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The Abandoning of Campaign-centric Design Part 2

January 24, 2014

After a weekend of playing the Titanfall Alpha, Blankman wrote an excellent post on The Abandoning of Campaign-centric Design. Capping off the discussion, he provided a link to a new interview with Respawn’s senior map designer Mohammad Alavi.

The great thing about telling the same story from two different points of view is that you can tackle character motivations and plot points from various different perspectives. When you play as the Militia you’ll see one side of the fight. As the plot progresses you’ll accompany the main characters on their adventure, learning their motivations and back story. Even though the plot will make complete sense from start to finish, you’re only getting half the picture. After you’ve completed the campaign on one side, you’ll have to play from the other to fully grasp the scope of events that you participated in. It’s also really cool to see how the “other side” perceives the faction you just played on – it’s interesting how propaganda and labelling can be used to demonise the “enemy.”

I am going to make most of you here wince, but this is really almost identical to the approach Splash Damage was attempting with Brink. The difference is the experience, talent, and resources of Respawn which is ensuring top-notch production values from animations to sound bites to intense, engaging gameplay and (most relevantly to this comparison) rock-solid network coding. Respawn will succeed where Splash Damage failed.

I was not given a code, so I am not under NDA and can speak freely about the Alpha. I can attest that throughout my game time, the instruction and information given via “radio chat” literally took my breath away.  Over and over again, I was astonished (gratefully) by the sound bites, “Did the narrator just tell me that?” This was not Cortana telling me three seconds after I entered a tunnel that I should go over to that hole in the side of a mountain, or some stupid voice telling me for the 10th time in 30 seconds “Bruthas, For the Aaaaark!”. 

In the trailer embedded below, the audio seems like typical campaign, narrator-in-your-helmet stuff and it does that element of the game no justice at all. The info given via audio in Titanfall is pin-point accurate in its relevance and timeliness. It is succinct, helpful, and immersive.  It was one of the most impressive features of the unforgettable Alpha. In the game proper, it is contextually perfect, and it is a game-changer.

I pine for Titanfall this weekend.

This was just released officially via the EA channel. It is footage that everyone has seen already, but as mentioned above, relevant to this discussion.

  1. January 24, 2014 5:55 pm

  2. Blankman permalink*
    January 26, 2014 11:15 pm

    Kind of OT: Well, it looks like the recent “resolution gate” has lit a fire under MS’ butt. Apparently, the tech engineers are updating the shader filter code for the GPU because it’s currently oversharpening graphics, and that’s not necessarily a good thing when it’s highlighting inconsistencies like textures and jaggies. Also, MS is releasing 8% of the 10% of GPU memory that was allocated for the OS. This is good for developers because it will allow for an upgrade of graphic fidelity that developers didn’t have previously. Infinity Ward had requested access to some of that 10% memory allocation to offer a more comparable product to the PS4’s version of CoD:Ghosts, but were ultimately denied. Don’t forget that Marc Whitten had commented in December that the Xbox One’s OS would receive a substantial upgrade. Although he didn’t specify an exact time frame, you can pretty much bet that it’ll be in time for TitanFall’s launch.

  3. January 27, 2014 5:04 am

    Thanks for the info, Kenny. This is all good news. MS gave users multi-tasking, but took away almost all features that made socializing possible. They need to start chopping away at that awful OS especially since it steals directly from game software needs.

    I was thinking about the sales of the two systems, and while the PS4 should have greater numbers because they are available in more territories, that doesn’t change the fact they would be selling in even greater numbers than that if they could stock the shelves. It is now the end of January and you still can’t order a PS4 from Sold out. The only ones available are being offered at Xbox One prices!

    On the other hand, the Xbox One is in stock and being discounted in some cases. Microsoft has to be concerned by the potential market share that they might be losing due to the E3 debacle, resolution gate, and the skeletal but heavy OS for TV watchers not gamers. A March release for the update is the rumor I have heard. I hope they get it out at least a week before Titanfall so that the launch of that game isn’t marred by anything OS or server load related.

    • Blankman permalink*
      January 27, 2014 7:19 am

      There’s no doubt that the PS4 is selling more due to their availability in way more territories than the Xbox One. I wonder if they are being truthful in their inability to meet demand, or is this another Nintendo Wii shortage strategy to get publicity and generate an artificial demand. Here in North America, they are available in GameStop and Best Buy in “limited quantities.” Some may think that employing the “Nintendo strategy” is asinine since Sony needs to sell as many units as they possibly can since they’re still in the red, as in terms of their company as a whole. However, generating the impression that the PS4 is the preferred console in the minds of potential buyers by utilizing word of mouth and free press/media is worth the initial lost sales because it will pay dividends later. After all, Nintendo is famous for that tactic with every console and handheld that they’ve released. Then again, it blew up in their face with the Game Cube and Wii U.

      Now that’s not scapegoating MS’ issues with the One. There are a legion of rabid Sony fanboys that post any negative perspective about the One that they can. We’ve seen them create fake Amazon accounts in order to put up negative reviews of the One during its launch. It got so bad that Amazon had to turn their product reviews feature off. For everyone that hasn’t been living under a huge rock, we can agree that MS completely blew E3. They decided to push the envelope and the envelope pushed back with a flaming pile of poop sealed inside. They are still suffering from those after effects. People just love gawking at wrecks and MS’ showing at E3 was a train wreck to say the least. You have a lot of misinformed sales people whose memories are still fixed on the E3 debacle giving advice on which console to buy. The price point only further aggravates that situation. Grandparents and parents don’t want to spend an extra hundred dollars if they don’t have to. After all, new console hardware is expensive enough. Until developers start creating meaningful games and employing innovative uses for the Kinect 2.0, that peripheral and it’s cost cannot be justified. MS has invested too much money in that technology to do an about face, so don’t expect a Kinect-less SKU to stem the PS4 tide. Add insult to injury, MS couldn’t even get their act together to release the full retail version of Kinect Rivals, a game that uses the Kinect 2.0. Initial previews of the game were met with critical praise. Sure there’s a demo of it on the MS XBL Store, but that doesn’t cut it. Talk about mistakes that keep piling up. Stop focusing on just the media apps and focus on what made the 360 such a success. It’s the social aspect, functionality, and games. Get it together, MS!

  4. Blankman permalink*
    January 27, 2014 1:05 pm

    The Titanfall beta info has apparently been leaked early by a French gaming retailer. According to their ads, it states that the beta will be for February 14-19th. Several anonymous sources at Respawn have confirmed that the dates are real. So those that still celebrate Valentine’s Day better start fabricating your stories. You have been warned. Oh, what a tangled web we weave. LOL

    UPDATE: Zampella has finally tweeted that the Beta is real. More details will be divulged in the coming days.

    • January 27, 2014 3:44 pm

      This year, Valentine’s Day is officially February 13th! Prepare your chocolates, your leopard underwear, and make those hotel reservations. Then, tell your ladies! “It’s the 13th, this year, babe, because I love you so much I can’t wait to be with you!”

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