Is Battlefield 4 as “human, dramatic, and believable” as it thinks? DICE has their say

Battlefield 4

By on April 1, 2013 at 11:58 am

It ain’t easy being Battlefield. No matter how gratifying the gameplay is, no matter how beautiful the tech, the long-running FPS giant is always going to encounter some criticism – it may even attract it, given its pedigree. “On rails,” “essentially… the same game [as BF3]” and “all style and absolutely zero substance” were such comments made by the community following the release of Battlefield 4’s single-player campaign trailer last week.

But are the complaints warranted? Is Battlefield 4 as “human, dramatic and believable” as DICE would have us believe? Is a highly-scripted experience necessarily a bad thing? We sat down with two members of the Battlefield 4 development team, executive producer Patrick Bach and single-player producer Tobias Dahl, to discuss their thoughts on the feedback that the epic 17-minute trailer has garnered since its reveal.

“It’s the least scripted experience of any Battlefield game (…) You can choose different paths. You can choose to use vehicles. You can choose to engage enemies or not engage enemies”

“It’s the least scripted experience of any Battlefield game,” Bach begins confidently. “No, it’s not an open-world game. It’s not a bot-match where you randomly play against other players and hope to have fun. It’s a very narrative, dramatic, and focused story that we’re using, that we’re opening up for variations in gameplay. You can choose different paths. You can choose to use vehicles. You can choose to engage enemies or not engage enemies. You have a very clear goal of what to do, but you still have the freedom to choose how to solve a problem.”

“We’re bringing the player into all of [the game’s] epic setpieces. It’s not press play, watch people move, and then go back to shooting.”

Dahl emphasises that DICE only provides the tools for players to shape their experience. When it comes to what exactly that experience is, the developers step back, allowing the players to take centre stage – something that, he argues, is difficult to identify in a trailer.

“That’s the problem we have with showing just one playthrough,” he says. “We could play it through four times in different ways to prove you wrong. How you solve the puzzle is as far from being pre-scripted as we can get. We have a totally new rewritten AI that is totally dependent on how you behave. We encourage you to move, to use your squad, to use the destruction of your environment, to use your vehicles however you please.”

But what about the elaborately constructed plot points? Surely finding himself trapped in a sinking car is integral to Battlefield 4’s story, something that all players will have to go through?

“Yes, but you are encouraged to participate,” says Dahl. “You are the one who shoots the window. You are the one who cuts off your friend’s leg.”

Bach issues a challenge to Battlefield 4’s critics. “What is not a scripted game?” he wants to know. “Give me just one example. Fallout? Fallout has very specific missions. It’s very scripted. You can roam randomly, but you can’t do whatever you like.”

“We want the player to react to the environment,” he continues. “You’re in a hostile situation where you need to adapt and survive. Free roaming would not fit the theme or the genre. We want to take Battlefield to the extreme, and create a Hollywood movie version with you as an interactive player in it.”

Bach believes that linearity isn’t inherently a bad thing. “It’s about the variation between,” he explains. “It’s the contrasting actions between being in a very narrow space and being in a more open space. You start in a car in the water, sinking. It’s worse than being in a corridor, you could argue. But it creates very intense drama. It creates tension. It creates connection to these people around you. It’s super personal. People care about these characters, and we’re not used to seeing that in many shooters.”

Both Bach and Dahl attribute the campaign’s moving story to the reason we’re seeing less of an emphasis on hardware. While we’re looking forward to seeing what a developer like DICE can accomplish with the power of the PC platform, they say that they’ve been surprised by fans’ lack of interest in the technology powering the demo.

“We’re definitely pushing the PC to create that super high-end experience – but nobody has asked us about what hardware we’re running on,” Bach says. “It’s going back to believable, human, and dramatic – people are focusing on the software rather than the technology. Why? Because it’s not important. It’s what’s on the screen that’s important. This is about the experience that players want to have, not their hardware.”

In spite of that, DICE are working closely with hardware manufacturers to pinpoint and increase the possibilities of Battlefield 4’s visuals. Multiple GPUs will be supported, and “all of the memory you can possibly put into your machine” will be leveraged to create the smoothest, most gorgeous experience possible.

“It’s an IP that has been around for more than 10 years,” Bach concludes. “It’s Battlefield. People know what that is. We’re not leaving the FPS genre, and we’re not creating a new IP here.”

“But we’ve worked to make this the best Battlefield yet. I’m extremely proud of how dramatic it is, how people talk about the characters. They didn’t talk about the polygons, they didn’t talk about the features – they talked about the actions. If that’s not dramatic or human, I don’t know what is.”

