We’re just a few weeks from launch, so we sat back down with Creative Director Ian Milham to get more insight into the development of the Battlefield Hardline single-player campaign.
What were the earliest influences on the campaign of Battlefield Hardline?
From a gameplay perspective, we really wanted to open it up and provide something not as on-rails as previous games might have been. Something with more tactical options.
On the story and atmosphere side, we knew from the start we didn’t want a complicated world-takeover plot that needs long cutscenes to tell. Instead we wanted something clever and character focused.
There’s a particular type of movies you’ve mentioned as being influential to Hardline development. Why are those action movies the ones that helped drive direction of Battlefield Hardline?
For big action moments, no one does urban American cool like Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice, Collateral), so his style was a definite influence.
But for the tone of dialogue and story style, we were trying to capture the same wit and natural tone of Elmore Leonard’s books, as well as the films and shows that have come from them. Shows like Justified and films like Out of Sight.
How is this game’s campaign different or similar to other Battlefield campaigns in the past?
Besides a more open playing field with many approaches, a huge difference is that the AI is completely re-done to allow for situations when they don’t know you’re there. This is a game where you might want to sneak by, or arrest and interrogate someone instead of going in guns blazing (although that’s fine, too). These choices offer a lot of tactical depth and variety.
In terms of the story in the campaign – what type of research was done to make sure you were being true to the spirit of the game?
We wanted to ground the world in a believability without being slaves to it. So to get a good foundation, we did some intense research. A few of us did participate in the Urban Shield SWAT competition as enemies and hostages, where we were up all night screaming and yelling with international police forces.
We trained alongside our actors in correct firearms handling with LA Police advisors, and some of us even volunteered to be tasered for real! Well, actually that was just one guy, and boy does he regret it.
What were some of the challenges that come from building a strong single player campaign?
When you’re dealing with the real world, and characters that need to behave believably in all kinds of situations beyond just cover and shooting, that’s a tremendous challenge. Much, much more than a goblin with a regular attack, power attack, and block.
Our Engineers worked on the AI for years to get interesting and challenging behavior that supports all the different tactics we wanted players to use.
In terms of writing the script, how many people were involved, and how long did it all take to complete?
Game scripts go thru a long process from initial outlines, through “final” (that’s not really final), and rewrites and re-recordings as we watch people play. Our first cast read through was in September of 2013, and we were still shooting as recently as a couple months ago.
Myself and our writers, Tom Bissell and Rob Auten, did the first story outline, episodes, and characters, with Tom and Rob delivering the actual dialogue. We then worked with our narrative consultant Wendy Calhoun (Justified, Nashville, Empire) and director Bill Johnson (Justified, The Americans, West Wing) to make sure the tone we wanted was coming across and the scenes were working.
What do you want people to take away from the Battlefield Hardline campaign?
A good time, first and foremost, and a feeling that their choices mattered. That it wasn’t just “shoot everybody! Now press X!”
Battlefield Hardline launches on March 17. Preorder now!