Why do Sequels Drop Design Mechanics? – Comparing Titanfall 2 vs. Titanfall 1

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Right off the bat, I gotta say that Titanfall is one of my most cherished franchised at this moment. For context, I’m up to Gen 4 in Titanfall 1, and Gen 5 on TF2, so I’ve hit up a lot of this phenomenal franchise. I think I only ever prestiged once in any COD game ever, and Titanfall has clearly got its charming lil hooks deep into me.

Between the two games, it’s evident that there are tons of changes to TF2 that fans (and even me, honestly) were unhappy about initially when the beta came out, but going back to TF1 recently kind of feels wonky in the same way the early TiF2 Beta felt.

Nonetheless, now with some significant time in both Titanfall games under my belt, I present my list of pros & cons & assorted advocacies for what Titanfall 2 does better or worse than its predecessor, and where it dropped the ball a little bit.

Pros — Titanfall 2 Expands on Titanfall 1’s Design  —

SLIDE MECHANIC: The lack of a slide in TF1 is brutal. Everything flows so much less smoothly and it legitimately kind of sucks how much more time you’re simply upright sprinting between walls. This is such a big impact to the way the game feels that I want to advocate that every game now gets a dedicated slide mechanic. The slide in TF2 both acts to increase one’s speed, evade incoming fire, and provide the means to fluidly slide-hop (TF2’s method for bunny-hopping). By granting this type of progression towards traversal mastery, it gives a player something to practice even on completely flat ground. Instead of merely holding forward on your thumbstick, you’re encouraged to practice slide-hopping on any ground to preserve your maximum speed and momentum.

The result of this dedicated jump/crouch/slide button combination every time skilled players traverse across the ground is that they are practicing and perfecting their rhythm for the mechanics. This is tied heavily a state of Zen and the Art of Reloading as I’ve talked about before for Gears of War, and while Titanfall 2’s implementation of this type of flow-enhancement might be less clear-cut and provide less feedback towards success, its rhythm and gameplay benefits might be even larger than Gears’ Active Reload.

FOV: The lack of an FOV slider is now, in my eyes, a huge downside. I identify that TF1 is going to feel slow due to the FOV lock (I assume at 70). I need my 110 TF2 view back. It actually changes the experience so much that I’d need to come back to TF2 with the decreased FOV slider to compare actual speeds, but my main advocacy is instead to get more customization in place and have gamers able to set their ideal FOV. The clear prompt about potential framerate problems that TF2 displays when changing FOV seems like a necessary and understandable compromise.

STIM SPEED: Stim feels ridiculously slow. In fact every pilot feels ridiculously slow, which may be influenced by the lack of slide. I often run around with the EVA Shotgun, but my homie had phenomenal success longbow sniping from rooftops as pilot enemies feel much less mobile in TF1.

ENEMY VISIBILITY: Pilot visibility is hard to spot, and this is kind of a neutral point because while it makes it hard to see the important details, visual acuity is a skill and you get better as you play TF1. You can even blend in to the grunts. However, I like TF2’s red outline as I truly feel the game is much more aim focused, speed heavy, and less of a visual search and less about camping. In TF1, sometimes my HUD would alert me to the enemies locking on with archer missles, but I could not for the life of me come close to seeing them! They’re on that roof but they blend in so well it took way longer than it’s ever taken in TF2, and while fine, I do think it’s a lil incongruent with Titanfall’s philosophy due to aiding camping rather than mobility.

COMBO ABILITIES: As elucidated in our recent article praising complex movement mechanics, Titanfall 2 has a plethora of phenomenal movement options. Combined with the slide and bunny hopping, added to MP is also the grappling hook, phase shift, and gravity star that can propel users into a hyperspeed flow. One quick search on /r/titanfall displays some ridiculous skill with the abundant movement mechanics and how creatively they can be combo’d.

 

Cons — Titanfall 2 Abandoned These Design Elements Found in Titanfall 1 —

LACK OF MP NARRATIVE: One of the grandest success in TF1 that I discuss in my larger article around Titanfall heavily praises the sense of warfare and narrative. It’s an unusual concept in an MP-only game, and even games like Overwatch aren’t capturing a sense of continual narrative or even ripe lore building during a match like TF1 did. Lost in TF2 is the sense of  warfare between two factions. Lost is the picture-in-picture cinematics, the story-driven dialogue, and military monologues about causalities. It’s not huge, but go back and try some Campaign games in TF1 and it’s a surprisingly rich experience.

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Titanfall 1 had picture-in-picture videos during MP matches and aimed to craft an MP experience that was narratively driven. The varied voice-over, military banter, attempted lore building, and objectives tied to narrative are something Titanfall 2 does away with at a fairly significant loss.

