The Next Big Game: Titanfall begins with the birth of Respawn Entertainment. While much has been written and said of the events leading up to that event, there's been little context for what life was like as a Respawn employee in its earliest days. "It was literally a day one walk-in, and we [had] card tables, card chairs, a fax machine, printing," says Joel Emslie, lead artist at Respawn. "We didn't even have computers for two months."
The team eventually settled into their new surroundings and work began in earnest, but from the sounds of it, Titanfall's identity didn't come to the team right away. "The game started to come together about a year-and-a-half ago," says Justin Hendry, lead designer. "We had a lot of cool pieces. We spent time building different mechanics and playing around with things."
"It took a long while because we were just concerned about the design space of Titans and how they would play," Steve Fukuda, game director, adds. "But eventually the focus shifted towards pilots for a while."
The back and forth between pilot and titan eventually led to a delicate balancing act that took the form of six-on-six multiplayer matches--a source of initial concern for an audience used to battles unfolding on a larger scale. "Dialing back that player count a little bit allowed players to breathe," says Hendry. "I think players, after they spend some time with the game, will really appreciate that it's six-on-six. They might even wish it was five-on-five or four-on-four."
We didn't even have computers for two months. -- Joel Emslie, lead artist
That player-count, combined with an intimate setting, creates a frenetic pace that never seems to let up. There's a genuine method behind all of it that borrows from a formula that's unmistakably familiar, but it simultaneously succeeds in feeling fresh. Watch the video feature above to hear more of what the members of Respawn, including cofounder Vince Zampella, had to say about the motivations and challenges in creating Titanfall.