“We’ve been talking about [Battlefield Portal being a love letter] officially, and it might sound like a marketing line, but it’s actually something that we used to talk about [ourselves]. Like, what would that be?” said Christian Grass, general manager of Ripple Effect Studios, formerly known as DICE LA.
The answer to the question Grass had long mulled with DICE general manager Oskar Gabrielson is Portal. With roots that extend back to the modding scene of “Battlefield 1942,” Ripple Effect is aiming to rekindle the franchise’s love affair with its creators by introducing a free, web-based tool that allows players to extensively customize Battlefield matches by selecting various modes, maps, soldiers, weapons, vehicles and rules from four of the franchise’s games: “Battlefield 1942,” “Bad Company 2,” “Battlefield 3” and “Battlefield 2042.”
“We wanted to create something that added interesting gameplay and we wanted to do a nice mixture of things,” Grass said about the decision to integrate “Battlefield 1942,” “Bad Company 2” and “Battlefield 3” into the new game. He noted that “1942” was an easy decision as the team wanted to lean into the nostalgia of the debut Battlefield title, but “we also looked at a lot of player data, a lot of telemetry data, kind of seeing what people were actually playing a lot. We have very strong communities around ‘BF3’ and ‘Bad Company 2.’ [It was] the same thing with the decision on the maps.”
Two maps from each of those first three titles have been revamped (environmental damage has been added to the “1942” maps, for instance) and remastered for use alongside “2042′s” expansive new war zones. The maps included at launch will be Battle of the Bulge and El Alamein, from “Battlefield 1942,” Arica Harbor and Valparaiso from “Bad Company 2” and Caspian Border and Noshar Canals from “Battlefield 3.”
What’s more, users can pit soldiers and vehicles from the different eras against one another, sending a squadron of World War II Spitfires against another of F-22s, should they so choose. Users can build experiences around a variety of modes as well, from team deathmatch to free-for-alls to the fan favorite bomb-arming/defusing Rush, providing an astounding amount of autonomy for players to customize the game exactly to their liking.
If you’re wondering how weapons and vehicles from the 1940s hold up against modern and futuristic arsenals in a war game, the answer is they don’t, according to the mode’s developers. Instead of DICE/Ripple Effect developers balancing damage outputs for weapons from different eras, it’ll will be up to Portal users to decide how, or if, they want to balance out the fight by giving one side more soldiers than the other, or withholding certain types of vehicles or armaments to compensate for the technology gap. Players can even customize damage and movement modifiers to affect the battle in ways that are less visible but extremely important to some members of the community.
The most recent installment of the Battlefield franchise — “Battlefield V,” which was set during World War II — received a good deal of player criticism around its time-to-kill (TTK) values. Now, players will have the freedom to set their own rules. Grass says he hopes Portal will build a collaborative community, much like he saw around the “1942” modding community and the community test environment introduced around “Battlefield 4.” In a video game market that has evolved significantly since the series first launched in 2002, Grass also hopes it will also help to humanize the game development process.
“It is a different world, and I do believe that demands are really high,” Grass said. “It’s a lot of competition. There is a lot of things in our industry … it’s just shifted quite a lot. … But I still believe very strongly that by humanizing development, by being kind of open and honest, being authentic, being yourself and, of course, trying to do the best we can to make this game as great as it can and work for the community, then I think the results will follow, even though maybe not everyone will be with us on that journey.”
In addition to using it in the game, Portal will be accessible on tablets and smartphones via web browsers and will not require the purchase of “Battlefield 2042.” Users will need an EA ID however, and to play out any of the experiences they create, they will need to buy the game.
Portal is the second of three major pillars for the upcoming “Battlefield 2042,” alongside the more traditional all-out warfare multiplayer modes like Conquest and Breakthrough, and the still-to-be-revealed Hazard Zone, a squad-based experience new to the Battlefield franchise.
Thus far, Portal is (quite literally) the most game-changing announcement for “Battlefield 2042” and signals a clear initiative from DICE and its family of studios to lean into its creator community. “Battlefield 2042′s” preview trailer already features homages to several celebrated highlights recorded in past games and posted on YouTube and Reddit. Now creators crafting new experiences via Portal can have their work spotlighted by developers as a featured play mode alongside other experiences crafted by Ripple Effect developers.
“I think that the kind of the turn around of ‘Battlefield 4,’ the success of ‘Battlefield 4,’ came a lot from that,” Grass said, referring to engaging with the community. “I think the fact that people were on our side, we’re building the game together, so it’s not just our game, as in the developers, it’s our game, as in the developers and the players, I think that makes a huge difference.”
All created experiences will be hosted on EA servers. Creators will be limited to only one active experience, though they can craft and save more in their library to activate later. Players can search for experiences not in the featured slots using a tag system to pinpoint what they want. They can also share their created experiences via a code.
At launch at least, Grass said there will not be a program to support Battlefield creators, as some other popular franchises, such as Fortnite and Call of Duty, have done.
Portal will integrate new content brought to “Battlefield 2042” through its planned four seasonal battle passes. Though Grass declined to discuss whether other past maps could be added via future updates, he pointed out that launch day would merely mark the start of the road for Portal.
“What is the right way to push Portal forward? What is it that players would like us to add to Portal? That’s kind of the way we’re approaching it right now,” Grass said.