Titanfall PC's CTF mode cut: Why it was dumped, and why it's now back

Respawn explains how matchmaking works and the improvements it's working on.

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Respawn recently dropped two playlists from the PC version of Titanfall, removing players' ability to choose to exclusively play Capture the Flag or Pilot Hunter matches. This move was criticized by many, as it seemingly provided fewer options to the player without offering something positive in return. Respawn has now provided an explanation for the changes to the game's playlists as it returns the CTF playlist to the game on PC.

In a lengthy post on the Titanfall blog, Respawn revealed that less than 1% of players were playing CTF on PC. Low demand in and of itself might seem like no reason to remove a playlist--after all, what's the harm in letting those players interested in CTF continue to play it? But as it turns out, having so few players looking for CTF-only games creates problems.

"With that few players attempting to connect, our matchmaking would just sit there, spinning forever, waiting to find a game to play," the blog explains. "This is a bad experience for the user, and so we had to look at how we fix it. Our first step was removing playlists that were effectively broken. The second step is to continue refinement of our matchmaking. After that first step, though, it's obvious that lots of people were upset -- far more than the player counts on the removed modes led us to believe."

The blog goes on to provide a fairly extensive explanation of how matchmaking works. The way things currently work has resulted in "75% of games having less than a 30% score differential and 15% of games with less than a 5% differential (that's a difference of a few pilots or squads of grunts in Attrition)." Those numbers sound good, but when you begin dealing with players who are divided up into different regions and are looking to play different modes, difficult questions arise about how to handle less popular playlists.

"The problem though, is that even when tens of thousands of people are playing Titanfall at once, there may not be a lot of games forming at any one time, especially during non-peak hours," Respawn says. "This means our absolute 'perfect' match is often hard to come by. This is where the hard part of matchmaking starts. Do you just continue looking for minutes, hoping to find the perfect match? What happens if that perfect match never opens up? What if there's no one in Southeast Asia who is also in the 75th percentile skill that really wants to play Last Titan Standing right now?"

In response to Respawn yanking the CTF and Pilot Hunter playlists--making it so that the two game modes can only be played in the Variety Pack playlist--some gamers have frequently offered up two suggestions: either allow players to wait as long as it takes for a match, or let them choose to play with players from elsewhere in the world. Respawn calls these "legitimate suggestions," but sees problems with both. What it's instead doing is bringing back the CTF playlist on PC and testing "even wider region searches," so that you'll be matched up with players from "neighboring continents" if nearby players aren't found quickly enough.

Other changes include making it clear in lobbies when players are joining, tracking chat usage to get communicative players together, and "adding a last resort measure to re-balance lobbies that have been constructed from disparate skill groups or couldn't be balanced in time by matchmaking." The latter move should help to ensure players are less likely to end up playing 6v4 when the match could be 5v5.

Respawn also reiterated that it's at work on new games modes, which co-founder Vince Zampella has previously talked about, as well as "riffs" on the modes already in the game. The game's first downloadable content pack was recently released and is one of at least three DLC releases the game will see.

If you're a PC player, are you happy that CTF has returned as its own, dedicated playlist? Whether or not you're still playing Titanfall, what kind of new games modes would you like to see? Let us know in the comments.

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