Battlefield V interview: dodging the lootbox question, and why battle royale “would really fit the universe”

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I came away from my Battlefield V first look surprisingly ready for another tour of the Western front – prosthetic-armed Cockneys and all – but with a number of nagging questions. Firstly, how exactly is EA DICE approaching monetisation right now, in the wake of the uproar over Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s rubbish launch-day microtransactions? I was treated to an hour-long presentation on the game’s service elements, but the in-game purchases this service will facilitate were conspicuously absent from discussion – it felt a bit like the part in the bombing run before the sky lights up with flak. And secondly, does the developer have any plans for a battle royale mode, given Call of Duty’s recent jump upon that bandwagon? Because if any existing shooter is built for Fortnitey/Plunkbatty shenanigans, it is surely Battlefield, with its giant maps and headcounts.

Burdened by such thoughts, I sought out senior producer Lars Gustavsson and tried to get a clear answer out of him. The results, which include a discussion of what I suspect will prove a controversial squad focus, are below.

RPS: How have your problems with Battlefront’s microtransactions influenced the design of Battlefield V?

Gustavsson: I think for me personally, and primarily, I’ve been with the franchise since 1942, and we’ve continued down the path we set out a long time ago, which is that Battlefield is all about rock-paper-scissors – there shouldn’t be a superior weapon on the battlefield. You can extend your arsenal but there’s only different tools for different situations, and for your playstyle rather than better weapons [per se]. I think the big way forward here for us is what we’re doing with Tides of War, in removing the Premium Pass, as that means we unify the community and everything gameplay-related, and the only way of progressing is through play. That’s important to us, it’s always been that way for Battlefield – we live and die by our rock-paper-scissors guns. And then of course we add a layer of customisation and portraying yourself, which you can earn through playing the game and getting rewarded for special events in Tides of War, but also the opportunity of paying for what you like.

RPS: So the microtransactables will all be cosmetic elements?

Gustavsson: Yes.

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RPS: And will there be lootboxes?

Gustavsson: I mean, cosmetic is the short answer here. We want to allow players to portray themselves the way they want, and first and foremost we want a fair Battlefield where we have everybody with us, instead of splintering the community.

RPS: So you can’t say whether there are lootboxes specifically – as in, randomised collections of rewards?

Gustavsson: I think if there’s anything we’ll get back to that later.

PR: Stay tuned!

[An EA spokesperson has since told IGN that you’ll only be able to buy items directly in Battlefield V. –Ed]

RPS: What do you think of randomised lootboxes in general, as a practice? There’s been a heated discussion around them in the past few months.

Gustavsson: I have two kids at home playing games, so both as a developer and a father I follow the industry, in terms of discussions like that and where it’s going [more generally] – people talking PUBG, people talking trends, so it’s super-exciting times. Being there and listening, trying to assess where the market is going, what is the right way forward for us. All in all I think having been there from the get-go, Battlefield is a strong franchise – the core essence of that sandbox, the possibilities of player agency are something we’ll constantly want to build on. So we definitely take in what’s happening in the world and listen, set out a course, and sometimes you need to course correct, but in general I think we stay the course – if you run a race you need to look at your own tracks, look at other people’s tracks too much and you might stumble and fall.

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RPS: Are you planning to introduce a battle royale mode to Battlefield? It feels like the two would work well together – you’re already a big team game.

Gustavsson: I mean, we definitely see what’s happening there. I have two boys at home waiting for me, again, and we play those games. There has been tonnes of talking in the corridors, you know, ‘this would really fit the Battlefield universe’. The dynamic world, the vehicles, you name it. Lots of talking, lots of thinking around it, but nothing for us here to talk about today.

RPS: I like how the new squad focus departs from lone wolf play. Where did those ideas come from?

Gustavsson: I think a big part of it is, Battlefield has always been about the possibilities of teamplay. In 1942 that was encouraged but not forced, and over time I think we lost a bit of that, and we really wanted to push for that. Especially now that we can offer you Combined Arms – playing together, having a few laughs together and overcoming problems together means a lot in Battlefield. So that’s where it came from, listening to the community. And the destruction, fortification elements, we talked about war of attrition and scarcity, the possibilities of dragging people and so on and so forth, I think all of these elements in the end, the different initiatives and clarities – teamplay is really the unifying factor, together with the element of connection, that I affect the world and it affects me. I think all of it feeds into teamplay. You shouldn’t be worse off for playing on your own, if that’s what you want to do – it’s Battlefield and you should do what you want to do, but there’s a joy of coming together, like playing a band when you finally get the tune to click.

