The smallest details can make all the difference. In our Concept to Completion series, we’ll look at how environments, characters, and more are added to video games during development.
Battlefield Hardline: Betrayal releases on March 1 for Premium members, and one of the new multiplayer maps takes place on Alcatraz Island.
Before Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary housed the most dangerous criminals in the country, it was actually a fort in the mid-1800s. Years later, it was converted to America’s first “super-max” prison, running from 1933-1963.
“Alcatraz has a very rich and somewhat romantic, albeit brutal history,” says Michael Roloson, senior Multiplayer Designer.
“We knew our fans would love the fantasy it provides,” says Roloson. “Alcatraz has been at the top of our brainstorming list since I joined the team in 2014.”
Interestingly, Alcatraz’s history as a fort made it tougher to build as a multiplayer map. “One of our biggest challenges in recreating Alcatraz was actually breaking some of the incredibly strong tactical fortifications present on the island,” says Roloson. “Many of the areas on Alcatraz are incredibly imbalanced for combat.”
Since the structure was built originally to act as a fort, the team had to make some small tweaks to the layout to make it playable and fun.
“Weakening these fortifications, adding better pathing to the map, and adjusting the scale of cells and hallways were the primary reasons that we diverged from reality when constructing the map,” says Roloson.
Several teams, including level and sound designers, lighters and artists, researched at the location multiple times. Approximately 30 people worked on the map, shooting reference photos and learning as much as they could about the island.
“Each team spent 4-6 hours gathering reference,” says Roloson. “All told we had thousands of photos, hundreds of 360 panoramas, and hours of audio recorded to help in the construction of the map.”
World Builder Ret Kritzon estimates that the team has been working on the map in some way for months. “About a year from whispers to shipped,” he says.
The map is full of lots of tiny details. “I love the sound FX of the cell doors slamming shut,” says Kritzon. “In the cell blocks, players can temporally lock other players into the cells for a few seconds. Cells are something of a safe haven that quickly turn into a trap. “
You might notice the small eagle sculpture right above the main entrance to the prison.
“Part of the history of Alcatraz was the Native American occupation of the island back in 1969,” says Kritzon. “If you look super closely to the shield that the eagle is resting on, you can read the faded word “Free” that was painted on the white stripes of the shield.”
Like any Battlefield game, there are a few Easter eggs to be found. “While we had to make some concessions as far as interior layout, we just had to include the shower area from the iconic shootout sequence from the movie The Rock,” says Kritzon.
And if you squint, you’ll catch members of the dev team in a starring role. “The prisoner portraits displayed in the cell block are actually members of the dev team,” says Roloson, “re-imagined as criminals of the time.”
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