In a recent roundtable interview, we, along with Hardcore Gamer, Shack News, and the Examiner, were able to talk to Visceral Games General Manager Steve Papoutsis about strategy in Battlefield Hardline. Lethal vs non-lethal weapons, Levolution, player accessibility, and the beta are discussed in the interview, the entire transcript of which can be read below.
Question: I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the non-lethal and the lethal weapons, and why someone would choose to use either non-lethal or lethal in either single player or multiplayer modes?
Papoutsis: So, one of the design decisions when we started working on Hardline was to really try to embrace our fiction, and when we think about law enforcement – law enforcement should not be running around just shooting people first and asking questions later. So, what we did was, we kind of dug into how would a law enforcement agent behave themselves? We looked at a lot of books and movies and TV and things like that, and one of the things that was kind of a classic behavior was the “stick-em-up, freeze” moment, right? Where they kinda pull out their badge and tell the bad guys to put their hands up. So we thought — how do we incorporate that into the game? And we came up with our “freeze” mechanic, where you can basically do just that: pull out your badge and if you have a relatively controllable number of bad guys, you can actually incarcerate and handcuff them. And so that was kind of step one when we needed to figure out mechanics that work and were fun, so that’s one of our non-lethal tactics. You can sneak up behind a guy and knock him unconscious — that’s another one. And then, one of my favorites is you can use our stun gun to take guys out. Those are all non-lethal approaches to taking bad guys down.
The next level of thinking was well, we had planned to have a meta-game, we wanted something that kind of worked with the player and helped them progress and gave them a sense of achievement and progression as they worked through the game. So, our meta-game system we call our “Expert Progression.” Actually, it incentivizes players to think and behave more like a law enforcement agent might. So, for example, we’ve got our scanner mechanic in the game; it allows you to tag enemies, scan guys that may have a warrant, find clues in the environment and analyze those to piece together a variety of cases that we have throughout the game that provide rewards for the player, such as unlocking weapons and things of that nature and other secrets that we have. So that was something that we thought was cool, so what we did was, we decided that the more of those types of behaviors that the players did, we would score them, we would give them points towards this Expert Progression, so basically as they leveled up and as they did the non-lethal takedowns and as they scanned and tagged enemies and they collected warrants they would earn more points towards the Expert Progression system.
So, basically the more you kind of do those activities that I described, the more experience you gain within the Progression, and when you achieve a level or finish one block of the Progression, you’ll unlock addition items like gadgets, weapons, attachments… things of that nature. Now, of course it’s a shooter and we don’t want to penalize people that want to kind of run and gun or play more lethally, so rather than penalize players for shooting the enemies, we just don’t give them any Expert Progression points. So that’s single player. On the multiplayer side, we’ve got some fun mechanics — again, the stun gun and the non-lethal take downs, and you can also handcuff or zip tie guys, depending on if you’re cops or criminals, and once you’ve done that, you can interrogate them, which will reveal the locations of their squad mates on the map for a very short period of time, so that’s another kind of bonus for playing non-lethally in multiplayer.
Question: How did you make [Battlefield Hardline] inviting to new players, especially since this is a spin-off of the main series?
Papoutsis: You’re right — Battlefield is all about strategy and all about teamwork, but at times that can be a little polarizing or intimidating to players that are new, right? You go into a match, and there are a lot of people that are good, and maybe you’re not, and you’re struggling and maybe that kind of reduces you’re fun. So, what we’ve done is we’ve really looked at ways to ease them into the game, whether it is through our new player pop-ups that appear that kind of remind people how certain things work in the game — simple things like “hey, this is how you go and upgrade your character,” or “this is how this class works, this is the kind of weapon this particular class has…” those are things that pop-up as you’re playing, and you’ll see those in the beta too. It should hopefully ease players in, but then there’s also the second segment when you’re in the match, right? There’s the moment that I like to use as an example sometimes where you kinda load out as a character that has a med-pack, but you don’t even know how the med-pack works. You just have it, and you say “that sounds cool” and then you get somebody else in your squad or on your team kind of yelling at you, you know, because you’re not doing your job — you’re not playing as a team.
Well, as a new player you might not even know how to deploy that thing, you might not realize that. So what we’ve done is, to kind of reduce the friction there, we’ve kind of allowed players now to run up to characters in the game and if somebody has an ammo pack or a health pack equipped, you can hit a button and you can get the benefit of healing or ammo from that person, even though they didn’t throw down the pack for you. So, little things like that hopefully will kind of reduce that friction and allow people to feel a little less intimidated when they first start playing. You know, what’s great about Battlefield is — it does require an intense amount of skill and strategy to get good at, and that is also extremely satisfying in that we didn’t want to discourage people from that aspect of the game, because that’s really fun, but we did realize that it can be difficult and intimidating for players so we’re really looking at ways to reduce that friction to give players a chance to be good in the strategic and team play focused game that Hardline is.