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RPS: Have you thought about how the squad emphasis might lead to a more abusive community? If you’re all-but insisting on squad play in life-or-death situations I can imagine a lot of toxic behaviour arising from that.

Gustavsson: Yeah, it’s a very fair point. First and foremost, this time around we have a lot more possibilities in terms of tweaking and tuning the backend, so we don’t go too extreme – we don’t want to be so hardcore that we alienate players. A big part too is the squad leader – the leader is now empowered to build up those squad points that go into calling in resources. And whether you want to spend them on the supply drop or go for the big rocket, it depends on the situation and how you want to play it. To your point, things don’t always go as you want them to go online, and you might not end up in the squad you want. You can definitely leave and join another squad you want, we just put you in a squad to start with to get you into the system. But then of course if the squad leader is running the war on his or her own, you can request orders and if they don’t comply we have the same system we have today, where the one who requested them and didn’t get a response will take over leadership. We’re doing everything we can do to not make the system turn against us. And as always it will require a lot of testing, all the way up till launch.

RPS: Is there a Commander player in this one?

Gustavsson: No, what we’ve done is there are a lot of things built into the game, like the reinforcements rewards, that in previous games were given to the Commander. From that we hope to get more players to experience the joy of leading the team.

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RPS: How will you reinvent WW2, the way Battlefield 1 tried to reinvent WW1?

Gustavsson: When we did 1942 none of us were Second World War buffs, we’d seen all the movies and we wanted to recreate that, all those locations. This time around the hard stop would be if we didn’t feel we had a new angle. We learned a lot from doing Battlefield 1, where from the get-go we were challenged with a lot of preconceptions – can you really make a game about a war that was “only trench warfare”? But then as we dug deeper we came to realise that it was so much more, it was really land, sea and air and a lot of different experiences. The story that always comes to my mind is what I learned about the Harlem Hellfighters, it brought a different angle to the war from my perspective. And those are lessons we’re taking with us when we dig into the history books this time round, to find different angles and different angles to the war that get us excited.

The War Stories campaign is really the place in the game where we have an opportunity of taking a step back and getting more of a feeling for and perspective on the war. Combined Arms is a bit more of a [buddy adventure], and multiplayer is that wonderful creative sandbox where anything can happen. But here we have the players attention and can surface those stories. I think one of the key learnings is that we can be a bit more consistent this time around, capture the different sides of the war, and also of course there are the core gameplay improvements – we learned a lot from what resonated with the community, the slightly larger maps, the greater freedom, the Nothing is Written mission with Lawrence of Arabia. Untold stories, and the possibility of getting a bit more up close and personal and putting the war in perspective. I was born closer to the Second World War than where we are today, so it is a question of recent memory that shouldn’t be forgotten.

RPS: You have a level set in Norway, which very quickly became part of the Nazi empire in 1940. That must be quite an unusual setting for a WW2 game.

Gustavsson: Yes it is – it’s a neighbouring country to Sweden and my father lived there for 30 years. Travelling the country you can still see the marks and the memory of the war. It is a big part of our history, and it definitely adds a different angle. And I think the uniqueness of those locations, the Norwegian fjords, there’s a lot we can get across there.

Battlefield V is due for release on October 19th.

54 Comments

  1. Xelias says:

    Reading that interview almost feel as if you mixed up the questions and their complementary answers. some of those just don’t fit together at all.
    “Will there be lootboxes?”
    ” We want to allow players to portray themselves the way they want, and first and foremost we want a fair Battlefield where we have everybody with us, instead of splintering the community.”
    ——–
    “What’s your opinion on lootboxes?”
    “All in all I think having been there from the get-go, Battlefield is a strong franchise”

    • Panther_Modern says:

      Seems like a pretty clear “Yes” then

      • DuncUK says:

        I think the reason for so much waffle is that the guy didn’t know the answer. He doesn’t want to say no, definitely doesn’t want to say yes and certainly doesn’t want to admit he doesn’t know. He’ll have been briefed on what is in the game, but not much time will have been spent on what isn’t.

  2. LilSassy says:

    He completely dodged the question on lootboxes. He didn’t even use the words loot or box when he was responding. All I learned from this is that the guy has two kids waiting for him at home.

    • klops says:

      Good politician.

      • wz says:

        > “Good politician”

        Correct. 21st century now. Age of information. Odd that people with bad motivations feel that they can get away with this when talking publicly.

