Titanfall Interview with Joel Emslie


Titanfall Interview with Joel Emslie
Ahead of the launch of Titanfall's beta, we caught up with Respawn Entertainment's Lead Artist Joel Emslie to talk about the approach taken with the game, the structure of a multiplayer-only game, and what the future may bring.

CLICK: What kind of source material were you looking at for reference or inspiration when designing the pilots, the environments and, of course, the Titans themselves?

JE: It’s a weird journey. We knew what we were doing has been done a lot. There’s a lot of science-fiction-style, future-style games out there, so we started looking at techniques that were older like kit bashing and scratch-building like they used to do at the model shops back in the late 70s, early 80s in film. Kit bashing is, say you want to make a cool new spaceship for an alien; you know, like when they did Alien, Ridley Scott’s model shop went in and bought Panzer tanks and Tiger tanks and just packed them all together into this spacey new shape. That’s essentially what we did for the first Titan; it was originally a scratch-build. I just built an armature, and I layered plastic and rubber, and I was going to the hardware store and buying nuts and bolts and putting them in there. But because we took that path, there’s so many restrictions on that technique, it led us in a direction visually that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. It wouldn’t look exactly like that anywhere else. I mean, even if you asked me to rebuild that Titan, scratch-build it, it would come different again. Every time I do it, it would look different; I would probably find some new piece of hardware that I would want to stick in there that would change the design. So with that visual, we went straight into CG modelling and sort of experimenting with really getting the movement, the emotion through the animation and the character.

CLICK: We’ve seen some of the game modes now; is it all going to be about dropping in and doing these battles or is there any sort of single player progression?

JE: We have a lot of really talented single player scripters at our office; they have a history of doing these crazy scripted moments and we wanted to take advantage of that in a multiplayer game space, so we came up with Campaign Multiplayer. What that really does is it supports the universe of Titanfall. So you’ll get to know the heroes of both sides, they’ll speak to you, you’ll see them in the drop ships, you’ll run missions with them in multiplayer, and once you go through the whole campaign from one side – you go through both sides, beginning to end. Each level will have a story that goes with it, and that story has one of two outcomes – a win or a loss – complemented by a theatrical moment that goes with it. And it all plugs into a large story arc, beginning to end. But, out of the box, you can decide to play that or not play it; you can go play the other game modes.

CLICK: Does whether or not you win a certain campaign mission dictate what happens next in the story or does the story arc continue regardless?

JE: Yeah, the main story arc is structured in such a way where either team can win or lose and it’ll still maintain the final arc.

CLICK: How much restructuring of the levels was done during development seems as they have to cater for both pilots and sometimes many Titans in the one space?

JE: Massive…Massive changes. Essentially they’re building two levels in one. I mean, when you have a giant walking character that can crouch and use that as cover, there are metrics that have to be considered in the environment. Now we’re dealing with two sets of metrics, if not three because the AI needs to be able to move around as well. So there was a lot to consider. We had the tendency to go in if something was broken and just rip the s**t out of it, just completely rearrange the geometry to make something work properly.

CLICK: Are we seeing a move away from single player campaigns; are they coming to an end?

JE: Our initial intent was to stray away from the scripted AI, scripted linear – you know, it’s almost as if a lot of single player campaigns you’re on a rail and you’re just going through a ride at Disneyland. The AI in our environment are not scripted in a sense where they’re told to do a critical path or just show up when they need to show up. They come into the map, they react to the game that’s actually happening. If you actually look at the game and see when the first Titan shows up in the environment, and that could be really early if they get a Burn Card that allows them to call in a Titan right away or one person’s really good and got their Titan by earning it, then you’ll see the Spectres show up. So the environment’s AI changes based on how players are doing and how their games being played. I’m moving AI around by killing them and messing with them, they’re reacting to me, they’re reacting to my other opponents. They’re just really responding to real people doing real things.

CLICK: Was part of the reason to keep it to three Titans at launch to ensure that it would be easier to keep the game balanced if you release Titans as DLC?

JE: I can answer that this way…What I would say is that just having one Titan work really well in the game was a huge challenge. There was a point in the project where we had the other two Titans built – the artists were ready, the animators were ready – but we hadn’t balanced the one Titan yet. So we got to the point where – it was really close – where we weren’t going to use the other two. Finally when we got the one balanced we were able to go ‘OK, now we can put the other two it.’ The answer to that question is really up in the air. I don’t think I can say anything about it at this point. We were just focussed on launching the game with the three Titans that we had, making them work perfectly.

Titanfall Interview with Joel Emslie on ClickOnline.com
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