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Business and Boomsticks: DICE’s Lars Gustavsson, Pt. 1

Friday, 4 November 2011 06:10 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Why are the Bad Company boys wearing swimming trunks? Patrick Garratt gets the answer, and more, in an extensive interview with DICE creative director Lars Gustavsson.

During our visit to DICE’s head office in Stockholm, Sweden, VG247 had the rare opportunity to sit down with Gustavsson and talk about something other than Battlefield 3. Read on for insight into the future of Bad Company, DICE’s cinematic inspirations, the EA acquisition, pushing the envelope, and much, much more – and come back Saturday for another serve.

Codename Eagle

Codename Eagle was developed by Refraction Games and released for PC in 1999. The studio was purchased by DICE shortly thereafter, and the base Codename Eagle tech, running on Refraction’s proprietary engine, was used to prototype the first Battlefield game.

To start at the very beginning, do you consider Codename Eagle to be the first Battlefield game, or did it start with 1942?

I think 1942 was the first Battlefield game. I still have and I intend to make it work for – next year, it’s ten years from 1942′s release, and I still have the prototype on my hard drive. It was made in Codename Eagle, where we put up the first prototype, but even though that’s the embryo of 1942, it wasn’t born yet, so.

You’ve obviously as a firm got a huge release history going back to 1991. When did it become clear that Battlefield was going to be a focus for DICE? Was it around the time the EA acquisition or was it before that?

I think 1942 took everyone by surprise. We knew that we had something good already after Codename Eagle, so to be honest 1942 was more refining a concept, making everything we wanted, since Codename Eagle was… Part of it was the publisher wanting us to make a single player game since a multiplayer only game couldn’t really be sold.

So 1942 we got to what we really wanted to do, and I think that showed. Since then the sales numbers have been just trending upwards. I think we learn more and more, we reach a broader audience. But I think it wasn’t until Battlefield 2 that it was a force to be reckoned with.

How do you think the EA acquisition has affected the outlook of the studio in general? Obviously now you’re working for the greater good of EA as opposed to just focusing on your next project – do you think that’s a fair thing to say?

“I think we came at a point where EA turned around, and started to really promote their studios, rather than making them disappear into the belly of the beast.”

There was a lot of fear within the community when we became part of EA, “it’s the end of the franchise, the end of DICE.” I think we came at a point where EA turned around, and started to really promote their studios, rather than making them disappear into the belly of the beast.

I’ve been working with EA since 2001 – the whole franchise. It’s been really good co-operation. As long as we keep doing good stuff, they’re happy. For us it’s probably less of the late night meetings and stuff like that, and more “freedom under responsibility,” if you see what I mean.

You’ve always based Battlefield on your own tech; it’s a huge part of your company, the actual engine. Do you think that’s been a key factor of Battlefield’s success?

I definitely think so. The tech has been core from the very start.

When we were making 1942 everyone said it couldn’t be done. And we went around everywhere, and talked to every publisher, and they said “no no, sorry, looks cool, but we don’t think you can do it.” I think through the years we’ve proved time after time that we can do things that other companies can’t, because of our own engine.

One of the latest additions, destruction, really proved this – and it isn’t easy to do, it’s not for free, but it adds so much on the battlefield. This time around, it’s the fidelity, it’s the physical experience. I think we keep on pushing the boundaries.

Yes, we do look at what our competitors do – but I think we are our own biggest enemy. Not seeing competitors as enemies, but we constantly challenge ourselves. There’s so much we want to do, and since we have an amazing tech group, and with the Frostbite engine, there’s so many – I mean, the sky’s the limit.

It’s like people say here, “we can do everything – it’s just a matter of time and money”. So you need to restrict yourself and be wise about it.

You said it was really when Battlefield 2 came along, that everything cranked up a gear. What was it that changed at that point?

“Battlefield 2 was a tough one for many people; it’s the longest crunch we ever had.”

I think part of it was, you know, proving to ourselves and to others that it’s not a one hit wonder. It’s also maturing as a game, and as a studio. There’s no doubt, there’s still a bunch of us around from 1942, but [Battlefield 2] was a tough one for many people; it’s the longest crunch we ever had. 24 people building that behemoth, while we have hundreds on this one.

