Titanfall is a damn good game. I’m really happy Respawn was able to emerge through all of its legal challenges and produce a genuine competitor to Call of Duty. Something that actually pushed forward a genre that was in dire need of it. And it’s wonderful we got our local servers. But it’ll be a short-lived victory. Here’s why.
First of all, while Titanfall is a step forward for FPS in that it incorporates mastering movement as well as aim, it’s not that much of a step forward. Incremental progress can be expected with a triple-A title, and I wasn’t expected movement to have as much of an impact on play as something like the fantastic Tribes: Ascend. But I at least expected there to be more use of their core movement gameplay.
Some maps seem to make great use of parkour, and some seem to be terrible. Some have interesting open spaces where pilots are forced to confront titans, whereas others have open spaces which seem like they were designed for a different game. And no map gives you the ability to load up an offline game to simply practice your movement.
That’s key. For anyone wanting to get good at the game, this is a serious obstacle, and many won’t bother vaulting over it. There’s been a lot less YouTube videos showcasing impressive play than expected for a game this big, and a lot less tutorials, because people simply aren’t as good as they could be. There’s a type of player that loves figuring out the quickest route from A to B, while working in a nade throw halfway through to make sure the landing is clear. That player isn’t being serviced.
Another player not getting as much out of the game as possible is your competitive gamer. Also a fan of figuring out the quickest routes, albeit not for the pure love of exploration, but moreso the joy of dominating peers.
You can clan up and take on public servers in Titanfall, but that proves nothing. The ability to host a private match just came in, though it looks like even after future updates we’ll still only have barebones options like round time. No options to facilitate eSports, such as clan vs clan or spectator functionality.
Why does that matter? Because those are the players who keep things interesting. Playing Titanfall right now feels like all the strategies, routes, and philosophies have already been discovered. No one is pushing things forward, discovering new ways to play. The elite players might be a small portion of a game’s population, but they’re crucial to keeping it going.
So we come back to longevity. If players feel that there’s nothing left to discover, conquer, or achieve, why keep playing? They’ll walk away, think “yeah, Titanfall was pretty fun”, and play something else. And with the amount of space it takes on PC, they’ll very likely uninstall to free up 50GB on their SSD.
While it feels good to (finally) be in an ecosystem where ignoring competitive play actually hurts the bottom line, it’s discouraging to see developers still not acting on it. Now that DLC is expected, longevity is lucrative. No one’s going to buy your new maps and weapons if no one is there.
With the many different types of players, there have been a few different systems trying to categorise players, but I always come back to the Bartle system. It’s simple, and has no unnecessary fat. We’ve talked about those who like to explore the game’s new systems. We’ve talked about competitive gamers. What about Achievers?
What is there for them, aside from a few virtual numbers and achievements that really, when all is said and done, just say “I spent a lot of time in this game”? That’s an okay enough treadmill for some people, and some I’ve talked to in-game are even addicted to Titanfall’s equivalent of prestige, but for others, it’s a hollow progression system. It’s unfortunate that’s what passes for a metagame these days, as I’d love to have something meaningful to display on my profile, be that Steam, Origin, or anything. But achievements and ranks that require effort, skill, or just playing the game in a different/fun/interesting way are far too rare.
Last up is the Socialiser, which Titanfall isn’t really targeting. And most players I’ve seen trying to chat get overlooked as they reach out for a connection in that tiny font Titanfall gives you. I have no server population numbers, and can’t comment on whether players are dwindling. But I do know it’s already 20% off on Origin.
Longevity is lucrative. And Titanfall shot itself in the foot when it comes to longevity. Let’s see if they can expand the custom match feature, and give us more ways to properly explore their game. All we want to do is play better. If it’s too hard, a potential Game of the Year will instead be something we all remember as “pretty fun”, before we uninstalled and played something else.