BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE: LIVE was an interactive live experience commissioned by EA as part of its UK launch for the latest title in the Battlefield series. I co-created the experience with Jon Cooper as part of differencEngine, co-leading concept, experience, and level design, as well as leading technology direction.

In the experience, groups of up to 5 were challenged to sneak, steal, and swindle their way through a real-life stealth mission in the Battlefield Hardline universe — where a £10,000 cash prize awaited the best team of the lot. Over ten days, hundreds of people (along with journalists and influencers) infiltrated the vaults beneath Clerkenwell Prison in London. There, they had an hour to raid a secret underworld base, rescue a VIP, and escape without getting caught.


One of our biggest (and most enjoyable) challenges in designing BATTLEFIELD HARDLINE: LIVE was crafting a live experience that gave audiences the thrill of a high-stakes first-person shooter without ever putting them — or our performers — in harm’s way.

We started by crafting a story that emphasized stealth and secrecy, taking inspiration from the console game’s Heist and Rescue modes. Participants were encouraged by their point of contact sneak or talk their way out of sticky situations; if they failed, their contact “on the inside” had a number of different ways to help them escape.

This inside contact was one of the only performers who had prop weapons on them. They could help the group by disabling guards using hand-to-hand combat or using smoke grenades ("tear gas") to cover an escape route. If the situation escalated, the character could even evacuate the participants into an escape vehicle before running back into the building, gun drawn; participants would then hear the sounds of a gun battle from their vantage point before the performer returned to help the group flee.

By having our performer abstract and handle any violent action, we gave audiences a way to experience the thrill of these moments without putting themselves in direct danger or feeling as though they needed to be confrontational to be successful in their mission.

Designing this experience was especially challenging given our use of Grade II-listed Clerkenwell Prison as one of our locations. Grade II buildings in the UK have strict restrictions around structural alterations, which meant designing and building freestanding walls and rooms to mount our technology equipment, divide existing spaces, and redirect game flow. The experience's climactic moment took place in a wholly free-standing bank vault and safety deposit room, replete with a functional vault door. (Our learnings from this project later helped differencEngine partner with Historic Royal Palaces in 2017 to design and stage THE PEOPLE’S REVOLT in the Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)

In addition to co-designing the gameplay, story, and leading technology, I also co-designed the live scoring system for the £10,000 challenge. We used time as the key factor, dividing the total amount of time taken to complete the job (groups had up to an hour) by the total dollar amount of the “loot” they retrieved during their job, with time penalties given for alerting guards or participants getting caught.