How Visceral Puts Fans First in Battlefield: Hardline
Early access for fans could be the future of EA’s game development.
By Mitch Dyer
In May 2014, Visceral Games introduced approximately 50 hardcore fans to Battlefield Hardline at its Redwood Shores, California office.
Executive producer Steve Papoutsis and creative director Ian Milham gave a high-level overview of the cops-and-robbers Battlefield game, showcasing numerous single-player levels in a lengthy demo, before giving the group ample hands-on time with its competitive multiplayer.
“What usually happens,” Milham explained, “is you wait as long as possible, and you’re talking to some guy from IGN, no offense, and they may or may not be down with the game you’re making.” In this particular instance, Milham emphasized that what fans were seeing “had no bulls**t in it,” as most traditional demos do. “We didn’t do anything special” to show the best parts of Battlefield Hardline, he said.
Throughout Papoutsis and Milham’s two-hour presentation, the audience would frequently interrupt, as Milham encouraged, to ask questions, comment on what they did and didn’t like, and compare minute details to previous games. One group argued with another for nearly 10 minutes about the problems with Commander mode in Battlefield 4. Others asked about emblem editor improvements, weapon tuning, vehicular combat specifics, and other finer details. DICE GM Karl Magnus Troedson nodded quietly in the corner. An EA rep wrote frantically in a small notebook.
“We thought about how cool it would be to start engaging with the players of the games we make early,” Papoutsis told the room of eager fans. “We want to leverage your passion for Battlefield so we can make the best Battlefield ever.”
Visceral “wants to do stuff that actually makes sense for the people who play the game,” and the means by which it’s trying to accomplish this is fundamentally similar to focus-testing, but with a lineup of more knowledgable people that skews much more heavily toward the hardcore aspects of the Battlefield series.
This isn’t unique to Visceral, either. Early access for serious fans is something of a growing trend within Electronic Arts. Ghost Games’ Marcus Nilsson told IGN earlier this year that this is something of “a big movement inside EA, within every brand, really.” For Need for Speed 2015, Nilsson explained that his team will have “more open conversations” with its audience, and they can help us define what [the Need for Speed] experience is.” Those conversations have already begun.
If you’re active enough in the communities, knowledgable enough about a franchise, and have something to say, EA may just come calling to ask for your help.
Mitch Dyer is an associate editor at IGN. He’s trying to read 50 books in 2014. These are the 50. Talk to Mitch about books and other stuff on Twitter at @MitchyD and subscribe to MitchyD on Twitch.
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