“It is a discussion about niche and mass market, I think,” said DICE man Patrick Bach at a BAFTA event last month, for whom such matters are all relative.
Bad Company wasn’t exactly Indie McArtGame, but it did something Battlefield 3 and 4 didn’t - it dared to have a personality. A sense of humour that introduced the possibility of - shock horror - not being entirely inoffensive. And that’s something DICE are nervous about doing again.
While Bad Company creative director Lars Gustavsson and his peers would “love” to make another sequel - indeed, Gustavsson said earlier this year that Bad Company would return - his uppers at DICE and EA aren’t quite so keen. Bach told OXM that comedy is simply too “personal” to appeal to everyone - something that DICE have more recently attempted to do.
“If you make your product more niche, you'll get more happy fans,” said Bach. “But that audience will be smaller - some people won't care, some people will love it.
“When we did the original Bad Company and the sequel, we got a lot of criticism. Why would I play this? It's not a serious shooter, I don't care about this. I want a serious shooter with a more hard-boiled angle,” he went on. “And we thought it was fun. We loved it, we thought it was a great game. The narrative was amazing and the characters were amazing.”
It’s not that DICE have “buried the crew”, explained Bach - but they know they’ll never draw the numbers that a flagship Battlefield game does.
“It it is true that for some reason if you want to make a game for the masses, you need to be more neutral when it comes to things like humour, because humour is very personal,” he admitted. “Some people love it, some people hate it.”
Bach believes the way to bring comedy to those masses has been charted, as it were, by Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake.
“He's not really funny,” he said. “He's serious, but he's kind of ironic. I'm happy for franchises that can do that. I think Bad Company was perhaps part of that group. I love franchises that don't take themselves too seriously.”
Here’s my take on this: it’s an extremely disconcerting course Bach suggests DICE have set themselves on, afraid to make games about anything lest they say anything untoward or unusual. In attempting to speak to everyone, they risk speaking to no one at all. What do you lot reckon?