Over on Reddit, Star Wars Battlefront Producer, Jesper Nielsen (DICE_TheBikingViking), has been answering a bunch of questions regarding the game’s development, revealing that playtests are conducted every day. When a user raised his concerns about unbalanced maps like those he found in Battlefield 4, Nielsen said:
We’re playtesting the game every day. Balancing is definitely one of the most challenging parts of MP game design, and it requires a lot of testing, tweaking and more testing. There’s no silver bullet, but the more we play the game ourselves, the more we understand what needs to be tweaked and see if previous tweaks have worked, so we make sure to play the game a lot.
Answering a separate question, Nielsen reiterated that there’s a lot of testing being done, and that DICE is deploying both internal and external testers for the task. We’re told that game designers are constantly seeking feedback, resulting in ongoing changes. “The key aspect, though, is that we want/need feedback from people who have played the game and actually tried it,” he said.
When asked if level designers create a level before artists step in, Nielsen said that it’s a parallel process.
All levels almost always start out whiteboxed, i.e. it’s about the terrain layout and various objects and obstacles. However, artists are often at the same time working to set the setting and mood for various locations.
For Battlefront, some great “toolkits” were made early on that made it easy to create new levels set on the various planets, even if you just wanted to create a “whitebox”. So, as easy as whiteboxing, but you instantly got the feeling of how it would be to play it on that planet.
I think that great levels always have strong visual elements that tie it together. It can be strong focal points, something that sets a special mood, something that helps explain what has happened before you entered the fight, etc. So for great levels to happen, you really need to combine and apply both “disciplines” in parallel.
Nielsen also said that when it comes to development, the process is always “intense” regardless of how many years are spent working on a game.
Game development is always hard. Whether you work on something for 5 years or 1 year, it’s always intense. I think there’s a general idea that working on a game for a longer period of time is always better, but I fundamentally disagree with that. There’s no silver bullet. It always depends on the project and the team and what kind of goals you set.