Titanfall

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Titanfall
Titanfall box art.jpg
Developer(s)Respawn Entertainment
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Steve Fukuda[1]
Producer(s)Drew McCoy
Designer(s)Justin Hendry
Artist(s)Joel Emslie
Composer(s)Stephen Barton
EngineSource
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Release date(s)
Genre(s)First-person shooter
Mode(s)Online multiplayer
 
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Titanfall
Titanfall box art.jpg
Developer(s)Respawn Entertainment
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Steve Fukuda[1]
Producer(s)Drew McCoy
Designer(s)Justin Hendry
Artist(s)Joel Emslie
Composer(s)Stephen Barton
EngineSource
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
Xbox 360
Xbox One
Release date(s)
Genre(s)First-person shooter
Mode(s)Online multiplayer

Titanfall is a 2014 first-person shooter multiplayer video game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts exclusively for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The game was released for Windows and Xbox One on March 11, 2014, with an Xbox 360 release to follow in April. Respawn was formed in 2010 by the co-founders of Infinity Ward, the development studio behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The company announced Titanfall as their debut game at Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference.

In Titanfall, players compete in six-on-six online multiplayer-only matches set on a war-torn planet, playing as mech-style Titans and their pilots. The game's action is fast-paced: as pilots, players can run along walls and link jumps together parkour-style, as well as employ special abilities such as cloaking; as Titans, players are equipped with more destructive armaments and special protective shields. Several gameplay elements were designed to increase the game's accessibility, such as a locking pistol, the supplementing of each team with weak AI bots for easier kills, and temporary power-ups. Respawn describes the game as bringing "scale, verticality, and story" to first-person shooter multiplayer gaming, incorporating elements traditionally used in single-player campaigns. The game uses Microsoft's cloud computing services to offload non-player activity to servers and optimize the home computer for graphical performance.

The game won over 60 awards at its E3 reveal, including a record-breaking six E3 Critics Awards, and Best of Show from several media outlets. It also won official awards at Gamescom and the Tokyo Game Show. Many reviewers predicted Titanfall to be the next step for the first-person shooter genre, and IGN's Ryan McCaffrey declared the game "Microsoft's killer app". The game received "very positive" reviews, according to video game review score aggregator Metacritic. Reviewers praised the game's pilot–Titan balance and overall accessibility for players of all skill sets.

Gameplay

Promotional screenshot

Players fight either on foot as free-running "Pilots" or inside agile mech-style walkers called "Titans" to complete team-based objectives[2][3] on a derelict and war-torn planet[4] as either the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) or the Militia.[5] The game is online multiplayer-only, but adds single-player elements such as plot, character dialogue, and non-player characters (NPCs).[6] Bit-tech reported the game to have 15 maps, 33 weapons, and splitscreen support for the online multiplayer, though the developer had previously denied the latter.[7] Respawn founder Vince Zampella described the game as bringing "scale, verticality, and story" to first-person shooter multiplayer gaming.[8]

Up to twelve human players[9] choose their pilot types and are dropped on the map, beginning the game.[10] A timer displays the time until a Titan can be deployed, which is reduced by killing other players.[10] Once deployed, Titans are protected by a forcefield for about 30 seconds, which protects the player-pilot as well.[10] Unlike player-characters in games like Call of Duty and Battlefield,[11] pilots are agile and accumulate momentum while running (similar to Tribes),[8] which lets players run on walls, chain together jet pack-enabled double jumps, vault over obstacles, and glide across ziplines.[11] There are multiple types of Titans, each with unique abilities and animations.[8] Pilot and Titan controls are identical except where the pilot's double jump becomes the Titan's dash,[8] as Titans cannot jump.[10] The Titans, somewhere between battle tanks and the robot mecha of Gundam and Macross,[11] are not slow, but their movement is slower than the nimble pilots.[10] Titan game-balancing abilities include the vortex blocker, which stops and returns enemy ammunition in midair, and electrified smoke, which hurts and repels pilots climbing the Titan's back.[8] Pilot abilities include the Smart Pistol, which shoots around corners.[12] Player-pilots can eject from Titans that take too much damage, and the Titan replacement timer is reset upon the Titan's death.[10] Titans can also act autonomously when put in guard and follow modes, which directs the Titan either to protect their vicinity or to tail their pilot, respectively.[13] Games end with a race to the losing team's evacuation dropship.[10]

