Ever been frustrated by being shot as you run into cover in Battlefield 3? Ever wondered why you can’t look down the scope while crawling in prone mode? What about why games like Battlefield and Medal of Honor don’t feature locational VOIP, or what system requirements you’ll need to run Warfighter on Ultra?
We’ve been speaking to Kristoffer “Hoffe” Bergqvist, Creative Director of Multiplayer from Danger Close Games, and ex-DICE employee of six years on the Battlefield series, and he’s given us all the answers. Read on for our massive interview on all the nitty-gritty details on Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
games.on.net: The last Medal of Honor game’s multiplayer was created by DICE. Given that DICE has a lot of experience with multiplayer, why did you move the development of Warfighter’s multiplayer back in-house?
Kristoffer: We wanted it to be a cohesive experience, for singleplayer and multiplayer to share features. But we also wanted to share the unique tone that is in Medal of Honor. For that to happen we needed to be in the same studio. It was a great opportunity – there are still people in the Medal of Honor team who worked on the first Medal of Honor game with Spielberg fifteen years ago.
games.on.net: We did notice a disconnect between single and multiplayer in the last game. Do you think you’ve solved that this time around?
Kristoffer: Yes. Control input is the same, with peek and lean in both single and multiplayer. It’s also about the tone and style of the game. If you learn to handle the rifle in singleplayer it will handle the same way in multiplayer, and the transition between the two halves is much easier.
games.on.net: On the subject of player movement, during our demo we noticed that players can’t look down the scope while crawling in the prone mode. Can you talk about the reason behind this design decision?
Kristoffer: When you’re in prone, we wanted you to make a conscious choice before you go into prone. Do I want to be mobile, or do I want to be stealthy? It all came from there – we figured that if you want to move in prone you sacrifice the ability to look down the sight. It also makes no sense from an authenticity perspective. You can’t look down a sight while you’re crawling in real life.
games.on.net: We also noticed bullet drop is less pronounced than Battlefield 3. Can you talk about the reason behind this? Is it based on real world ballistics?
Kristoffer: We start with real world ballistics. Rather we start with the entire experience of the gun. What does it feel like to shoot – we want that to be as realistic as possible. We’re working with special operators, a bunch of them are snipers, and we’re trying to make the sniper experience as real as possible. We don’t have the combat distances that Battlefield has, so bullet drop is a lot less pronounced.
games.on.net: Is the bullet drop technically accurate, or is it exaggerated compared to real life?
Kristoffer: We start off as technically accurate. But it’s a game, it has to be fun, it has to be balanced.
games.on.net: What were the major flaws that you identified from the last Medal of Honor game that you wanted to resolve this time around?
Kristoffer: I’ll answer that from a multiplayer perspective. One of the things we knew from the start was that we wanted to be one, cohesive experience, which we’ve already talked about, but that was a big thing. We also wanted to expand on the depth of the game, to be a game that you played for months and months and years. We did that in a couple of ways. Firstly we expanded the content a lot. Six multiplayer classes instead of three, classes all have unique support actions, they all have unique grenade types and weapon systems. Even things like run speeds. Just a lot of content inside the core gameplay.
We’re also adding endgame features, such as platoon versus platoon matches, which is our take on clan gaming, and trying to make that as accessible as possible. We also really want to support this game post-launch, making sure it stays up to date. We implemented systems for post-launch patching so that we can update stuff like weapon damage and recoil without deploying patches – we can do it server side. If we see that nobody is using a gun because it’s not powerful enough, we can bump it up without needing a patch.
games.on.net: On the subject of post-launch support, Frostbite 2.0 has excellent netcode that allows destruction and lots of players, but it’s also quite vulnerable to certain hacks as a result of the mixed client/server prediction. How do you plan on tackling those issues once the game has launched?
Kristoffer: We’re talking to DICE a lot. When they close a hole, we do it as well. We have removed parts of the code that were most exposed to hacking. It’s a very real problem, and we don’t tolerate it. We’ll do everything we can to stop it.
games.on.net: Will you have a dedicated team of people combatting cheating after launch?