        Some unethical people with children+careers that involved million+ deaths:
        – Josef Stalin (3+,1 adopted)
        – Pol Pot (1 – Sar Patchada)

        People with 0 children + careers noted for being ethical or altruistic:
        – Mother Teresa
        – Florence Nightingale
        – Clara Barton (founder of US red cross branch)

        People with children + careers not known for being unethical, or premeditated attempted unethical action but being foiled by public backlash, laws changed with jail terms, and stakeholders forcing change due to bad PR:

        – Three 2000 Nobel prize winners for historical work on neurological basis of addiction: Dr. Arvid Carlson (5) , Paul Greengard (2), Dr. Eric Kandel (2)

        Unethical people regularly have children. Ethical people may or may not have children.

        Please point out this next time dishonest interviewees try this tactic anywhere in society.

        3 Nobel prize winners = still alive. Likely to be honest, clinical & illuminating if RPS interviews them. Likely as ethical even if they never had kids, or from a point in life before they had kids.

    • modzero says:

      I chose to read this charitably: the guy was probably tired, did 230 interviews already just that day, he wants to sleep, someone just asked him about some boxes and he has two boys waiting for him at home and they’ll probably want to play games when he’s back and he’s so, so tired.

  3. SirRoderick says:

    Wow, this was a useless interview. I wonder why they even bother to take the time to sit down with you if they refuse to answer anything.

    • Daymare says:

      Because they could talk about all the exciting manshoots they added that haven’t been created before in all the other hundred bazillion games set in WW2.

      Game development’s fetishism of the Second World War is creepy and boring at the same time.

  4. tifaucz says:

    “Will the game have X? What is your opinion about X?”
    “I think about X. There are talks about X.”

  5. DatonKallandor says:

    His answer on the comparison to BF1 can be summed up as “we will completely ignore any veneer of historical accuracy and just make shit up, just like we did in BF1”. That answer alone, despite possibly being the only question that was actually answered and not dodged, is enough to make sure I don’t have any interest in this.

    As an aside, the wording of “reinventing” a past event is incredibly disturbing. It’s the past. You can’t reinvent it, it happened.

    • Imperialist says:

      Its called revisionist history, and alot of radial ideologies tend to employ this in order to make the past more appealing to current trends and to serve their agenda. Its a horrific thought that, someday all the WWII vets will be gone, and nobody will be around to dispute with any personal experience, the “liberties” taken with written history.

      • klops says:

        BF1 is not revisionist history. They don’t intend to write history anew and change people’s perspectives. They use a well-known war setting and build an action game on top of that.

        • Grizzly says:

          Thing is, even as an entertainment product, you end up doing that anyway (changing people’s perspectives that is). I like how Battlefield 1 takes a few moments to highlight the often-overlookd colonial troops and regiments like the Harlem Hellfighters, and I like how it’s operations mode does some effort to go to battlefields that weren’t just the western front. Hell, it even takes a short moment to point to the Arab revolution in the Ottoman empire and how the Brits broke their promises to the rebels as soon as the war was over in it’s otherwise quite silly campaign.

          You could say a similar thing about, say, Saving Private Ryan and 90s war movies in general. As pointed out in the good war on terror essay, Steven Spielberg noted that “The most important thing about this picture is that I got to make a movie about a time that my dad flourished in.” During the Vietnam War he resented people like his father who were proud to be American and displayed the flag. “Only when I became older did I begin to understand my dad’s generation,” Spielberg said. “I went from resenting the American flag to thanking it.” Films like Saving Private Ryan often do reinforce our understanding of WW2 despite it being made with obvious political motives (that being American Exceptionalism). There’s a now somewhat famous survey about who the french think contributed most to the defeat of the germans in WW2. Note how it changes over time.

          • klops says:

            Mentioning Harlem Hellfighters or how the Brits break their promises to non-westerners is not re-interpreting or challenging current views of history. It’s using less-known (but still well-known) parts of history. Therefore I wouldn’t call it revisionist history.

          • Grizzly says:

            Oh, fair enough, I just wanted to point out that despite it not intending to write history anew it still ends up informing people’s historical knowledge (as with any entertainment product).

          • klops says:

            I’m with you there. Popular culture has its effect for sure.

      • Grizzly says:

        I’d like to point out that revising history itself happens constantly in the scientific field as new sources are discovered and the relevance of other sources is debated. Contradictions between the written record and archaeological evidence, contradictions between different sources, some old, some new, some forgotten and rediscovered, some put into a new light when we gain insight into the motivations of said sources (As the written sources themselves had their own biases). It’s hardly the domain of radical ideologies, although off course we notice it the best when fascists do it because holocaust denial.

