Jamil Dawsari Interview (Battlefield 2142)

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Producer Jamil Dawsari tackles our question salvo as we discuss near-future warfare

EA and Digital Illusions' latest Battlefield game, Battlefield 2142, transports combatants to a near-future war zone where world powers are battling for land in the wake of a second Ice Age. During a recent press jaunt to Digital Illusions' Stockholm offices, we managed to corner BF2142 producer Jamil Dawsari and quizzed him about the title, and part one of the resulting interview is below. We'll be hitting you with the second and concluding part shortly! But now, over to Jamil...

So, firstly, how did the idea for Battlefield 2142 come about, why did you go for a futuristic scenario this time around?

Jamil Dawsari: Well, the original idea behind 2142 was to take the Battlefield gameplay and put it in an entirely new setting, a new genre if you will. Funnily enough, our original design idea had it on an entirely different planet and it was a US-Russian sort of alternate history where the Cold War had never stopped and the space race kept going.

We changed our mind about a month after we started the whole thing and brought it back to Earth and it was more relevant. The Battlefield fans always like realism, and it seemed like we were going away from that core, so that's why you have 2142 as you see it today.

Past Battlefields have been rooted in historical scenarios. Do you think this move has allowed you to be more creative?

Jamil Dawsari: Very much so. Our artists were ecstatic to go someplace where they could be as imaginative and creative as possible. However, we did have some constraints. Notably, because realism has been an aspect of Battlefield, maybe not necessarily in gameplay but in the way it looks and feels, they see a Tiger tank, they see an M1 Abrams or a Cobra helicopter, they want to believe it. So we worked quite hard to make sure it was grounded in a believable reality, the idea being that if you had a Discovery Channel or a History Channel 2142 that you would see these things on it. In part, that's why we don't have things like laser beams in the game, we have slug throwers, bullets. First of all it feels better when you're shooting them, but it feels more credible.

You've chosen a very interesting storyline and scenario. Perhaps you could expand on that?

Jamil Dawsari: In a nutshell, the year 2142 finds us in the midst of an ice age in which the 10 billion inhabitants of the Earth find that the only remaining land will hold 2-3 billion, so there's quite a lot of competition for it. In a nutshell, that's it right there!

True, but you've got two opposing forces the Europeans and the Pan Asian Coalition. Do they have a different emphasis, different weaponry as the game evolves?

Jamil Dawsari: We have a couple of fundamental differences, one is really with... the main battle tank, for example. The Pan Asian Coalition has a hover tank which controls quite differently from the EU tank, which is built along more standard lines. The interesting thing is some people love both of them, most people love one not the other and it's very much specific to your gameplay, how you like playing it. So it will be interesting to see how people react to it.

How would you characterise the two sides? Are the Europeans more like a modern mainstream army for example?

Jamil Dawsari: Interestingly enough, to go back to your earlier question regarding the history... We built a very big context, the history of our world. Part of that is people want to believe in the world and the context of it. So you read our battle descriptions, like the fall of Berlin, the battle of Verdun and they give you a real flavour of the history of this conflict. As far as the back-story for the EU - and while we don't explore it in-game - the whole idea there is that European countries fell into a massive civil war, prior to the whole building of the alliance.

Here we are in Sweden, can you imagine what the Swedish government would say if they needed to go south and everyone else said, 'you're not coming south this way.' The idea behind that was there was a big fallout worldwide with country fighting country and the realisation was, it's only going to support so much, we must form these coalitions and alliances and go from there.

So Battlefield 2142 gives you license for a whole new bunch of cool weaponry and gadgets to play with - can you fill us in on what we'll get to play with?

Jamil Dawsari: That's the fun stuff. I mean we have 40 unlocks and the way we're pacing them is to be fairly quick early on and then of course it gets longer as you play. So people will be able to explore quite a few of the unlocks and then you'll really have to pick and choose as you move on.

Two that deserve special mention? Well, one is a weapon and it's the rifle rocket. In its standard mode it fires just a slight ballistic arc and detonates on contact. But when you zoom, it actually sets the range at whatever you're looking at and it will explode automatically at that range. You can also increment the range with your mouse wheel. In practice, when you're fighting someone behind cover who keeps popping up and ducking down, you bring out the rifle rocket, zoom on the cover over the wall, increment by a metre and fire a quick spread. These explode in airbursts above his position - boom! It's quite a skill-based weapons system - but in standard mode it rewards someone who's just getting used to the game. But in zoom mode, it really rewards the skilled player.

We've also heard a whisper about cloaking devices and mines?

