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Battlefield 3 producer explains why innocent civilians are off-limits

How far a war game will go to convey the brutal realities of combat is a decision each studio must make on its own, and for Battlefield 3's executive producer Patrick Bach the boundaries of digital decency end at killing innocents. Not that he's against player freedom, however, he's just wary of how far some may take it. Defending EA Digital Illusion's CE's move to omit civilian slaughter from Battlefield 3 in a recent interview, Bach noted the choice wasn't so much about personal preference, but  a fear it would have otherwise attracted negative media attention.

“If you put the player in front of a choice where they can do good things or bad things, they will do bad things, go dark side – because people think it’s cool to be naughty, they won’t be caught,” said Bach in his chat with Rock, Paper, Shotgun. “In a game where it’s more authentic, when you have a gun in your hand and a child in front of you what would happen? Well the player would probably shoot that child.”


Understanding that, Bach said it was necessary to impose restrictions on killing non-combatants in Battlefield 3 in order to curb immoral behavior and – more importantly – the bad publicity it would encourage, adding, “We would be the ones to be blamed. We have to build our experiences so we don’t put the player in experiences where they can do bad things...Me personally, I’m trying to stay away from civilians in games like BF because I think people will do bad. I don’t want to see videos on the internet where people shoot civilians. That’s something I will sanitize by removing that feature from the game.” 

Considering series like Prototype, Saints Row, and GTA make a hilarious sport of offing innocent bystanders and committing heinous crimes, it's interesting to see a more realistic war title take the opposite stance. But then, if no one is questioning the limits of 'acceptable evil' in a videogame, who's to say games like Baby Strangler 2014 or Super Puppy Puncher would be any worse? Are some vile acts more acceptable than others? And if so, where do you think the line should be drawn (if anywhere)?

Aug 31, 2011

Topics

3 Battlefield

30 comments

  • HalfBlindRatt - September 1, 2011 1:41 a.m.

    I think someone has a dark side? The real reason they did this, is that all major EA bosses are still on rehab from their evil overlord days, back when they hunted down children and ate them. If they could do this in a game, theyd go back on a baby killing frenzy. Can the audience of a k-18/ mature audiences game be so immature? Or is EA just targeting the COD kids? Soon they will start the campaign for morally rightgous (and cheaper) modern shooter, that will keep your kids safe, even online, by real life censorship on VOIP. What happened to the Baby kicking Dead Space EA? And give the poor soldier a front iron sight or some fancy holographic sight.
  • TradeMarkP - August 31, 2011 8:55 p.m.

    Baby Strangler has gone downhill since EA got the exclusive license. Every year, it's the same with very minor changes. And the Dynasty Mode sucks after you play 18 seasons...
  • jamieleng - August 31, 2011 5:21 p.m.

    I'm relieved to know innocent civilians never die in wars. I'll sleep so much sounder knowing only the bad guys get killed.
  • alphafour - August 31, 2011 4:05 p.m.

    (This is more of a suggestion for future games) It would have been interesting if BF3's single player had some sort of persistent squad system where you would have a squad of around 10 guys at the very start of the game and if you lost one you couldn't just get him back at the next checkpoint.. you had to physically restart the game or reload from the last checkpoint before he died. They could have tied in the civilian thing in interesting scenarios like.. there might be some terrorists hiding in a compound and you have to kill them.. and you have the option to either send in an airstrike and kill everybody, including women and children.. or risk losing some or all of your own squad by going into the compound on foot to kill the terrorists while minimising civilian casualties. They could then introduce some kind of reward/deterrent system whereby the terrorists would be able to slip away into back alleys/houses etc. and local residents wouldn't tell you where they were, if you decided to take the option which killed civilians. On the other hand, you could have a system where the local residents would be very willing to help you after finding out that you took the risk to save civilians by going into the compound on foot, and the so the game becomes slightly easier, even if you happen to lose a squad member as a result. Perhaps in-game AI is not up to this level of thinking yet? It would make for very tough decisions and it would be nice to see your decisions actually making a genuine difference to the flow and feel of the game. Tell me I'm crazy but that's the kind of gameplay I want to see. There would be a blurring between "right" and "wrong" and players would have to decide... do they want to kill all the civilians and then have a very hostile local population foaming at the bit, or do they want to pluck up the courage to do the job thoroughly and reap the benefits in the form of the trust of the residents.
  • HaitianSensation - August 31, 2011 6:38 p.m.