WEAPON REGENERATION AND FORCED CHALLENGE: After hitting max experience of level 50, players can Regenerate their level back to 0 and go through progression once more. Regenerating (prestige in other games) not only restarted your loadout progress but ALSO gave you very specific weapon and loadout challenges that one HAD to complete across the 50 levels. It was always a bit of forced challenge, but not so demanding on that Regen that you couldn’t play with your own preferences 80% of the time. I discuss this at length in this post here.  Main points are that this mechanic increased variety and mastery for players of different weapons, it reduced caring about KDR, and it made the battlefield more diverse.

WEAPON CUSTOMIZATION: Titanfall 1 had a couple of additional weapon mods that could be applied to weapons beyond Titanfall 2’s 6 or so stock mods (more ammo, faster reload, kills decrease tactical cooldown time, faster scope, shoot while sprinting, faster weapon switching). I sincerely miss the silenced attachment, and I also miss the minion detector. The silencer removed one from the radar, and was a clutch combo on the EVA Shotgun to remain stealthy. Combine that with the minion detector, and focusing on the grunts in a match while ninja’ing pesky pilots was delightful.

FULL SWAP CUSTOMIZATION IN GENERAL: Obviously, the pilot customization in TF2 is more nuanced and narrow, which does not allow full customization. TF2 does a MOBA style to the gameplay of titans, and it works really really well. I guess I just miss my triple threat. I also live the titan shields, but TF2 works incredibly well that this isn’t really a pro. In fact, this is more neutral than anything as it generally affects gameplay balance in various ways, for good or bad.

MINIMAP VIEW: Surprisingly, Titanfall 1 allowed a player to hit right on the Dpad to pull up the full map view?! Why’d they remove that? It’s incredibly handy for learning a map, seeing where your Titan homies are, and where enemy titans are. Also helps tremendously with learning a full map.

FRONTIER DEFENSE: Frontier defense is a huge DUH when it comes to dope shit missing from Titanfall 2, but I’m hopeful that it’ll come back in DLC. Frontier Defense is a Player-vs-AI cooperative mode where humans fight incoming waves of Titans and Specters and Grunts. It’s really fun for a couple warm up rounds, and for getting used to new gear.

MAP VARIETY:  In general, there are way fewer maps in TF2, however, which is a bummer. I actually like all of the maps a fair bit (save for Homestead due to its lack of wall-running geometry), but there just aren’t enough maps. Granted, it took 3 DLCs for TF1 to get up to its 16+ map count.

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Angel City’s port from Titanfall 1 over to Titanfall 2 demonstrates just how great of a map it is. Its focus on verticality, condensed buildings that create wall-running routes, and its use Titan streets which function as lanes makes it stand out as a great use of Titanfall’s movement styles.

While there are tons of the same buildings everywhere (everything feels like the same architecture of Angel City, mostly), there are so so so many maps and many of them are actually largely diverse in terrain outside of the internal buildings. I feel TF2 has more diversity in map styles kinda, and some more organic buildings with smoother edges, but the sheer number of TF1 maps is incredible

MISC BUT IMPACTFUL: Battle chatter, minion audio, and the motherfucking skybox in TF1 are all way better. I hear the same audio over and over in TF2.

Gameplay Design Worth Advocating For:

  • Movement-based Mastery:   Make game mechanics that seem simple but have high skill ceilings. Allowing bunny-hopping and slide hopping, and just sliding in general (oh man, sliding is incredible in TF2) increase the ability to have something to master during traversal.
  • Forced Challenges Improve Variety and Reduce KDR Min/Maxing: Providing players with forced weapon challenges at higher levels (after regenerating back to level 0 from level 50) increases mastery, increased the amount of weapons on the battlefield and reduces min/maxing of the best weapons (less Devotion abundance in Titanfall 2 would be nice), it disincentivizes KDR focus because players are forced out of their comfort zone with these challenges, AND really tough challenges can be bought with credits to avoid (though cost a lot so this can’t be abused). All in all, a huge design element that’s missing from Titanfall 2 that I’d love to see incorporated in more MP modes.
  • FOV Sliders: Consoles may begin to benefit from FOV sliders more and more, but spending ten minutes messing with it in any game will reveal how important it is.
  • MP Narrative and Battle Chatter: Creating a sense of cohesion in a MP battle is a tough challenge, but adding extra battle chatter and erring on the side of inflating the game with audio in an MP-heavy experience seems to be a safe bet.
  • Minimap View: Allow players to expand their minimap to quickly learn the map terrain and geometry, even if unwilling to showcase where enemy positions or even teammate positions might be.
  • Map Variety is King: If making a sequel to a beloved title that had several hugely popular maps, consider remaking those bad boys as the development time and effort is considerably lessened for an already-crafted and successful map (especially if mechanics are minimally changing).

e-vaughn

 

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