After a wave of backlash from dismayed fans, Respawn have commented on Titanfall’s announced 6v6 player cap. Drew McCoy of Respawn ventured forth into the dangerous and often murky waters of NeoGAF in order to talk to fans directly.
The big topic, of course, was that many gamers feel for a next-generation title having such a small player count is a genuine problem. However, Respawn don’t agree:
“What about high player counts makes that more fun, though? I honestly want to know, because this kind of stuff is super important and we obsess over it every day.” Said Drew, pitching a question that few on Neogaf seemed able to answer. Of course the same argument can be made the other way around: what makes a small player count any better?
“we tried a huge amount of playercounts (all the way down to 1v1 and up quite high) and designed the maps, gameplay mechanics, and entire experience around which played best. If anyone wants to chase the numbers game, perhaps we’re not the experience they’re after?”
” Remember, you can get out of your Titan and let it roam on AI mode – meaning there can be 12 Pilots wallrunning around, 12 Titans stomping below, and dozens of AI doing their thing.”
This last remark naturally sparked some debate about the use of bots in the game, and once again Respawn were to be commended in being quick to respond to fans, saying: ” The AI in Titanfall are not replacements for human players. Our playercount is not 6v6 because of AI – AI play their own role in the game and are a different class of character in the game.”
Indeed it’s worth noting that the AI can’t call in mechs of their own. One of their primary reasons for existence seems to be to create flowing gameplay for the real players as they build towards getting a Titanfall, while also giving less skilled players a chance to rack up the kills without dying every five seconds. Essentially the AI are there so everyone gets to feel awesome. Some have argued this approach is too newb friendly, but using this method there’s still plenty of room for genuinely highly skilled players to rip everything apart.
Most of all Respawn were keen to stress that if a high player count is your thing then Titanfall is most likely not for you: “None of us are diluted enough to think we’re making a game that fits every gamer. We’re making a game we think is badass, and hope other people do it. So far, you haven’t really been able to tell me what it is about larger player counts that makes any of this stuff better or more fun. Other than “it is”. And thats fine if thats your opinion, I’m just wanting to dig deeper into why. I’ve spent hundreds of hours setting up playtest sessions with players from all walks – from the iPhone Angry Birds player, to the hardcore clan players of various FPS games, and getting into the “why” of what makes a game fun for different people is a huge question.”
Speaking to Polygon, Respawn’s head designer, Justin Hendry, explained why having more players wasn’t a good thing: “The higher the player count, the more uncomfortable the game gets,” he said. “Unlike in most games where you can sit there and guard the two ways in, in Titanfall the guy can come in through the window right behind you, he can come from the window to your left, he can come from straight ahead, he can come in from the stairway and he can come in from the doorway, or whatever. Essentially there are five directions you can get killed from and the higher that player count, the more likely you are to get killed from behind and the more difficult it is to kind of manage your surroundings.”
Some users have argued that Battlefield 4 has a high player count but doesn’t suffer from this problem, offering plenty of breathing room. This, however, is a flawed argument as Titanfall’s maps need to offer a tight layout as player’s are meant to make the most of their jetpacks to get the jump on other players. Absurdly large maps with plenty of open space would defeat this idea, and simply throwing more players into the game would result in it feeling crowded.
“It just comes back to what makes the game fun,” Hendry said. “If you’re making a game and you’re making decisions that’s not based on fun because you’re trying to please someone or trying to match numbers, you’re not doing the right thing.
“Why not make Call of Duty 256 players, or Battlefield 256 or 512? Maybe that would be awesome. Maybe that would be awesome for that type of game built around that, but you can’t just jam players into a game and say this is what is ordained.”
Personally I’m with Respawn here. To me the player count doesn’t matter, it’s how it’s designed, and thus far from all the video footage I’ve watched the player count and game design have been matched perfectly.