22 comments (Leave your own)

Battlefield used to be a multiplayer only game. Now there is single player tacked on that 95% of gamers couldn’t care less about.


Nobody cares about single player. The sooner they realize this the sooner they get back to their original roots by creating a more enjoyable MP experience.


Yeah I’m not sure what he’s harping on about. At what point did Battlefield cease to be about a well-constructed multiplayer experience and suddenly become a linear, “dramatic” single player corridor shooter? Just leave that to the CoDs of this world and go back to being what you’re good at.

Not that it bothers me too much I’m not likely to buy anyhow.


I’m sure i’ll get chewed out for this but… Lots of people enjoy the single player aspect as well. Saying, ‘on-the-rails is rubbish’ is a bit odd since Bioshock got 10/10 in some cases and i’d consider that one to be fairly, ‘on-the-rails’. Personally I think a lot of people are just so used to riding the EA hate train that they refuse to be impressed.

The SP footage looked pretty dang spiffy to me. Which will be a nice change from some of the rubbish coming out lately, given a few exceptions.

At the end of the day if you’re so against SP.. then just don’t play it. Don’t demand of them to remove a feature that some people may enjoy. MP in these type of games is always being patched and updated with DLC so you’re not losing out on anything by adding some SP.


I don’t mind the on rails stuff so much as the bullshit obtuse rules it typically brings along with it, things like the Mi-28 in the singleplayer video;

It’d be completely unkillable until it was scripted that you’re able to shoot it down with a single shot grenade launcher that’s handed to you. Despite the fact that the entire time the player was running away from it he was carrying a multishot grenade launcher.

Blatantly obvious triggers are another one – things respawning until you pass a certain point, things suddenly popping up in known clear areas after you pass a certain point, etc.

That’s just nonsense. If you can’t design an experience with “normal” game rules then maybe you should take a harder look at what you’re designing rather than changing the rules.



That whole driving scene would be pretty boring if you could kill the mi-28 earlier, in fact if you shot it down when it first appeared you’d extract from the roof and miss whole swathes of story and action. You can’t have infinite flexibility and still have these Hollywood blockbuster style action sequences. If that’s not what you’re after then just play multiplayer.



You’re getting too specific, the helicopter was just an example. buuut;

Plenty of ways around that. Initially they could have had a jet harassing them or artillery or both even – perhaps have the jet collide with their extraction chopper for extra splosions. And then brought the mi-28 in when they’re on the road and you’re occupied with driving rather than being presented with opportunities to try and kill immortal helicopters. Just as an example.

It’s entirely possible to create an action packed game without breaking the game rules just to make some idiot game designers wish come true. Doing so is as stupid as it is lazy.


On Rails / Quicktime Events Singleplayer… is fail.

Given the maps and engine of BF then need for MP, they could easily use huge open maps crawling with bots and have waypoints for players to try and take a squad too.. from point to point – doing objectives…



Good points, all quite plausible. Problem is that increases the required development work and while we might not like it they’re a business and their resources have limits. Creating a more flexible campaign as you suggest would certainly have been better but what would have suffered in return? The length of the campaign or multiplayer?

The campaign is probably pretty short already and I’d suggest they intelligently realise that multiplayer should be the focus.


Waiting for hidden April Fools…
In battlelog, 88% of people (from a total of 137483) who voted are looking forward to MP more than SP.


Waiting for hidden Arpil Fools…
In battlelog, 88% of people (from a total of 137483) who voted are looking forward to MP more than SP.

It is important to note that people using Battlelog would primarily be biased towards multiplayer. People who only bought BC/BC2/BF3 for single player have no reason to use it again after finishing.


“they say that they’ve been surprised by fans’ lack of interest in the technology powering the demo.”

BF3 might have looked marvellous compared to BF2, but the gameplay was not even close. The maps were all too much of a meat grinder, necessarily pared down to accommodate the limited hardware of consoles. This in turn meant that there was no real tactics or inventive gameplay.

What I loved about BF2 were the transport chopper rides across the map, a squad of mates talking and joking. The cramped scope of BF3 meant that you just had to GO GO GO GO ALL THE TIME.

I have a host of memories from BF2, having fun in different ways, because the game was flexible enough to facilitate this. All my memories of BF3 are “Remember when you shot that guy?”


I enjoyed playing with bots in the old battlefield games. That was a better single player experience than the scripted rambo missions they are slapping into todays fps games.

