The lights are on
Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to chat with Respawn Entertainment chief operating officer Dusty Welch to check in on Titanfall’s evolution since launch. Welch joined the company in January and previously served as senior vice president and head of publishing at Activision. He spent 13 years there, during which time he helped found and launch the behemoth Call of Duty franchise.
During our conversation, Welch offered some candid thoughts about Titanfall, the direction of the series, and a possible step toward eSports (and the challenges that would bring). Despite the pedigree of the team, the early, positive critical response, and a fan base that was hungry for information, Respawn was trepidatious about launching its first title.
“The team here was cautiously optimistic going into E3 back in 2013,” Welch recalls. “While I say that, they acknowledge that they were also very nervous, and they say it’s the first time they’ve been nervous bringing a product to E3 in quite some time. And look at Vince’s pedigree, right?”
Vince Zampella, co-founder of Call of Duty creator Infinity Ward and co-founder of Respawn has shaped three number one properties: Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and now Titanfall. “For the team here and guys like Vince to say, ‘Hey, we’re actually pretty nervous coming into E3,’ it tells you a lot, right?” Welch shares.
As you might be aware, Respawn recently brought on God of War III creative director Stig Asmussen as a second game director for the studio and the company is staffing up. Asmussen’s background is firmly rooted in single-player, and there are reports that he’s not working on Titanfall. However, he could lend some guidance should Respawn decide to pursue a more traditional single player campaign for future entries. One thing Welch did tell us is that the campaign multiplayer will be reexamined, possibly retooled, though maybe not abandoned entirely.
“Campaign mode, I think, was interesting but ultimately not as engaging or rewarding as we would’ve liked,” Welch says. “It kind of begs the question for us – do you go further in that? Do you trim that back?”
Welch says that the team is open to discussing a traditional single-player experience for future titles in the franchise, but it’s not a guarantee. “Would I rule it out for the future? Certainly not,” he says.” “But I think that there’s a lot of reward in continuing to push the paradigm that Titanfall introduced, which is this always connected, real live visceral multiplayer universe. We learned a lot, and I think it’s up to us to think about how we apply the learning to make the next game even more expansive and more engaging than the first.”
Part of that engagement could be a move toward eSports. “eSports is something that, as a developer, we are really keen on tracking,” Welch says. “We’re interested in it.”
Respawn knows there are Titanfall fans that want to see the game played competitively, but the team is taking a methodical approach to it. “If I had my druthers, then I would try and test this a little bit further this year,” Welch tells us. “I think it would be interesting to take some more steps in the eSports direction. I don’t know if we will, though. There’s obviously a lot of work to do in the game and in the code and in the spectator mode and some others things. I think it’s certainly something that the audience is begging for, and it gives us a lot of encouragement thinking beyond this current Titanfall and into the future.”
One area that that the team is looking at is the PC community. As you might recall, Respawn had an uncharacteristic stumble when it removed two game mode playlists on that platform earlier this year. The company quickly adjusted and shared its reasoning with the community.
Since then, Capture the Flag has been retooled and reintroduced with improved usership. The studio is also working on ways to make Pilot Hunter, the other removed mode playlist, more compelling.
“We would like to find the ability to sell to more users and attach to more users through Origin,” Welch says. “And so part of what we’re doing is providing more content and more features, more functionality, but also, we’re listening to the PC audience that’s asking for all kinds of PC platform specific content upgrades or features upgrades for hardware and software to make their gameplay experience really top notch.”
Titanfall is still evolving with free content patches (one of which will go live soon, adding a new mode and customization options) and others through paid downloadable maps. Respawn is also working at improving the performance on PC.
“Part of it is working with Nvidia to work on some of these technologies to really have their graphics cards showcase Titanfall in the best light,” Welch explains. “Some of that will come out in the update this week, some of that will take several more weeks if not months to fully deliver on, but those kinds of things really help to provide more replayability to the PC platform. And I think over the last couple weeks we’re starting to see more of that.”
For more on Titanfall, check out our review. For more information on the founding of Respawn and the genesis of Titanfall, check out a video feature from our July 2013 coverage.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.