It was really putting Battlefield 2 together under those circumstances, and with that kind of trailing behind you, proved to ourselves that this is something we can do, and we do it well.

You’ve released some very successful products based on the Vietnam War. Why do you think that conflict specifically is such a good fit for the concept of Battlefield and for the Battlefield fan?

I think a lot of it … When we’ve been making the Vietnam games, we’ve based them a lot on the movies. After making games about wars that have existed or are in the future for such a long time, I think you realise a lot of it, for me and for others, is what we see in movies, rather than what we actually know – we haven’t experienced it. I don’t think you’ve seen so much live footage, either.

I think the decision to base the games on the experience from the movies, spice it with the phantom fighters, the helicopters, the vegetation and everything has been a good concept.

From 1942, we’ve tried to be neutral. It’s a sandbox; one team happens to be dressed up as Germans or Russians or Americans, but it is really fighting in known battlegrounds. Thus, starting making Battlefield Vietnam, both teams had to have an equal chance to win – which is a very cool challenge as a designer.

For example, one team has one type of gadgets or tools – the other team need something to counter it. It calls for some cool asymmetrical thinking.

Does it help you from an art perspective to have those icons like Hueys and M16s?

It definitely does. Every game has made the studio grow in a certain area. 1942 was probably in every area; we just learned a lot about how to make a full-blown game.

Battlefield 2 we improved the whole team play – team play communication – and the soldier experience, since the vehicle experience was quite good in 1942 but the soldier experience wasn’t so developed yet. Battlefield 2 took that one step further.

Battlefield 1942′s audio was a one man
production.

And so we continue with every game. I think audio is one of the more recent ones that’s really gone from- we had one guy, with the assistance of a couple of programmers that helped out now and then, to do the audio on 1942.

He was sitting in Gothenberg – his name is Magnus Walterstad, and we were sitting and talking on the telephone, and it was kinda “oh, someone saved over my files, and now I’ve lost everything I did during Easter”, and he was just miserable. He’s still around. He worked on the new Vietnam as well. But the whole thing is we’ve taken it from something … kind of amazing, that he managed to pull it off and do so many new things, to now a full blown department and we win awards and Baftas.

I think it’s the whole experience nowadays. The early Battlefield games were mechanics. They were mechanics with, for that era, a good look – but still not as full blown as it is nowadays. With Battlefield 3 it’s really painting a full painting, while during those days it was monochrome or something – you misses some areas.

I think we learned something for everything we do.

Did the Bad Company series come out of your need to find traction on consoles?

Of course, to survive as a studio we wanted to see if we could move into the console area. We knew that we had done a really good first game on consoles with Modern Combat – especially on PS2, with multiplayer it was an amazing experience. And then with the new consoles coming up, we really wanted to go all in.

To deliver on three SKUs was… Two things. It would be more money for the studio to do what they wanted to do, but also, a key learning, and the studio has always been about “where can we grow, where can we challenge ourselves”.

I think pushing those buttons and going into consoles has given us so much.

You had a real win with Bad Company 2′s multiplayer. I know plenty of sort of “soft core” players who have put in hundreds of hours on that – especially on PC. Did you see Bad Company 2′s multiplayer as a test bed for what was going to happen in Battlefield 3?

“Battlefield 3 is the sum of everything we made up to this date.”

If those things happen, it’s not intentional. I would say Battlefield 3 is the sum of everything we made up to this date, whether it’s Mirror’s Edge or any of these games. Calling it Battlefield 3 and not Bad Company 3 means that it is a very different kind of product.

Still, we have all this good experience on how to deliver a really good tight shooter, a good vehicle experience, to tell a good story, so. That it was a test bed I wouldn’t say, but we definitely gained experience that will help us now to deliver a really good game.

Is Bad Company going to continue as a franchise?

Who knows?

I don’t.

The Bad Company squad might be out there on some sunny island, drinking mojitos and… thinking about what to do next.

