Removing Content

Respawn was having a problem with long wait times in queues for two of it’s lesser popular modes of game play in Titanfall.  These game play modes were Capture the Flag and Pilot Hunter and they were removed from the PC versions of the game only.  Respawn claimed the experience of playing them due to long wait times was sub-optimal and that they were still available for private matches as well as including the possiblility of adding them back in future patches for the game.  Rather than figure out how to adjust server size, or bandwidth, or come up with one of a dozen other possible solutions to this problem, they chose to cut the two modes of game play out of the game entirely.  A full 40% (almost half) of the gameplay available was removed.

What?

The sad part?  I didn't even have to make this image.  It was right there in one google search.

The sad part? I didn’t even have to make this image. It was right there in one google search.

From an MMO perspective, the idea of removing content from a game isn’t just unthinkable, it’s practically impossible to do.  You just don’t remove content from the game, ever.  It doesn’t matter if that content is terrible.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bug-riddled, pain in the ass, horribly written, piece of garbage.  Unless it causes exploitable behavior, it stays in the game.  You then wall paper over it and draw your players away to the next shiny, learning the lessons from the bad stuff and moving on.  Why?  Because somewhere, someone loves that awful content.  They love it!  It’s their definitive gaming experience.  It spoke to them in ways you just can’t understand and while you may hate that content viscerally, they love it just as hard.  And when you take that away from them, you make them sad and you make them hate you.  As this open letter from a very bitter Titanfall player shows.

If Titanfall was chock full of content and had a small mountain of things to do, this change might not have been so poorly received.  But there are basically 5 game play modes (now 3 on the PC version), available in the game.  Is Respawn learing the hard way, that focusing exclusively on game play is not enough?  Are they finally learning that you can’t launch a game that’s multi-player only and expect people to line up for it?  Titanfall never had a single player campaign.  Once you play through their multi-player intro to all 5 of the game modes available, you went into the queue and went on your merry way.  No story, nothing to really do, just run and shoot, get in the mech, run and shoot, and repeat.

It’s really frustrating too, given the potential available in a game like this.  Even if you rely on all the old tropes of this story telling genre, and it is it’s own genre, there’s all sorts of fun and interesting things to do with it.  But Respawn seemed to have NO INTEREST whatsoever in building actual stories with their game.  There’s nothing about the inheirent failure of war.  No story about the pilot bonding with his unliving machine, that actually behaves like it’s alive.  Not even a basic rivalry story; two pilots, battling it out for top piloting position.  For pete’s sake, I could do this all day.  What is it about this engine that makes it so hard for Respawn to do anything with it besides give you the tools and say go, fight, kill?   It feels like they’re saying look at us, we made a great game that’s fun to play.  But it has the depth of a puddle in your driveway after a rain storm.  Was it just a choice to focus on the game play instead of story telling?  Who knows.

The game reminds me very much of the old arcade quarter machines.  And on a console, or on a pc, that style of game play simply has no place.  Given the kinds of interactive story telling we’ve become used to, is it fair to expect devs to build a game that engages us both on a game play level as well as provide a more engaging story telling mode?  No not necessarily, but if they’re going to focus on game play at the expense of everything else, they should at least tell us that.  We should be the ones to decide if full price is really what we want to pay for an arcade experience.  We should be the ones who get to say, this is what this game is worth and without story, or without a meaningful single player experience, your multi-player game isn’t worth breaking this 5 dollar bill down into quarters to play it.

This was another game that was marketed hard to us as the next big thing, despite the fact that all early reviews and write ups mentioned the lack of content.  Respawn dumped ALL their time into building a great game play experience that by all accounts worked.  Playing is fun, unique, and different.  But there’s nothing else to sustain the game beyond that.  And for most pc and console gamers, that’s just not enough.

But despite the fact that it was an incomplete game, with no level of depth beyond the multi-player experience, EA sold the game and marketed the game to us as a full priced experience.  EA and Respawn helped raise our expectations to the stratosphere, charged a ton of money based on those expectations, and then ripped the rug right out from under us as soon as they got our money.  This is hardly new behavoir for EA.  It’s arguably their standard business model.  And they keep doing it because we keep falling for it.  Who’s really at fault for all this?

So, we have another in a long line of disappointments from EA, which continues to gouge us for money by dangling a carrot in our noses and then smashing us over the heads with a stick when we dare to ask them to lower the carrot enough to snap at it.  The signs were there, though hard to see through the relentless marketing blitz, but they were there all the same.  What makes this move on Repsawn’s part particularly galling, is the way that this was content that launched with the game and is now being removed from players.  This behavior is baffling.  Here’s hoping the game withers and dies from this, and actual lessons can be learned and applied going forward.

Nahhh, this is EA we’re talking about here.  Silly LockOn!

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