Six classic maps are returning in Battlefield 2042 as part of a tool for making your own game modes. The maps include Caspian Border from Battlefield 3 and Arica Harbour from Bad Company 2. The mode-editing tool is called Battlefield Portal and it works in a web browser, letting players create shareable game modes on a selection of old and new maps. You could make a mode that allows only repair tools, for example, or pits teams from distinct eras of warfare against one another.
In other words, you might force a bunch of World War 2 Germans armed with knives to fight squads of US soldiers from Battlefield 3 armed with modern LMGs. The important thing is they can duke it out in a fancy new version of El Alamein from Battlefield 1942.
The six maps from previous games that will show up in Battlefield 2042 are:
- Battlefield 1942 - Battle of the Bulge and El Alamein
- Battlefield Bad Company 2 - Arica Harbour and Valparaiso
- Battlefield 3 - Caspian Border and Noshahr Canals
The levels are dolled-up but largely unchanged and should be "as you remember them", with the exception of Battlefield 1942 maps, which will be remastered for modern FPS sensibilities. But even these changes sound slight. Battle of the Bulge, apart from getting fancied up, has had a few unspecified changes to bring it up to scratch. And there'll be extra cover in El Alamein to make up for the fact that draw distance is, um, a little better than it used to be. These two maps will also have destructible or changeable elements which weren't present before. The more recent maps aren't seeing any new "levolution" features, but don't worry, Caspian Border's giant antenna still comes down.
You'll be able to play on these maps in game modes others have created, even if you've not built anything yourself. Dice will also have a list of "official experiences", said Justin Wiebe, Design Director from Ripple Effect (the studio working with Dice to make the tool). These will recreate familiar modes from the past on beloved maps. There'll be Rush mode from Bad Company 2, for example, Conquest mode on El Alamein, or a mode called "BC2 vs 1942". These will all be discoverable in Battlefield 2042's menus, and Dice will also curate and highlight player-made modes according to their own tastes (and probably also according to whatever lots of players are enjoying).
A lot seems possible. Want two four-person teams, one in spitfires and the other in modern day fighter jets? Sure thing.
If you want to build your own game modes, you'll have to pop out to a web browser to piece it together using a fairly plain-looking interface. The team took me through the process of creating a "snipers versus shotgunners" game mode, navigating the web page with some simple clicking and dragging, pulling sliders to limit the amount of players on each team, checking tickboxes below pictures of rifles and shotguns to mark which weapons would be available, and showing that the same could be done to limit what vehicles show up. There'll be weapons, vehicles and gadgets available from across eras and previous games.
A lot seems possible. Want two four-person teams, one in spitfires and the other in modern day fighter jets? Sure thing. Want a vast map with absolutely no vehicles and only two players trying to hunt one another without a HUD? You could do that, too. Sounds terrible, but go for it. There are some limitations, however. You can't have soldiers from multiple eras on one team, for example. You can't have a gang of disparate US soldiers from throughout history fighting a crowd of Russians from various eras.
Some maps will see slight alterations. Valparaiso from Bad Company 2 (pictured above) has a low tide version with extra muddy room to manoeuvre. There are also some "arena-sized" maps to accommodate smaller team battles, which sound like they'll be fenced-off chunks taken from full maps.
"There's absolutely nothing preventing a player from taking one of those small arena maps, cranking it up to 128 players, and even doing something crazy like giving everybody RPGs, for example, and seeing what that could play like," says Wiebe.
The options go on. You can make teams uneven, for instance, something Wiebe demonstrated by putting 25 players on the sniper side and 15 on the shotgun side (poor sods). There are other settings you can alter to balance such a lopsided game. You can increase the damage from body shots for the shotgunners, or make it impossible for the snipers to go prone. You can turn the HUD off for the snipers but leave it active for the shotgunners. You can make pinging allowed for one team but not the other, or turn it off for everyone. You can change your soldiers' run speed, make sliding impossible, abolish fall damage, disallow reviving, disable aiming-down-sights, fill the map with AI bots. I'm sure you can already imagine some of the silly things people will make with this. It is unknown if you can add penguins.
These are all options in the tool's web-based "wizard", and seem straightforward enough to get your head around (the studio plans some tutorials in any case). But there will also be a deeper layer available, says Wiebe. An optional logic editor.
If you've ever seen Scratch or Blockly (educational tools to teach kids programming), the logic editor of Battlefield Portal will look familiar. It's a (relatively) simple programming canvas that uses blocks to create statements and rules. Of everything we were shown by Ripple Effect, this is the thing that seems the most recognisable as a modding tool. It looks just the right amount of intimidating.
Wiebe uses this logic editor to make a rule that heals the player back to full health any time they get a kill. But it appears robust enough to make many other rules. You can use it to stop players from using grenades. You can also use it to display messages on-screen at certain points, like goading one team when the other reaches a certain number of kills.
Once you have your game mode fully baked through the web tool, you can click "export mod" and get a server code to enter in-game, which will bring you to your weirdo 1 vs 127 player match. You can share that code with others and have them join you. Others will also be able to copy your mode as a template and tweak it to make their own distinct version. For precious modders, Ripple Effect haven't said if you can prevent this or not. But you can make a private server of sorts, they say. You will have the ability to ban or kick players from your slappers only deathmatch on Noshahr. You can also allow or disallow crossplay on any modes you make, which probably benefits our console cousins more than us on PC, let's be fair.
It's unclear how easy and smooth it'll be to test your daft game modes as you use the web-based tool (do they take a long time to "compile"? Will there be errors if you make bad logic?). And Dice and EA obviously look set to benefit from this outsourcing of creativity, as some equivalent of Grifball will inevitably be made and subsumed into an official mode in years to come. But modding has always sat in this role. I can't knock the studio's motivation too much, and anything that brings the wacky custom game modes of yesteryear to modern day shooters is fine by me.
The biggest element missing from Battlefield Portal, however, is that users won't have much control over the maps themselves.
The biggest element missing from Battlefield Portal, however, is that users won't have much control over the maps themselves. You won't be able to change the boundaries of the map, or place your own capture positions in rando spots nobody would ever think to put them (at least from what I've seen). You certainly can't create your own "chunks" of maps, arenas in which to fight.
That's a shame. So much of Battlefield's appeal comes from the maps, and being able to toy with them, chop them up, or fiddle with their details, even in a small way, would add a lot to this clean, officialised form of modding. As it stands it seems the most you can do is turn the weather effects on or off.
"This is just the beginning of the journey," says Wiebe when asked about the potential to alter maps, so something like this could always get added post-release. But it is in no way a guaranteed thing.
They also won't say whether more classic maps will be added to the roster in future. It's not hard to imagine some older maps getting spruced up and released with future updates or DLC to the base game. But Dice and Ripple Effect are tight-lipped on whether or not they're going to do that.
The studio also still hasn't shared more details on the Hazard Zone mode they mentioned in their Battlefield 2042 reveal, except to say that it is a "squad-based" mode. They have, however, insisted it is not a battle royale and that there are no plans to make that mode. Which seems fine. Because now that Battlefield Portal exists, someone else will make it.
Battlefield 2042 is due out October 22nd this year.