Competitive shooters live and die by the layout of their environments. If a game's maps don't encourage exciting battles between players, all the flashy guns and sound effects in the world don't stand a chance of saving it. Therein lies the challenge for the team behind Titanfall: how do you build maps that work for wall-running pilots, towering robots, and all the asymmetrical conflicts that arise between the two? In our latest installment of The Next Big Game, Respawn Entertainment sheds some light on that design process.
"If you have a mechanic like wall-running, you need the player to psychologically feel like they can go there," says lead designer Justin Hendry. "So there's this fine balance with the way we design the surfaces and height of buildings."
"The first thing I do as a player, knowing the game the way I do now, is look at my options for wall-running, or how I'm going to ambush a titan." Hendry continues. "We worked really hard on all the textures and geometry to really encourage that kind of thinking."
Of course, Titanfall's parkour abilities are going to feel very strange to a large segment of players, but Respawn is confident that it's only a matter of time before everyone figures out how to navigate its spacious maps.
"You have to realize there's now another dimension," says studio co-founder Vince Zampella. "You can jump up and get to places you couldn't before in other games. I think it takes people a little while to snap into that. Some people get it really quick, some people take an hour or two before they're really comfortable with it and say, oh, yeah, I can jump up into that window."
But there's more to Titanfall's map design than buildings and doorways. Without a traditional single-player campaign, Respawn wanted to tell the story of its world through environmental narrative.
"What we worked towards was to make sure the levels had a real hardcore identity and fiction behind them," says Hendry. "The concept was to build a relatable environment for players since we're asking so much of them to learn these new mechanics. Give them an environment they can understand, but always feeling used and lived in--not pristine and clean."
Hit play on the video above to find out even more about the philosophies behind Titanfall's map design.