Titanfall Boss Discusses New Spinoff, Moving On From Titanfall 2, And The Franchise's Future
Titanfall on the smaller scale
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With the recent launch of Titanfall 2: Ultimate Edition, which is a compilation of all content for Titanfall 2, Respawn Entertainment will be winding down large scale support for last year's mecha action FPS. Despite this, they've still got plans for delivering more content for the futuristic franchise where mechs and parkouring pilots go hand-in-hand. Coming off of the cancellation of the mobile game Titanfall: Frontline earlier this year, Respawn is teaming with mobile game developer Particle City for the full release of the companion game Titanfall: Assault, a mobile RTS title, which saw a soft-launch back in May.
Set for full release on August 10, Titanfall: Assault will have players take on the role of a commander as they guide their crew of pilots, mechs, and other support units to capture territories from opposing forces. As you collect burn cards and upgrade your resources, you'll travel across a series of familiar territories and spaces--such as Angel City from Titanfall--and interact with other established characters from the series. While it may come off as an odd choice to turn a fast-paced and hectic game like this one into an RTS title, the creatives behind the series were set on re-thinking the series for the new platform.
GameSpot recently had the opportunity to sit down with Respawn CEO and Call of Duty co-creator Vince Zampella, as well as Particle City CEO Larry Pacey. We discussed the upcoming Titanfall RTS title and the current standing of the mech FPS franchise and the success it has found, and what's next for the series and for Respawn Entertainment itself.
GameSpot: The Titanfall franchise very much has Respawn Entertainment's name written all over it, so can you talk about what the collaborative process was like for Titanfall: Assault? Did this process focus on one-side pitching out their proposals to the other, or was it more cyclical in nature?
Vince Zampella: It's a little of both. We have guys at Respawn that are really into [Titanfall: Assault], and push out ideas for it. The guys at Particle City have ideas and they also push them out. Some of the ideas we push tend to get shot down, oftentimes it's like why did we think of them for the mobile game or for the main game, and the other way around. They'll try do one thing and we'll be like, "That doesn't fit the universe and here's why." So everyone's really creative and open, and there's a lot of discussions, but ideas really come from both sides.
Larry Pacey: What was really important was to carry forward the true tenants of the Titanfall universe, which are these fast and agile apex predators of the future battlefield which are these pilots. Our goal was to take advantage of those elements and bring those into a game like this. We also had to look at things like the design aesthetic, working closely with Respawn to deliver that triple-A calibur product on a mobile device. Looking how to simplify and communicate the key units on a smaller screen, with that same kind of presence and scale, was really important for us in how we move the franchise forward.
It must've been difficult to translate Titanfall to a different genre, especially one that's inherently slower paced. Can you talk about that process, what the challenges were in trying to bring the series, and all its lore, over to the RTS space?
VZ: It really was a trial and error type of thing. The good thing is that we have some kind of framework to what the universe actually is, and you tend to always think, "Well, we have a good idea on what the rules are." And then when you start getting into it you realize there's a number of different things to think about. Steve Fukuda, our franchise creative director, helped solved a bunch of problems that necessarily exist for the shooter, but that did start to exist for the new types of things we're doing for the universe. It's actually fun, when you think about all the backstories and characters, you have to put a whole universe together to draw from. It's a really fun process. It lets us expose characters that aren't necessarily in the game, or are just bit players and it gives you more life to the universe. It was a good process.
LP: It really came down to wanting to bring players together on a competitive landscape, and what better way to do that than by leveraging everyone's mobile devices. That was the impetus from day one, and we pretty much gave the team carte-blanche to go out and tell us what the perfect game for the mobile space would be. What they've come back with is Titanfall: Assault, and it's a real-time strategy game where you play the commander overseeing three pilots, three titans, and a library of support units in the form of burn cards.
What can you say about how Respawn handles Titanfall 2's content updates? One thing that much of the community loves about this game is that it's getting regular support in the form of large content updates--such as the recent Frontier Defense mode, patches, and other cosmetic updates. Can you discuss what the studio's mindset is on how they continue support for an existing game, while gradually moving on to another?
VZ: It's a delicate balance, really. We don't know where and when to stop supporting it. Frontier Defense was obviously something big for us to get out and to push for, and our numbers during the launch of FD were like five times the numbers since the initial launch, in terms of player count--and it's now starting to stabilize a bit. There's two or three times as many people playing Frontier Defense right now than all other multiplayer modes combined. That's very encouraging for us; I love to see that. It keeps the fans happy and engaged in the universe, and it also brings in some new players as well.
LP: For Titanfall: Assault, we're already there. For our soft-launch back in May, we've been gradually adding in free content like new cards with new traits, so we're already there with that. We're already rolling out new content with new features and events, we're constantly trying to add in new content and functionally , and finding what's best for players and the experience.
So with Frontier Defense out the door, can we expect to see more Titanfall 2 content like this after the release of the Ultimate Edition?
VZ: Probably not. We want to work on new stuff.
I'd be remiss not to mention this, but one thing that was talked about in the wake of Titanfall 2's launch was how crowded the 2016 holiday season. While Titanfall 2 seemed to have fallen short in sales compared to the original, the community is still present and accounted for. Do you have comments about how last year's sales season went?
VZ: The game was successful, it sold well, but it didn't quite sell as well as it should have. Maybe because it was super crowded, the pricing was aggressive--it was a rough window to launch our game. But we've got a really great fanbase. There's not really much negativity or acidity compared to other communities, so I'm very thankful for that. It's important for us to keep the franchise going. "We're doing more Titanfall," which is the quote I'm supposed to say. We have our franchise creative director, who's in charge of safeguarding the franchise in multiple formats and making sure it continues to grow. There's some other things we're doing that haven't been announced just yet, but we're heavily invested in the Titanfall universe.
Since this was your studio's debut franchise, it must have been exciting to see it grow and evolve into what it is today, and now releasing with a standalone game for mobile. Since you're working on another title--a Star Wars game with EA--can you speak to what the franchise has accomplished thus far?
VZ: We're very proud of what we have so far. As a new studio, we tried something different and new, and while it worked--maybe not well enough to remove the single-player--we kinda expanded with the follow-up, and we brought in the single-player, which turned out great. We're working on more Titanfall--we're not announcing what that is yet, but there's a few other things in the works--the mobile game, which turned out fantastic and is super fun, the fans love it and allowed us to expand on what we did in the last games. So I'm pretty happy with what the franchise has become.