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47 Comments

  1. HighWindXIX

    I for one would love another Bad Company game. It was just so fresh in many ways. Good interview. DICE always have interesting interviews.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. noherczeg

    “Battlefield 3 is the sum of everything we made up to this date.”

    Plagued by battlelog and Origin :(

    #2 4 years ago
  3. loki

    BF3 again?
    sux and boring

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Maximum Payne

    ”whether it’s Mirror’s Edge or any of these games…”
    Well yea that level in Paris when you are fighting in office it look exactly like Mirror Edge.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. manamana

    Loki, just keep on reading on the other articles, there are plenty. Oh, I forgot. You are a helpless troll seeking attention in your poor and meaningless life….

    #5 4 years ago
  6. manamana

    And there I totally forgot to congrats Pat for this interview, thanks and keep the interrviews and backgroundvstorys coming, will you?!

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Gekidami

    …And EA servers are yet again down.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. manamana

    @Pat speaking of servers: wouldn’t it be interresting to know about the serverfarms Acti and EA are running?

    #8 4 years ago
  9. G1GAHURTZ

    Having to make a page like this just shows the ridiculousness of the situation: http://www.ea.com/servers/battlefield3

    #9 4 years ago
  10. OrbitMonkey

    This is going to sound odd as I only got halfway through 1 & didn’t touch 2, but I’d really like to see a Bad Company 3.

    I like the whole Kelly’s Hero’s/3 Kings vibe, which is refreshing in a world of rather po-faced military shooters.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. viralshag

    I would like to see another Bad Company too. I would also like to see a new Mirrors Edge, are they working on one? I’m sure I remember someone mentioning it.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. viralshag

    @9, Yeah, really ridiculous to have a page dedicated to server status. Much like this one:

    http://www.callofduty.com/blackops/status

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Moxifool

    @12

    I was just about to reference that myself.

    @9

    Honestly mate, give it a pissing rest. I’m actually looking forward to when you get MW3; because i’m expecting a pleasing 80-90% reduction in your fanboy bullshit on the account of you actually playing the fucking game and not just waxing wanker-lyrical about it.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. mongbatstar

    @13 +1000 internets for “waxing wanker-lyrical”.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. viralshag

    @13, 8)

    #15 4 years ago
  16. G1GAHURTZ

    Actually, both pages shouldn’t be necessary. Simple as that.

    BO having a problem doesn’t justify BF3 having a problem.

    This is the simple fact that you can’t get your fanboy heads around.

    @fool: Don’t read my comments then, fool.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. viralshag

    @16, So having an easy go-to page to see if there are problems is a unnecessary. That just seems a bit retarded seeing as it pretty much answers any questions such as “are the servers down?”

    Something you can’t seem to get your fanboy head around is that no one is justifying anything. Other than, you know, the fact that a lot of games share the same problems and have the same services such as a server status page.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Moxifool

    @16

    “This is the simple fact that you can’t get your fanboy heads around.”

    Coming from the biggest, unabashed CoD fanboy I have ever had the misfortune to see in my entire life; you’ll forgive me if I don’t take this as anything other than the disingenious piece of vitrol it so clearly is won’t you? Thanks poppet.

    “@fool: Don’t read my comments then, fool.”

    I can’t help it; it’s part of a thread that i’m interested in and believe it or not, I do look forward to the day when you’ll actually contribute to them without feeling the need to be such a hopeless fanboy jerk.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. G1GAHURTZ

    @17: No, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

    I said that DICE having to go out of their way to make a page dedicated to the status of all three formats and Battlelog, because of all the downtime, just showed how bad the situation was.

    So instead of saying that this might be helpful, or anything else, your reply was along the lines of ‘BO has one too!’.

    You’re clearly trying to justify BF’s problems by saying that another game has them. That’s just stupid.

    @fool:

    Please, fool. If you’re convinced that I’m a fanboy. Don’t read my comments.

    Thanks.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. viralshag

    @19, Being defensive much? Fine, I can find other games with server status pages if it makes you feel better?

    You’re being slightly silly now too:

    “I said that DICE having to go out of their way to make a page dedicated to the status of all three formats and Battlelog, because of all the downtime, just showed how bad the situation was.”

