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Interview: Battlefield 1943 -- A Mashup In Miniature

Developer EA DICE has mined three classic Battlefield 1942 maps to create an XBLA and PC title using the Bad Company engine -- director Patrick Liu tells Gamasutra about the team's "experiment that turned out too good not to release."
[Developer EA DICE has mined three classic Battlefield 1942 maps to create an XBLA and PC title using the Bad Company engine -- director Patrick Liu tells Gamasutra about the team's "experiment that turned out too good not to release."] The growth of digital download services on consoles over the past few years means developers and publishers can explore ways to offer new experiences -- and rewind back to familiar old ones, whether a classic arcade game or the return of the dual-stick shooter. Sierra, Konami and Namco have been on board from the beginning with numerous titles, but Electronic Arts wasn't so quick to the draw. It dabbled in digital download with the less than stellar Wing Commander Arcade and its Fantasy Football applications, but aside from that, it looked like the company wasn't focusing on console digital titles. With the beginning of 2009, however, EA has made a significant turnaround, and has significantly ramped up releases -- first with NHL 3-On-3 Arcade, then the upcoming Hasbro Family Game Night, and finally today's topic -- Battlefield 1943.
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Developer EA DICE has taken the ideas behind three classic Battlefield 1942 maps, recreated them using the Battlefield: Bad Company engine, tinkered with each, and intends to release them as a standalone download for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC called Battlefield 1943. With Bad Company 2 and Battlefield Heroes due out this summer, Gamasutra talked with Patrick Liu, director of Battlefield 1943 to discuss what's new in the title, the gritty details on file size and matchmaking, and how it fits into the trifecta of Battlefield games this year: How did Battlefield 1943 begin, and when did you decide to make it a digital download title? Patrick Liu: Actually, it didn’t start as a grand plan -- it just happened. We were toying around with ideas after I was done with my part on Battlefield Bad Company -- among other people, our Creative Director Lars Gustafsson (who was involved in the original BF1942). So we had this great engine, Frostbite, that BFBC is based on, and we all love BF1942, so why not try to recreate a level from it? It was really an experiment, and it turned out great, too good not to release. DICE has also always been about trying out new things, and we haven’t done small downloadable game-only before, so we want to try it out and reach new fans with it. And so Battlefield 1943 came about, trying to recreate the spirit of BF1942.

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Battlefield 1943 will be the first Battlefield game with regenerative health, an important design shift -- why make the change? PL: This is not a grand plan to implement in all future games, but again, something we think is suitable for this game in particular. It feels like a modern game mechanic that’s very common in many shooters nowadays, and one of the goals here has to make it more accessible to more players. It really changes the pacing in this game -- for the better, we think. We’re not necessarily making it less deep, but it’s just another kind of depth; you’ll have to manage your health in another way. With Battlefield: Bad Company 2 announced and Battlefield Heroes currently in Beta, where does Battlefield 1943 fit into the overall scheme of things? PL: A big part of BFBC2 is single-player, and it’s a really grand and epic game. Heroes is a free to play, third-person, PC-only game. I’d like to believe that BF1943 is disruptive in the sense that it’s not easy to place it in known niches. There aren’t any small games out there that at the same time have the depth of a full game, only smaller in scope. I don’t see BF1943 competing with other retail shooters. So imagine that your usual shooter (whatever you’re currently playing) is your car. You invest a lot of time in it, and drive it basically every day. It costs more and requires a lot more time. BF1943 would then be your motorcycle, which you can drive when you feel like having more fun, maybe on weekends. It’s really a game in between other games, when you don’t want the seriousness, but just jump-in jump-out fun. Another comparison: so when I was younger, I could invest like eight hours a day in a game. Now I’ve grown up. You have a day job, maybe a family, and less time to spend on games. But you’re still a real gamer at heart and want a proper shooter!

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In comes BF1943, which you don’t have to invest 10 hours into to unlock the competitive weapons and perks. All that matters is your skill. If you’re into shooters, you can be competitive here without investing a ton of time, just jump in and play a real shooter with a smaller scope. With that said, you will still be able to rank up and earn awards for bragging rights! I also think it’s a great entry-level shooter. If you want to try a full, proper shooter, you don’t buy a $50 game that’s super hard to get into. It’s a lot easier to buy a $15 game, which is more accessible at the start, and then experience the depth and skill that’s required with a proper shooter. Why call the game Battlefield 1943 -- why not keep it under the 1942 moniker with a subtitle? PL: It would be misleading to call the game BF1942 since we have moved on and reworked the maps, gameplay, et cetera. If we were to call it 1942, some people might think it was a remake of the three original BF1942 maps, and it is not. Most Xbox Live Arcade titles have to adhere to a file size limit, with only a few exceptions, like Portal: Still Alive. Have you also been granted an expanded file size, or does Battlefield 1943 fit within the 350MB limit? PL: We will be a lot smaller than you’d think, thanks to clever engineering. We have been aiming at 350 Mb, but I’m confident we can work out something with Microsoft on expanding the file size should we need it. Xbox Live Arcade titles have always required some sort of single-player component to their games. Does Battlefield 1943 include bots or some sort of campaign? PL: No, we don’t really support any single-player mode. We will have a tutorial sandbox level where we teach the basics of the game and where you can just fool around.

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Battlefield Bad Company expanded on the game's original modes with Conquest and four free additional maps. Can we expect post-release support for Battlefield 1943 or should we consider this more of a stand alone experience? PL: The current plan is just a nice and neat stand-alone package. If it proves really successful, we can surely look into supporting it with new content. When can we expect the game to be released? PL: Summer 2009.

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