April 1st, 2014
11:11 PM ET

Game Faces: Vince Zampella

The mark of a good multiplayer game is balance. Ideally, you want it to be fair for everyone who plays your game.

One simple way to ensure a fair fight is to give everyone the same tools. It's the easiest (and most logical) way to level the playing field. If everyone has access to the same weapons and same moves, the only major difference is a player's ability, right?

Titanfall is a multiplayer game built around a unique central concept: Giant armored mechs (Titans) battling with small and agile foot soldiers (pilots).

On paper, it is not a fair fight.

And that's what makes Titanfall so much fun.

Despite the differences between Titans and pilots, in Titanfall you always feel like you have a chance.

In a Titan? I'll use the overwhelming firepower at my disposal to take out pilots on foot.

On foot? I'm small and quick, so I'll just jump into this basement where the Titan can't follow.

Making a game that appears so inherently unbalanced is an enormous risk. Get it wrong and your game is fundamentally broken. Get it right, and you can change the genre.

It's happened before. Fighting games were niche until Street Fighter II introduced a roster of diverse characters, all with individual strengths and weaknesses that gave each matchup more depth and complexity. And WarCraft may have been a great game - but the two warring sides in the original game were effectively clones. StarCraft's introduction of three distinct and yet delicately balanced factions made it the strategy game of choice for competitive play for over a decade.

When it works, the apparent imbalance is what sets Titanfall apart. Combat is simply more interesting when both sides aren't fighting the same way.

Every advantage for Titans is matched by one for pilots. Titans are big and powerful. But pilots can run on walls and turn invisible. Titans have sensors that warn when you're up against too many enemies. And every pilot has an anti-Titan weapon. For every strength, there's a weakness.

It's a balance that can only truly be achieved by constantly playing your game before it's released, constantly iterating and tweaking over and over again until it feels just right.

It remains to be seen whether all that work will be enough to topple Call of Duty.

But it is a lot of fun.

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