    What do you think spawned the BO server page? I’m merely pointing out that these two games, like many others, have the same issues, problems and solutions.

    CoD and BF are the two biggest elephants in the room so why not use the two to compare? Seriously, stop getting so defensive. You sound like a real cry baby.

    #20 4 years ago
  21. G1GAHURTZ

    You’re not comparing, you’re justifying.

    There’s absolutely no use, whatsoever, in comparing something that doesn’t work with something else that doesn’t work.

    You’re using something CoD may have done wrong in the past to justify whatever BF does wrong right now, and that’s stupid, because it proves that you’ve fallen for EA’s CoD-centric marketing campaign, rather than actually demanding your money’s worth from a product that should be able to stand on it’s own two legs.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. Colin Gallacher

    So that’s where you disappeared to during the play test!

    #22 4 years ago
  23. viralshag

    You really are just like a broken record. I have gotten my money’s worth, and then some out of the game, thanks.

    And I’m not alone in that, I’m not going to name others but I will just say I have already spent a good number of hours having a great time with other VG247 members playing the MP.

    Really, you just sound like a spiteful little kid that’s upset that others are having fun.

    And for the record:

    “There’s absolutely no use, whatsoever, in comparing something that doesn’t work with something else that doesn’t work.”

    Equally, there doesn’t seem like there’s any use in banging on about a game having the same issues that are often shared by most other games like it.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. G1GAHURTZ

    I couldn’t care less if people are having fun playing the game or not. Your problem is that you seem to think that everyone MUST be happy with the game and overlook it’s obvious faults, just like you are, and no-one else has the right to complain about issues that are stopping them from buying the game, or asking for it to work properly.

    How very totalitarian and arrogant.

    there doesn’t seem like there’s any use in banging on about a game having the same issues that are often shared by most other games like it.

    Actually, there is a use. If consumers complain about products, manufacturers have no choice but to raise their standards.

    Silent consumers who make excuses for big business are just asking to be trodden on.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. Ireland Michael

    @16 You really are a complete fucking tool.

    Any game that relies on dedicated servers has a fucking page or at least some sort of icons to indicate whether the servers are up or not, because contrary to your deluded beliefs, they are not these magic things that just “work”.

    And you say *I’m* clutching at straws by pointing out that the PC version won’t be working as intended at launch, while you criticise games for practices that have been around since the time of MUDs..?

    Hahahahahahaha!

    “BO having a problem doesn’t justify BF3 having a problem.”

    No, but when Call of Duty suddenly has the same problems, it gets a free pass.

    You’re a complete joke, full of logical fallacies and constantly hypocritical standards that get thrown out the window whenever they’re applied to your beloved franchise.

    Everyone wishes you’d stop, but I personally want you to keep it up as long as possible. Please, please do! We’ve needed more of this kind of blind ignorance and deluded fanboy love for a good laugh, ever since TEA left.

    “Your problem is that you seem to think that everyone MUST be happy with the game and overlook it’s obvious faults.”

    OH THE FUCKING IRONY!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    #25 4 years ago
  26. viralshag

    @24, “How very totalitarian and arrogant.”

    Just like the whole “hyper-sensitive” nonsense, your attempts to try and label me as something I’m not is an absolute joke. I’m not going to waste my time posting links but people who read these comments that have the game and are playing it know that I’m not overlooking any faults as we can have a decent discussion about it. Unlike you.

    “Actually, there is a use. If consumers complain about products, manufacturers have no choice but to raise their standards.”

    And if that’s how you feel, why not keep to the EA and forums then. An interview about the game which is unrelated to the issues hardly seems like the place to pop your head in and mention a server status page, is it? Just like the others that have done something similar. Only you tried to be precise and that back fired pointing something out that other games do as standard anyway.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. Charlie Sheen

    reasons why i hate DICE and BF3 is that they got really lazy with the console versions

    #27 4 years ago
  28. Moxifool

    “Please, fool. If you’re convinced that I’m a fanboy”

    Well, your actions have done little else to dissuade me to arrive at any other conclusion than you are in fact a complete CoD fanboy.

    Oh and it isn’t just me that has arrived at this conclusion either. As i’m sure you’ve noticed right?

