The Passion Behind Battlefield Hardline’s Development

2015-03-10

The launch of Battlefield Hardline is right around the corner, and we're thrilled for you to get your hands on the fastest Battlefield ever.
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The launch of Battlefield Hardline is right around the corner, and we're thrilled for you to get your hands on the fastest Battlefield ever.

We’ve showed off multiplayer concept art, explored the story behind single-player, and highlighted some of the movies and TV shows that helped inspire the game’s art style.

Now, we’re going deeper inside the process behind development. We spoke with Lead Multiplayer Designer Thad Sasser to learn more.

What are some of the biggest challenges in developing multiplayer for Battlefield Hardline?
I think one of the biggest challenges is the size of the team. It’s not just the size, it’s the fact that the team is distributed across multiple regions. Communication through time zones is a real challenge. The best solution is a lot of travel, but that adds its own personal stress.

What are some of the ways that Battlefield Hardline sets multiplayer apart?
I think one of the best things about multiplayer development here at EA is our access to numerous test audiences, whether they’re inside EA, or getting fresh eyes through either monthly or bi-weekly in the game lab. These are incredibly valuable resources.
For Hardline, we had numerous sources of feedback.  Long before our two public Betas, we had gamers in our local GameLab evaluating the game and giving us feedback.  In addition, the GameChangers were an invaluable resource for confirming that our changes were headed in the right direction.

What are some of the principles of multiplayer level design?
We started with a very solid base. And that’s amazing to start with something that’s already fun. The challenge of course is how we not only keep the same fun, but make it that much better, to iterate on it, to make it new and refreshing. That’s where trusting your team and the really talented people that you work with comes into play.  For me, that’s the epitome of game development – being able to iterate quickly, with talented people that you can trust to own the systems and the content, just making sure that you nail the fun. After all, having fun is why we play games. It’s an escape.

What are some titles that you’re playing now, as well as some titles that you first started playing when you discovered gaming?
I do want to call out Battlefield as one of those landmark titles that changed my view of gaming. I remember when the demo for Battlefield 1942 came out and I was working QA in the Activision basement. All of us stopped what we were doing and every day we played that game at lunch. We had so much fun with that sandbox-style experience.

All the other games at the time were very carefully orchestrated and very well-balanced. A lot of very intricate components, but nothing like the freedom that 1942 had, with its vehicles, explosives, and classes. There were some fantastic ideas in there. You could drive the battleship! It was an amazing gaming experience and it definitely shaped my understanding of games. It’s one of the seminal games I refer to when I think about the history of shooters.

I think Counter Strike, obviously, has a strong impact on my experiences as a developer and a designer as well. I loved Counter Strike. I loved Rainbow Six. The idea of outsmarting and outmaneuvering your opponent has always been appealing to me.

In broad terms, what motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
The reason I do what I do is because I love playing games, and I want other people to have the same kind of fun – or the same kind of awesome experience I had when I was a kid. I still remember playing Sea Battle on Intellivision with my dad, way back in the day.
Even back then, I was interested in in-couch co-op and playing with my friends and the social experience in gaming, and that’s one of my big goals. To really bring those experiences to other gamers and to recreate those aspects in my childhood.

Tell us about a typical day at work for you.
My days get pretty crazy pretty fast. I get in around 7 or 8, and it gives me a couple hours to get stuff done before it gets really hectic.

We often have a morning play test, which is great. I get to start off my day playing games! In the afternoon we have an additional play test, and that is daily for a couple of hours. That means that I get to spend about 2-3 hours per day playing our game - which for multiplayer is invaluable.

You’ve got to iterate, iterate, iterate; that’s the secret to multiplayer success. You’ve got to find the fun and follow it. We do international play tests, too. We get players from around the world to play our game and check it out.

What keeps you up at night?
I just want to create awesome experiences for gamers. If I’m stressing about something it’s because I’m worried we’re not going to deliver for the player. The main reasons I tend to get stressed are about things that are out of my control. It seems like a stupid reason to get stressed out, but it’s the way my brain works. I’ll stay up at night thinking about something I can’t control but that I think might impact the gamer’s experience.

Is that part of the nature of building games, having to trust and rely on others?
You absolutely have to trust and rely on your teammates, it’s huge. You have to earn and keep their trust, too, it’s a two-way street. That requires learning to admit that you may be wrong in some respects. You’ve got to trust people who have the experience, who have the knowledge, who have the intelligence to solve these problems better than you would be able to.

Knowing when to listen to those people, which is most of the time, and being able to trust them and let it go is a huge part of the job, especially as a leader.

You’ve been at EA for a couple of years. What are you most proud of?
I was so excited to be able to work on Battlefield 3. I got a chance to do design for expansion pack 5 “End Game”, and that was a thrill, being a huge fan of the Battlefield franchise. One of the reasons that I liked the idea of working for EA was that I knew that they had the Battlefield brand, and having worked on Call of Duty and Ghost Recon it’s a natural fit for me.

How important is it to get feedback on your work around EA?
This is something I post about constantly on my social feeds. I think that the people I work with elevate me to a whole new level. I work with some of the smartest people I’ve ever known. I work with some of the most experienced people I’ve ever known. And they have skills that I can’t imagine acquiring.

Skill sets beyond my understanding, from engineering to art, animation, sound, all kinds of different disciplines. It is a challenge to work with such smart people - if you’re used to being on top of your game, and then all of a sudden the bar just went up a huge amount, that’s an awesome challenge. It’s a real growth opportunity for personal development.

What’s the most satisfying part of your role?
Occasionally, you get amazing opportunities as part of a design role. Sometimes it’s getting to fire fully automatic weapons, or ride in an armored truck with gun ports in it.

One experience I had was the opportunity to fly one of the Patriots jets after they did a flyover of the EA campus. I got to do a barrel roll, I got to fly in formation, and I had no idea that this kind of experience was possible for a designer. These are guys with 20 years of experience flying military jets, and they’re telling me what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.

I turned on the smoke and looked down, and I saw everybody down there on the field for the Battlefield launch, and I thought, “This is ridiculous. This is amazing.” I don’t think you get that opportunity at many companies, but Electronic Arts is one of the few that can provide that kind of experience.

But the most satisfying thing about the whole experience is I can take my memories and put them in a game to deliver something awesome for the players.

Read More:
Explore the Concept Art of Battlefield Hardline Multiplayer

Discover the Battlefield Hardline Singleplayer Campaign

The Movies and TV Shows Inspiring Battlefield Hardline's Development

 


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