Oh, how time flies. EA DICE’s first-person shooter “Battlefield Vietnam” is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month. The second installment in the “Battlefield” franchise after 2002’s “Battlefield 1942,” “Battlefield Vietnam” featured a wide variety of maps based on real-life historical settings, such as the Battle of Hue, the Battle of Khe Sanh and the Fall of Saigon. Developers of the title were inspired by well-known Vietnam War films such as “Apocalypse Now.”
In a trip down memory lane, EA DICE sat down with four of the many DICE developers and employees behind the iconic game – Roland Smedberg, Bjorn Hedberg, Patrik O’Shaughnessy and Oscar Carlen. The four discussed the game’s role in future “Battlefield” titles and what it did for the franchise overall.
A decade ago, the Battlefield franchise was in its cradle – but the impact of the groundbreaking Battlefield 1942 and its expansions had been heard clearly around the world. Naturally, fans of the game was eager to see what was on the horizon. Development duties for the next Battlefield fell upon the newly opened DICE Canada who on March 14, 2004, released the game that now is hitting the big 1-0: Battlefield Vietnam.
Battlefield Vietnam stayed true to the formula of its predecessor, featuring rock-paper-scissors gameplay, vast maps, and battles at land, sea, and air. This time, players found themselves in the middle of the Vietnam War, playing for either the US (Green Beret) or North Vietnam (NVA) side. Lots of care and fine-tuning went into conceptual design of these new environments, resulting in multiplayer maps like the verdant Ho Chi Minh Trail or the vast Operation Hastings. Mikael Rudberg, producer on Battlefield Vietnam at the time, remembers the foundations of the concept:
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“Our so called ‘X’ for the game was ‘The Hollywood Vietnam experience in Battlefield’ – something we believe we managed to meet very well. There were many things that made Battlefield Vietnam stand out; the chance to play 70’s music in vehicles, the tunnels, the procedural under- and overgrowth, and of course the asymmetric factions – e.g. napalm versus punji sticks.”
This asymmetry between the two factions, based on the actual war in Vietnam, gave players vastly different conditions when playing for either the Green Beret or NVA side. Even though the US had access to heavy artillery, their enemies had potent counter-measures and other advantages designed to balance the gameplay. For instance, players who preferred the Vietnam side will remember the spawning advantages of the Sipi Holes.
Asymmetrical gameplay was not the only example of how DICE Canada tried out many creative design ideas for Battlefield Vietnam. Patrick O’Shaughnessy, QA Lead at the time, reveals a game mode that was intended for the game:
“There was actually an entirely new game mode that was cut late in the project. It was called Challenge Mode and let you play by yourself to try to complete small missions, like defending a flag against AI attackers for 3 minutes with only a pistol, or capturing all the flags on this map using a helicopter. It was a lot of fun, even when it was unfinished.”
As the trailer above demonstrates, one other unique and iconic aspect of Battlefield Vietnam was the licensed soundtrack. Among others, bands like Deep Purple, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Trashmen all contributed to the special atmosphere of the game, and for Battlefield fans it’s hard to hear “The Ride of the Valkyries” without thinking about their clashes in Battlefield Vietnam.
“The iconic music really set the tone for me,” says DICE veteran Roland Smedberg, director/editor on Battlefield Vietnam. “Getting to show off the game to those awesome tracks was a great feeling, having grown up watching all those Vietnam movies like Apocalypse Now and Platoon. There is actually a nod to Platoon and the death of Elias in one of the trailers. And of course, we loved using ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ with tons of choppers, like in Apocalypse Now.”
With addictive gameplay, great map design, exciting vehicles and weapons, and iconic presentation, Battlefield Vietnam has aged well and we hope you share our excitement for this anniversary. Looking back, producer Mikael Rudberg is also proud as a peacock of the final game:
“We were around 35 people that created Battlefield Vietnam in only 11 months, but the final game turned out really well. That is probably my fondest memory from development; to succeed in making a really compelling product that extended the Battlefield universe.”
Did you play "Battlefield Vietnam?" Leave a comment below!