Aftermath: Destroying the Battlefield and shaking the player

Follow Level Artist Pontus Ryman into the shattered map Epicenter – Where cracked streets, toppling buildings, and earthquake aftershocks combine to create another unique multiplayer experience in Battlefield 3.

Hello! My name is Pontus Ryman, Level Artist at DICE, and I’m here to lead you through the shattered streets and buildings of the Battlefield 3: Aftermath map Epicenter. As a level artist, it is my responsibility to work on everything from visual fidelity, lighting, theme and composition to prop placement, performance and level layout. Me and the other level artists work together with our technical artists and designers to make each map come alive and get its own distinct feel.

With Aftermath having a post-earthquake city theme I was eager to take what had been established in the single player campaign and bring that into our dynamic multiplayer environment. Just like in the previous expansion pack Armored Kill, the environments in Aftermath are a feature in themselves. You can get a sense of what I mean in this environment flythrough that I created specifically for our blog readers:

The earthquake is what ties everything together in Aftermath, and its effects are apparent in everything from large-scale destruction to small details like cracks in the street, broken windows, and construction cranes being deployed to clear the rubble. The destruction is contrasted with untouched areas, showing that the earthquake has had specific areas of effect.

Shaking the players
To push the theme even more, I wanted something unique in the level that really was specific not only in comparison to the other maps in the expansion pack, but to all other multiplayer maps in Battlefield 3.

In the single player experience you get to play as an earthquake goes off. I absolutely loved that and wanted it in Epicenter as well. I really wanted to bring it close to the player and not only be heard in the background. I decided to take the audio and trigger setup for an earthquake shake from one of the single player levels into Epicenter as a test, and it worked better than expected. With help from the audio team, effects artist and designers, we turned this idea into a full level specific feature, where the player gets to experience an ongoing aftershock while in multiplayer.

 

“I wanted to bring the earthquake

from single player into multiplayer”

 

The aftershocks in the level go off with a randomized timer, so no one knows when the next shock is going to hit, making it a dynamic experience. The raw sound of the thundering earthquake combines with everything from car alarms going off to dogs barking in the distance just before the shake and debris with dust falling from buildings. Coupled with the literal shaking of the player, it really creates a unique multiplayer experience.

The effects are more than just window dressing. It creates a new element of suspense, as no one knows when the tremors will hit. And when they do, players will need to be able to judge whether to try and steady their aim and go for a shaky shot, or whether to hold their trigger finger until the tremor has passed – at the risk of letting the enemy out of their sight. You could see a glimpse of this framatic effect at the very end of our Aftermath Premiere Trailer.

Introducing Urban Exploring
Another element that I personally feel strongly for is exploration — A city that gets hit by an earthquake creates a different landscape that opens up for a lot of exploration. A broken pipe in the ground becomes something you can crawl through; a rift in the street becomes a protective trench; and a pile of rubble becomes a makeshift staircase that takes you to the next level inside a building.

I also wanted there to be plenty of additional paths for players to find. There are a number of places where players can destroy specific doors to open alternate routes. These routes can be very handy when trying to flank enemies or if they want to avoid confrontation. By breaching these destructible doors, players can transition into an interior environment and find new areas that are clearly differentiated from the outdoors.

I wanted these interior areas to make sense, so each area was designed to fit their placement. For example if you destroy any of the doors that are placed around the hotel, you will find the maintenance and janitor access routes where the hotel staff used to be working. The same goes for the garage ramp staircase access route. These routes are not meant to be main gameplay areas, but I wanted the level to feel more expansive and give a sense that there is more behind it than meets the eye. These areas also create some interesting gameplay twists that will ask players to adapt their strategy as the round progresses.

Experiencing the earthquake
There are certain key aspects to an earthquake that people will instantly recognize, whether they’ve been in one or not. These include collapsed buildings, large cracks in the streets and lots of dust that fills up the air with a thick atmosphere. These were some of the visual markers we made sure to focus on when developing Epicenter.