    I mean, look around – you’re not exactly in an amicable position are you poppet? :)

    #28 4 years ago
  29. G1GAHURTZ

    You are overlooking it’s faults. Not only that, but you’re actively trying to stop others from pointing them out.

    Again, how very totalitarian and arrogant.

    I’m free to voice my opinion wherever I like, and I think you’ll find that my comment was actually completely in context, and in relation to comments 7 and 8.

    You talk about broken record, but all you’re doing is repeating the same meaningless ‘CoD does is too’ line.

    It means nothing.

    #29 4 years ago
  30. Ireland Michael

    @29 Broken record.

    #30 4 years ago
  31. G1GAHURTZ

    @25:

    I’m not even going to bother reading that drivel, whatever it is… A quick glance makes it apparent that it’s full of foul language and psychotic laughter, so I’m just going to ignore it as usual.

    You really have turned into rage boy, haven’t you.

    The thought of you injuring your limp wrist after camply slapping the screen in anger after reading my comments is highly amusing.

    #31 4 years ago
  32. G1GAHURTZ

    @28:

    I really don’t care if you think I’m a fanboy or not.

    If you don’t like what I say, don’t read my comments.

    Same goes for everyone.

    #32 4 years ago
  33. Ireland Michael

    @31 Broken record.

    #33 4 years ago
  34. viralshag

    @29, Keep seeing things how you want in your little dream world. I have actually only mentioned CoD once and that was to say they have something exactly like what you pointed out, just like other games have it to.

    Yeah, “I’m actively trying to stop others” from doing something on the internet. Give me a break. Just admit that you have gotten your knickers in a twist about the fact your attempt to use the server page has gone a bit tits up.

    You’re right though. I am justifying something. I’m justifying a game with an online component to have a server status page. That’s pretty much all I have said here. So carry on about the “overlooking faults” and whatnot. You just sound like an over-defensive strange little person and I go back to my earlier comment that still stands:

    “Something you can’t seem to get your fanboy head around is that no one is justifying anything. Other than, you know, the fact that a lot of games share the same problems and have the same services such as a server status page.”

    #34 4 years ago
  35. G1GAHURTZ

    Of course you only mentioned it once.

    I only made one comment, so you only had the opportunity to mention it once…

    …in this comment section.

    Right. Remember when I said: “You’re using something CoD may have done wrong in the past to justify whatever BF does wrong right now, and that’s stupid, because it proves that you’ve fallen for EA’s CoD-centric marketing campaign, rather than actually demanding your money’s worth from a product that should be able to stand on it’s own two legs.

    Well…

    Now you’re saying:

    You’re right though. I am justifying something.

    Wow! Finally, we’re getting somewhere!

    I’m justifying a game with an online component to have a server status page.

    And that’s EXACTLY what I said you were doing.

    And how did you justify it? By using CoD as an example:

    I have actually only mentioned CoD once and that was to say they have something exactly like what you pointed out

    Case closed.

    I’m not really interested in these pointless ‘I got the last word’ arguments, so as you’ve finally (unintentionally) admitted what I initailly said about you, I’ll leave you to it.

    #35 4 years ago
  36. DarkElfa

    They’re wearing swim trunks because that’s the way Pat likes ‘em. ;)

    #36 4 years ago
  37. viralshag

    @35, Ok. You have officially gone full retard it seems.

    “You’re right though. I am justifying something. I’m justifying a game with an online component to have a server status page.”

    Is not the same as:

    “using something CoD may have done wrong in the past to justify whatever BF does wrong”

    No justification of BF’s problems, no overlooking of issues. Simply, and it is very simple, that BF has something that CoD has when there are issues. Why use CoD? Because it’s the biggest FPS around. I would say that it’s not hard to understand but clearly for some people, it very much is.

    Again though, thanks for another entertaining afternoon.

    #37 4 years ago
  38. DarkElfa

    Jesus Viral, you never go full retard, everyone knows that.

    Except Grainger Games.

    #38 4 years ago
  39. DSB

    Good interview Pat.

