Q&A

EDGE - - THE MAKING OF... - Steven DeRose Se­nior game de­signer

What did you want to achieve in Ti­tan­fall

2’ s mul­ti­player?

When ask­ing play­ers what they wanted, the an­swer most of the time was sim­ply ‘more stuff’. So we added things like a grap­ple and slide to re­in­force move­ment and give more op­tions. We were also try­ing to tackle is­sues that might be caus­ing burnout, so that led to the changes to the Ti­tans. In the first game you could freely cus­tomise your Ti­tan but that led to peo­ple find­ing the best op­tions, and that led to just two vi­able choices. So we broke up the Ti­tans into dif­fer­ent playstyles to re­in­force the meta, and have a bit more depth.

Could you make many changes to the tac­ti­cal re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pi­lot and Ti­tan?

We iden­ti­fied as four ‘food groups’ for com­bat: Pi­lot ver­sus Pi­lot, Pi­lot ver­sus Ti­tan, Ti­tan ver­sus Pi­lot, and Ti­tan ver­sus Ti­tan, and we’re con­stantly look­ing at those re­la­tion­ships. In this game we were try­ing to give Pi­lots a sup­port role for friendly Ti­tans. So we made the bat­tery sys­tem, where by ei­ther get­ting a boost or rodeo­ing an en­emy Ti­tan you can bring a bat­tery back to a friendly Ti­tan to heal them up, and that also gets you your Ti­tan faster.

Bounty Hunt was the big new mode in Ti­tan­fall 2. How did it come about?

It came at the end of the project; we wanted to have an­other AI mode in the game, po­ten­tially one where the AI wasn’t ran­domly scat­tered but in fo­cal points to en­cour­age com­bat to have more di­rec­tion. And we wanted to in­crease the va­ri­ety of AI com­bat, which shows up in the dif­fer­ent AI and the boss Ti­tans that pe­ri­od­i­cally ap­pear. The money and banks was an ef­fort to add con­se­quence to your death, and to give you a sense of se­cu­rity when you’re a Ti­tan. en­tirely through its phys­i­cal per­for­mance. Lee Wil­son took over the stu­dio’s mo­tion-cap­ture room to act out BT’s run, walk and ges­tures, em­body­ing its great power and grace, steadily nar­row­ing to­wards set­ting the strong and re­as­sur­ing pres­ence it has in the fi­nal game.

“It was im­por­tant that the player felt re­as­sured, be­cause you’re go­ing to be this per­son stranded be­hind en­emy lines, ma­rooned with this strange ro­bot,” says Fukuda. “There’s a sense that, as the new player to Ti­tan­fall, you needed some­one you could trust, some­one re­li­able and safe.” In the first it­er­a­tions of BT’s script, how­ever, it erred to­wards the bossy. They wanted to avoid Op­ti­mus Prime, and they also needed it to per­form the role of the player’s main ob­jec­tive-giver.

Part of the so­lu­tion was to cre­ate con­ver­sa­tions be­tween player and mech, in­tended as a way of strength­en­ing their bond with BT with­out re­sort­ing to cutscenes. But they raised some con­tro­versy in the stu­dio: if they were mak­ing Half-Life, shouldn’t they have a silent pro­tag­o­nist? When the script had BT ask­ing if the player was OK af­ter they’d fallen down a pit, Fukuda re­alised there was room for a re­sponse from the player char­ac­ter. These mo­ments of di­a­logue choice are a mi­nor flour­ish for a game that’s about wall-run­ning across chasms and giant mechs hit­ting each other with swords. But they give a lit­tle space for self­ex­pres­sion, and even a gen­tly pro­gres­sive air among all the bul­lets, fol­low­ing the same path (if to a very dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tion) as games like Ken­tucky Route Zero. Ac­ci­den­tally. “Ac­tu­ally, I played Fire­watch long af­ter the game shipped and I didn’t know about it at the time, but, ‘Oh, these guys did it al­ready!’” Fukuda says.

Much of the flex­i­bil­ity with which the pieces of Ti­tan­fall 2’ s cam­paign came to­gether is a di­rect re­sult of its en­gine, which al­lows de­sign­ers a great deal of power to script their own lev­els. The en­gine is Source, which pow­ers Half-Life 2 and Por­tal 2, but was heav­ily mod­ded to build the orig­i­nal Ti­tan­fall. Dur­ing the mak­ing of the first game, Hag­gerty and his team had en­tirely bro­ken the orig­i­nal Valve code that saves and loads level progress. Back then it wasn’t nec­es­sary for a mul­ti­player game, but to re­in­state it for the se­quel’s cam­paign was a huge hur­dle.

The script­ing sys­tem was en­tirely made by Respawn, too, and it en­abled de­sign­ers to con­struct even Ti­tan­fall 2’ s most tech­ni­cal-seem­ing mo­ments. Ef­fect And Cause was not the work of pro­gram­mers but of its de­signer, Jake Keat­ing. Look­ing back at the way Ti­tan­fall 2’ s cam­paign is con­structed of hun­dreds of lit­tle blocks of play, it’s clear that it’s en­abled by the fact its de­sign­ers could quickly pro­duce their own di­ver­gent takes on what mechs and Pi­lots can do.

There’s one se­quence dur­ing Into The Abyss, in which pre­fab­ri­cated chunks of build­ings and ground con­struct them­selves into the level around you for a sin­gle en­counter, be­fore it whisks you on to some­thing com­pletely new. It em­bod­ies the spirit of Ti­tan­fall 2’ s cam­paign: it’s a game about hy­per­ac­tive move­ment and thun­der­ing power, built from one daz­zling set-piece af­ter an­other.

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