In a perfect storm of hype, timing and technology, the momentum behind Battlefield 3 has been staggering. As it accelerates towards its release October 27, we caught up with the game's Creative Director Lars Gustavsson to discuss the game's development, his influences, and what history will make of Battlefield 3.
While there are, of course, hordes of gamers lining up to pre-order Modern Warfare 3, it appears as though there is a sea change in our midst - almost as if the culmination of smart brand protection, combined with a series of dazzling trailers has set fans of core shooters alight with hype. Amongst core shooter fans, Battlefield 3 is arguably the most anticipated game of the year.
Gustavsson thinks the quality of the game itself may have something to do with it!
"We're bringing something fresh to a market which, to be honest, has gone a bit stale recently," says Gustavsson. "There are so many shooters out there and they all come from the same recipe.
"I play all shooters out there to stay up to date, but I really like Battlefield, because I can of the sheer variety. I often get this religious feeling when I look at some of the larger scale levels, just feeling amazed that we somehow managed to accomplish this!
Years of development experience, with the same core team, has enabled DICE to focus their efforts on creating the best Battlefield product possible. In that respect, Gustavsson believes that the force sweeping gamers towards the Battlefield 3 juggernaut is more than hype - it's a gut response to what he believes is a quality product across the board.
"Where does our optimism come from?" He asks. "I would say it's simply our experience in making the Battlefield games. We have an amazing engine. To look at the package of Battlefield, there's so much to it.
"You have everything to small team deathmatch, to the full journey through a single player, to squad deathmatch - there's a full, wide palette of possibilities. This time it feels like we've really stretched ourselves, and listened to feedback from the community.
"Our optimism is similar to how we felt about Battlefield 1942 when that was in development," he continues. "When we're playing in the office, we know it's a really rock solid game. This time round we've done so much and improved so much. We've put so much into it."
The FPS genre is, in a sense, a continual exchange of ideas - where innovations are constantly being shared, implemented and improved upon with subsequent releases. Battlefield has innovated within this space before, but it has also borrowed from the best - we wondered in Lars could think of any specific influences that affected the development of Battlefield 3.
"I'm not sure if I should pin point one," he begins, reluctantly. "Well, Conquest was a game I was definitely inspired by - Day of Defeat, with its flag system is another. And the medic in Battlefield 2 was definitely inspired by Enemy Territory: Quake Wars' medic system.
"That's the beauty of the games industry. You might hear rumours of developers going after each other but for the most part it's a friendly environment. And you borrow freely - it's the team that executes the feature best that will be remembered."
That word: 'remembered'. In the world of PC gaming in particular, it's one thing to shift millions of units, it's another create and maintain the kind of community that Counter Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4 currently have. You get the impression that's precisely what DICE are shooting for with Battlefield 3.
"Really I want our game to be remembered for giving gamers a fresh take on the shooter," claims Gustavsson. "Hopefully Battlefield 3 feels like it took the first person shooter to the next level and made the competition look a bit old and stale."