There are three Titan classes (the agile Atlas, the ponderous Ogre, and the nimble Stryder),[14] 15 multiplayer maps, and multiple multiplayer modes. In Attrition, a traditional Team Deathmatch, teams compete for the greatest kill count, and bot kills are counted. Pilot Hunter is similar to Attrition, but does not count bot kills. In Hardpoint Domination, the object is to capture and defend areas of the map. In Last Titan Standing, players begin the match in Titans and have a single life. There is also a Capture the Flag mode.[11]

The game's "Campaign multiplayer" is separate from the game's "Classic" multiplayer. It plays as multiplayer with single-player elements, such as scripted cinematic sequences, non-playable character dialogue, and audio briefings. There are separate campaigns for the Militia and IMC factions, and the game randomly assigns the player to one for a series of nine maps.[11] The Militia are the civilian military of the Frontier and the resistance against IMC use of colony resources. Their most important members include Titan War veteran and former mutiny leader MacAllan, intel specialist and engineer Bish, and Marauder Corps leader Sarah.[15][16] The corporate conglomerate IMC specializes in natural resource extraction, and came to the resource-rich Frontier for business. Their major players are Frontier operations commander-in-chief Vice Admiral Graves, intel specialist Blisk, and artificial intelligence companion Spyglass.[17][18] A new Titan chassis is unlocked upon finishing each faction's campaign.[11]


Development

Following Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's release, Activision fired Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in March 2010 for "breaches of contract and insubordination".[19][20] Their departure resulted in a series of lawsuits[20] and a staff exodus.[21][22] Later that year, West and Zampella founded a game development company, Respawn Entertainment, with many of the former Infinity Ward staff.[20] Pre-production began in 2011, and the game was originally planned for existing consoles.[4] The idea for the game did not come easily, and the team arrived at its multiplayer-only and human-mech focus after much internal debate.[4] Respawn artist Joel Emslie recalled starting with a human-sized suit as a "second skin", which the designers grew in size.[4] As Respawn didn't have the necessary computers, the artists resorted to kitbashing and model making[23]—Emslie prototyped by putting a figurine inside a plastic model kit.[4] Project influences include Blade Runner, Star Wars, Abrams Battle Tank,[23] and Masamune Shirow of Ghost in the Shell.[24] At E3 2011, Electronic Arts Labels president Frank Gibeau revealed that Respawn's first project was a science fiction shooter published by Electronic Arts.[20] Two project leads left the company to begin their own studio in mid-2012, and West retired in March 2013.[20]

Rather than responding to the outgoing console generation's technical restrictions with code optimization and a tight release near the end of the consoles' life cycle, the team decided to focus on the next console generation with more time to try new ideas.[4] Zampella announced that Respawn would show at E3 2013 via Twitter on February 25, 2013.[25] Their planned announcement leaked early through the premature release of Game Informer's July 2013 issue on Google Play, which revealed their first game's title, premise, and release date.[26] Other advance public information included the company's trademark filing for "Titan" in April 2013,[27] and an April 2013 Kotaku report of the game's Titan mech gameplay and Xbox One exclusivity.[28] The game was officially announced during Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference, with expected Windows PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One releases in Q1[26] 2014.[2][29] The Xbox 360 version was announced as in development with Respawn's support at another studio,[2] Bluepoint Games, whose name was not released until January 2014.[30] Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen later added that the Microsoft exclusivity agreement would last "for the life of the title"—that other consoles, including the PlayStation 4, will never receive a Titanfall port.[31][note 1] The team's small size—less than a quarter of similar triple A studios—also contributed to the game's exclusivity.[4]

