RIP CTF

16 May

Languishing in my drafts folder are 900 words’ worth of reasons why I think Titanfall is the best damn thing, so it’s a shame – likely only to me – that I now have to precede that post with one about an utterly bizarre mistake it’s just made.

TF_Lagoon_Pilot_Titan

As of today, you can no longer join a Capture the Flag playlist on PC – meaning that if you want to capture some flags, you have to park yourself in the ‘Variety’ playlist and wait for it to come up in the rotation. Respawn are intelligent people, demonstrated by the intelligent shooter they’ve created, but this easily ranks among the most bug-fuck crazy decisions in recent gaming history.

It’s bug-fuck crazy because, when both teams have at least a couple of people who know what they’re doing, CTF is Titanfall at its absolute best. Parkour comes into its own as flag runners bounce between walls like Nerf darts, weaving between the gunfire of increasingly desperate pursuers. Meanwhile, Titans form angry mechanical roadblocks around their base, occasionally giving lifts to carriers or even lumbering off to attempt a cap of their own. If you’re playing CTF and you’re not doing something awesome at least 80% of the time, you will lose. I fucking love that it demands that of me.

Now, that experience has an absurd barrier to entry: having to play a few rounds of inferior game modes first. It’s not that the Variety playlist is full of garbage – Hardpoint Domination is still hyperactive fun, and Pilot Hunter is okay if you want Attrition with slightly less action in it – but what multiplayer game, ever, lacks the ability to choose which mode you play? How can such basic functionality be not just overlooked, but actively removed?

Bail_Out

I’ve seen a theory that CTF and Pilot Hunter (which was also banished to Variety purgatory) were simply suffering from low player counts, and cutting their playlists would funnel their denizens towards the more populous modes – speeding up matchmaking for the majority. I deeply, deeply hope that this wasn’t the intention, because booting a playerbase – even a relatively small one like CTF fans – out of their chosen mode doesn’t sound so much like a strategy for having them try new things as it does like a strategy for pissing them off and making them leave for good.

It’s also totally at odds with Respawn’s  own actions. Hours before CTF was removed as a playlist, it received a much-requested change: pilots would drop the flag when boarding their Titan, rather than just tucking it under three tonnes of arm and pegging it. It is outright nuts to release an update that tempts players back with a highly-demanded feature, then almost immediately make that feature such a hassle to benefit from.

Choices_Choices

Basically, if the devs do have a good reason for this, they need to do a much better job at communicating what it is – because right now, I don’t see curious fans taking an opportunity to discover new modes. What I do see is a lot of bewildered players, shocked and more than a little annoyed that the game they bought and paid for has compromised, rather than improved, their ability to play. That is both the precise opposite of what post-release support should aim to achieve, and a huge disservice to what is otherwise a superb game.

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