Titanfall's beta is now public and reactions are almost overwhelmingly positive but, for Australians, one issue remains: local servers. Do they matter? Is the absence affecting online experiences and, if so, when will that problem be fixed?
Both Respawn and EA have been reluctant to comment. There is little either company can do about the server situation. The issue lies with Microsoft and the Azure Data Centres it uses to run online games. For Australians the closest data centre is in Singapore and players are reporting pings in the early 100s at best. In the worst case players have to contend with pings over 230.
Players seem divided on whether the high pings are, in fact, an issue. I asked my followers on Twitter if the issue was noticable, and replies were evenly spread. Some seemed to think it was an issue, some called the game unplayable, but a huge number claim to be playing without incident. Respawn's netcode appears to be solid, and with many in-game encounters focused on AI grunts, even those with a high ping have found the game playable in bursts.
But reports on Respawn's official forums have been less friendly. Many are calling the server issues a genuine game breaker, particularly PC players used to playing games with better, local connections. As a general rule, console players, who primarily play online games on Xbox LIVE, have become more accustomed to poor connections. It's also worth noting that, in many asian regions, the Xbox One is still unavailable. The situation may change once more and more users begin straining the Singapore Azure Centre.
The major issue is this: Titanfall is a multiplayer game. There is no single player campaign. Meaning that, without local servers, Australians will most likely be paying more for a less satisfactory experience. In other words: players are right to complain. If you don't notice an issue, more power to you. If players are having issues, that is a legitimate problem and it should be addressed.
But is the issue being addressed? The truth is we don't know.
Here's what we do know: Microsoft has already committed to launching Azure Centres in NSW and Victoria. These are the centres currently being used to host games globally. According to some rumours, servers are already being installed in North Ryde, but they are not currently active. Microsoft has yet to announce a timeline for the launch of the servers, but some sources seem to suggest the Azure Center in Sydney will launch in May. At the very latest, both will be up and running before the end of this year. Hopefully.
That's the good news. These Azure Centers will not be available upon the launch of Titanfall in Australia, but they will be up and running at some point in the game's lifespan. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
"Our teams are hard at work to bring the new region online as soon as possible," a Microsoft spokesperson informed Kotaku. "We aren‚Äôt providing specific guidance on launch timeframes at this point."
There is, however, a secondary issue. Although Azure Centres are being launched in Australia, Microsoft has yet to confirm if it will actually use these centres for its gaming division. In short: even if we do have Azure Centres in New South Wales and Victoria, there is no guarantee these centres will be used to host games of Titanfall.
Azure Centres are being built specifically to aid Microsoft's Windows Azure service, which provides easily accessible storage to businesses. Local centres are designed to provide a more secure, speedy service for local businesses. That's the priority for Microsoft, not video games.
"[W]e have only announced that we will be offering Windows Azure services out of our Australian infrastructure," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "We have not made any announcements in relation to other services."
There is a high chance these Azure Centres will be used to host games at some point (Respawn, at least, seems to agree). The question is when? When will they be built? When will Australians have the chance to engage on a level playing field with the rest of the world?
At this stage, we simply don't have a concrete answer either way.