  6. ribby says:

    Let’s be fair. They probably don’t know what their business model is going to be now after the Star Wars backlash. Sure, his answers are worded a bit politician-y, but from this I clearly got that they will only have cosmetic microtransactions and not things that affect gameplay, and that they don’t know whether they’ll be doing them in lootbox form yet. What’s the big deal here?

    • brucethemoose says:

      Yeah. And they can’t outright say “we don’t know yet”, as they would get more backlash for that than saying nothing at all.

  7. Mouse_of_Dunwall says:

    “…I’ve been with the franchise since 1942…”

    Wow!

  8. dangermouse76 says:

    ” RPS: What do you think of randomised lootboxes in general, as a practice? There’s been a heated discussion around them in the past few months.

    Gustavsson: I have two kids at home playing games, so both as a developer and a father I follow the industry, in terms of discussions like that and where it’s going [more generally] – people talking PUBG, people talking trends, so it’s super-exciting times. Being there and listening, trying to assess where the market is going, what is the right way forward for us. All in all I think having been there from the get-go, Battlefield is a strong franchise – the core essence of that sandbox, the possibilities of player agency are something we’ll constantly want to build on. So we definitely take in what’s happening in the world and listen, set out a course, and sometimes you need to course correct, but in general I think we stay the course – if you run a race you need to look at your own tracks, look at other people’s tracks too much and you might stumble and fall.”

    I mean wow. That’s an amazing dodge on that question. I mean the undertones suggests, I dont want them but……

    • Seyda Neen says:

      That answer was so fluffy I could fashion it into pillow and fall asleep in an instant.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        The live reveal was funny also for the usual lines.

        Something something something never been done before.
        Something something something never been seen before.

  9. SaintAn says:

    Good on you for asking the questions we want answers to even if their response was nonsese. I bet they plan to add loot boxes later after sales die down like Battlefront 2, because sadly these corporations can legally take something you bought and turn it into something else whenever they want (Stellaris), and we have no legal protection against it.

    Meanwhile at Kotaku: Articles and references about how a dozen poorly raised kids and weirdo adults on social media didn’t like that a girl soldier (giant enemy crab) was in a game based on history. Makes me wonder if they’re working with EA to distract from all this and rile up the fake progressives that are the main users of that media network to increase sales by manufacturing a belief that if they support the game to increase sales they’ll be sticking it to the 12 or whatever child minds that hate women on social media.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Stellaris has every previous version of the game available on Steam. Whatever version of the product you bought is still playable.

      Also, removing 2 FTL drives is hardly what I’d call gutting the game to the point where it’s not the same game you paid for.

      I totally get people not liking the 2.0 changes (even though I strongly disagree), but I don’t understand why so many people feel robbed by Paradox. They didn’t take anything away from you.

  10. TormDK says:

    Shame they didn’t give us the Commander mode again, it’s one of the reasons BF4 is so great in organized tournaments.

  11. MaxMcG says:

    Microtransactions have no place in a full price game. Period.

    Since when did this become ok? It’s no excuse to say they’re fine just because there are worse ways to implement microtransactions.

    If you accept this stuff now, then you can only expect worse down the road, not better.

    • brucethemoose says:

      That’s a nice idea, but here in in reality SP microtransaction games make alot more money over their lifespan.

      The AAA devs have no choice. Like an arms race, they either have to implement microtransactions or watch as their competition races ahead of them. Now, whether they implement them tastefully is a different matter, but you can’t seriously ask them to remove microtransactions entirely.

      • Cederic says:

        Nonsense. The Witcher 3 didn’t have microtransactions and the developer hasn’t collapsed and gone bankrupt.

        Studio A maliciously exploiting its customers doesn’t stop Studio B delivering great value and selling just as many copies.

      • MaxMcG says:

        Of course they make more money. What’s that got to do with anything? My point is that its all completely anti-consumer and shouldn’t be accepted as normal. The recent Battlefront stuff proves that consumer pushback can accomplish something. Journalists have a big role to play in this.

        • barilledamages says:

          I see the phrase “anti-consumer” being used a lot in video game article comments sections and I would genuinely be interested to see an example of something you see as being pro-consumer. From my point of view, capitalism is inherently anti-consumer, and I really can’t think of a way for a corporation to act in our favor and still sustain itself.

