We spoke to Titanfall's lead artist, Joel Emslie, at this year's E3 and found out more about the story-driven multiplayer shooter from Respawn Entertainment.
Little was known about the game before its reveal during Microsoft's conference at this year's event, and many were intrigued by the way story would be implemented. We asked what kind of world the game would be based in: "It's a grounded, genuine world," Emslie told us. "I think the goal visually, and idea wise, was to take a gameplay that people are really familiar with and comfortable, and start building a bridge into this new kind of gameplay that we're getting into, which is the interaction, the loop with the Titan and the pilot, the multiplayer campaign mode that we've got going, and just really build a bridge into that and get people, first thing boots on the ground, very comfortable, and then start letting them go nuts with it."
First impressions led us to think that this might be some kind of asymmetric shooter, but Emslie clarified: "It's symmetrical gameplay because we want everything to be fair and balanced. Balance is crucial in getting this to feel right, and it took us forever to get it right."
He went on: "But as far as the story goes, the multiplayer campaign, there is an asymmetry to that in the way of the story. Each side has a different goal and role in the multiplayer campaign's story. It's told from both sides, you see it from both sides, and it's told through these hero characters that you interact with, and you see them on that little video display unit in the screen. And sometimes you'll see them in the world, like for example the stuff that they're showing in the theatre [at E3], you're seeing some of those characters in the drop-ship with you. We're trying to tie that all in."
Working with next-gen tech inspired the studio to experiment with advanced AI, as they didn't want the computer-controlled allies required to deliver narrative to feel like bots: "The first challenge is trying to get really good AI into a multiplayer game space. Quite honestly, we might not have attempted doing that had it not been for the cloud and dedicated servers, and what the cloud's giving us with dedicated servers. That opened our eyes to something, some possibilities, and we started going down that path."
Story-driven multiplayer campaigns are few and far between, and Emslie took time to explain to us what we're going to get with Titanfall: "You're starting off in a drop-ship. You're with a militia side. You're going down, your fleet's low on fuel. As a player you're hopping into this drop ship up in space. They give you the sense that: "we're really desperate, we've got to go down there. It's very dangerous, not everybody's going to make it." You warp down in, you jump out of that drop-ship, you hit the ground, with boots on the ground, you work your way through the environment. You try to really secure the area as best you can for the mission."
"Eventually you'll earn your Titan - they'll be prepping it up in orbit - you can earn that Titan to come down, and then the game really starts taking off and getting going. And the idea is to complete the multiplayer mission as best you can, win or lose, and get to a drop-ship at the end, go to an evac point. And what we've been trying to do is, we've been trying to secure the area, get to the LZ and other players were talking to each other and trying to secure it so that everybody could make it out safe. So it's this real smooth experience that you'd expect in single player, but we're giving it to you in multiplayer now."
We also discussed the inclusion of the game-changing giant robots, with Elmsie describing that, and by implication the whole game, as a "super gamble". We're looking forward to seeing if that gamble pays off when the game launches in Spring, 2014.