Flag Returned: Respawn Putting CTF Back In Titanfall

By Nathan Grayson on May 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

I know there are two robots fighting in front of me, but all I can think about is flags

Graham doesn’t get mad. If you cut him, he will bleed forgiveness, understanding, and reassuring smiles. Titanfall made Graham mad – not because it’s bad (he adores it), but because it took something from him. His favorite game mode. And he wasn’t alone. When Respawn realized two Titanfall modes, Capture The Flag and Pilot Hunter, had issues, they outright removed them from regular rotation instead of popping open the 20-foot-tall trunk and cleaning up the mess under the hood. Players were not happy, and fortunately Respawn listened.

Apparently less than one percent of the player base cared to capture flags or hunt pilots, which is why Respawn scrapped the modes in the first place. They’ve now realized, however, that romebots wasn’t built in a day. In a massive post about matchmaking problems, Respawn wrote:

“With that few players attempting to connect, our matchmaking would just sit there, spinning forever, waiting to find a game to play. This is a bad experience for the user, and so we had to look at how we fix it. After that first step, though, it’s obvious that lots of people were upset – far more than the player counts on the removed modes led us to believe.”

“So, what are we doing about it? Well, first, we’re bringing the CTF playlist back on PC. Furthermore, we’re introducing a test of even wider region searches. But this isn’t the only change we’re making. We’re working towards all sorts of cool behind-the-scenes features to increase visibility and control over matchmaking.”

These changes include better clarification on how quickly matches are filling up, a re-balancing function make sure matches don’t have lopsided player counts, and means of pairing players who are more likely to stick together. Much of this is still a work-in-progress, however, so probably don’t expect perfect matchmaking overnight. If nothing else, though, at least Respawn is trying to make up for its mistake.

So hurrah! I guess. Now that Respawn seems to be treating the PC version as its own entity, it sure would be nice if they considered adding a server browser or dedicated servers or anything like that. I don’t think it’d clear up these issues entirely by any means, but options are good. Maybe someday? Please? Otherwise Graham might actually get angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

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50 Comments »

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  1. Discopanda says:

    Well as long as they don’t remove or otherwise decrease the amount of stompiness in the stompy robots, I think we should be okay.

  2. malkav11 says:

    It’d be nice not to pit level 2 noobs against 8th regen veterans, too.

    • TimorousBeastie says:

      That’s kind of mutually exclusive with keeping a game mode around that very few players play. Either you eventually relax your matchmaking enough that it’ll put disparate skill / playtime (often but not always matching) players together, or you have several games worth of players sit around on the matchmaking screen forever as there is no opposition.

      There are of course alternatives that would help, but if we consider that respawn are unlikely to fundamentally change their matchmaking to a community driven system such as server browsers, the best you’re likely to get is a semi-intelligent system that figures out reasonable matches are waiting in different queues and ask a few of them to switch.

      • malkav11 says:

        It has been my experience that I am up against wildly inappropriate opposition throughout. I can see this game might be fun against players of equal skill but I have literally never had such a match, and evaporating like water on a hot skillet the moment I happen to go near an enemy player while my team loses consistently and thoroughly is pretty much the opposite of fun.

        • glix says:

          I agree that the matchmaking system is shit, I’m G4 almost G5 once i finish the regen reqs, and I’d like to think I’m okay at the game but I stuck through several games last night against 5 G10 players and now I’m not so sure. That said, I’ve played plenty of well balanced matches so if it’s possible to leave the match and try to join another one, do that?

        • arccos says:

          Skill-based matchmaking in general has so many problems. There’s no feeling of player-skill progression when you’re silently pitted against increasingly difficult opponents. There’s no point in tracking stats like wins or your kill-death-ratio, since those stats depend on the skill-level you are playing against. And on top of all that, most skill-based matchmaking doesn’t even work, resulting in lopsided victories for most games.