Question: As far as strategy goes, in the decision to make some maps only playable in certain modes, was that meant to keep players on their toes and not develop certain habits and certain styles, you know, what was that?
Papoutsis: Well, as the design team and development team worked on our various modes and various maps, one of the things we wanted to do was encourage them to do what they thought was best to bring out the fun in the game, and so as we play-tested certain maps with certain modes, we found that certain combinations were a lot more fun than others, and so by kind of allowing them the flexibility to dig into what makes a certain mode fun and a certain map type, it really allowed them to exploit those elements and really focus on making those game modes and those maps work really well together. So that was really the driving factor behind that. Ultimately, we didn’t want to be handcuffed to saying every single mode had to work on every single map because that means that some are going to play worse than others, and at times maybe a player gets in a rotation where they’re on a combination that wasn’t really fun, so we wanted to avoid that – we wanted to make sure that there was as little down time for players as possible and that every moment when they were playing the game, they felt like they were having a great time.
Question: Can you break down the different types of weapons and which classes they’re assigned to? Like in Battlefield 4, the assault rifles are exclusive to the assault class, carbines can be used in every class. Is Hardline gonna be kind of like that as well?
Papoutsis: There’s definitely, um – this is a really great question for our lead multiplayer designer Chad, actually, but there’s definitely the concept of certain classes being loaded out with weaponry. For instance, the mechanic class in our game really leans into submachine guns. Then we have, you know, our enforcer, who – I believe – is all about shotguns. So we definitely have that delineation. But to give you the most accurate information there I’d like to go back and reference what we have set right now. I tend to play the mechanic a lot, so that’s the one that I really know the most about, but it definitely changes depending on what class you’re playing… that’s kind of what I can say on that one.
At the end of the interview, Papoutsis went back and clarified that last question.
… really top level on the classes, cause you know I wanna make sure, I think that’s a good question, I just didn’t wanna misspeak so I’m looking at the game right now and I can see which class has which basic weapon type, category. Give me a second here. I’m sorry I didn’t have that before, like I said I tend to stick to the ones that I like, the ones that I’m good at, which isn’t a lot. But, as an example, the operator, on their initial load out, that’s the class that will have access to the first aid pack, obviously has a sidearm pistol, right now it’s a 92FS, it’ll have a, you know, a battle rifle, um an assault rifle, so an R0933. The mechanic, which is the one I was talking about, he’s gonna have access to kinda the sub machine guns, so right now I’m rolling around with an MP5K and a 38 snub revolver as my side arm, repair tools, and a grenade – a grenade launcher as well as a frag grenade.
The enforcer, now that’s gonna be the guy that’s gonna get in and mix it up, a little bit more up close and personal. He’s gonna have access to things like the H70P magnum shotgun; his sidearm’s a 35T. He’s gonna also be the class that has access to the ammo box, and the professional, that’s gonna be kinda more of our reconnaissance or sniper-style character. He’s gonna have access to kinda the sniper rifles, like the scout elite, his sidearm’s gonna be something like the G18 – C, I think. The laser trip mine is one of his gadgets, so he can be tactical and place laser trip mines around and protect the perimeter, so if he’s gonna camp out and snipe, he can put those up to kind of prevent guys from sneaking up on him. So those are some of the examples, so I hope that kinda answers your question better than my crummy answer before.
Question: How are you going to be able to tell players to use non-lethal tactics versus lethal ones?
Papoutsis: So, again, like I was describing single player, and then I talked a little bit about multiplayer, on the single player side, I think our compulsion loop with our Expert Progression is really the motivation for that. So, if you’re the type of player that wants to unlock all the different weapons and gadgets and attachments in the single player campaign, you’ll need to try to do those things that I said – do the investigations, do the non-lethal takedowns – those are gonna net you more points which will go toward your Progression which will unlock more things for you in single player. So I think there’s a clear motivation for players who want to do that. You can still play single player in the traditional kinda shooter style, which is running and shooting guys – that’s totally possible – and you can also pick up weapons that are dropped by the bad guys, so you can experiment and play with a good variety of weapons, but if you really want to dig into everything that’s there, you are gonna wanna engage with that Progression – that Expert Progression system – at some point.
On multiplayer I think, you know, it’s Battlefield – you’re still looking at scoring the most points for your team, whether that’s by doing the objective, healing people, reviving people, providing ammunition for people, being a great driver and hotwirer, you’re gonna score points for doing all of those things – the non-lethal tactics in MP are really about those couple things that I mentioned which, as interrogating guys, which gives you a short period benefit, which is revealing the location of squad members in the other person’s group. And I think the incentive there is not necessarily as big as it would be in single player, but I think with Battlefield being such a team play and competitive multiplayer I think that’s fine; I think in single player is where we have a narrative and we’re trying to cater to and support that narrative in a way that makes the player feel like, “Hey, I’m doing these things and I’m getting a benefit from doing them – I’m progressing through the game,” and they kinda feel more in the role of Nick Mendoza, our main character.