    I kind of remember Rainbow Six had that sort of idea where if they were killed during a mission, they were out for a certain period. I like where your head is at with this realism and while I think it might be a bit more involved for an FPS (even one as interesting as BF3), I could see a new genre being born, a FPS/RPG-esque game. Maybe there have been ones already, I don't know.
  • LucasP - September 2, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    *Cough* Fallout *Cough*
  • santaclouse37 - August 31, 2011 3:51 p.m.

    I can definitely understand this choice and where he's coming from. MW2 had the whole controversy with the airport level, and that was just ONE level where you could shoot innocents. Seeing as BF3 is poised to be Modern Warfare's biggest competitor, I can see where there would certainly be paranoia towards the media drumming up a new take on an old scare, especially if there are a lot of NPCs littered throughout the game.
  • Dman3981 - August 31, 2011 2:46 p.m.

    Well I would like to disagree with the guy saying that gamers would most likely shoot the innocent because if anyone would recall a survey done for Heavy Rain for the fourth challenge for Ethan Mars. Now I don`t want to spoil anything but it was pretty surprising how people reacted in a peaceful manner for that situation. Then again that was a different genre and in an adrenaline fueled FPS you probably would make more bad choices.
  • Mfchimichanga - August 31, 2011 1:36 p.m.

    But they aren't real people they're digital animations......sure GTA got bad rep but it was cuz the media(ignorant as they are) sensationalized it to make it seem like the game had you killing people as an objective rather than stating that it's sole purpose is to add realism to the experience cuz it's gonna be rather awkward to shoot, even if it's accidental, a civilian and the AI stands there stiff wobbles a bit then keeps walking. I say they should just penalize players like GTA does with it's in game police which activates the script to go after the player discouraging that behavior. Of course you shouldn't assume players using NPCs as target practice do so because of some sadistic desire to kill real people. No man we know the distinction. It's like a kid playing with GI joes and throwing them off Lego buildings cuz it's amusing, it's not cuz they wanna throw real people off buildings.
  • Doctalen - August 31, 2011 12:57 p.m.

    Still waiting for Super Puppy Puncher
  • Kingsman - August 31, 2011 12:56 p.m.

    I understand the motivations behind this decision, and I can respect that ultimately, for them, it's about protecting the integrity of what they're trying to accomplish; and I get that. But I'm just waiting for a studio to grow the stones to depict war as the not-so-sterile affair we've become so immersed with. War (particularly the wars in the mid-east) are rarely 'his side/my side' engagements but 'holy moly! where those shots coming from? Is it those guys? I don't see a weapon! Do I shoot?' But that might be a tad too cerebral for a mass audience.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - August 31, 2011 3:41 p.m.

    And that's exactly why it would be amazing. I want a shooter that actually makes the player feel like they're in a war, and not just blah blah blah Taliban blah blah blah kill kill blah blah blah turret section blah blah blah RPG the chopper you win AMERICUH FCK YEA.
  • ParagonT - August 31, 2011 12:01 p.m.

