Holmgren, Rikard Hultman, Riccard Linde, Alli Sadeghian
Animation Zoltán Felföldi, Alli Sadeghian
Special Effects Riccard Linde, Oscar Carlén
Additional Programming Måns Bernhardt, Johan Andersson, Peter Engström, Marco Hjerpe, Robert Gyorvari, Erik Pettersson, Camilla Drefvenborg, Daniel Strandgren, Torbjørn Lædre, Peter Österblom
Additional Art Johan Belking, Carl Lundgren, Fredrick Ulfves, Marcus Fritze, Stefan Eriksson
Interface Alli Sadeghian, Christian Grass
Sound Magnus Walterstad
Additional Sound Olof Gustafsson
Music Joel Eriksson
Intro Movie Vectorfilm
Technical Director Mats Dal
Special Thanks Our neglected girlfriends; Roland Smedberg for great teaser movies, Jocke Svärling, Invaluable EA Testers at DICE (Patrick O’Shaughnessey, Melissa Tague, Jacques Broquard, Robert Hamiter); The CE BF Community, Amir Haleem, Johan Flood, Digital Reality, Hungary; Yong-Bum Kim, David Yu, Erica Jernström, The Rallisport Team for support and additional testing, Ice Internet Café, Stockholm; if you’re not here we might have slipped… so thank you!
Note: The original printed credits in the game manual had some typos. These have been corrected in the list above. Notable changes are Trobjørn->Torbjørn; Svedberg->Smedberg; and Pehrson->Persson.