Question: In Hardline, will the destruction be static, or will there be Levolution?
Papoutsis: Well, that’s interesting. I think it’s a good question I think we’re somewhere probably in the middle. One of the pieces of feedback we’ve heard – or we hear – from time to time is, “Oh, cops and robbers wouldn’t be leveling buildings! That doesn’t make sense.” So some of the community feels that that’s not in line with the fiction, but at the same time, one of the things that the design team has found is, you know, being able to knock a hole in the wall to create a new ingress route and allow for a cool strategic opportunity is cool, and is something that you could potentially see cops and criminals doing in some sort of fire fight. So, we’re kind of in between. We definitely have the big-scale Levolution moments, which are cool, but we also wanted to make sure that those moments provided strategic opportunities for players, so it’s not about, “Hey, I knocked these things and the whole skyscraper fell down… that’s it.”
When we have a moment, like our crane in the 3D, we wanted to make sure that that was a strategic opportunity for players so that maybe they created new quicker paths to spots on the map, or created jumps that they could use in a vehicle – things like that – that really supported the idea of strategy and teamwork. Those kind of mid-level destruction moments definitely exist in the game; there’s gonna being areas that you can take down walls and things of that nature, but it’s within trying to retain a hard tie to our fiction and making it not so unbelievable. At the same time, I think destruction is really fun, and I think players enjoy it. They just… what they need is to understand the roles of what gets destroyed and what doesn’t get destroyed, and that’s something we’ve been trying to work on, making sure that that’s fun. I certainly enjoy blowing up buildings and shooting holes into walls and feeling smart and creative in that way, I think most Battlefield players do as well.
Question: A question about the beta: What aspects of the beta might be limited, as in what aspects of the full game will not be in the beta, and how will the beta prepare us for the full game when that releases in March?
Papoutsis: So, the beta is not the full game, first and foremost, really. We’re releasing three game modes in the beta, and three maps. The game ships with a total of seven game modes and nine maps, as well as a full single player campaign. So, to be super-clear, the beta is a subset of what the full game is. In terms of functionality, there are going to be things that we’re going to be testing – again, it’s a beta, right, so we’re going to be testing things, functionality throughout a portion of the beta, and that’s for us to help ensure that we can have a stable and solid launch for our players. We’re using the beta as an opportunity to get some last-second feedback from players, mostly on tuning and balancing and things like that at this point, but also for us to understand any technical issues that could arise. So, there could be some things that we may be tweaking in terms of the way the server browser lists things, and little things of that nature. But in terms of the overall experience, the game modes themselves should be very close to what we’re hoping to ship.
Question: In terms of strategy, I was wondering if you could kind of walk us through the different strategic decisions that the cops and robbers will be making during a typical match.
Papoutsis: Sure. I think that’s a good question, but I think it really varies by match type. As an example, if you were playing in a heist match, and you’re playing as the cops, you probably wanna team up quickly, and go kinda stake out an area around the bank vault to prevent the criminals from getting in and stealing the money, and I think the strategy there would be to have enough guys to kinda cover all the areas of entry points to that area, so you can kinda cover that and take the guys down. Let’s say the criminals actually do grab the bag and they start going to the extraction point, same thing. I think you wanna be in communication with your teammates, you wanna let them know that the bag’s on the move, and you wanna get to that location as quickly as possible and cover that zone. Maybe you have a couple players that wanna be snipers up on the roof to always cover the drop-off points.
Again, you wanna stack up the beginning when you’re inside the bank and they’re trying to grab the bag, you wanna head in there, maybe more with the particular characters that are more about shotguns, so that they’re better in the close range, or the SMGs in the close range fire fights. That some example of strategy. When you move into a mode like the hotwire, I think it’s really about making sure that you’ve got the driver that your team or squad feels is the best driver, knows the map the best, and is skilled the most driving the car. And then you wanna have the rest of your squad probably in the vehicle, hanging out of the windows, ready to take on any enemies that come nearby. Also, you’d wanna have your eyes peeled and make sure that your car, before you get in it, isn’t sabotaged, and you wanna make sure that there aren’t any breaching charges laid around the path that you may be driving. So you might wanna have a friend with you, or another group of people, scouring the ground on foot to make sure any of those types of obstacles are removed. Or, at the same time, quickly equipping themselves with something like a battle pickup that might give you a little bit more heavy ordinance that can take those vehicles out quickly. I think that’s another good strategy there.
Battlefield Hardline is set to come out on March 17 for PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. Did anything in the interview stand out for you? Let us know in the comments below.
Battlefield Hardline Interview Talks Strategy