Respawn Titanfall team at E3 2013

The 65-person[4] development team experimented with different gameplay before consolidating to three goals: "player mobility, survivability, and the merging of cinematic design with fast-paced action".[33] They identified contemporary first-person shooters as restricted to "a single plane of movement", the cardinal directions and hiding in place, and considered new features to increase mobility, such as a three-story-high jump.[33] Final mobility features include wall running and the pilot's jump kit, which allows for double jumps.[33] Additionally, the game does not cordon off parts of the environment.[33] Concerning survivability, Respawn chose to populate the environment with dozens of computer-controlled characters to give players the reward of consecutive kills while reducing the player deaths necessary in return.[33] The team spent significant time balancing the "cat and mouse" combat between pilots and Titans.[4] They also annulled advanced sniping techniques known as "quickscoping and no-scoping".[9] Thirdly, the cinematic storytelling segments associated with single-player campaigns were merged into the multiplayer mode.[1]

The decision to combine modes allowed Respawn to conserve resources traditionally split between separate teams.[4] Player count changed weekly and was playtested often, more as a question of design than technical feasibility.[4] Early Titanfall playtest players did not realize that they were playing against human opponents for over 45 minutes.[4] Respawn originally tested teams of eight, 12, and various decreasing sizes before they decided on teams of six[13] as a matter of game design.[9] Lead designer Justin Hendry said that more human players make the game "uncomfortable" not due to overcrowding but to the intensity of maintaining one's surroundings against many points of entrance.[13] Producer Drew McCoy wrote that the non-human artificial intelligence (AI) players were not bots meant to replace humans, but "a different class of character in the game".[34] Each team supports up to 12 AI players alongside the human players' autonomous mode Titans, for close to 50 active characters per game.[13] The AI players were designed to enliven the battlefield environment with a greater sense of scale and drama, and to increase the game's complexity with new opportunities for strategy and cannon fodder for Titans.[35] McCoy said the team's foremost goal was to make the game fun.[4]

Respawn chose to build Titanfall on the Source game engine early in their production cycle due to their developers' familiarity and its ability to maintain 60 frames per second on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.[4] In an interview, Respawn software engineer Richard Baker said the company chose Source since Portal 2 performed well on the PlayStation 3 with it, and the console was "the riskiest platform in current gen".[4] The company built upon the engine during development in features such as lighting, rendering, visibility, networking, and tools pipelines.[36] The game also uses Microsoft's cloud computing for multiplayer servers, physics, and artificial intelligence.[26] Offloading this non-player activity frees the local console for visual rendering tasks and better graphics,[4] and the developers for game development (instead of backend maintenance).[37] This arrangement also determines world events in the cloud instead of locally, so position and movement data is downloaded simultaneously by all player-clients.[4] The studio's cloud server access is considered vital to the game's viability,[37][38] and Respawn artist Joel Emslie said they would not have attempted this game without the cloud support.[4] Respawn felt that Kinect support did not suit the game and chose not to support the peripheral.[39] The development team reported considerable interest in support for esports competitive play, and while such features were not prioritized for the initial release, Respawn indicated that esports accommodations were under consideration for future iterations.[40]

Audio

The game's music is composed by Stephen Barton. He had previously worked on Call of Duty soundtracks and with Metal Gear Solid composer Harry Gregson-Williams. Titanfall's soundtrack was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London,[41] with some specialty ethnic instrumentation recorded in Los Angeles.[42] Barton joined the project in early 2013. The game's E3 demo had sparse, placeholder audio and did not feature any final mixes, which were expected to be completed by November 2013. Barton sought to make the soundtrack "distinctive", with several main themes that build through the game.[41] The music was designed "as commentary", to not compete with the action.[43] As a multiplayer game, Barton produced a large number of tracks to avoid repetition. The sound ranges from "a very abused hurdy gurdy to heavy electronics" to "Morricone-esque baritone guitars".[41] Barton emphasized "taking sounds out of their context" to match the game's lawless futuristic setting.[43] The two opposing Titanfall teams each have their own musical fingerprints.[41]