Jamil Dawsari: The active camo? The darling of the recon set and the bane of everyone else. People seem to think it's going to be this complete invisibility shield. It's not. Battlefield has always been about balance and so as part of the unlock for the Recon kit you can get this active camo, which enables you to be invisible and wander around. In the play area you will see this person's shadow and a blurry motion, think Predator if you will. The effect in things like Titan mode is when the assault have laid these clouds of dust which are sitting there and you can't see through the dust and you see this blurry thing moving through the dust at you. It's one of those moments when you think, this is pretty cool!

The motion mines are another favourite, and these are mines that you lay on the ground and what they do is acquire vehicles who are moving at velocity. So there's a moment when they'll acquire you and they'll pop up, so as a driver if you're going carelessly... say it's the M25 at three in the morning, you don't really care how fast you go, then you could be in trouble, because if you're not paying attention, they'll acquire you, home in on you and then they follow you. So if you're quick, in one of the faster vehicles and you can use your boost you can stay ahead of them.

But they will track you eventually. The other idea is you slam on your brakes when you see them and you try to move back slowly and there's a little bit of gameplay. In the end the engineer also has a defuser so he can defuse them and if you have a sniper on your team, who has the heavy sniper unlock, those can shoot and destroy the motion mines. So gameplay- wise we've tried to balance out and foster a bit more teamplay.

With regards to teamplay, something of special note is the networked battlefield. This is something which is really going to reward squad play. In essence, you will see as targets anything that your squad mates see. You'll see these red icons moving and if you put your target reticule over them, you query them and get information based on what unlocks your squad has - you'll see what kit that person has, if they're in a vehicle, they may even stay up longer based on other unlocks in the world. What it gives you is this situational awareness, if you will, and the people who play it are going to have an advantage.

Part two - and the concluding part - of our Battlefield 2142 interview with producer Jamil Dawsari will be hitting these pages soon. So keep eyes peeled!
Source: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=143035

Discuss!
 
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Nice, i like how they're implementing the cloaking device
 
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I just figured they drew ripped off pages of calendars out of a hat like the last two. Heh.
 

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Part Two:

Squads! 'Mechs! And flying infantrymen! Our chat with producer Jamil Dawsari concludes

Earlier in the week we brought you part one of our Battlefield 2142 interview with producer Jamil Dawsari, and we're know proud to present you with the second and concluding part. Should you have been very naughty and missed part one, then you can play catch-up by hitting this link.

How are you going to reward squad-based gameplay this time around? What incentives and rewards are there?

Jamil Dawsari: This has really grown out of what we've seen with Battlefield 2. We knew we had something really special with the squad mode, but we didn't really have a sense of how to draw it out more. Given that we have a futuristic setting we can really play around with that a lot more. So as an example, the networked battlefield is something that squad mates bring to the table, you also will get more career points in-game in fact, if you do things to help your squad. So as a distinction you have score, which is how the leaderboards are tracked and then you have career points which are based not only your score, but on awards and helping your squad.

You also have something called field upgrades. These are temporary unlocks if you will. Say you're ranked three, what you'll get once the upgrade bar is filled (and that's filled by doing squad-based actions - for example following your squad leader's orders), you'll temporarily unlock the things right above your current level. That field upgrade lasts as long as you're on the server.

Hopefully 'lone wolf' players won't be neglected either...?

Jamil Dawsari: By all means, we will not do that. Again, it's all about choice. We want to reward people for doing things, we never went to punish people for not doing things. So your 'lone wolf', for example, could still be part of a squad. Let's say you set up as a sniper and you love sniping - you could 'spot' and the network battlefield will relay that information. So you have this whole gameplay where you still have this 'lone wolf' game, but you can contribute to the team.

One exciting addition to the game is the 'mechs. What can you tell us about them?

Jamil Dawsari: Ah, the Battle Walkers. Those are a favourite of ours. They were the first vehicles we designed, the idea being 'what reads as future to people? Space ships or big friggin' robots?' So we decided to go with the big friggin' robots, and the benefit for them is they have a lot more manoeuvrability than any other vehicle. So anything a solider can jump over they can walk over - so you may think 'hey here's a tank, I'm going to jump behind this cover, I'm ok'. Well if it's a Battle Walker he just steps over the cover and you're toast.

They're quite strong but they do have weak spots. So as an example, if you manage to get under the Battle Walker there are certain areas where even small arms will do it damage, albeit minimal. Also on the knee joints - if you manage to get a shot in there it will cause it damage. However, as it is Battlefield we have a balance, and the Battle Walker can crouch. So it sacrifices mobility but it does defend those venerable areas.