          Titanfall has additional issues like the inability to vote to mix teams, not balancing teams automatically in either player count or skill level, and the time between matches being so damn long (60 secs), nobody wants to stick around after a match.

          • Guvornator says:

            Having a chronic inability to aim, I don’t have a problem with battling people ranking higher than me because it makes no difference to the amount of kills I get. However, having team number imbalances is utterly unforgivable. I remember one match where one team had 5 players and one team had 4. A player entered the lobby late….and was placed on the team with 5 players so they had 6. In what world does this make sense?

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    • P.Funk says:

      The PC gamer who connects to dedicated servers via a server browser has no expectation of such gerrymandered player balance. He takes what he finds and is grateful for it. The mature PC gamer recognizes the team imbalance and willingly puts himself onto the other team to ensure the quality of the match is maintained. The PC Gamer who seeks a high quality of regular play finds a community which serves his needs and sticks with it, returning to the same server and the same people, perhaps knowing the same admin, and perhaps contributes to selecting the map rotation.

      Human beings managing human games are much better than any computer algorithm that tries to figure out what we want without talking to us.

      Thats how I feel.

      • Bostec says:

        Well said and I agree. Also I don’t understand why nobody copies Team Fortress 2(a 7 year old game) server browser. Its the best one i’v used. Simple, easy and with lots of filters.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Unless I’ve missed something, you can’t search for a server by name in it (“I wonder if the RPS server is still around”), and the sorting by such is broken.

        • DanMan says:

          I’m one of those weird Battlelog fans.

      • Lemming says:

        Bravo, sir!

      • frogulox says:

        Dude. Straight up. I personally don’t play a whole lot of multiplayer anything these days, and a great deal of the reasoning behind that is to do with all this nonsense.

        I couldnt agree more.

        I understand the development of these systems to provide ‘button, button, button – go!’ playability (which I can only imagine is a more console focused strategy), and I understand businesses and development teams reluctant to ‘waste’ already spent resources on disused systems.
        That said, how hard can it be to strip it out and have the simple browsers we all ask for. The same keen organisers do the serverside tinkering and that still leaves the average player with click click click go playability. With yhe additional benefits (as mentioned) of a solid community and better experiences guided by choice.

        • P.Funk says:

          its not about resources. If it were then the obvious choice is player run dedi servers. In that scheme the only thing they pay for is the global sever used to search for game servers to connect to. As it is they are on the hook for all the games up right now.

          Its clear there are other reasons for not having dedis and server browsers.

      • SouperMattie says:

        There is another factor at play here, I feel, and although I appreciate that they bothered to say anything at all, Respawn’s explanation carefully avoids talking about it directly:
        *A matchmaking system only works if there are a lot of concurrent players.*
        Corollary: *Matchmaking DOESN’T work very well when you DON’T have a lot of players.*

        This is the whole reason (supposedly) that they removed CTF in the first place. Respawn talk about how it’s “not a great experience” waiting for a CTF match to be made, and they’re right. They then proceed to ignore the fact that if it were made clear exactly what servers and how many people were interested in playing CTF, players wouldn’t have the “negative experience” of waiting around. Players could make their own informed decision about whether it’s worth it to them – which is different for every person. How much time do I have for this gaming session? Do I REALLY want to play CTF, or just prefer to? Etc etc.

        I can’t help feeling Respawn designed a system that made the rather hubristic assumption that there would be thousands of people playing in every region, in all game types, all the time. In which case I’m sure it works pretty well. Perhaps this is the case for Xbox One players in the US, but it clearly isn’t the case in other platforms/areas. They were hoping for big things, but for better or worse Titanfall simply isn’t CoD or Battlefield and it doesn’t seem to have the player count.

