In the third post in the “Road to Battlefield 4” blog series, we tackle Levolution, a natural extension of Battlefield and the freedom to play how you want to play. We’re taking unique multiplayer experiences, map evolution, and destruction to a new level.
If you followed our E3 live stream, you saw us bring down the Siege of Shanghai skyscraper a dozen times in multiplayer. But Levolution is much bigger and broader than simply destroying something. It’s a wide-ranging concept, a collection of ideas and experiences that make Battlefield truly great. In this blog post, learn how Levolution changes the water from calm to raging storm, how visibility goes from clear skies to dark overcast, and how every move on the Battlefield creates ripple effects that make every match unique.
Here to give you the latest details on Levolution in Battlefield 4 is Lead Multiplayer Designer Thomas Andersson. He’ll take you from its initial conception to how it unfolds in-game, and everything in between.
Ending up with the game-changing concept that is Levolution was a long and iterative design process for us. Going into Battlefield 4 two years or so ago, we first explored a concept that we internally dubbed “Timeline”. The thought back then was that a background timer would alter the multiplayer levels and take it into different stages automatically. Basically, map-changing events would trigger automatically no matter what the players did in the match.
But we soon realized that players much prefer manual control to as great an extent as possible – so we steered down the path of maximizing player interaction with our dynamic content instead. The clearest feedback came from all of the players who tried to blow up the tower in Caspian Border that we talked about in the first blog post.
The name was then changed to Levolution. This is a good opportunity for me to assume full responsibility for the name. Although people think it’s a marketing buzz word, it was created as an internal communication tool during development to – in a very simple way – explain the vision of changing the level as you played. It’s served us well.
Bringing Levolution to multiplayer has been key for us. Personally, I think it’s fantastic how our fans have spent more than one billion hours in Battlefield 3. We’re hoping to top that with Battlefield 4 multiplayer. We especially hope that you’ll find something to enjoy every time you play, whether it’s a small change or a large change you make to a map.
If you’ve been playing Battlefield, you know we pride ourselves on the dynamic “Only in Battlefield” moments that happen in multiplayer games. With Levolution, we wanted to give players maps that are highly thematic and have impressive “wow” moments in and of themselves. People play these maps countless times over the years, and we want you to be able to enjoy them for a long time. If you’ve seen our multiplayer trailer or followed our E3 and gamescom livestreams, you’ve had a taste of what you can do with our dynamic content.
There’s much more to discover.
The big events like the skyscraper in Siege of Shanghai are something we refer to as a set-piece. Characteristically, Levolution set-pieces bring those awe-inspiring single-player events into multiplayer.
The design philosophy for the Levolution set-pieces is to not just be happy with the spectacle of it, but make it matter in terms of gameplay as well. There should be pros and cons with a skyscraper coming down so that you have to carefully weigh the consequences of your actions and how it will affect your team. We’ve also tried to make sure the drawbacks to such an event don’t always affect the same type of player (i.e. always affecting pilots, or infantry, etc.).
The triggers for these big events can almost be treated like sub-objectives that some players will want to protect from attacks while others will want to divert some resources to make sure that it happens. Because we love destruction, that’s a very common trigger for the set-pieces – but, for example, you will also be fighting over starting and stopping a countdown to a warhead.
First I’d like to take a look at the Paracel Storm map shown at gamescom. Here we have the weather shift from clear skies and smooth sailing to something quite different. As the weather escalates into a raging storm, lightning strikes a wind turbine, weakening it and giving players the option of taking it down in order to free the immobilized destroyer.
If you manage set the destroyer adrift, it will crash onto the island, changing the layout of the map. With a giant ship rammed up on the beach, line of sight is completely broken and you’ll never know what’s coming from the other side – unless your team takes control of the deck. From up there, the team has a dominating position over the area. As an added bonus, they also control the anti-air weapons on the ship and thus control the air space nearby.
The changing weather in this map gives an entirely different feel to the match as it shifts, but it also introduces new gameplay possibilities on the open seas. As the storm rolls in, the map becomes darker and the violent weather creates big waves that are much more difficult to navigate. Suddenly you can have RHIB dogfights at sea where the outcome completely depends on your skill at surfing the waves and negotiating them for cover and speed.
Another map (which we won’t name just yet) allows you to change an entire urban level from land-based to water-based. At the start teams will have access to various land vehicles that fit an urban environment. But if someone successfully destroys a levee and lets the water pour out, the streets will flood and boats will spawn as reinforcements in place of the land vehicles.
The flooded streets also shake things up for infantry. The raised water level offers some interesting options for positioning on the map, opening up some areas you couldn’t get to before and simultaneously closing off other paths. While the boats control the streets, infantry will have to take to the rooftops for protection. You can also dive underwater, as well as use one-handed gadgets and one-handed weapons while in the water.
This kind of Levolution shows just how important your play-style is. For example, if your team dominates in infantry combat, you’ll want to defend the levee. However, if you’re an expert with the attack boat and deadly in the water, you’re going to give everything you have to take that levee down. To relate to what I said before, the levee turns into a sub-objective for your squad or team based on how you want the game to play out.
However, Levolution isn’t just about bringing down towering skyscrapers, flooding the streets, or crashing a ship into an island. We think the little things matter too, even if they aren’t as flashy.
For example, on the small side of the Levolution scale we have the bollards that could be seen on our E3 live stream from the show floor. These bollards can be used to deny vehicles entry into an area. On our daily play tests here at DICE, we’ve seen players act as gate keepers to let their own vehicles through but hindering enemy progress by raising the bollards again when opponent vehicles approach. In this case, it creates a dynamic zone of infantry combat where the combat means something concrete in gameplay terms – the victorious side will have power over which vehicles can enter the highly sought area of the map where armored support can mean the difference between holding the base and quickly losing it.
Battlefield 4 also features little moments like metal detectors going off when a player passes through them, giving the opposing team a heads-up that danger is coming their way. Or moments like turning off the power for a building, plunging it into darkness. With skillful communication, a prepared player can use the darkness to their advantage, flipping on night vision goggles and taking out an unprepared opponent.
These are just a few examples of the many ways Levolution can play out on a small scale. As an individual and as a team, you have the ability to change how a match is played at any given moment.
We can’t wait until everyone can experience Levolution for themselves. Let us know what you think or what questions you have in the comments.
Stay tuned to “The Road to Battlefield 4”, where we’ll continue the journey towards launch by diving deeper and deeper into every nuance of the biggest Battlefield game ever developed at DICE. Next episode: Commander Mode is back, and we’ll take a look at both its history and its future.
Until then, let us know what you think about this blog post, and what questions you want us to answer in the upcoming posts. Thanks for reading!