Beware. The following contains discussion of multiplayer features. You have been warned.
Titanfall. Last week, Respawn confirmed the team player count for their upcoming mecha-shooter. Six people would team up against six others. Oh no! the people cried. What a puny player count! Battlefield 4 allows for 32v32! DayZ lets 50 people on the same server! WORLD OF WARCRAFT HAZ GAJILLIONS! How DARE someone bring out a game that only has twelve people on at a time! That must be so boring.
First of all, it isn’t. Second of all, it’s a false equivalency.
But let’s start on the first bit.
As someone who has played preview builds of Titanfall, I can make a personal judgement about the team’s choices. And they are this – 6v6 is quite sufficient for maximum enjoyment. We played 6v6, and the team balance was just right. Firstly, the smaller player count makes Titan on Titan combat viable without becoming too distracting. It makes the two or three Titans on the map at one time the focus of combat to revolve around, rather than becoming an uneven mess. It allows player on player infantry battles to go on in the background around the Titan set pieces, while allowing for a few anti-Titan pilots to roam free. And it balances perfectly with the constant stream of AI bot cannon fodder, which fill out any lulls brilliantly. The maps – quite large maps – never felt empty, while still offering sufficient space for a breather if needed. I think that 6v6 suits Titanfall perfectly. I think that 8v8 would be the maximum team size I’d want to play, and that’s at an absolute stretch.
I think a lot of the backlash around the 6v6 figure has to do with Call of Duty Ghosts. With the 12 player limit on Ghosts’ maps, multiplayer often felt sparse and empty. I think that translated into a subconscious “6v6 is bad” sentiment in the gaming community. And I think, in Ghosts’ case, the criticism is entirely valid.
But Titanfall is not Ghosts. It’s a whole different beast with its Titans and AI bots mixing up traditional PvP. And I think Respawn are making the right choice, because they know a whole lot better than anyone else what plays best in their game.
Fact is, not all games are built alike. 6v6 feels tiny in CoD Ghosts because the maps were made with 9v9 in mind. 6v6 in Battlefield 4 wouldn’t be very good, because Battlefield relies on massive player counts to ensure maximum environmental destruction. But, in Titanfall, 6v6 works perfectly, because of how it currently plays. The game, from the map sizes to the Titans to the bots to the weapon damage output have all been designed around 6v6.
But this isn’t about Titanfall. Not really.
It’s about how players interact with developers during the media cycle.
Fans make demands. That’s natural – you want the things you love to be the way you want them, because you think you know what you’ll like best.
But you know what? Fans don’t know what’s best.
Let me put it this way. Developers put thousands upon thousands of hours into development. For a AAA team, it might work out as follows: a team of, let’s say a hundred to make the maths simple, working 40 hour weeks each, for 50 weeks a year, for two years. That is, collectively, 400,000 hours put into the game from start to finish. Factor in that many of these people are already industry professionals with a number of projects behind them, as well as a decent education in the various facets of game design. They know, intimately, their own creation. Certain people can tell you exactly how many polygons go into that tree, the values of the specular map during simulated rain, how many milliseconds it takes to go from input to animation to programmed reaction. They have tried 3v3 multiplayer, 6v6, 9v9, 32v32. They have reasons for choosing what they choose, from resource management to server capacity to latency to how balanced and fun the gameplay is. Their years of experience in the industry, and the time they put into the design process of whatever game they’re working on, all guide them in their choices. And, mostly, without outside interference, that comes out as the end product they envision.
And you know what? Nobody wants the game to succeed more than they do. Developers don’t spend all those hours making something they don’t want to do well. Developers don’t arbitrarily and deliberately choose features that they think won’t make the game better. Respawn didn’t choose 6v6 as a personal insult to [insert name here]. No, they carefully considered, balanced, tested, rebalanced, rethought, tried other things, and then settled on the number that worked best for their game.
Not every idea a development team comes up with is good. Just look at the hundreds of places, items, creatures, features cut from Half-Life 2. But those ideas get cut for a reason. Different things take their place. The ability to see it as it’s put together, see how the cut content doesn’t work to make the game better, is beyond the eyes of pretty much everyone.
So what we have is commenters commenting on something they know very little about, with almost certainly zero hands-on, and definitely no behind-the-scenes knowledge of, based on things that have nothing to do with what they’re commenting on. The outrage at 6v6 Titanfall is naïve and completely discounts the knowledge and experience of the very talented people behind the game.
So let them do their job. Developers may not always make the best game in the world, but they always make the best game they can with what they have. Basically, I trust developers to know how to make an enjoyable game, because they’ve had a lot more experience at it than me. Trust in the process and the people behind the game, and play the game before you judge their choices.