Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Future of Battlefield

What does DICE have in store for EA's flagship shooter five years from now? Here are our predictions.

Sure, we're getting a new Battlefield this year, and it looks phenomenal. DICE is making a concerted effort to take on Modern Warfare 3 while trying to retain its identity to longtime fans with the massive, well, battlefields that they've come to expect. But we're not content to look forward to this October, when Battlefield 3 is set to arrive on PC and consoles. We're looking to the future - the year of our Lord* 2016, five years from now. So what will Battlefield look like in the middle of what we expect will be a new console cycle and ridiculous new PC hardware? Here are some educated guesses.

*our Lord is inclusive, non-denominational, and is actually just a turn of phrase rather than an expression of support for any particular religion or faith. So take a deep breath. Read about video games. 

Battlefield: World 

Utilizing a partnership with Google Maps and Google Maps 3D, Battlefield World could, for a nominal fee, recreate actual real world environments a block at a time and render fully destructible versions of them on the fly. Ever wanted to run around your block in a video game? Or anywhere in the world? With integration like this, you'll be able to. 

Matching the actual specific tones and hues of said real world environments could be as simple as snapping a photo of a wall or floor, uploading it to EA's server and assigning it to a specific set of textures in the game. 

The level of detail and interactivity? That'll depend on you. And how much you're willing to pay, of course. For basic street maps with buildings that serve mainly as cover, think 5 bucks. For larger buildings with some semblance of interior architecture, think upwards of 10. But the cheaper maps will come with the ability to make basic changes, including the ability to add internal architecture to structures. It's all about how much work EA is doing, and how much you're willing to do. Providing EA with a basic blueprint of a building's interior using one of their idealistically simple creation tools could mean recreating a familiar setting in game within minutes. And then you could invite all your friends over to tear it down with tanks, grenades and good old fashioned gunplay. This means you wouldn't even just be limited to existing places but could ostensibly recreate any environment from anything ever, like the dystopian Los Angeles of Blade Runner or the war-torn streets of City of Men. 

Now you're probably (and justifiably) imagining that in the wrong hands, giving gamers the ability to virtually destroy their neighborhoods and local consumer and government buildings would be nothing but evil and irresponsible, but bear in mind that EA currently allows gamers to upload photos for character face mapping purposes and does so with a great state of policing and moderation. Which right now means much slimmer chances of running into a soldiers with penis noses or butt faces and in the future could mean mass scale, real world based wars with rules and regulations, stifled only by proper policing and your own creative limits. Fight hard, play fair and reap all the benefits. 

Destruction Beyond the House of Cards 

While Battlefield 3's environmental damage looks fantastic, it's actually a bit of a step backward from Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Damage is done to facades built onto structures, rather than the actual structures themselves - you're not going to be bringing buildings down in Battlefield 3 like you did in Bad Company 2 outside of scripted moments in singleplayer and possible hard-coded objectives in multiplayer. But even Battlefield: Bad Company 2's destruction was pre-cooked; you were blowing apart pieces designed to fall apart in a certain way. 

But the next generation of Battlefield will be running on a new generation of consoles and PCs that will possess enormous amounts of physics processing power. It's likely that this power will be able to simulate more believable (and fun) structure destruction that isn't just limited to chipping the corners off buildings, or blowing apart a clever house of cards. Imagine cleverly setting up a chain reaction of explosions, and sending a neighboring highrise falling into the enemy's base. This is what we want. 

Battlefield: Mercenaries 

Battlefield has always been about big maps and lots of players, but those levels have been isolated, little chunks of the world. This year's Battlefield 3 campaign is the same, with limited environments dotted around the Middle East. But what if the battle in Battlefield was actually multiple theaters around the world, places you could choose to go when you liked? And what if when you got there, it was an open-world style city, with multiple objectives you could take on with your friends? 

EA owns the Mercenaries license. While the second Mercenaries title was tepidly received, both games did cool, interesting things with the open world action formula, and both involved destruction. Grounding that series in Battlefield's more realistic style but keeping the destruction and open world. And to build on both franchises, the world is yours to travel as you like, with multiple destinations, all supporting co-op support for your fireteams. Oh, and get used to 8 player co-op, with a heavy focus on class roles. 

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