We also refined our ideas on what a post-earthquake environment might actually look like. We have plenty of destruction in Battlefield 3, but war based destruction and earthquake based destruction actually look very different from one another. An earthquake also gives a lot of possibilities for interesting gameplay areas, so it was important for us to make visuals and gameplay go hand in hand.

One example of that vital combination is the streets in Epicenter. They are not cracked in random directions, but mainly have rifts along its routes. Cracking the main streets open also means creating new and interesting gameplay areas. I am excited to let players run around inside these rifts, and it feels dramatic sprinting between large chunks of asphalt while burst water pipes create little rivers flowing down the sloping streets. It all helps to put the map into a bigger context and fiction.

As for the buildings, we designed them in a collapsed and tipped over state to show that something actually damaged their foundations (rather than them having been hit by a bomb, for example). This gives way to interesting areas where the rubble pile from a half collapsed building creates a new path for infantry to gain the higher ground. Collapsed balconies, large rubble piles and dramatically leaning houses that feel like they could fall on top of you any second. It all adds up to give the city a unique and dramatic identity that makes it distinguishable from any other multiplayer map.

Seeing is believing
When I started the level, there were a lot of question marks on what it would look like and how to achieve a highly detailed earthquake environment. A ruined building requires a lot more details to come to life than an undestroyed one. The same goes for streets and other parts of the environment.

We studied a lot of references of what rubble piles from actual earthquakes look like and tried to mimic the specifics. We also examined a lot of the previous game content like buildings and other constructions and envisioned that in a destroyed state. We continually worked through the level by iterating and adding more and more signs of the earthquake as production progressed.

A lot of the close up visuals become important to be believable in this very specific setting. The side of a cracked piece of asphalt needs to look believable with the correct detailing or the entire visual idea falls flat and ends up feeling out of place rather than enhancing the theme. A great deal of time was spent to just figure out how to nail down these details and then how to build it.

An example of this is the sides of the actual cracks — They have sediment layers and signs of destroyed infrastructure like water pipes and electrical cables, as well as the fine crack details on the side of the tarmac and debris from the asphalt that fills out the cracks. Once this detail concept work was done it was easy to extrapolate the detail philosophy throughout the rest of the level. I think the hard work in getting all the details just right is evident in the final layout and hope you will appreciate it.

The birth of Epicenter
When I started working on the map that would eventually be named Epicenter (where a few of our first Aftermath screenshots are taken from), all I had to go on was the overall theme for the expansion pack. All maps in progress have project names assigned to them, and I simply called mine “Earthquake”. The name was meant as a reminder for myself to push the earthquake aspect as far as I could. The final name Epicenter also echoes this emphasis on the more extreme effects of this natural disaster.

The idea behind Epicenter was to do a severely shattered high-rise district from central Tehran, with the sensation of trying to survive in the aftermath of the earthquake. The map name also stemmed from the idea that this map features one of the areas hit the hardest by the earthquake in the single player campaign.

Working on Epicenter and the Aftermath expansion pack as a whole has been incredibly fun and challenging at the same time. I think we managed to create a new and unique environment to further expand upon the Battlefield multiplayer experience, and I can’t wait to see this in the hands of our players. Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and get ready to rise from the Ashes this December!

Battlefield 3: Aftermath is included with Battlefield 3 Premium and will also be available for sale individually this December.

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  • Lt John Hawkins 05.17.13 at 13:28

    but silik0 i agree with you i wish that the buildings would topple in game.

  • Lt John Hawkins 05.17.13 at 13:27

    Im all battlefield i hate cod so when i heard about this, i was jumping with glee

  • Silik0 02.26.13 at 14:09

    This was my most looked forward to DLC, but after playing it I long for my unrealistic expectations. I wanted to see a dynamic environment where we would at least get to experience a building or two collapse and alter the battlefield. Would have been way more intense than the first time I saw the Caspian tower fall. Am I the only person who was looking forward to being crushed to death by something non player-related? Maybe I have weird expectations? Didn’t you guys do a tech demo of a multi-story building collapse? Brings to mind the Gunship sequence in Uncharted 2 where you have a firefight in a collapsing building. That just screams of being a “Battlefield [Aftermath] Moment”… Up those destructible possibilities in 4!

