Battlefield games take place in urban environments, and even in the most war-torn regions on earth, those places are still usually full of people. Ever wonder why none of them are around while you're capturing command points?
It's not a technological limitation. It's a design decision based, and I think this is the right call, on the behaviour of most players of multiplayer shooters.
The game's producer, Patrick Bach, tells Rock Paper Shotgun that "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…"
"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."
Which might make for an amusing chuckle from a teenager and some awkward YouTube compilations, it could be bad news for the game's developer, publisher and its legal team.
"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."
Truth be told I never even noticed the lack of civilians in the games, given their "arena" style of combat. That said, I've always wanted more of them around in war games, particularly contemporary ones; not as target practice, but as combat limiters.
We're trained via games to shoot at anything that moves. It'd be great to see us have to put a little restraint on that, consider that the consequences of putting a rocket into a second-story apartment may be greater than simply removing a sniper. It might be killing that sniper's neighbours, kids and dog as well.
But that's for another game and another time. Battlefield is about driving tanks, shooting people and crashing planes, and dammit, that's how it should stay!
Why You Can't Shoot Civilians In Battlefield 3 [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]