Live Blog: DICE 2009 - Lars Gustavsson, D.I.C.E. Studios

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Posted February 19, 2009 - By bleahy

Lars Gustavsson, creative director at D.I.C.E., is here to talk about Mirror's Edge. This is rolling right along so here we go. D.I.C.E. is also responsible for the Battlefield franchise.

3:32 PM - DICE first shipped Pinball Dreams in 1992. Today, they employ 260 people in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2000, DICE bought Refraction Games, where Lars had worked. Refraction had been working on a FPS called Codename Eagle. It was a 16-player game that included vehicles.

In 2000, before they were purchased by DICE, they had been working on Battlefield 1942. They were met with doubt at E3 and went back to Sweden. In January 2001, EA Partners signed up Battlefield 1942 and they had a publishing agreement. They had too many features in the game, but didn't have enough risk analysis. Depsite all of the features that didn't make it, they managed to ship the game to great success. It was the start of the studio.

3:38 PM - DICE's DNA is "innovation over execution" and fulfilling dreams. It's a blessing and a curse. When they shipped Battlefield 1942, everyone was just counting maps and the amount of players. The push was for "back of the box" stats.

Fast forward to 2008, DICE is now a member of the EA family. In 2008, they shipped Battlefield: Bad Company and Mirror's Edge. Now, instead of "back of the box" stats, it's about the experience that the game delivers.

3:41 PM - Innovations & Risks in Battlefield: Bad Company. They were developing the engine at the same time as the game. That was probably a mistake. Also, it was the first game with a real single-player experience. Finally, DICE wanted to do more than anyone else with destructable environments.

Looking at Mirror's Edge, the risk is the new intellectual property with a first-person platforming game with a fresh art direction.

Did DICE learn from their mistakes? Lars thinks that innovation still won over risk management.

Two risk early in in Mirror's Edge: initially, it was going to use Bad Company's engine, but they decided to use Unreal Engine instead. Secondly, they needed to decide what the game's innovation would be.

There were three ideas that were initially prototyped and tested, but scrapped. It led to the decision to do a first-person platformer. This was especially influenced by parkour and films like Casino Royale and games like Prince of Persia. The team initially worked on paper to map out problems with the first-person perspective. Then, moving to animation, they came upon a fun core mechanic.

I feel like he's avoiding the elephant in the room about how Mirror's Edge, while innovative, wasn't well received. Hopefully, he'll get there.

3:47 PM - Now, he's showing off some video of the game's eventual phases from prototype to retail. The game still looks great. Before the game, they had a "white room" where they could perform all of the moves. Now it was time to build the game.

The urban environment was chosen because it would fit the core gameplay mechanic and the protagonist needed to be athletic and not the "bimbo" that many female characters in games tend to be.

Audio was needed to connect the player to the world because they cannot always show the character's arms and legs.

Regardless of reception, DICE is proud of shipping two single-player games in 2008. For 2009, DICE will be exploring new business models and new ways to customers. Again, name-dropping Gabe Newell's presentation. Valve is definitely going to be spearheading the games as a service movement.

They will release Battlefield Heroes (PC, free to play) and Battlefield 1943 (XBLA, PSN, PC) that will be a more in-depth game. Sure, they're happy with their single-player releases, but now they are returning to Battlefield to recoup some losses. I understand why they are doing it, but don't expect Lars to admit this.

3:53 PM - Past these two games, DICE sees themselves at the crossroads. First, they are facing the global financial situation like everyon else. Secondly, looking at the changing market, they are re-examining their priorties. Is it time to take a risk or play it safe? Will they see the indie film or summer blockbuster?

Do you have to innovate? Is innovation actually going to make a product stronger or does it introduce too much risk?

Even though it is a bad economic time, Lars doesn't believe that the industry should stop innovating. The industry just needs to work wisely with innovation.

Will DICE stop innovating or keep going? They feel that it's about finding the perfect balance between execution and innovation.

Live Blog: DICE 2009 - Lars Gustavsson, D.I.C.E. Studios


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