  • difftone11 02.04.13 at 17:20

    Badass dlc every battlefield dlc is amazing may e some are better on pc like armored kill but I love everything about the game it is my favorite game and I guarantee u a sale right here for battlefield 4 I am definitely getting and at midnight the night of release. Just one thing y’all need to implement into the game to just have on the side is a survival mode of any kind but I do like the dinosaur idea thank you and god bless

  • UNIT TX 17 11.27.12 at 14:19

    i ve had this game for at-least 6 months and not a moment went by where i would say to myself im bored of this!!!,every penny i spent on this game was worth it you guys (DICE) do one hell of a fantastic job for the fans,i cant wait till its out few more days to go!!! keep up the excellent work surely it is much appreciated.

  • Ereidy_13 11.21.12 at 05:04

    You guys really went all out, I’m really looking forward to sniping these guys with their crossbows. The ability to use the the buildings to their full capacity will make every battle unique.

  • Alkanida 11.20.12 at 18:07

    Unseen Aftermath Footage from November 20th:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSE0M210wM4

  • dmclayton 11.19.12 at 15:48

    realy like the over all feel of the map and am realy exited about the sniping Possibilities but ime still wateing on that gilly suite

  • EITY10 11.15.12 at 12:05

    I think they really did a good job on this one!
    When i saw first the earth quake in the gameplay trailer i was very thirsty for this kind of game, when it released i was sad about it because only in single player it was…BUT NOW IT’S HERE WEEEEEE!

  • CG_recon 11.09.12 at 05:48

    Yeah, this DLC will shaking players, not by maps design, but by cheaters\hackers. No recoil, 1hit kill, aimbots killing thru walls, edited config of crossbow with + 1000% of damage etc.

    Sure thing, it’s gonna be epic… aha……..

  • Kibido 11.07.12 at 17:40

    Great job, really can’t wait for this. I hope though to be able to decide whether or not to use the Aftermath player skin. I’m personally not enjoying the new Assault looks and would be damn glad to use the default one.

  • Alkanida 11.03.12 at 16:42

    DICE, nerf the crossbow before it becomes OP. Here are my thoughts:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtwxXiUxF84

    • p1011457 11.11.12 at 04:56

      Yea it should only be a one hit kill to the head or body, but if u notice the one hit vehicle disable was with the high explosive bolt and so is the M320 and thays not OP

      • GIDOKUN 11.21.12 at 20:42

        But the bullets velocity is much grater and disabling vehicles from over 200 easily with just one squad is just shit. I also think it is more like a c4 than a m320 which means more damage. (You need two c4 to disable choppers.)

  • Fortune188 11.03.12 at 13:55

    You should add Hoboken as a playable map. Or maybe Fire Island? Both locations are pretty Aftermath-esque.

  • ThaFallen5oulja 11.03.12 at 08:54

    Why cant you guys(DICE) let me doen for once. Lol JK tho. You guys at DICE dont ever dissapoint a true Battlefield fan like me. BTW to the people who think the Crossbow will be overpowered, no it wont. The Crossbow is the same thing as a rocket launcher except you get a scope with it (kinda like in BFBC2 were you get a Launcher with a scope). Same reload time as a Launcher and it has Drop (the farther the bullet goues the lower it gets). So if these Trolls start complaining, just stand up for yall’s self and tell them “NO, Its not overpowered”.

  • keenguitar 11.03.12 at 08:47

    This was all modeled? No physics simulations? It looks very believable, I really like it.

  • AcridShard 11.03.12 at 00:33

    OOOh i get it the earthquake is whats going to awake the dinosaurs i seeee!!!!

    • ThaFallen5oulja 11.03.12 at 08:55

      Apperently you DONT get it. THERE will NEVER be a Dinosaur mode. Jeez

  • Lillemann60 11.02.12 at 22:06

    A question, will there be CV-22 ospreys?

