Remember the good ol' days?
Update: Keep up to date with all Battlefield 3 features and info on our wiki.
After the Battlefield 3 "announcement" last week indicated the game would be going multiplatform, many PC gamers were outraged, worrying the series' next flagship title would be tarnished for the sake of console players.
While EA wasn't willing to comment on the state of the PC version, we were able to dig up some info which should put your mind at ease -- scratch that, make it very excited.
Firstly, we learn via Twitter from DICE rendering architect Johann Andersson the engine BF3 is built on -- Frostbite 2.0 -- is "primarily developed for DirectX 11"; XP and DX9 won't be supported (though you may be able to hack it). Also the engine will be especially optmized for 64-bit -- thankfully a lot of you have chosen the road less travelled. Good news in itself, but since consoles only support DX9, the implication is the PC version will be a "true" PC game.
An interview (PDF) between AMD and Anderrson back in November taught us DICE has been involved with DX11 from a very early stage, which helped them get in all the features and improvements important to the team, like multicore optimization, multithreading support (more variation, detail, improved load times, smoother performance), compute shader support (more dynamic light sources), and lastly, tesselation (more detailed and more realistically rendered objects). It's a fascinating read for tech heads, so give the full interview a look if you're interested. Also check out a more in-depth look at the features in our DirectX 11 By the Numbers article. The short version is this: Battlefield 3 should be a huge jump forward that will please those with great hardware, particularly if it's running on Windows 7 64-bit.
Now, many players are worrying 3 will turn out more like Bad Company 2. While DICE did do a pretty good job in making it feel like a PC title, it's no classic Battlefield.
Firstly, you must understand Bad Company 2 was never a "true" Battlefield game, so it's not fair to assume this is the direction DICE will be heading in, at least on PC. Series associate producer Barrie Tingle has said, "Battlefield Bad Company 2 is NOT a sequel to Battlefield 2 or 2142; it is a sequel to Battlefield Bad Company and as such the list of features matches that of the original game and not that of past Battlefield games." In other words, it was always intended as an offshoot, not a monster, flagship title like previous games have been.
But no matter -- the team has already admitted it was Frostbite's first time on PC and so, limited in ways. According to Battlefield forum mod "crazycanuck", based on his experiences and "some conversations", Frostbite 2 is built from the ground up to "be more efficient and take advantage of the PC's abilities." He also says the team is "very excited about what FB2 and BF3 together are going to produce", especially as they've been in development for a number of years (four to six, word has it).
Again from Anderrson, we're told Frostbite 2 is "developed simultaneously for the strengths of each platform (i.e. we use the best API for each platform)." In other words, it's a multiplatform engine, but a good one that should satisfy all players, no matter the platform, in the same sense BioWare or Capcom have or CD Projekt will be with The Witcher 2.
The other big issue is maps -- BC2 had some pretty small ones and as a result, a smaller player cap. Previous series entries included huge, sprawling maps which made for some real in-depth tactics. For this we go back to May, when senior gameplay designer Alan Kertz wrote to a fan inquiring about the lower play count, "For Battlefield it's bandwidth; we are bandwidth capped on the consoles. For PC, I'd like to get back to big scale 64 player."
It's hard to say then what will happen, but they've said it is clear with them fans want the classic stuff. Perhaps PC players will get their own maps, or maybe console maps will be based on the PC maps but scaled down considerably -- both seem like entirely plausible scenarios. We've seen the latter played out alongside further, bigger scale changes in Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, a console-centric version of Battlefield 2 which came about four months after the PC version. Sadly though, Kertz' response to a fan today regarding this in relation to BC2 says, "It was two completely different games; BC2 is not 2 completely different games. Reality says it costs too much."
That doesn't mean the PC version won't be great -- DICE are clever people, after all. Take this quote from former DICE CEO Fredrik Lilegren who said in February, "What the PC version is going to be, Battlefield 3, I think it's going to absolutely blow everyone away, but I can't tell you what it is, but it will blow people away."
Then there is of course the issue of mods, from which we've seen some truly epic work like the "Desert Combat" 1942 mod (the team went on to help make Battlefield 2 and then create full games of their own like Frontlines: Fuel of War). Then there's Commanders, the "Comma Rose", LAN play, spectating, battlerecorder, and so on. Many of these features, seemingly, are being considered for a future BC2 patch, nevermind BF3. We're not guaranteeing any of these features will be in BF3; we're saying based on the evidence, it looks good.