Release and marketing

Titanfall was released on Xbox One and Windows PC (via Origin[44]) in North America on March 11, 2014, in Europe[5][45] and Australia on the 13th,[46] and in the United Kingdom[5] and New Zealand on the 14th.[47][note 2] The delayed Xbox 360 release developed by Bluepoint Games is scheduled for release in North America on April 8, 2014, and in Europe on April 11, 2014.[49] The PC version did not include modding tools at launch,[9] though it did support the Xbox 360 controller.[50] The game was feature complete as of December 2013, and the Respawn team continued to address game bugs and balancing issues before launch.[39] Respawn ran a closed beta test with an open registration in February 2014.[51] An Xbox One patch to bring support for Twitch streaming video was designed to coincide with Titanfall's release.[52] A planned post-release PC patch will add 4K video and Nvidia graphics processing unit support.[53] Shortly after release, Electronic Arts noted several game-related technical issues and workarounds on its website.[54]

Respawn produced both free and paid post-release downloadable content (DLC) and offered a season pass discount for pre-purchasing. The free updates include features such as private matches that were left out of the original release for time restrictions. The game does not use micro-transactions.[55] Electronic Arts designed the game's digital strategy to coexist with their other shooter, Battlefield 4.[56]

The collector's edition includes a Titan statue set in a LED-lit diorama, an art book, and a poster.[5][45] A limited edition Xbox One wireless controller designed after the game's C-101 carbine weapon launched alongside the game. It was built to feel like "a piece of military spec hardware transported from the universe of Titanfall ... into players' hands".[57] An Xbox One console bundle was released simultaneously with the game, and includes a digital copy of Titanfall and a month of Xbox Live at the price of the standalone console.[58]

K'Nex announced a toy marketing tie-in for 2014.[59] Respawn announced other marketing tie-ins in late January including apparel, Jinx clothing, Mad Catz peripherals (keyboards, mice, mouse pads, headsets), posters, Prima strategy guides, a Titan Books art book, Turtle Beach Xbox One headsets, USB flash drives.[60] Before release, Electronic Arts and Respawn unveiled a browser game collection of three Atari games (Asteroids, Missile Command, and Centipede) with an added Titanfall theme.[61] Respawn also announced forthcoming Titanfall live action content from a partnership with Canadian postproduction studio Playfight.[62]

Reception

Pre-release

Gamescom 2013, where Titanfall won two awards

Titanfall took over 60 awards at its E3 2013 reveal,[12] including a record-breaking six E3 Critics Awards: Best in Show, Best Original Game, Best Console Game, Best PC Game, Best Action Game, and Best Online Multiplayer.[63] The game also won Best in Show from IGN,[64] Destructoid,[65] Game Informer,[66] and Electronic Gaming Monthly.[67] Reporting for Polygon at E3, Arthur Gies praised the "dynamism" between the Titan's brute force and the pilots' objective-based stealth as the game's greatest asset.[4] IGN's Ryan McCaffrey declared Titanfall both "Microsoft's killer app" and multiplayer gaming's "next big thing", adding, "You will buy an Xbox One for Titanfall, and you should."[68] Forbes's Erik Kain similarly predicted the game to be a "huge selling point" for the Xbox One.[69] The game won Best Next Generation Console Game and Best Xbox Game at Gamescom 2013.[70] The game was introduced to Japan at the 2013 Tokyo Game Show,[71] where the response was "overwhelmingly positive"[24] and it won a Future Award.[72] Titanfall won "Most Anticipated Game" at VGX 2013.[73] Many reviewers considered Titanfall to be the next step for the first-person shooter genre.[68][69][74]

In response to fan upset over the announcement of six-player teams, Ben Kuchera of Polygon defended the size as "just where it needs to be".[75] The Verge's Vlad Savov wrote that wall running "hasn't felt this good since ... the Prince of Persia series".[12]

Reviews

The game received very positive reviews, according to video game review score aggregator Metacritic.[79] Reviewers praised the game's pilot–Titan balance[11] and the game's accessibility for players of all skill sets.[11]

Arthur Gies of Polygon wrote that the game's controls felt streamlined and natural.[11] He said that he found his awareness of the potential strengths and vulnerabilities of his choices empowering.[11]

Awards

Notes and references

Notes
  1. ^ In February 2014, Zampella tweeted that Respawn was discussing an OS X port for release some time after launch.[32]
  2. ^ The game's South African release was cancelled due to poor connectivity performance during the beta and no nearby Microsoft Azure data center in the region. Australia, in a similar predicament, used Singapore's servers at the time of launch.[48]
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