  • Lillemann60 11.02.12 at 22:03

    I hope there will be choppers, and special ground vehlicles. Maybe a new equipement too, like ar-drones

  • Monkeyze56 11.02.12 at 19:57

    I absolutely LOVE the idea behind this map, and hopefully the rest will be as awesome! My question is, with the dynamic Tremor events, will those injure the players at all? i.e., a piece of debris falls down and crushes someone or a vehicle gets overturned on you?

  • gameboy0895 11.02.12 at 19:55

    DICE You have renewed my FAITH! I posted about this exact idea on the forums and the feedback getsatisfaction pages….. I know you guys would listen!! This is going to be the best expansion pack yet. Thumbs Up and keep working at it guys! You have my full support. :)

  • munk3y 11.02.12 at 19:23

    I love the way this guy talks about his work it shows a nice sence of pride in his work… can’t wait play these maps

  • Alkanida 11.02.12 at 18:51

    DICE: If the Crossbow is what it looks like in the Video, it will be damn OP.
    3 ways to fix it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtwxXiUxF84

  • therosscompton 11.02.12 at 18:01

    Battlefield, you guys are the best in the industry. I tried warfighter, couldn’t do it. It just made me want to play battlefield. You guys are unmatched for sure. I cant wait to see battlefield 4.

  • YourMothersPink 11.02.12 at 17:57

    The campaign sucked balls, and no one cares to relive it. Don’t know why we’re going back to this with one of the last multiplayer add-ons. That being said, I think the designers are very creative for the limited freedom they are given in developing new map packs. Looks good!

    • Crayze Steve 11.02.12 at 18:06

      what mission did u even get to?

    • munk3y 11.02.12 at 19:20

      Campaign was really awesome I played it 5 times. U need to go back play it and see what u did wrong. And at lease finish it. Or are u one of those cod fanboys

    • Monkeyze56 11.02.12 at 19:54

      The campaign was a well-designed military shooter story. But that’s all it was. Nothing really spectacular about it, but lots of things that got irritating…I mean come-on, timed button press sequences in an FPS? -.^ That and the jet mission was a huge let down…was looking forward to a massive open-sky dogfight :(

  • ABED1984 11.02.12 at 17:26

    Dice, Please don’t listen to people who are trying ruin the game with harmful updates.
    The problem of the Crossbow can be solved by players dodging the arrow hits as quickly as possible, Plus, The Crossbow may seem overpowered in the Trailers because it’s for presentation purposes.

  • SentineL_VDXi 11.02.12 at 17:04

    Why buildings has no access to all of the floors? would be awesome!!!

  • Private UMPalot 11.02.12 at 15:56

    Taken a months break from BF3 and looking forward to getting back when this comes out.Certainly adds a new dynamic to BF3 maps.

  • Alkanida 11.02.12 at 15:50

    DICE: NERF THE CROSSBOW BEFORE IT COMES OUT!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtwxXiUxF84

    • ShadowDrifter51 11.02.12 at 16:53

      Deal with it. Every time someone complains about something dice decide to ruin the weapons to the point its worthless, also reload time on it so if you miss the first shot your fucked

  • WpBajas 11.02.12 at 15:40

    great !!!! please write somthing abouth new soldier camo

  • DragonTHC 11.02.12 at 15:39

    phenomenal. The level design here makes MOHW look like MOH Airborne. It just seems that DICE has the top level designers in the world right now and I can’t wait to see BF4 levels. They will not disappoint after seeing this.

  • Grislars 11.02.12 at 15:13

    I’m just curious why all trees and big parts of the vegetation go berzerk like it’s a storm everywhere :p

    • YourMothersPink 11.02.12 at 17:53

      Agreed trees move and sway too much and too violently

  • Alkanida 11.02.12 at 15:12
  • juice_rrr 11.02.12 at 15:04

    SICK!

  • XiphiasThree 11.02.12 at 14:59

    First lol Good article

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