Titanfall 2's Most Memorable Level Was a "Big Black Hole of Resources" for Respawn

Titanfall 2's Most Memorable Level Was a "Big Black Hole of Resources" for Respawn

Designer Jake Keating talks "Effect and Cause" in a new interview.

In Titanfall 2's level Effect and Cause, the player character traverses an enemy facility in two different states; thanks to a time travel device, he can instantaneously flick between past and present. For the team at Respawn Entertainment and especially Jake Keating, the designer who came up with the idea, that effectively meant putting twice as much or more labor into Effect and Cause as a typical level might require.

"The whole thing was definitely a big black hole of resources," Keating tells Game Brain's Donal Sheil in a new video. Keating describes how Effect and Cause made its way from a rough gameplay pitch made during Respawn's freewheeling "action block" pre-production to a finished, awe-inspiring level. "If you put that prototype next to the final level, it's just shocking the amount of love and care that went in from every department," says Keating.

"You make this cardinal rule in level design a lot of the time, which is 'try to reuse your geometry, try not to blow through it too fast," Keating explains. Even without taking the level's handful of short, one-shot scenes into account, Effect and Cause breaks that rule left and right. "The whole level you are just blowing through geometry, some of it by the very design you might not ever see because it's in a time period that maybe you're not travelling to," Keating says. "That part of it was phenomenally taxing, I think, on the team, on every department."

Effect and Cause was the only Titanfall 2 level that essentially stuck to its "action block" pitch, but Keating thinks that it and other memorable missions like The Beacon and Into the Abyss all resulted from Respawn's eagerness to make a single-player game after finishing the first multiplayer-only Titanfall:

When Titanfall 2 did come around, it was almost like a modder mentality again, where you had this ready-made engine. [Titanfall] was a shipped game; it didn't have all the single-player components, but it had a really good Titan motion model and combat, same for the pilot, and we were just kind of given this set of ingredients to say, like, "hey, what can you do with this?"

Despite having its 2016 launch squeezed between two major FPS franchise releases, Titanfall 2 went on to critical acclaim, landed in USG's top 10 games of the past decade, and helped set up Respawn's massive success with Apex Legends. In April of last year, Respawn announced that it's pushing off future Titanfall titles to focus on its battle royale spin-off, but hopefully the enduring interest in Titanfall 2's single-player leads to something more than the occasional fond look back on its bright spots.

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Mathew Olson

Reporter

Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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