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Battlefield 3: Back To Karkand - Designing The New Wake Island 5-Flag Layout For Xbox 360 And PS3

Since the release of Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand, a very popular subject has been the be or not to be of a 5 flag Wake Island for consoles. Here’s Gameplay Designer Gustav Halling with the inside story on how the new 5-flag layout came into existence.

Hi all. My name is Gustav Halling, 26 years old, also known by my nickname “cmd” or “cmd85” on Battlelog.

I have worked at DICE since 2006 as Gameplay Designer and have been involved in designing Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield 1943, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Vietnam. My latest project is Battlefield 3, and most of my time is put into the expansion packs such as Back to Karkand, Close Quarters, and now most recently turning Lead Designer for Battlefield 3: Armored Kill that launches this autumn (which I’m very excited about!)

In this “Inside DICE” post, I’ll explain the reasoning behind adding the new 5-flag layout to Wake Island on consoles. I hope you like the new layout and that you find this post interesting.

Why didn’t we have 5 flags from the start?
So why didn’t we have a 5-flag layout for Wake Island Conquest on consoles to begin with? There is no simple straight answer, but it was a mix of design decisions and technical challenges. When we decided to make a remake of the classic Wake Island map, we wanted it to be the same scale as it was back in Battlefield 2, not the 30% smaller variant that I designed for Battlefield 1943. The reason Battlefield 1943 shipped with 5 flags was because the game was a standalone game where all air and land vehicles and distances could be tweaked specifically for those distances.

This time, we wanted to keep the epic scale that Wake Island is on all platforms, and we play tested the map a lot with 24 players and found that the gameplay was suffering by the big spread of players that occurred over 5 flags. It easily turned into us just going around capturing the bases in a circular pattern, without really seeing any enemies – that was not very fun.

That was when I designed the new variant instead, where the US started on the two capes instead of on the carrier -- and at the same time focusing the gameplay down to 3 flags. The gameplay based on this flag layout turned out much better with a lot more action and awesome tank battles.

An excellent byproduct of our latest patches is that we found a way to fit even more content into console memory – primarily vehicles -- which made it possible to look into the original 5-flag layout again. So we did!

Designing the new 5-flag Wake Island
After the release of Back to Karkand, we received a lot of feedback from you, our community, that you wanted to have a 5-flag variant on Wake Island. The feedback was very much focused on that it wasn’t a true Wake Island without 5 flags and also that it worked in Battlefield 1943 on consoles already. It wasn’t a big surprise for me but I also felt that many players didn’t see the whole picture on why this happened and why it provided a more intense battlefield so I did a big post on reddit about my design decisions behind Wake Island 3 flag and got a good response from that.

But even that I couldn’t tell anyone I already was looking into how we get Wake Island 5 flag onto consoles. So I almost immediately started looking at the possibilities how it would work, both from a gameplay perspective and the technical challenges it would present.

I knew that we had a big patch coming out at the end of March/beginning of April. This would give us the time needed to add the new design layout, playtest it on consoles, and make sure it was to quality and get it into the patch before heading into the certification process with first party.

So I set the project up and started to look at it from a technical angle to make sure it was possible to do in the first place. Next step was to playtest the new layout with 24 players and adjust the experience to make sure each base had a valuable asset that the team wanted to own.

After play testing, the in-house feedback at DICE was clearly that the best layout was the same as the one we use on PC. I went with that as a basis, but made some tweaks to both the PC and console layout. Perhaps the most important change being that we moved the mobile anti-air to the Beach capture point instead of having it at Airfield – this makes Beach a more strategic base to own.

Two layouts – two experiences
I personally like both variants of Wake Island on console, and having the two to choose from, you can make sure you get the experience you want for each session:

3 flag Wake Island provides the more action orientated experience for when you want to get into the action fast! It’s less about travelling and more about fighting, with a good mix of infantry and vehicles.

5 flag Wake Island is the more strategic choice and the more vehicle focused experience! It will give you more choices on how to tackle the battlefield – making a head on assault on airfield or slowly working towards it from the bases surrounding it, one flag at a time.

Gustav Halling

  • Battlefield 3 Back To Karkand

    Visit the official Battlefield 3 Back To Karkand website to learn more about the game.