Today was the EA Play Live 2021 Spotlight on the future of FPS games. Our recap will tell you everything you missed and help you prepare for the EA Play Live event on July 22.
The interview was a little over half an hour, and IGN’s Stella Chung served as the host. Joining her were four people. This included Vince Zampella (Respawn founder and general group manager), Chad Grenier (Game Director of Apex Legends), Christian Grass (General Manager of Ripple Effect Studios), and Oskar Gabrielson (General Manager of DICE).
Unsurprisingly, the main focus of the event was Apex Legends and Battlefield 2042. However, the group shared some fun anecdotes about the development of other games, including beloved titles like Titanfall and Titanfall 2.
The interview made all of the developers seem very human and vulnerable. For example, they discussed the agony and ecstasy of surprising players with the launch of Apex Legends. They were stressed and anxious ahead of its release and then thrilled at enthusiastic fan response. But they went back to being stressed and anxious once they realized they had to scramble to create new content for their growing fanbase.
Briefly, they discussed the philosophy behind rebranding DICE LA to Ripple Effect Studios. The creative team involved believes that major game developments can come from the smallest ripples, leading to their new name.
Regarding Battlefield 2042, the team discussed bringing fan-favorite games back, but they didn’t name any specific maps. They also emphasized how fun the Hazard Zone mode would be because it is a more modern take on battle royale featuring unique features and an emphasis on special powers.
Regarding Battlefield development, they discussed the need to know when to listen to developers that have insane ideas, like weaponizing tornados for 2042. At the same time, they need to know when an idea isn’t working and when to move onto something else.
They also discussed how time-intensive Battlefield development could be, with the creation of a new map taking anywhere between six and 12 months. Ironically, though, they noted that the COVID-19 pandemic made it easier to remotely coordinate different developers and teams to focus on 2042. But this was necessary because they now know how difficult it is to launch a live service game.
In addition to Battlefield, the team had a lot to say about Apex Legends. For example, they mentioned how development grew out of their love for the Titanfall universe. This is why writers and devs are constantly sneaking in references and characters from Titanfall into Apex Legends.
At the same time, they knew they wanted their battle royale Apex Legends to be a bit slower and more predictable than Titanfall. Part of Titanfall’s fun comes from unpredictable elements like wall running and giant mechs, but that doesn’t really work when you are trying to create something a bit more linear like a battle royale.
One funny example of this came when they were discussing players finding unexpected ways to play the game. A specific example given was when players figured out they could create a warp field and fire into it, which curved the bullets and killed players in a very unexpected way.
Interestingly, they said that Apex Legends development didn’t really click for them until they realized they needed to focus on characters (the titular Legends) rather than just gameplay and abilities.
Focusing on the Legends also helped them focus more on the fan community. Towards this end, devs love to retweet art and other creative fan endeavors. At times, they even go out of their way to provide lore to the fan community to help them bring their art and fanfic to life more authentically.
At one point, the team was asked about FPS games that influenced their own sense of game design. They threw out titles such as CS: Go, Battlefield 1942, Doom, Quake III, and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault,
As the interview wrapped up, the devs discussed the lessons of the past year. This included being flexible regarding releasing content so they have time to perfect it. They also had to find a balance between cranking out content for players and giving devs time to breathe. Finally, they stated the obvious: they have learned that running a live service game has been a major learning experience.
Eventually, the host asked devs the big question: what do they see as the future of FPS games? Different answers included the need to pay homage to popular games of the past while finding ways to innovate. They also want to explore the potential of cloud-based gaming. And their positive relationship with fans has shown them the need to embrace games as social landscapes rather than just competitive spaces.
What can we expect to hear from them at EA Play Live on July 22? We’ll get more info about Apex Legends, including info about the ranked arenas launching next season and the next Legend to be added to the game.
And we’re going to get our best look yet at Battlefield 2042, a game that may define the series and do its own part in shaping the future of FPS gaming.