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Titanfall Narrative Outlined

by William Schwartz

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Mohammad Alavi, senior map designer for Respawn Entertainment, has given some more details on the narrative structuring of the new developers ambitious FPS title in an interview conducted for X-ONE (full interview HERE).

For the most part, details that haven’t been officially released have only trickled in through the form of leaked videos such as the Titanfall loadouts. It is therefore a breath of fresh air for some slightly more detailed descriptions to come to the front during a period of much whispering and scheming.

Talking directly about the NPC capabilities, Alavi noted the following –

‘We also use AI in a plethora of ways to make the world feel alive. They plan mission strategies, provide cover fire, and acknowledge everything you do from taking down a Titan to the kind of gear you carry. They’ll salute you in quieter moments and thank you for saving them in more dire situations. They get into fist fights, help injured friendlies, and even freak out when they’re squad is single-handedly wiped out by a Titan. These are just a very narrow set of the many tools we use to not only bring a sense of cinematic intensity, but also create a fully fleshed out world’.

With much debate arising from the limited 6V6 only multiplayer, it is satisfying to hear that the additional AI involvement has had a lot of care and attention put into it. Having competent AI means that the numbers won’t seem so limited if they can function as a challenge to human players rather than a point’s farm that spends the multitude of its time facing a wall and soaking up bullets.

In direct relation to narrative flow, Alavi continued –

‘Each multiplayer level has an objective that is presented in a cinematic way with twists and turns that occur as you play. From picture-in-picture updates from NPCs, events that unfold in-game, to the AI soldiers reacting on the ground, the narrative unfolds naturally and ties in seamlessly with the gameplay. Along with the main story arc, major and minor characters react and acknowledge your direct actions, creating a personal experience crafted just for you set in a larger framework. In multiplayer lobbies we continue the narrative to help bridge the gaps between levels. You’ll be changing your loadouts and viewing unlocks while listening to mission briefings that drive the plot along’.

From this, it is understood that the narrative is denied any chance to stagger as, no matter the position, events continue to unfold.  The idea of ‘creating a personal experience crafted just for you set in a larger framework’ seems to be a core concept that is repeatedly mentioned in one manner or another by Respawn. The developers do not want it to be seen as simply a narrative within multiplayer, but a narrative with the quality of a purpose-built  single player title coupled with the fast paced and unpredictable turns and twists of multiplayer that will re-shape the course of the story. They even noted that ‘with a team as small as ours we couldn’t afford to sink that kind of development time into a four to eight hour journey people will only play once’, highlighting how they felt it was only right to blend both single and multiplayer together to provide the time and dedication a decent narrative and gameplay experience requires.

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Capping off the interview, Alavi briefly noted their ambitions for the feel of the story –

‘Titanfall will most definitely have an ending. It’s not a story if it doesn’t have an ending, but there are multiple sides to that story. It’s told from both the Militia and IMC perspectives, and to fully grasp Titanfall’s campaign, you’ll need to play it from both sides. And as with any good story, we’ve hopefully peppered it with enough detail and nuance that you’ll notice something new every time you replay it’.

The first thing that springs to mind from this description is Ken Levine’s ambitious and successful story-telling in BioShock: Infinite. The idea of replay value in narrative is always something that has been discussed intently and was cleverly integrated in Bioshock as players could go back through the linear title several times and always learn more. Playing from two sides and having these details ‘peppered’ throughout seems to mirror this idea and particularly with a core multiplayer element, the lastability is a concept that has certainly been addressed

What do you think of the narrative concepts? Maybe there was something you were hoping to see which hasn’t been addressed? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!

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