A Possible Portable Battlefield From DICE, A New/Old Populous from Romania and Other Gaming Secrets

Editor's Note: The mysterious person known as Superannuation keeps on digging and keeps on finding things—gaming things—you should know about. All of the information that follows is sourced and in the public record. Secrets hiding in plain sight? It happens all the time.

DICE appear to be expanding their horizons to mobile devices with the seeming intent of bringing Battlefield franchise to mobile devices, according to job postings that went up on the developer's site last week. The FPS series has appeared on mobiles twice before—a version of Bad Company 2 and a multiplayer-oriented Battlefield 3 spin-off that was removed from the App Store because it was broken—via Spanish mobile developers Digital Legends, but DICE has never actually developed a mobile title in-house. (And there was also Canabalt-inspired take on Mirror's Edge handled by Australia's IronMonkey Studios.)

An opening for a mobility usability designer states that DICE is looking to "construct a world class gaming experience" that "is optimal in terms of accessibility and immersion for mobile and touch screen devices." Additionally, the copy on the application programmer posting says "it is [DICE's] ambition to expand outside the HD platforms and deliver the same quality experience on mobile devices," and the mobile team is "a small team within a major franchise [Editor's note: presumably Battlefield, because what else have they got?]."

The Stockholm-based studio also has a mobile online programmer posting whose responsibilities include "[integrating] mobile platform[s] with existing online and backend systems" and working on "online features such as authentication, matchmaking, server browser, statistics, etc. for DICE's future products." This may hint that DICE wants to give the multiplayer-only Battlefield mobile game another go, but perhaps this time create something that ties to the Battlelog ecosystem where a player can collect XP and stats from matches on the go that feed into their console experience and vice versa a la FIFA's EA Sports Football Club feature.

Finally, DICE is hiring for a mobile Frostbite engineer who "will be part of a team focusing on bringing Frostbite to mobile platforms and work closely with game team customers and the Frostbite team to deliver an engine as great on mobile platforms as it is on traditional HD platforms." Although Frostbite was initially just the engine for the Battlefield franchise, the engine is now the backbone for an increasingly diverse array of EA titles like Need for Speed, Command & Conquer and Dragon Age III — could we see complementary mobile experiences for those franchises that tie to console or PC counterparts, or at least more ambitious mobile spin-offs (i.e. a Dragon Age game that riffs on Infinity Blade)?

* * *

Wisconsin developer Human Head Studios seems to be bleeding talent—something that could throw their future as a AAA developer into doubt. Last month, the studio's COO—who was "leading the company in Business Development, Product Development, Marketing and PR"—and development director left.

Those who either departed or were laid off since the beginning of the year include: the company's HR manager, a game programmer, a level scripter, a lead graphics programmer, a lead programmer, a QA person, a technology programmer, an associate producer, a character and lighting artist, a combat designer (apparently technically still at HH, but contracting for another studio in another state), and an audio director. In all, that is 13 notable people who left a studio that had a headcount of around 50-70 at their peak.

Despite Human Head and Bethesda's insistence that Prey 2 is still a thing that will see release at some point, thirty-something developers are probably not enough manpower to handle development of a AAA open-world sandbox title with far more complex systems and more content than your typical linear action game, especially if Prey 2 still has a ways to go quality-wise as the publisher claims. Also, recent passive-aggressive tweets from Human Head employees do not exactly inspire the much confidence that the contractual dispute between the developer and Bethesda has even been resolved at this point.

The Prey developer did, however, recently release its first free-to-play game for Android—a cartoony tower defense title—to absolutely no fanfare, and Human Head is also trying to get a Rune sequel off the ground.

* * *

A handful of CVs appear to lend credence to Eurogamer's recent report that suggested the recently shuttered Sony Liverpool studio was working on two next-generation PlayStation 4 titles—a radically different Wipeout title and a Splinter Cell-esque stealth game—at the time of closure.

One former Studio Liverpool environmental artist states on his CV that he worked on both an "Unannounced third-person" game for Vita and "Unannounced racing game" for an unspecified "Next gen" platform during his fifteen months at the studio. Another artist says some of his work involved "an as yet, unannounced platform."

A former Liverpool programmer, describes the binned efforts as "multiplayer multiplatform projects." Another programmer mentions working on "an unannounced future racing title" after wrapping up work on Wipeout 2048 for the Vita.

Lastly, a former senior designer indicates that the studio was working on a "3rd person action/beat-em-up for Playstation Vita" before they ended up bringing Wipeout to the portable, and following Wipeout 2048's completion, he "moved onto an unpublished 3rd person action/stealth game."

* * *

Finally, a LinkedIn profile of a former art director at EA Mobile's Romania studio says he worked on an unreleased iPhone version of the classic Bullfrog strategy franchise Populous. Depending on one's point view this could be tragic or welcome news. Would this have been a fairly serious iOS port that represented the brand's original vision, or some sort of bastardization built around freemium gameplay?

It is perhaps worth noting that the Populous name did show up on a supposed EA Partners internal marketing wiki earlier this year. Since EA Partners' purview is externally-developed titles, the game alluded to in that Wiki is likely not the one EA Romania worked on, and there still might be a chance that the brand could be reduced to a social game.

superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets, and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.

Read more Assorted Scoopery! Secrets lurk within.