Less is more
Over the course of that project, we built a new foliage/tree system called Overgrowth, and brought helicopters (along with their crazy physics and controls) to the Battlefield series for the first time. Overgrowth was needed to create the feeling of being in the dense and claustrophobic jungles of Vietnam, with scores of other players. The feature was unknown, risky, and scary, but ultimately worked due to the talented developers that laboured on it. Ultimately, we were able to ship the game, without a marked increase in the PC minimum spec required, and it went on to achieve both commercial and critical success.
The point, ultimately, is to always be focused when building your game. It’s better to subscribe to the ‘less is more’ adage, and do fewer things better than lots of things at an average level. That being said, this is much more difficult than it sounds; it’s easy to get excited about an idea that might not be critical to your project and want to start working on it immediately. When this happens, try to think critically about whether or not this feature really matters, and more importantly: does your team have the capability and time to fully realise it? It’s way more painful to cut a feature after work has been invested in it than at its inception. In the end, games, like any entertainment project or investment, are an informed bet. Always be mindful that it doesn’t matter what you did yesterday: all that matters is what you do next.
As a side note, anytime you hear a phrase like ‘GTA killer’, be warned. More often than not, the label’s doomed to failure, as an established incumbent – like the boundary-pushing Grand Theft Auto III – has usually benefited from being the first of its kind. If you’re going to ‘kill’ a rival game, your offering needs to be so far beyond the current champion that winning borders on impossible. As you’ve probably gathered, creating such a game isn’t easy.
Reid is the producer of Splinter Cell, Battlefield Vietnam, Army of Two, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Batman: Arkham Knight. Follow him on Twitter: @rws360