          • zal says:

            It’s easy! You just exploit the workers instead, and provide a product for less than it really costs by chewing through developers with life destroying hours. But nowadays, these game companies want to do both!

            At this point, we need more easily exploited programmers. Perhaps we could enslave dolphins, if there are no easily abused human labor markets for this.

  12. Ham Solo says:

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
    Just no. And to think this is what once was BF1942, Vietnam, 2… just disgusting. Also microtransactions have 0 reason to be in a full price title.

  13. aircool says:

    So the lootbox question has been answered. Perhaps you should mention that at the start of the article.

    I worry about the forced teamplay aspect. I can’t help but ptfo in games, no matter how hard I try to ignore it and tool around instead, but (as evidenced in BF1 with idiots hogging the artillery truck when you really need a tank), people will be people and I can see a lot of frustration being caused by players not willing to fit in. Or, as you mentioned, players who have no capacity to accept that a lot of players are average at best. No-one deserves abuse for trying to play the game, no matter their skill level.

  14. Astaa says:

    If you buy EA games, you are the problem.

  15. Titler says:

    Ars Technica, and based on VentureBeat’s reporting, seems to be under the impression there will only be cosmetic unlocks, no DLC or Season Passes, and no Battle Royale Mode

    For those who’ve not played Battlefield 1, there are random loot boxes, but they drop in game, require no keys to unlock, there’s absolutely no way to trade them, and are indeed only cosmetic skins for the weapons and vehicles you earn in game.

    You can also buy boxes, and specific skins, by scrapping duplicates and using the in game currency such scrap generates… there is no way to buy the Scrap currency with real money however, nor the high end lootboxes.

    The article there seems to be saying there won’t even be the BF1 challenges to unlock the weapons; It was often a pain up the fundament to get some of those, but they did act as gameplay encouragement, I have to admit.

    If what Ars is saying is true, BFV will actually be even more generous as the playerbase won’t be separated by having maps locked off by the Season Pass model.

    But as always, wait and see what the final model is actually like. Don’t trust, verify.

    • Cederic says:

      But he did say they’re going to continue to lock gameplay content behind progression walls. Which will inevitably lead to ‘player with lots of time’ having greater options and opportunities to influence gameplay outcomes than ‘player with a job and/or a life’.

      I happen to have a lot of time available at the moment and I still don’t support that model. So no, sod that.

      • Shabbaman says:

        Battlefield has had progression locked content since BF2. In BF1 the starting kit is already very good, that certainly won’t lock you out of the game. I’m curious whether this will be the case in BFV, as versions before BF1 I found unlocking crap tedious.

        In addition to what Titler mentions, BF1 does have shortcut kits: for a small amount of dough you unlock some weapons instantly. Some preorder bonuses include weapon unlocks as well. This goes beyond mere graphic customization.

        • Titler says:

          Ahh yes, I forgot that. Can’t say I ever approved of paying to fast track, but I didn’t need to do it either.

          Because yes, the starter kits are equal too, or often better than the variant weapons gameplay-gating unlocked. I only ever got them all because being a History graduate, I liked having the little codexes visible, as well as it giving me a focus during play and a reason to mix up roles.

          Otherwise I’d normally play as a medic and not really be killing anyone anyway…

          I just wanted to make clear that assuming Battlefield 1 has lootboxes in the same way as the current EA gouge-athon would be a mistake; and that hopefully Battlefield V either does the same, or genuinely rolls back even that.

      • penultimatejawa says:

        The devs at the launch party seemed to indicate the opposite. That the intent was to return to form and have all gameplay elements (including weapons) open to everyone immediately, with no artificial progression systems or randomized lootboxes getting in the way. They emphasized that any progression or lootbox systems would be purely customization options and not power-up style items.

        EA is EA, so copious amounts of salt and all that (especially with several months to go in development), but it did seem like the devs genuinely wanted to tear out as much of the bullshit as possible. As coy and deflective as some of these interviews have been though… I’m not holding out too much hope.

        If *any* of the gameplay related content is locked behind loot boxes or grindy progression systems, I won’t be purchasing. I find “cosmetics only” appalling enough as it is, but I won’t buy a game that hinders my enjoyment of it for the sole purpose of making me have to play more of it.

  16. Raoul Duke says:

    Why didn’t you just keep asking the lootbox question until you got an answer?

  17. sapien82 says:

    Do you think they will do a D-Day Dodgers war story at the battle of Salerno , the invasion of Italy!

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