Titanfall 2 is about to drop. It’s out today in Australia (we Aussies get a good deal, sometimes), and hits North America and other regions in the next few hours. It’s been a long time coming for developer Respawn, whose first entry on Xbox platforms and PC was well-received both critically and commercially, leading to a wider release for the sequel in 2016.
Thankfully, EA has decided to bring the game to PlayStation gamers, which is good news for the industry. I had a chance to speak to Titanfall 2 art director Joel Emslie and Respawn COO Dusty Welch about the campaign, and why it was so important to bring a new storytelling device to the Titanfall experience.
“It was really interesting,” Emslie said. “The community was loud and clear that we should consider doing single-player. We’d been doing single-player for years before starting Respawn and doing Titanfall, but we made it clear with Titanfall 1 that we wanted to tackle online and figure out the server and netcode, really iron that out.”
Much of the Respawn team had worked at Infinity Ward on the Modern Warfare series, last having worked on Modern Warfare 2. That’s a long time between drinks for a studio that has focused exclusively on multiplayer for almost a decade.
“It was a new console generation, so it was a huge job to figure that out,” Emslie said of the focus on multiplayer. “It’s interesting: you normally develop the other way around in single-player first and then multiplayer. At Respawn we have two separate teams, a multiplayer team and a single-player team. Bringing that multiplayer experience into a single-player space was really our goal. The guiding light was listening to players, looking at what they wanted for multiplayer.”
That philosophy worked out well for the first game: it went on to sell almost three million copies, and was well-received by critics. “Ultimately what they wanted,” Emslie continued, “was a way better multiplayer.”
Once Respawn had that aspect of the Titanfall experience nailed down, it could focus on other things, like a campaign, and, of course, bringing it to other platforms.
“We’re on the PS4 now, which is a big deal as well. Fans wanted more Titanfall, but people wanted to explore the Titanfall universe in a narrative sense as well, so that was a challenge to bring the single-player.”
Titanfall 2‘s campaign does a good job of putting uniqueness in for each titan, according to Welch. “In Titanfall 1 you had the battle but you really couldn’t counter,” he said. “Maybe you could evade but you couldn’t counter. Now, each titan is different when you go up against them now.
“In Titanfall 1 you might have been outnumbered and felt as though you were going to lose. The goal in Titanfall 2 was to make it so if my skill is there, I can actually counter and maneuver around and actually come out of this thing alive. There’s a nice balance I think that the team has put in in creating the uniqueness of the titans.”
Finally, the bond between pilot and titan has been evolved and broadened in Titanfall 2, obviously as a means to incorporate and celebrate its new story-driven experience. Emslie calls that bond “hugely important”, and that the primary challenge was in showcasing each titan’s corresponding emotion.
“It took us seven months to develop the visual language of BT-7274,” he explained, “which is in the lineup of titans and is very specific to single-player. With BT we had to work on and figure out, how does he emote? Is it a boy or a girl? In multiplayer, if you happen to hawk onto Ion, Ion’s a she, Scorch is a he, so there’s a different layer of personality for that titan. But it also helps you build that bond with that character.”
Emslie admits that the “bond” between pilot and titan was somewhat of a “happy accident”, and that the team didn’t want to lock players into a “movie” with too many cutscenes.
“Storytelling was important to us, and the bond between you and your titan, BT, in single-player, was a core pillar. We added this mechanic where you can converse with the titan as you move. So you can take it or leave it as a player. You can choose to delve more into that story and that lore by doing that, or you can choose to just shoot through and play it another way, but it’s there if players want it,” he explained.
What are you most looking forward to it Titanfall 2? Sound off in the comments below, or join in the discussion on the forums.