A lot of emphasis seems to be on Titan Mode. Could you outline that for people who don't know about it and also tell us about some of the other gameplay modes?

Jamil Dawsari: Titan Mode is something we've been working on since 2142, the inception of the design. A new game mode is not something we can take lightly. It's not like standard capture the flag, co-op or deathmatch - you really have to think it through. It had to be true to the Battlefield ethos of sandbox play, freedom of action, whatever you can do.

So the objective is quite clear: destroy the other person's Titan. How you do that is completely up to you. You can either capture missile silos on the level which will launch these anti-Titan missiles and batter it down, or once the defences have been breached you can actually physically assault the Titan and work your way in with this really close-quarters combat, and destroy key components, thus destroying the Titan. And if you have the time you can just sit at a distance and pound at it. It'll take a while but again people will develop their own strategies and tactics for handling the Titan Mode, and what we want to do is give them as much freedom of action as possible.

Community is obviously a huge thing for Battlefield. How active and vocal are the community and how do they feed into the design of the game?

Jamil Dawsari: 2142 will be one of the most tested and active - as far as getting community feedback - of any Battlefield product. For example, we have a closed beta program going on right now. We will have an open beta later in the summer, we have over 60 testers on the product and we have everything that we've learned from Battlefield 2, so things like dolphin-diving and bunny-hopping will not be an issue in 2142 because we've already fixed it.

The community has been quite active. On the forums everyone is actually very interested - it's been gratifying. We were afraid that people would be a little more stand-offish, but I think they've gone with us with this whole new setting and it appeals to them in terms of 'it's not modern and it's not WWII and they're having a little bit more fun with it'. It's been good.

This year seems to have seen a bit of revival in the PC scene. Is it encouraging to you as a developer to see PC games coming to the fore again?

Jamil Dawsari: Very much so. There's a very distinct difference between console and PC gaming, and if you played Modern Combat on the Xbox you've seen that. As a PC developer and as a PC designer you have a freedom that you don't have on a console, so we can do things that we're doing now with 2142 that you couldn't do on a console really.

What do you think the lessons to learn from the console version were?

Jamil Dawsari: I wasn't involved in the development of that product so I couldn't say anything from that aspect, but I could really look at it from a consumer aspect if you will and it delivered on the visuals and it delivered on the core gameplay, but there were things that you couldn't necessarily deliver on like the really large battlefields. The gameplay mechanics were of course circumcised by the control, so for me coming from a PC background, while I enjoyed and appreciate it I couldn't really go there.

Any plans for console versions of 2142?

Jamil Dawsari: To be honest, I don't know what upper management has up their sleeve, but I can only imagine that seeing how popular the response had been in the community, if it's viable we'd probably go there.

Any ideas you had for Battlefield 2142 that have been weeded out?

Jamil Dawsari: We really did, actually. It's funny, some of them actually became part of the game. The Titan game mode... You're playing and you have this huge vehicle floating in the air and the challenge for the design was, how do you get people up there? Early on we were playing with assault personnel carriers that actually launched players up there. These eventually became our assault pods but originally, they just launched the players, we didn't have the vehicles. So we dubbed them the 'man cannons' and it was quite funny to see these infantrymen flying through the air screaming and then impacting suddenly - because they misjudged where they were going to land - on the side of the Titan and sliding and falling. We were very tempted to include that but it didn't quite work.

There's also... Hey, do we do teleporters for design? We want to get people up there, do we do this? Do we do a jetpack for the infantry? Things that finally just didn't feel right for 2142. But we're always about gameplay - we design for gameplay. And we want things to work there. And so it might be an outrageous idea, but if we can tweak it and make it work within the context, then we'll go there. For example, active defence. It's not much of a stretch to assume that there'll be a system in place that will protect you from projectiles, the idea being that active defence generates a field that fuses any electronics.
Source: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=143242
 
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Situational Awareness?

FTW

But Quake Wars r win. Unless they can pull something remarkable off. And decrease loading times.
 
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And make the game not an incredibly sucky engine.

The other day I went to get the latest patch for BF2 and even the ****ing patch took forever to load. More than ten minutes later it had barely moved. I Alt-F4'ed that **** and vowed never to even think about playing these pieces of crap ever again.
 

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Well the latest Battlefield 2 patch is a beta, and they've released a patch to fix the beta patch, I haven't touched it yet since it seems to be pretty buggy, and I'm waiting for the more than needed changes to be listed on the change-log. I agree though, they need a new engine.
 
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That's why when I saw stuff like "Bring a futuristic environment to the battlefield engine" I said F that.
 

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