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First Titanfall gameplay had 7v7 battles, player cap "isn't a tech limitation"

"We just found that 6v6 is the sweet spot for everything."

I attempted to put controversy about Titanfall's 12 player cap to bed earlier in the week, but what can one lowly blogger do to assuage the internet's passion? Perhaps these excerpts from our latest chat with Respawn Entertainment will do the job.

The controversy in brief: detractors feel six players a side isn't enough players for a multiplayer shooter on console. Some claim that Titanfall is only able to run 12 player matches because the Xbox One isn't powerful enough to support more. And Respawn's rebuttal? The choice of six players a side was made because this makes the game more fun to play - higher headcounts were experimented with, but these led to a lot of confusion and frustration, as play-testers struggled to keep track of all the potential threats.

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According to engineer Jon Shiring, Respawn eventually settled on a maximum of six players a side because "that's what the designers have come up with as the most fun to play through lots of trial and error". The decision was taken fairly recently - Respawn showed off 14 player matches at E3 last year, for instance.

"It's not a technical limitation," he added. "But we're designing the game to be the most fun that we can make it." According to community manager Abbie Heppe, "we just found that 6v6 is the sweet spot for everything, for our maps and the modes".

As I argued yesterday, adding more players to a multiplayer game isn't a recipe for more fun - some of the industry's finest shooters, like Gears of War, Halo and Left 4 Dead, are best enjoyed with headcounts of four players a side.

Moreover, Titanfall's headline features impose a unique set of balancing considerations: each player is capable of summoning a massive, extremely powerful robot from orbit, which can either be driven or told to fight independently. Each side also fields dozens of AI-controlled Grunts - these can be fought for smaller amounts of XP at reduced risk, or to quickly gain enough points to summon a Titan. They can also be "converted" to your team using a Data Knife. According to a recent Polygon piece, this adds up to around 50 combatants per game.

It's been argued that Respawn has included the Grunts to disguise the fact that it's unable to support matches of greater than six a side. This is questionable - those Grunts soak up technological resources, just like actual players, which rather undermines the argument that they're some kind of sneaky workaround.

Elsewhere in our interview, Respawn's Fairfax 'Mackey' McCandlish described how fighting Grunts would differ from fighting players. "The more you play the game, the easier it is to tell the AI from the players, although with new players we've noticed a lot of times it won't be obvious to them, because they're new to the game and they're used to combatants being on the ground.

"Once you use the Titanfall you tend to take to the skies, so to speak. So it's a little more rare to encounter a human player on the ground."

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According to McCandlish, the slight additional challenge of distinguishing human from AI players adds to the fun. "Once you're used to the game I don't think you'll have much trouble telling, but when you come around a corner and you open up on whoever's on the other side, you might not know that you're going to be going up against a human or an AI until after the bullets have already been fired. Because you don't want to give the other guy that chance.

"So even at a top level, the AI are always going to be providing this mix that has unpredictable results, and it keeps it interesting and exciting. They can help or hinder depending on how you learn to interact with them."

Hope all that's useful. Read our latest Titanfall preview for more. The game hits in March.

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