        An example: I’m playing in Australia and my limited experience is that you are not guaranteed a match within 5 minutes if you choose ANY mode other than Attrition, which is certainly fun for a while but ultimately a little mindless/repetitive. When I want to play a shooter, I want to play it NOW – not in 5 minutes. So I end up choosing Attrition, or Variety Pack if I’m lucky, even if it’s not the mode I want to actually play. Respawn say “nobody is playing CTF” but in some respects it could be a self-fulfilling situation: whether they prefer to play CTF or not, many people aren’t going to sit around waiting – so they pick a mode where they can at least get to PLAY straight away… and once they’re in that playlist, a lot of people won’t leave until they’re done with Titanfall for the day. Thus, Respawn never sees people playing CTF.

        I do feel like dedicated servers and server browsers would at least let you survey the landscape and make your own decisions about whether joining a particular game is worth your time. I get the feeling Respawn have doubled down on the matchmaking route and will never admit defeat, though, so I don’t expect we’ll ever get that.

        • P.Funk says:

          I remember back in my Day of Defeat Classic and CS 1.6 days that there’d be a seemingly endless list of de_dust2 and dod_avalanche 24/7 servers. Some people just wanna play the same damned map over and over and over again. Players would congregate and make their own choices about how to play. If I wanted something different I’d join another server that had a more generous rotation. If I wanted to just plug away at a predictable landscape I’d go for a 24/7. Best thing was even if there were only 50 people online (as you’ll find with DOD C these days) you could find a server and still make a choice.

          Choice is the operative word and I can only assume that there is some corporate culture at work which seems to pick a goal or a perspective and said “this is how we think” and you must buy in. The matchmaker thing is probably some bullshit they picked up with the console market and go with it universally. There’s probably also some pigheaded shit about controlling the player in such a way as to optimize the game cycle refresh on consumer product re-acquisition (basically they wanna keep their fingers on the biggest reason you might or might not buy the next iteration this year or next).

          I think that it really is a war. Consumer versus Vendor. The threat the consumer poses to the vendor is that we have a choice, our choice put us in their camp to begin with but its also our choice that can take our money away from them. The biggest risk to a AAA developer who takes no risks year by year with their derivative franchises is that we make a choice that doesn’t favour them.

          What is a more frightening choice to an annually iterative strategy than players who might choose to keep playing the same game for 5 straight years? The matchmaking system does a great job of degrading that choice while simultaneously teaching the player not to even think about it. The developer is now in control of the portal to the game even after purchase.

          Compared to how things were 10-15 years ago its a pretty startling shift.

  3. Premium User Badge

    LegendaryTeeth says:

    Too bad I already refunded it when I bought it just before this happened. Oh well, maybe when it goes on sale again. Origin + No server browser really decreases the worth of this for me.

  4. MkMax says:

    the main problem seems to be that ppl left and the dlc only appears to have made things worse, maybe they should work on that ?

    maybe a unlock overhaul and generation rewards might help

    also accept the exodus happened and consolidate servers

    • Soccermom says:

      I know it is unfair and that people should embrace multiple platforms across all companies – but in my view Respawn screwed themselves over by being an Origin exclusive. They probably got a decent upfront payment from EA, but it sounds like the developers were hoping for a long life-cycle for Titanfall.
      On PC, you are making it VERY VERY hard on yourself, if you are not on Steam and are trying to appeal to the type of hardcore FPS gamer segment that likes this type of multiplayer experience (especially if you are looking to build a long-term and self-sustaining community (e.g. TF2, CS:GO, Left4dead). As unfair as it is, a large portion of these hardcore team-oriented FPS gamers have been living their life within the Steam eco system for a long time – and unfortunately for Respawn you need a critical mass of these enthusiasts to keep a multiplayer alive for more than the first 6 month after launch.