In saying that though the best scripted single player missions IMHO were those from the original call of duty, they actually felt like you were part of a large scale battle.

Forget about creating drama and emotion with pre conceived characters and scripted events. You can only save Private Ryan once before it gets old. Just let us create our own customized squad mates (x-com, faster than light), name them whatever we like and let us get to the chopper our own damn way


I have a host of memories from BF2, having fun in different ways, because the game was flexible enough to facilitate this. All my memories of BF3 are “Remember when you shot that guy?”

Every body wants those moments and don’t get me wrong I on jump on BF3 last night after a few month not playing it.

I know I have had those moments that’s for sure. Getting a 1,260m head shot on Gulf of Oman killing someone taking off in one of the jump jets. There is nothing better then achieving something like that. One in a million shot no dout but its what I will remember about the game that is for sure.

It’s what you find in the game that brings you the enjoyment form it. Not what the Devs choose to do with the game or the direction they take it.

The game isn’t lacking in its ability to give you a good time, it could be your perception about what the game should be offering to you. Limiting your enjoyment?

Anyway this is about BF4 and I still believe that this is the game that we could have got a few yeahs ago rather than a cut down version due to the current consoles.

And I still haven’t seen anything yet to make me what to pick it up.


Single player is all well and good, after all I enjoyed the MW series for the single player.. but ultimately you get what, 6-7 hours out of a decent single player FPS, and hundreds of hours out of multiplayer and/or co-op so its pretty obvious which of the two options should be getting the most attention.


OK i think most of you have completely jumped the gun and jumped on the “stupid sp” bandwagen. all the SP is designed to do is be a marketing ploy to get people who usually only play SP games and not MP (yes those kinds of cave trolls exist) into this franchise. so instead of just catering to the mp only diehard fanbase which im also apart of, they decided to drag some of the SP crowd in from CoD (which we all know is a whole different kind of experience if youre into *that* kind of 12yr kid thing) and into the SP of battlefield 3/4, surely bf3 sp wasnt GREAT but it certainly took a dump ontop of the CoD crowd and they knew it. so when the rest of the populace come to try the SP in bf4 they might start getting into multiplayer, because lets face it: battlefield 3 online is a fucking awesome experience.

But on a seperate note i do believe the only reason to add another addition to the franchise is when the engine is significantly upgraded/ newly built, because im seriously thinking that bettlefield 4 may just be another *oh lets churn out another release for the next year* like the old EA button they press to make a game for more money… please Dice dont fall victim to this

Ralph Wiggum

I love single player as much as the next person, but I’ll admit the SP campaigns in the Battlefield franchise are pretty forgettable. Played through them once, enjoyed it, but it offered no replay value whatsoever. Are people getting upset that development time is being taken away from the multiplayer component?


kablekill: The game isn’t lacking in its ability to give you a good time, it could be your perception about what the game should be offering to you. Limiting your enjoyment?

It was my perception about what the game had previously offered to me, subsequently absent in its sequel, and the reasons for this absence.

I don’t blame EA or DICE for this. They are obviously chasing the $$$, sacrificing scope and nuance for maximum marketshare, like the profit making businesses they are. BF3 was a day-one purchase for me. I got the Back to Karkand map pack. After a time I realised the game just didn’t have that BF2 feel. I know of lots of old school players who just stopped playing BF3 and moved on to something else, I didn’t buy any more of the DLC as a result. I voted with my wallet, and presumably other people did too. BF4 won’t be a day-one purchase unless I start hearing good things about it (i.e. that it is truly a return to BF2 style play). Maybe I’ll never buy it, maybe other people won’t too.


I find it amusing how as game series’ develop they tend to lose what made them so fun to begin with. It’s like a little bit of soul is stolen from the game in each subsequent sequel. Thank the gods we live in a time when indie games are pushing big publishers to rethink some of their approach, and that gamers are finally cynical enough to start to be unimpressed with things such as graphics in want of solid gameplay.


theremin (dude with the King Vultan avatar):
What I loved about BF2 were the transport chopper rides across the map, a squad of mates talking and joking.

Sounds like you’re talking about the mod Project Reality, vanilla BF2 is just as much of a clusterf^ck as BF3 is if you ask me. At least off the bat BF3 has better infantry mechanics and a greater variety of map styles and game modes.

If DICE brings back mod tools and in-game VOIP we might see coordinated strategic gameplay like PR again. If not there’s always ArmA if you can put up with it’s differences.

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