Battlefield V War Stories Interview with Eric Holmes

October 19, 2018

On Tuesday we had the chance to sit down with Eric Holmes, design director for DICE, about the Battlefield V war stories, as well as play a good chunk of that game mode which you can read more about in our full write-up here. Here’s what we learnt.

Hi Eric, nice to meet you and thanks for sitting down with us today to talk about the Battlefield V war stories. To get things started, what changes are there in Battlefield V’s war stories compared to Battlefield 1 and will players have more reasons to come back and replay them this time around?

I think the biggest issue if you look at the mechanics is that there’s been a big overhaul on the AI. The AI was something we got criticised for in the reviews last time and it wasn’t something we were super happy with, but we’ve done a lot of work to that so our AI should be a bit more human but also ultimately more plausible overall, you won’t get that kind of like situation where you’re standing there and someone gets shot next to us and we don’t really bat an eyelid at it. When the combat actually starts, you’ll be playing in more of a Battlefield way – we have classes in the [war stories] AI, so you’ve got medics which will try to revive their allies, scouts that will fire a flare at you and that will order artillery to your position to dislodge you, troopers with bazookas and panzerfausts that can blow parts of your building away or use grenades to destroy your position of cover

We now also have the ability to escalate a situation in two ways, the first is via an alarm system which gets everyone around there into the area, another is an order that will call in more scary Battlefield stuff from off the map, such as planes to bomb you, tanks to harass you, or a truck with some guys with flamethrowers that will jump out, so game-changing stuff that comes in, you’ll think, “Oh man, they’ve called the cops! Something else is here and it’s scary.”

And is that to do with what difficulty you’re playing on, so if you choose harder modes will this happen more often, or will there be more units?

I think the guys that come in will be the same but fighting them will be harder.

Battlefield V War Stories Interview

We’ve seen WW2 featured in games since the start of shooters. How is DICE putting a new perspective on it through gameplay and technology?

Through gameplay and technology? I think there’s two answers to that question. The thing we have with Battlefield V war stories is we have the secret weapon of emotions, which are pretty strong in the war stories. Of all the content I’ve worked on, they are the most moving one, and I think bringing that to World War 2 is new and it feels new, and there are certainly special situations which belong in that scenario such as the Tiger tank.

Part 2 is that we’re bringing Battlefield back to World War 2, so that brings all sorts of toys, weapons, vehicles, gadgets, units, to that. I can’t tell you the last time I flew a Stuka (German dive-bomber) in a game. You can steal one off the runway in Under No Flag and start bombing installations with it. You’re firing Pak 40’s (turrets), you’re driving a Tiger and a Panzer IV (tanks), you’re flying a Spitfire, Mosquitoes, there’s just a lot of toys in the toybox that are evocative and you look at them and think “I want to play with that toy!”

The last time DICE did World War 2, they just didn’t have the technology to be able to re-create them like you can now.

Yeah, and I think DICE’s models for these things are just amazing so, I remember I think it was BF3 I walked up to the planes and could see the rivets on the metal and how the things connect. I remember that as being something that was quite breathtaking right there, so we’re getting to bring that level of detail in to World War 2 and being able to do that with something like a Tiger, there’s just a lot of things there that are iconic in that war.

Battlefield V War Stories Interview

With the Battlefield 1 war stories it was all about playing as the Allied powers, but this time around you’re going to be able to play as a German and see things through their eyes with the Allies progressing towards them. What made DICE want to go down that path?

It really started with the Tiger itself. The Tiger has such an aspirational quality when you look at the vehicle and you’re like “I wanna drive that”. If you look at World War 1 I think there were a couple of vehicles that had that appeal but we really had to work with them to make that happens. there wasn’t a [Messerschmitt Bf] 109 or a Spitfire, they just have a shape to it where it’s like whether you’re a kid or a nerdy history buff adult, there’s an appeal to it where you can see why you’d like to experience it, like the difference between a Ford Fiesta and Porsche 911, there’s something that just makes you want to drive it, and there are amazing war machines that have that kind of quality to it and the Tiger is one of those vehicles.

Once you start digging in to the lore of the Tiger, you learn it has this incredible reputation in what it is able to do and that started suggesting a story for DICE. It wasn’t something we took lightly where we were like “hey, we’ll just do a German story”, we actually wanted to do a German story last time [in Battlefield 1] but we didn’t get the time to do it. But the bones of that, and the fact that people were calling out saying they want one, and with the aspirational hardware we sat down and asked how do we bring this home, how do we make this with the qualities that it needs to have, the integrity, to say something meaningful and daring and creative, and not some cop-out nice German story with the good friendly workers that have clean hands and never did anything wrong and their mother always told them they were the good boys.

So you didn’t want to re-create another Sound of Music?

Right! So, I think the best example of what we’re trying to achieve is something similar to the 1981 movie Das Boot. You look at that, that is the blueprint for the story. A bunch of guys that are in peril together, in the German military, and the subtext of what’s going on in the war – and you know, you always know how it’s going to go, in your heart. You know as you’re watching it that it’s a dark story.

Battlefield V War Stories Interview

That sounds like quite the memorable experience. Moving on, Battlefield has always been about online multiplayer but these days there are games that combine single-player experiences with an open-world multiplayer Battlefield; has DICE considered online multiplayer integration in the war stories this time?

Technically we haven’t, just because doing that would be incredibly complicated. It’s not a simple flick of the switch, “and then we’ll just add players to the hub!”

It would be tricky to implement, but as an example in the Battlefield 1 war stories you’d get to a point where you’ve got to capture a checkpoint, and you’re standing there by yourself capturing it. I was thinking it would be great if there were other people participating in this, and you could bring in more enemies and make it a larger Battlefield experience in the war stories. That’s not something that would be possible?

There is a co-op part of the offering that is coming up for Battlefield V. Co-op is definitely part of the game, it’s not something that I am working on though. It will be something that lets you play with other people against the AI, but for more details on that all I can say is ‘watch this space’!

Battlefield V War Stories Interview

Lastly, my grandfather was in the Australian Navy in WW2. Will we see a naval war story in Battlefield V?

There are ships in presentation elements but it’s more of the cut scenes for example when the SBS (Special Boat Service) boys get inserted into the Battlefield they come off a ship called the HMS Sussex, and they paddle their way in, but no we don’t have any gameplay on ships this time.

Okay, that’s all we have time for, thanks a lot Eric.

We also had some art and graphics related questions that we have forwarded on to the relevant department at DICE, so stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw for more announcements on Battlefield V as we get closer to the game’s release.

Battlefield V launches on November 20, 2018 on Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 platforms. To find out more, head to the official Battlefield website here.