Kristoffer: Yes we will. I can’t really talk about details yet, but absolutely.
games.on.net: And obviously you’ll have Punkbuster support for the PC version?
games.on.net: When the Unreal engine was first released and used by several games, they all tended to look quite similar. Frostbite 2.0 is the same tech that powers Battlefield 3. How do you make a game using the same engine, that doesn’t look just like Battlefield?
Kristoffer: It has been a key point for our development team since day one – how do we not look like Battlefield. How do we define Medal of Honor. I think every decision we made stems from there. It was important for our art director to come up with our own look.
games.on.net: So what is the Medal of Honor tone? When you were setting out your design guidelines, what were some of the rules that you created that would remove your visual identity from Battlefield?
Kristoffer: There is a style that I can’t really put into words. Everything circles around authenticity, we’re looking at pictures that the special forces took when they were deployed overseas and trying to portray the world as they saw it when they were there, if that makes sense. I wish I had my art director here, as he could give much better answers.
games.on.net: EA’s made it really clear that Medal of Honor and Battlefield are intended to go head to head with Call of Duty. Of the two games Medal of Honor is probably more similar to Call of Duty. How do you appeal to that same audience, without coming off as a Call of Duty clone?
Kristoffer: We need to find our own route. We never looked at a competitor and said we want to make what they’re doing, but better. We wanted to make our own game. We’re trying to bring in features that make our gameplay unique. The fireteam feature for example, which is kind of like taking co-op into multiplayer. It pairs you with a fighting buddy. This all started in discussions we had with the operators. We saw how well they work together in pairs, because they have one guy they always stick with for a very long time, and they get incredibly well synchronised. We wanted to include that.
So when you go into multiplayer, you’ll be assigned a fighting buddy, and you can always see where he is via a faint outline. It emulates the sixth sense these guys develop. You will see intel about what’s he’s doing, he’s hurt, he needs ammo. He also works as a spawn point – if you die and he stays out of combat you can spawn in on him. If he’s the more aggressive type, he can hunt down the guy that killed you, and you’ll spawn instantly. We’re all big fans of teamplay and want to reward that. We figure that with one team member to really rely on, it’s much easier to find that one person to play with.
games.on.net: So it’s just like the squads in Battlefield, but two men instead of four?
Kristoffer: Yes. What it allows us to do is share a lot more data between the two players. If you have four guys in a squad it gets harder to share that amount of data on that scale. We can also give you more direct feedback if you’re doing good teamplay-wise. We’re rewarding teamplay directly, so it’s easier for the player to see what they’re being rewarded for.
games.on.net: In terms of the actual gunplay – pulling the trigger, seeing the recoil, watching where the bullets land – how do you feel Warfighter differs from other military shooters, such as Call of Duty? Have you looked at their gunplay and decided what you wanted to do differently?
Kristoffer: We are doing a lot of things differently on the microscale. The things that are hard to talk about, that happen in the millisecond, like the tweaking of ADS speeds and headshot boosts. We wanted gameplay where shooter players felt like they understood the basics, we didn’t want to alienate anyone there. But after playing it, there’s something different. A lot of it comes from speeds, damage values, small tweaks.
games.on.net: Battlefield is known as having more recoil than Call of Duty – where would you guys sit between the two?
Kristoffer: We differ in the ways we handle recoil. There’s deviation, which is how the bullet doesn’t go where the crosshair points. Then there’s kick, which moves your entire gun. We rely more on the gun kicking. We have limited deviation, because it fits our combat distances and gameplay speed a lot better.
games.on.net: So does that make your first shot more accurate than in Battlefield, where you have to worry about deviation?
Kristoffer: Yes, the first shot is a lot more accurate. It’s going to be pretty apparent when you sit down with it and get a feel for it.
games.on.net: In terms of Frostbite 2.0, have you made any technical changes to the engine?
Kristoffer: We’re working a lot with hit detection.
games.on.net: Which a lot of people say is one of Battlefield’s flaws…
Kristoffer: We’ve been working on that. Our servers work differently because we don’t have vehicles so we can run faster, with more data and higher tick rates. We’re trying to create the balanced gameplay situation where you don’t feel like you get shot after running into cover. It’s a delicate balance but we spent a lot of time on that. We also worked a lot with minimising input lag. We put a lot of effort into this, especially for the console players. You’ll notice a big, big difference.
games.on.net: You’re locked to 30fps on console, right?
games.on.net: Is that the limiting factor when it comes to input lag on consoles?
