Destructible environments have been part and parcel of the Battlefield experience for years. Trust me, I’d know: I’ve sat in and listened to hour-long presentations about “Levolution” and how it’s going to revolutionise the industry. It was meant to “change” the outcome of matches in Battlefield 4, but it was hard not to look at it as merely a scripted set piece, introduced to break one map into two. Sure, it somewhat changed the dynamics of a match, but it never quite lived up to the expectations set by its explosive reveal trailer back in 2014, nor by the words spoken by Battlefield team members themselves.
Fast forward two years and developer DICE is returning to the series with Battlefield 1, but this time, “Levolution” is nowhere to be seen (or heard of). It’s no longer being used as the marketing term it was for Battlefield 4. Instead, the studio is looking to focus more on player-initiated destruction, rather than a specific philosophy centred around explicitly scripting how a map is landscaped.
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“We’ve upped the ante on constant destruction, and the dynamism of it all,”DICE’s Robert Sammelin told me at gamescom 2016. “Destruction is again more intuitive and more natural, more effective and reflective of the gameplay than before. So you can utilise it to break cover, make cover, almost landscape the environment.”
The weather system, Sammelin explains, ties into this, allowing for a far more unpredictable match environment.
“The weather system adds to the dynamic of having a real unpredictable match environment,” Sammelin continued. “A clear day can change into a thick fog, in which you’ll have to change up how you play, and manoeuvre in a different way. But also rainstorms, and then there’s the desert and a sandstorm. That limits your sight and hearing. It adds to that dynamism of one game never being the same.”
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I had a chance to play Battlefield 1 briefly at gamescom. One thing I noticed was that the ever-changing landscape of a map largely contributed to the dynamic shift in gameplay that Sammelin alluded to. Crumbling buildings usually created new open sight-lines, which could force players to shift towards long-range rifles. Weather changes meant that the pacing and aggressiveness of a match usually changed with the unpredictability of the weather. I asked Sammelin how often weather may change during a match, and he said at this stage it could be random, but it’s something they’ll continue to tweak.
In my view, destruction has never been the appealing element of the Battlefield experience: it’s always been those “Battlefield moments” that you just can’t get in other shooters. However, Sammelin’s comments really tie into how random and unpredictable the experience in Battlefield 1 can be due to a new destruction and weather system. It’ll be interesting to see how the Battlefield faithful adapt to it and approach it.
Check out my full interview with DICE about Battlefield 1.