    I dont really care, but I disagree with it being "fair". As some has stated, who's to say the terrorist are the real bad guys here? Just because a handful did something bad (if they even did it) does not necessarily mean their all terrorists. I understand not killing children, but if your going to make a shooter where we KILL "the bad guys" then why is that any more immoral than killing adult civilians? Especially understanding that they are protecting their beliefs and land from an invading force as we paint them all as low life terrorists. It's easy to paint them from a certain standpoint, but until your home and way of life is being threatened, its hard to have the credentials to say that. As cruel and unusual as their ways may be to some, you have to understand that their way of life is not like ours. And instead of trying to change everyone, we must respect that, and let them change themselves. This is a high time of the Middle Eastern Sprint, were revolts are happening everywhere. So by saying that, I would personally prefer their be civilians that can be killed, because killing in general, by their standards, is immoral itself.
  • waffman11 - August 31, 2011 3:44 p.m.

    I'm not quite sure that you're getting their point (or why we are in the Middle East for that matter). Never has anyone said that the people themselves are the bad guys in the Middle East, only that there are militant groups that exist there that want to cause harm to the US and other world powers. There also exist dictators committing crimes against humanity by stripping their subjects of basic human rights. While many people contest this point, the reason many soldiers join the US armed forces is to defend their country and help humanity by removing these dictators from their positions of power. NEVER has killing civilians, who may or may not support their cause, been a policy of the armed forces. The only people who are engaged by gunfire are the very armed militants and dangerous individuals that our soldiers are there to prevent from causing more damage. Yes, civilians are killed, but it is almost never a purposeful act of violence on the part of the armed forces, and is usually an unfortunate example of collateral damage. You seem to be making a wide generalization that the US is there to change the way that the Muslim communities live and to completely change their way of life because it's "not how we live." Quite the opposite, really. The soldiers and peace workers are there to promote the people to decide for themselves how to live and develop their country and government. They are there to ensure that the minority of powerful and well-armed individuals and other violent groups do not stand in the way of the self-determinism that needs to occur after a vacuum of power is created. Now, concerning the video game. I believe that the main reason that civilians would be removed from the game isn't because it's "immoral" or "ludicrous" to allow for innocents to be killed in any situation. It's more that it does a great disservice to the armed forces to depict them as soulless bastards who kill innocents for pleasure in spite of them laying their life on the line for the protection of their country and the innocents that live there. I won't say that such individuals don't exist, it's just very disrespectful to say that they would, in any capacity represent the armed forces of the US, or any country that supports basic human rights. That's my rant on the matter. Feel free to correct me if I misinterpreted what you said. I always enjoy a good discussion.
  • jake66play - August 31, 2011 11:36 a.m.

    does anyone else have problems with reading these recently, it used to be fine but ever since that time when gamesradar was down for a few days the writing is really small and its anoiying to read.
  • CitizenWolfie - August 31, 2011 11:04 a.m.

    “In a game where it’s more authentic, when you have a gun in your hand and a child in front of you what would happen? Well the player would probably shoot that child.” I would totally shoot that child. Probably a good job they're deciding against it, not as if we (gamers) need anything else to defend when sh*t hits then fan. Or sh*t hits the Titchmarsh. Would have been nice though to have a choice of being either a responsible soldier or a complete and utter war b*stard. Stuff like Generation Kill and Dispatches show that not ALL soldiers are noble warriors after all.
  • Darth_Griffin - August 31, 2011 10:49 a.m.

    I'm glad DICE decided to take the moral high ground and draw the line at killing civilians. I wonder though. Are civilians going to be in-game but your bullets would just not effect them in any way like other games? or will they not be present at all?
  • spencertucksen - August 31, 2011 12:54 p.m.

    I hope they're not present, or you can see them in the background but they move behind objects and whatnot that you just don't get the opportunity to shoot them if you tried. If they weren't effected, that'd be weird and take me out of the game.
  • TheTrooper424 - August 31, 2011 10:41 a.m.

    Baby Strangler 2014 and Super Puppy Puncher FTW
  • B0ssman96 - August 31, 2011 9:57 a.m.

    Does this mean that we can't shoot the dog in the first trailer that was shown of the campaign?! Say it aint so DICE!!! I get the whole no shooting civilians thing even tho I guess DICE has never heard of collateral damage! But whatevs... I still wanna shoot dat dawg tho!!! lol

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