      • MkMax says:

        to be honest the only personal problem i had with origin was that it keeps trying to charge me in euros (they changed that for the full games but it is still trying to charge euros for the dlcs), other than that it worked as expected, i have not had any “origin token” or “origin is down” problems

        other thing that i had was that i cant set up a game with my friends though origin because nobody runs the client while they are not playing games, unlike steam.

        if they expect to have any chance at all they need to get ppl to keep the client open and use the store, fat chance of that with the highest prices of all stores for their games, barely any discounts and general distrust for EA (overblown and probably unfair, but its there no doubt about it), ppl still frown at “origin exclusive”

        • Rindan says:

          I personally really like Origin. It helps me know where all the EA games are… so I can avoid them. I’m sure EA will eventually release something I simply must have, but that hasn’t happened since Mass Effect 3. EA seems insistent on blowing its own foot off. If they simply had their stuff on Steam they would get impulse buys from me all the time. This way, though, it is pretty easy to stick with my “fuck EA” battle plan. The only time I will ever see Origin again is when they happen to release something I must have, and they will be able to entice me with their sales for however long it takes me to get bored of that single game.

          I understand EA wanting their own platform, but it is fucking stupid to not also use the standard platform that everyone else is using.

          Congratulations to EA not winning the worst company of the year award though. Granted, Comcast won that award fair and square. Next time EA. I have faith in you.

  5. Chuckleluck says:

    Does Titanfall ever say how many players are online when you’re in-game? I feel like there was a ton of hype and now no one plays it. I played the beta, and it certainly feels like a slightly tweaked COD screwed over by EA.

    • Bull0 says:

      I know I haven’t touched it since about 2 weeks after launch, and I’m a pretty vanilla, typical gamer.

    • Jools says:

      I’ve only jumped into Titanfall a few times since release, and I think it comes down to the whole thing feeling a bit like a skeletal version of a good game. The core gameplay is excellent, but small maps and short rounds make it feel repetitive very quickly. The maps are all incredibly by-the-numbers too, despite being technically very well designed. There’s no variety, and one map feels an awful lot any other map, but with a few fancy background effects and a different coat of paint.

      The unlock system is also terribly unimaginative. I’m not the kind of crusty old gamer who gets upset at games having unlocks, but Titanfall’s system really feels cynical and tacked on. There are very few things to unlock and the stuff that is there just feels bland and uninteresting. This is a game about ridiculous space soldiers and their ridiculous space robots, don’t give me some generic shotguns and SMGs and a few generic perks to go along with them. All I could think about while working through the unlock tree was how much better Battlefield 2142 did this eight years ago. It’s everything that’s wrong with the purely stat-based weapon variation of CoD, but without the ludicrous number of toys to at least somewhat make up for it.

      I don’t know, man. I want to like Titanfall, and I do, but I just can’t bring myself to play it anymore. I expect a lot of people feel the same way.

    • glix says:

      I play it about once a day for a few hours on average, and I think there’s a decent population*, there’s usernames I recognize as playing with a fair bit now, and I usually don’t have to wait long to find matches, at around 9-11PM PST.

      *I’m on the North American West Coast servers, which most likely makes a difference.

  6. Senethro says:

    Titanfall should have been a popular game. If the design was exported back through time to 2007 (and with a server browser) I’m sure it would have been legendary. Is it just not possible to have a successful AAA FPS without its gameplay being slow faux realism?

    • Arona Daal says:

      I can think of at least two Multiplayer-Fps somewhere in my Games Collection,with Mechs & Jetpacs and so on (Section 8 prejudice,MW Living Legends).

      Then there is all that usual “contemporary” “AAA” EA/Origin Crap,including but not limited to:
      – Tons of DLCs,often playerbasesplitting Maps.
      – usually bad Matchmaking without Server Browsers
      – Unlock Grind
      Feel free to add to this List.

      I find it hard to dish out 50 bucks for this wellhyped Mp-fps,and i doubt i´m alone with that.

    • Lemming says:

      It’s Respawn’s own fault it’s not a success. They could’ve followed the CS or TF2 model, but insisted on sticking to their consoley walled-garden ‘our way or no way’ roots.

  7. Premium User Badge

    thestjohn says:

    I don’t actually think a server browser will work with the architecture they’ve set-up. If servers are only spun up on demand for each lobby and game, there’s no persistence for any particular server; how then do you “browse” transient virtual machines? You could possibly get around it by making server identity equivalent to a group of players, but that assignment will also be temporary.