    I think Bad Company 2 is the worst game DICE ever did, fair enough if people liked it, but it didn’t really do anything to trigger the joy I had of playing BF2 – And essentially still do.

    I also think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who has spent time on “both sides of the front”, that aside from the very impressive production values, there’s been a lot of emphasis on speeding up the gameplay, refining the controls, and refining the mechanics to a point where it’s able to bring the fight to CoD’s house. And kudos for that.

    The campaign itself almost seems like a tribute to CoD.

    Lastly, I totally know why people love Battlefield Vietnams – TRENCHES. ENTRENCHED POSITIONS.

    Honestly, there’s nothing Battlefield players love more than to sit around cover, and take potshots at eachother. It’s really starting to annoy me, because I’m always the one that has to flank around or actually attack the guys so we can break through. It’s a bit like Band of Brothers, except everybody is Albert Blithe.

    #39 4 years ago
  40. Moxifool

    “It’s a bit like Band of Brothers, except everybody is Albert Blithe.”

    Fucking brilliant.

    Whereas Call of Duty essentially trains people to be Captain Spears :)

    #40 4 years ago
  41. viralshag

    @38, That’s very true. I take it back. Despite the back and forth between me and G1GA, it’s still a long way off “full retard”. Probably only just though. ;)

    #41 4 years ago
  42. DSB

    @40 Well, to be fair you can have the same thing happen in Call of Duty, but I guess since it’s less people, it’s less annoying somehow. But certainly if you want to do well, you have to move a lot.

    I mean seeing like 10 guys be pinned by 4 guys at a flag just makes me want to pound my face into the desk. I usually just sprint into them, and most of the time they can’t hit me, because the last thing they’re expecting is to be charged head-on by a guy who actually moves.

    Although now I’m always going to be imagining myself as Captain Speirs when I do it, and I thank you for that.

    #42 4 years ago
  43. Colin Gallacher

    “It’s a bit like Band of Brothers, except everybody is Albert Blithe.”

    Pretty much quote of the week right there. I let out a mad cackle at that :D

    #43 4 years ago
  44. manamana

    @39 you know on operation metro, when everybody is stucked at B? Yeah, I’m one of the few, who isn’t egineer-class and run around like a weasel to either support or revive the bunch…. btw: kudos for your BoB reference. Gotta watch it all over again now. ;-)

    #44 4 years ago
  45. battlefield3hc

    Hello,

    Do you have anyone who can look over this site Battlefield 3 Hacks and fix the problem with EA and these cheats? I have four people in my clan using the hack and it’s simply not fair the way these guys can see every single enemy on the screen. The last guy using it had 17,000 points and was ranked 50 already. I’m currently serving in the Marine Corp and Battlefield 3 is what I do to relax (believe it or not)…. but these cheaters have made me so mad. What can I do? It doesn’t seem like anything.

    I called EA support FIVE TIMES (was on the phone for 90 mins total) and every person I talked to said the game had no hacks out for it. I even sent them to the website and showed them the videos and screens and they said they were fake… c’mon, are they serious?

    I also tried to post asking for help on the EA Forums and every single time they delete my post. After spending $60 and EA made $5 Million in sales the FIRST WEEK I think a deserving LEGIT player like me deserves some sort of answer about a fix. Can you help?

    Regards,
    Chris Johnson

    #45 4 years ago
  46. Se_7_eN

    Ireland Michael = + 1000000000000000000000000000

    G1GAHURTZ = -99999999999999999999999999

    #46 4 years ago
  47. DSB

    @44 Reminds me of a really silly moment I had yesterday. It’s almost always on Bazaar, isn’t it? Instead of sprinting from shop to shop and assaulting the flag, people just sit around taking potshots.

    Either way, the fight became all about this one sidestreet leading up to the B flag. I just stood about 6 feet away from everyone and watched them take grenade after RPG after 40mm, and revived them every time they went down.

    I think I got something like 1000 points + ribbons in around 30 seconds. Very silly :P

    That sort of approach also makes Damavand Peak a lot less fun if you’re on the slowest/most inaccurate team. Simply sitting down on that map instead of getting on the attack is the easiest way to a slow and painful loss.

    #47 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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