Star Wars Battlefront II Interview – Building a Sequel
Unless you’ve been trapped in the belly of a Sarlacc, you’re aware Star Wars Battlefront II is launching this November 17. Promising a deeper multiplayer experience, a story-driven campaign that puts fans behind the skills of a special forces Stormtrooper, and rideable Tauntauns, the sequel’s aiming to significantly build on the solid foundation established by its predecessor.
With all the recent buzz surrounding the game and its Death Star-sized suite of new features, we thought it the perfect time to chat with some of the creative forces behind this latest adventure from a galaxy far, far away.
During an exclusive sit-down with DICE Creative Director Bernd Diemer, Motive Studios’ Content Producer Paola Jouyaux, and Lucasfilm’s Douglas Reilly, we scored some additional intel on the game’s multiplayer depth, single-player mode, and the cool companion droid that will help players put Rebel scum in their place.
PlayStation LifeStyle: What do you think worked well in the last Battlefront that you wanted to retain for the sequel?
Bernd Diemer: I think what worked really well was the second-to-second, minute-to-minute gameplay. The experience of running around and shooting…it’s almost the iconic DICE multiplayer, where you never know what happens next and every moment is truly unique. These moments that are created by players, not us as designers. Just creating these amazing playgrounds with the right toys, so players can experience their own moments, Battlefront moments.
What also worked well for me personally was the ability to step into some of my favorite childhood moments, like being on Hoth. I really was there, I felt it. So we thought that was a good basis to build on because we know, in our hearts, we learned how to recreate Star Wars moments. From the art side, we have established cooperation with Lucasfilm, so we had that as a basis to start on. So, we thought, “How about we start creating, instead of recreating?”
PSLS: Conversely, what do you feel was maybe missing from the first game that you wanted to add to Battlefront II?
BD: On the gameplay side, we said, “Okay, we have the core gameplay…we’ve got it nailed.” There are things we need to improve and we want to build on, but the main thing we wanted to add was depth. Give more reasons to stick around, try out different heroes, try out different trooper types, and that’s why we introduced classes. There’s a little bit more variety in the team-play, not everybody is the same, and you can now form your own squad if that is your thing.
PSLS: Can you elaborate a bit more on what players can expect from these new class-based characters?
BD: At the core, they’re pretty standard classes. You have guys who have more fire power, guys who are more agile, and guys who are specialized in having a more supportive role. That’s where it starts. We did that to make the entry point a little more inviting for players, because I realize multiplayer players have a certain style when they get into a game. We wanted to cater to that, and give them something that feels familiar right from the start.
There’s also depth in giving every trooper a career on his way to becoming a heroic trooper…there are new abilities, new gadgets, new weapons for you to unlock. You can customize your weapons to fit your play-style. Are you a bit more long range? Are you better on short range or want more damage? These things matter to a lot of our players, to have the ability to express themselves on that level, so we wanted to give them that opportunity.
PSLS: Are you taking more inspiration from Battlefield multiplayer this time out?
BD: We certainly took some inspiration from that. I mean, we sit in the same building, right? So, if they do something that works really, really well, we peek over and put it on the table. We have to be careful to make sure it fits our lens though. Is it Star Wars? Is it Battlefront? And also, is it part of this heroes journey we want to give every player?
PSLS: But fans can expect familiar multiplayer classes, like tank, support, and such?
BD: It’s our own take, something that fits in with the Star Wars universe and our Battlefront gameplay, but they are pretty familiar.
PSLS: So what was behind the decision to include a single-player campaign this time?
Paola Jouyaux: Well, I think it’s because the players were calling for it and we saw an opportunity there. As Bernd was saying, they knew they were able to deliver on authentic Star Wars moments, and then it was a question that now we can expand and be able to create new content. So that is what we are able to do with the campaign.
PSLS: Putting players in the role of an Imperial seems risky given fans adoration for their Rebel heroes.
PJ: Well, we talked to the fans, and what they wanted was a new, untold story. And when you want to tell something that hasn’t been told before, you look at the gaps? One of the gaps we saw was that we don’t know much about the Empire. So, we really wanted to put ourselves in their helmet and think about who they are as people, and give this other perspective on familiar events that we saw in the movies.
PSLS: While players will be sided with the Empire though, they’re not really positioned as the bad guy?
PJ: Our character is a hero within the Empire. She’s part of the special forces and they have this special status within the Empire. We wanted to think of them as people, because that’s what they are.
Douglas Reilly: Yeah, they don’t think of themselves as evil. They think of themselves as on the side of good, in a war that is being brought by this chaotic rebellion. So, this is a great opportunity for us to tell, I think, that other perspective to fans that you don’t typically see in a lot of the other content we create.
PSLS: With multiplayer-focused games, there’s always the concern the campaign will feel tacked on or not as substantial as the online content.
PJ: I think it shows a commitment to the single player mode that they came to us and Motive to create this campaign. EA are completely dedicated to building this game mode.
BD: We knew from the start we couldn’t do that alone. We realized very fast with a game of this scope we needed more expertise. So, when we started talking about bringing space battles into Battlefront, we immediately started talking to Criterion, because they have expertise that compliments what we have in-house. And the same thing for the campaign; maybe we could have done it in-house, maybe not. But we decided to look for the best talent we could find, and basically decided on Motive because they have tremendous experience making action movie-based narratives.
DR: It’s really important that we tell a genuine, true, authentic Star Wars story. And to EA’s credit, they brought three of their biggest, best studios to the forefront, to take on different pieces of it in a way we can make sure we deliver on something that doesn’t feel tacked-on or superficial.
PSLS: Can players expect a lengthy campaign?
PJ: We are not going to give a number, but what we can tell you is that the game is huge and the campaign has a good length that you would expect.
PSLS: Will the campaign be open-ended or a more linear experience?
PJ: Well, we are really taking the open, authentic experience DICE is known for into single player. So you have this 360-combat approach, and we also bring the progression system that the multiplayer has to single player. So, there is some player choices in the way you evolve your character.
PSLS: The protagonist’s companion droid looks like one of the cooler new gameplay elements. It actually looks like a miniature Imperial Probe droid—is that accurate?
DR: It’s its own original creation. They wanted a companion droid that could be with Iden, something that fit in with being a special forces character. So we worked with the story team and the folks at ILM to come up with a droid that was unique and different; one that served a very specific purposethey were looking for in a game, but still felt true enough that it was from the same universe.
PSLS: Can you talk about it a bit more from a gameplay perspective, and what players can expect from that?
PJ: It really is a companion droid in the sense that he’s literally on Iden’s back, and he is her constant companion in battles. He gives her abilities that elevate her above the usual Stormtroopers. You give him specific actions to do…he can slice, he can shoot, he can take down enemies. He has these wide set of abilities coming from the Empire that you’re able to use and customize as well.
PSLS: Can we expect any PlayStation VR support? Anything like the X-Wing mission Criterion did for the first game?
BD: At this point, we’re not sure yet. It’s something that we really liked…it basically told us Criterion are the right guys to do this with. But at the moment, we are not sure yet.