  8. BooleanBob says:

    Oooh! Oh, hoho… you are a smart one. You are a smart one! You took CTF away just to get me mad! Mad enough to break free (.. publicity)! You are as smart as Boo sometimes!

  9. rocketman71 says:

    LAN + public server files or GTFO

  10. CookPassBabtridge says:

    If I were a video games marketing executive, wondering how to get his already-released-but-now-in-post-review-hype-dwindle-phase video game some added attention and free publicity, as a result of this escapade I would now consider “withdrawing” a favourite part of said game. I would then hope that reviewers will talk (again) about how wonderful that part of the game was for them, allowing them to remind everyone how wonderful it is. Then as a risk taking type, I would let the buzz of indignation build (after all its attention), and then I would put that part of the game back, and reap the rewards of having “listened to the fans”.

    If I were a video games marketing executive.

    • Convolvulus says:

      You’d want people excited about your product, not reminded of why they stopped paying attention to it.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I don’t know. Three solid days of articles in the press doesn’t sound like stopping paying attention. Anyway I am not a marketing executive. I design jam biscuits.

        • SirMonkeyWrench says:

          A noble profession.

        • Convolvulus says:

          The need for this kind of attention draws attention to why the game doesn’t deserve proper attention. It’s tough being a fan of multiplayer online shooters. If run by a large corporation, a game can be drastically altered or even destroyed on a whim. If run by a small studio that listens to the community, support and player population can quickly dissipate. Fun in this genre is turning out to be an ephemeral thing, and all this announcement does is remind people not to bother with Titanwhatsit (a game that, in my view, was a ubiquitous hype monsoon a short while ago and exists now only in the form of complaints and apologies I occasionally catch in my periphery).

    • Cockles says:

      You are evil sir, bravo. To catch the wolf, you must think like a predator… or something like that

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Just call me Machiavelli.
        Machiavelli Rich.
        *honks comedy horn*

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, except it doesn’t seem to have really worked. Nobody’s really giving them props for putting back a thing they took away this time.

      Perhaps except Nathan.

  11. Berserkben says:

    They must have been driving Graham crackers!

  12. Uncompetative says:

    We shouldn’t let developers change our games after we have bought them. Mandatory patches the next time you play are unacceptable unless the rebalancing happens through the addition of a supplementary game lobby with differently weighted weapons. I’ve not played Titanfall much since they nerfed the 40mm cannon and Sidewinder. If Respawn were too busy seeing lawyers over their Call of Duty bonus cheque to properly balance their new game all changes should be held over until the (inevitable) sequel.

    Also, after a demoralising match against an invulnerable 100 it might be sensible to exclude neophytes from these high ranked matches, rather than do the limp Call of Duty thing where they balance both sides numerically parties permitting. Skilled players want to play similarly skilled players, so there should be at least two divisions: neophytes and experienced, then experienced and pros. At the moment we have neophytes, experienced and pros and it is idiotically unbalanced.

    Grunts need to wake up and start being a threat. Spectres need to train their lasers on cloaked Pilots, giving you an incentive to eliminate them. Dropships should arrive at a random location only marked on the HUD of the departing team. All this is obvious, fixable in a new mode that combines Hardpoint with a bonus for killing Pilots. CTF can be accessed through Private Matches along with Last Titan Standing.

    • LionsPhil says:

      We shouldn’t let developers change our games after we have bought them.

      You’d be hard-pressed to find a lively multiplayer game where that wasn’t the case. TF2 being a huge example. The Unreal Tornaments as a less contentious one.

  13. milton says:

    I played Titanfall on a friend computer to give it a go.

    Initially impressed with the sheer prettiness and smoothness of the game, however unimpressed after a while when the game felt a little shallow.

    Maybe I just can’t get back into FPS’S but I feel like titanfall is basically just COD with robots and mobility.