According to EA Games vice-president Patrick Soderlund, succeeding in triple-A circles is all about asking the right questions of your developers. In the case of DICE and the Battlefield franchise, the key question seems to have been as follows: "Good Lord, why does everybody run like they're made of broomsticks? Smear some Hollywood fidelity on that bad boy, stat!" Except that's not what he actually said.
"When we came out last year with Battlefield 3 I think that we took a lot of people by surprise," Soderlund told OXM in an interview you'll read in issue 92, on sale this Friday. "And that's because it was such a deliberate effort where I sat down with the guys and said: 'What are the things that are preventing us from getting a maximum impact on screen where we can give the player an experience that they haven't seen before?' My version's punchier, Patrick, but by all means continue.
"We dissected every shooter game that was on the market and the first thing that we saw was animation," he went on. "Animation was, frankly, shit. And now if you play Battlefield 3 and then you play any other game you almost instantly think about how poorly animated [the other game] looks, because the systems underlying it aren't good."
There's a popular perception that DICE achieved all this by incorporating the animation system from 2008 starlet Mirror's Edge, but the studio had a little help from the NHL and FIFA teams, too. "We were fortunate to have the ANT system that powers our sports games that we were able to convert into a shooter game, but that's years of technology investments and thinking about getting it to work. So that was cool."
As Soderlund later explained, "the ANT thing happened because the people that were doing animation at DICE were all playing NHL and FIFA on their lunch breaks. The animation director said one day: 'Hold on a minute, why aren't we using that animation engine, it's fantastic!' The next day an email went out, and they started talking about it.
"The first thing was: 'we can't do it'. That's always the first thing you hear: 'you can't do it.' Then people like myself would go in and say 'What do you mean you can't do it? You start asking questions. Then all of a sudden: 'Yeah, we think we can do it,' and that just happens."
Speaking of questions, here's one for you. Does Battlefield have a shot at overtaking the Call of Duty franchise next generation, or is EA forever doomed to languish in Activision's shadow? Might want to refer to this piece on how to make Battlefield 4 a perfect 10.