Battlefield 3 Blood Sports
Blood Sports was a map concept for Battlefield 3 that I entered into a community map pitch contest. The winning entries didn't get made and added to the game, I think the prize was a framed piece of concept art or something like that? I didn't really care, I was in it to add "Created a map concept approved by DICE" onto my resume.
I spent a few weeks drafting out a concept for a map that I'd like to play in the game and putting together a little presentation on how the map would work and why it would be great. I didn't win, but I was still happy with the map I pitched and would love to play it in an actual Battlefield game.
Click the button below to download the pdf of my pitch document, and then keep reading for some extra notes of mine.
Bizarrely, the thing that inspired this large and detailed map was the Close Quarters expansion for Battlefield 3. This added in a series of maps that were focused on, surprise surprise, close quarter infantry engagements rather than vehicles and sprawling battlefields like the rest of the game is. I actually enjoyed these maps more than I was expecting because the Battlefield mechanics and systems made them more exciting than a lot of other FPSes are to me, but they still weren't Battlefield y'know? I was the person who looked out over the edge of Ziba Tower and thought "Man, I wish I could get down there", and imagined how terrifying it would have been if there were suddenly an attack helicopter hovering in front of the window.
These maps were detailed and still quite large, but I couldn't help but imagine how cool they would be as part of a larger whole. Battlefields maps are great on the macro level but sometimes the smaller areas can be a bit dull. Like, imagine if instead of a generic warehouse that's empty and just has a few offices on an upper level, a map had the structure from Scrapmetal serving as one of the control points. And what if the huge skyscrapers on urban maps weren't just blocks, but a structure you could enter and climb to the top of. It would make capturing a single flag into an exciting ordeal in of itself.
So the concept I was working with was a series of landmarks that could work as Deathmatch maps in their own right, placed together in a larger playing space signature to Battlefield. The interplay between the space, landmarks and vehicles would provide some amazing unscripted moments.
Once I had all my ideas written down and some diagrams drawn, I got to work on the pitch. I wanted it to be as detailed as possible, painting a picture of what made the map great and how it would function in each game mode.
There were three key tenets I wanted to keep in mind when making the pitch:
Professionalism - This was a pitch contest, so I wanted to treat this like I was actually pitching this to designers and managers. This meant clear and concise language, referring to everything by their in-game terms, and designing the slides in a way that was attention-grabbing but not tacky. No rainbow gradients.
Branding - Part of making this like an official pitch was establishing a branding identity for my map and adhering to the Battlefield brand. I made some key art in the style of the art used for Battlefield 3 and its expansions, and themed my slides to be visually compatible. I decided the football stadium was the hero of the map because it would be appearing in all game modes, and so I made it the focus of the key art and picked a name for my map that is a sort of play on words that seemed fitting for a sport-themed shooter. For headings and titles I used a football jersey-styled font to bring the branding back to that sports imagery.
Marketing Message - One of the key aspects of Battlefield 3's marketing was the tagline 'Only in Battlefield' which was used to describe emergent moments that occur during gameplay that you wouldn't see anywhere else. I used this in my pitch to tie my concept back to the marketing and vision for the game, and show that it fits Battlefield design principles.
What Went Wrong?
Looking through the pitch you probably came to some of the same criticisms I have now:
I have no idea how cities work - What the heck is that highway interchange thing? How do any of these roads connect together? Where do they go? It might all look cool as a game level but this location isn't the slightest bit believable.
What is scale? - The sizes of these locations really don't make any sense in comparison to each other. I knew how big I wanted the bridge to be but didn't put much thought into how the rest of the map should look.
This is not feasible - This map concept sounds amazing, but realistically speaking it would be so hard to pull off. There's about 3 or 4 maps' worth of content and playing space in here, between multiple playable floors of a skyscraper, a football stadium and whatever else is here; making and balancing it all would be a nightmare, and it's possible that such a large, dense map isn't even fun to play (though that would need to be decided with a prototype of some kind).
But you know, it was only a concept pitch rather than a proper design doc to be used by a professional company, so it doesn't need to be perfect. It's supposed to be the starting point to then refine and pull a functional map out of, and I think it's quite good all things considered. So why didn't I win? I have a few theories.
The name is probably a bit in poor taste - When I chose the name I was thinking more along the lines of gladiator combat but 'blood sports' can refer to things like cockfighting and dog fights, so it's probably not the most marketable name for a map in a videogame.
The brief was miscommunicated - I saw 'pitch contest' and made a professional pitch. A few of the winning entries were more creative, like drawings and LEGO models, so it felt a bit like they weren't really after pitches per se. If they were after fun Battlefield creations then I may have struggled because not everyone spent their spare time in school making PowerPoint presentations. N-not that I ever did that.
The map is similar to one in Battlefield 4 - Battlefield 4 was revealed with a map called Siege of Shanghai. It's a large urban map with features like a shopping mall full of stores you could enter, and landmasses connected by bridges with a large body of water separating them. The hero of the map was a skyscraper with multiple floors that you could move between, that was showcased by having helicopters firing through the windows at infantry inside. Yeah... I'm generalising it a bit, but in this sue-happy world if they'd been working on this map for a year and a bit at least, planning for it to be the big reveal of their game, and then they stumble onto a fan concept that has some key similarities... I imagine it would have been thrown out right away. Fair enough. But hey, it was comforting to know that I was on to some good ideas!