Kristoffer: No, there are other things we can do. Like how we render our visuals. But we have shaved a couple of frames off the input latency. We bought this system that allows us to measure input lag very precisely – there’s this guy who builds controllers that allows us to measure it very precisely. So we hammered on that until it was good. We also did a lot more weapon customisation in the Frostbite engine, so you can swap out barrels and stocks. We also have the ability to draw the world, then render the character over the top of it in the UI. The end result is that in the respawn screen, we can show you the world, but we can also show you the character model. That was big for us, because we wanted to show each player the special forces player they’ve picked.
games.on.net: Any environmental updates to the engine?
Kristoffer: We worked a lot with water. You’ll see proper wave dynamics.
games.on.net: Battlefield 3 is arguably the best looking PC game at the moment. Do you think you’ve matched it in terms of visual quality?
Kristoffer: Yes, I’m really happy with the Warfighter looks. I look at it now and am just blown away. We worked closely with DICE with this, and I’m not the only ex-DICE guy in the office. We know each other pretty well, send resources back and forth, they help us, we helped them with Battlefield 3. We’re at this stage where so many games at EA are using Frostbite 2.0 so we can easily send resources back and forth. You saw the driving level in the Warfighter demo.
games.on.net: The level called Hot Pursuit? Why didn’t you just call it Most Wanted?
Kristoffer: (laughs) Obviously we couldn’t have done that without the driving talent we have at EA.
games.on.net: You’re matching in terms of visual fidelity, but what about system requirements? Battlefield 3 needs a beast of a PC to run at Ultra…
Kristoffer: It’s going to be about the same. If you can run Armored Kill you’ll be fine.
games.on.net: We looked at the graphics options in Warfighter’s demo today, and they’re identical to Battlefield 3. Are they final?
Kristoffer: I think so. They should be.
games.on.net: We were wondering if you might simplify them given that you’re going for a different audience.
Kristoffer: We are trying to streamline a lot of things. When it comes to PC graphics settings, I think most PC players want that fidelity in their options. I’m pretty sure what you saw is final.
games.on.net: VOIP in PC – is it in-game, or via an external system like Battlelog?
Kristoffer: It’s in-game. If you switch fireteams it’ll move you to that new group.
games.on.net: So you can only speak to your buddy?
Kristoffer: Default is your buddy, because we found that most of the VOIP traffic gets more relevant if it’s just the two of you. Then on certain screens like the end of round screen, we move everyone into the All channel, so you can gloat a little bit. We have plans to have server side options to allow the entire team to be on one channel in-game. I’m not sure that is done for launch though.
games.on.net: Will that be switchable by the user, so they can chat only to their buddy, or to the whole team?
Kristoffer: Yes, that’s the intent. But that’s all coming in now, so it might not be available for launch.
games.on.net: Any thoughts on having locational VOIP, so players can overhear enemies?
Kristoffer: They have it in Day Z, which I currently play quite a lot. It’s a lot of fun. I would love to experiment with that – we don’t have it in the game. We talked about since… we spoke about this when making Battlefield 2. I think it’s something that should be done pretty early in the development process. Do you remember Counter-Strike once tried it? The result was that players stopped talking to each other, so they reverted it really fast. You need to find a balance where that doesn’t happen. It’s a cool trade-off, should we talk or not, but you don’t want everyone to clam up and not talk, or go and use Ventrilo instead. So it’s a game design issue, not a technical issue.
games.on.net: In terms of the browser, will it be in-game?
Kristoffer: It’s in-game and via web browser, we have two versions.
games.on.net: Can it do region filtering? And why do two browsers?
Kristoffer: It has the same features as the Battlefield 3 server browser, which has region filtering. I need to double check what it looks like in-game or in the browser. We wanted both because we feel that our player base is in two camps. A lot of players appreciate the convenience of having it through the web, but a lot of players like to do it from the game client. It’s one of the upsides of working closely with DICE, as they’d made all this before.
games.on.net: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kristoffer: I really look forward to getting it out there and playing it with everyone.
Thanks to Kristoffer for chatting to us!