Star Wars Battlefront's next DLC, set on and in the void of space around the Empire's greatest weapon the Death Star, has been detailed at Star Wars Celebration in London today.
The infantry and spacefighting maps will join Battlefront's new offline, single-player Skirmish mode in the coming months, and to get a better understanding of both these additions to DICE's Battlefield in the Star Wars universe, we talked to the team behind them.
Design director Nicklas Fegraeus, and Dennis Bramble, lead designer, spoke of what they wanted to achieve with the two latest additions to Battlefront, and what's next as the galaxy far, far away continues to expand.
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PCGamesN: What was the driving force to adding Skirmish to the game?
Dennis: Our community! With hashtags and everything! They organised a large social media campaign that they called Solo Players Matter and that was the driving force behind getting it in. At DICE we pride ourselves on supporting our games. Just because they launch doesn't mean we stop working on them and this is just another testament to that we feel. It's free for everyone, you can play all the maps the game launched with, and it's just all about giving the players something to play on their own, by themselves, split screen or online with a buddy and still capture that multiplayer experience of walker assault and fighter squadron which are two of our most popular mode.
The AI for the campaign, three difficulties across two modes, how have you tried to replicate the same feel as you get against humans online?
Dennis: For us, our demographic is extremely wide so it's everyone who likes shooters and everyone who likes Star Wars, so it was important for us to do difficulties that cater to everyone in a way. So the first one is pretty basic, it's for if you want to play with your kid, or a friend on the couch and then as you progress we're pushing you towards the limits of what you would expect in multiplayer, and sometimes even more difficult than what you would find in multiplayer. We know that some players want to play with a buddy and almost abuse how the AI behaves and exploit behind corners and we need to supply them with something to, it's not just for players new to the game, or not taking it as seriously as some others do.
Has that wide audience taken you by surprise coming from a background of catering to much more seasoned battlefield players?
Niklas: It's always a challenge trying to find the right level of difficulty, level of advanced features and balance. But I think the big thing about Star Wars as a brand in general is that it encompasses such a really wide range of players. A lot of casual players, but also really seasoned very hardcore players, so for a Star Wars game I think it's important that you have an ability for all of those to find something that is challenging and exciting and accessible for them. And I think the biggest challenge for us is to cater to them all so that everyone can find something that hits them.
Were you expecting people to be so vocal about wanting an offline mode given your background in almost exclusively online multiplayer?
Nicklas: I think it's hard to create expectations about what will come up as the main things people will ask for. We're trying to focus on the fantasy we want to deliver and make that as good as possible, but then it's just about being reactive basically. Expected or not when something comes up we just need to address it appropriately and deal with it and make sure we respond and that's what this is basically.
How are the AI replicating human multiplayer across difficulties? Is it more of an aim compensation or objective swarming?
Dennis: It's a bit of both. It's very much, one of the defining parts of the difficulty curves is how hard they pursue you as a player. You can play around with how well they aim and everything but the main thing is how forgiving are they, how long do they pay attention to you? Those are the sorts of boundaries that we're playing around with. On Master difficulty they're pretty ruthless.
Niklas: They don't want you to live.
Dennis: If they see you, they will hunt you.
Where is Battlefront headed next, then?
Niklas: We have announced the theme of our third expansion, which is the Death Star expansion, which is something that has really been on the lips of a lot of people in the community, wanting to have a Death Star experience. Especially when it comes to going into space and fighting in space. Flying your X-Wing around friggin’ Star Destroyers, and that's basically what we're announcing at the panel later today. That's the direction we want to take now after the Skirmish addition.
Other Battlefield games that Battlefront shares a lot in common with have maps where aerial and ground vehicles go against infantry, across lots of terrain, is that what the Death Star holds?
Niklas: I think that's a very good description of what the big battle modes of Battlefront are about, where you have the combined battle experience; X-Wings and TIE Fighters in the sky, and then speeders and walkers on the ground, and then infantry fighting desperately against all of those aspects in order to complete objectives, it's that complete battle experience that we want for Battlefront.
Dennis: And for the next DLC it would be a shame if you couldn't go inside the Death Star, wouldn't it?
Battlefield 2142 in particular had great flow, transitioning into the tight corridors of the Titan was a really fun experience, too.
Niklas: You don't want to...I get that sort of nostalgia, but I think there are more ways of getting that experience of you flying out there and doing something then transitioning and doing something inside of the Death Star. That's what you would expect so we're trying to deliver on that.
Will locations from upcoming films feature in future maps for Battlefront?
Niklas: There are no further plans beyond the Death Star, but as fans ourselves were just as excited as anyone else to see what's in those films and enjoy them and be inspired by the content. So that's just something we're looking forward to going into the future.
Dennis: We're all nerds working on this game, and at the premiere of The Force Awakens, as soon as we got out we immediately started thinking what about if we did this. Out brains went into brain overload just thinking about it, so, it would be a natural thing.