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Was cancelling Titanfall the right decision?

titanfall

So now that we’re all calm and collected about EA cancelling local Titanfall access, we can all sit down and have a reasonable discussion about it, right?

No, not really. My emotional pendulum is still swinging between disappointed and pissed, but I’m going to try be devil’s advocate here.

So let’s consider – did EA make the right call?

For

Let’s kick things off by trying to see this from EA’s side. Titanfall is, essentially, multiplayer only. It has some built in campaign elements but the whole experience will be taking place online.

Optimally, you’d want the game to be running at a ping range of between 20ms-100ms. If you’ve ever played any games on one of our local servers, that’s about what you’d see, depending on your location.

Now, of course, the issue here is that EA have chosen to run the game on Microsoft’s Azure servers, none of which exist here, or anywhere really all that close to here. I don’t really know what it would take to set up such a server, so let’s not go down that path.

Since it’s impossible for EA to guarantee a satisfactory ping, they cancel the game. Now I know the common response to this is, “let us decide,” which seems fair enough, right? I’m not so sure.

The thing is, we make up a pretty small section of the gaming community. By “we”, I mean the people who follow local gaming news, read reviews, post on forums and are generally involved in the community.

There are plenty of gamers who simply buy whatever the big new title is, throw it in their console and play. Those people are the ones that EA are concerned about.

Simply put, there are a significant number of people who just aren’t going to know what an Azure server is, let alone that SA doesn’t have them. They buy their game, they expect it to work.

Battlefield 4 is still trying to get to that "just works" milestone.

Battlefield 4 is still trying to get to that “just works” milestone.

There’s no logistically viable way of warning people either. Can you imagine the shop assistant at your local CNA telling you that the only available servers are based in Europe? Hell, in my experience they wouldn’t be able to tell you whether or not the game works with a PS4.

Our outrage rests on the assumption that we’d be making an informed decision. We KNOW the game isn’t perfect, but we don’t care and we want to play anyway. The problem isn’t us, it’s the people who don’t actually KNOW.

What we really need to be asking ourselves then, is how we define “playable”.

Against

Gaming with mediocre ping is a reality in this country. Let’s be honest, local servers are an exception, not the norm.

A lot of games I play, I play on European servers on a ping which hovers between 190 and 220. If any of you reading this play Diablo 3 or League of Legends or World of Warcraft for example (and I’m sure many of you do), you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

The difference here, many will argue, is that that just doesn’t fly on FPS. FPS requires pin-point accuracy and sharp reflexes, and a poor latency will ruin the gameplay experience. That, in my opinion, is a load of crap.

Another game I play almost exclusively on European servers is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or CoD4. My ping for that usually sits at around 220, and I barely notice it. There are occasional split-second moments here or there where I feel I would have come out ahead had I been operating on the same 30ms ping as my opponent, but those are few and far between what is otherwise a very enjoyable gaming experience.

Keep in mind, this is a 2007 game I’m talking about. Now, full disclosure, I didn’t get an opportunity to play in the Titanfall beta. However, everything I’ve heard about the game is that it has some of the best, most aggressive lag compensation features ever seen in an FPS.

Still better than Battlefield 4.

Still better than Battlefield 4.

Lag compensation that CoD4 does not have. Even the writers here on NAG who did have beta access have spoken about how enjoyable their experience has been. Would we rather have a 30ms ping? Sure. Is 200ms going to ruin our experience? I don’t think it is.

Conclusion

Yes, it makes sense for EA not to want to launch an unplayable or even unenjoyable game here. We have to acknowledge that not everyone is going to be making an informed decision on what they’re buying into. That being said, there is a level of frustration at being babied like that and having the choice taken away from us.

But that’s not the point.

I don’t think this is an issue of having the right to choose for ourselves, I think it’s the difference between perfect and good enough.

Titanfall on European servers, simply put, is good enough. And we want to play it.

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  • Alex Rowley

    I’ve been thinking about this recently in regards to the informed decision aspect and I do agree that the people following game sites are not an indication of everyone but that just makes me wonder one thing. Do they even know it’s a multiplayer only game? If they don’t even follow gaming sites and just buy games on the ads and gameplay vids then I can definitely see people buying it thinking it will have a campaign because I have yet to see a Titanfall ad remind everyone it’s multiplayer only.

    I thought of this because I had to to explain this to a few of my mates who buy games but don’t really keep up to date in regards to gaming news. It’s a little ridiculous to me that people would buy a game with out doing at least some research on it.

    Anyways my opinion is that EA cancelling was a dumb move on their part considering the ping is something that we have dealt with for years and they still happily released BF4 here not mentioning a single thing about worrying about lag or ping. I actually do believe the theory that it has been delayed for the X1 launch when ever the hell that is.

    • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

      I think, and I could be wrong since I mostly purchase games online, but these days they quite boldly state “INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIRED” on the box?

      Makes you wonder if there’s a way EA SA could attach a little sticker warning of no local servers or something.

      • Alex Rowley

        There is indeed internet connection required written on the box but I don’t think there is anything about there being no campaign to it. I haven’t actually seen the retail box for Titanfall so it could possibly be clearly stated. I just think when a parent is out buying a game for their kid and they see all the Titanfall buzz they will not even think to check for these things.

        • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

          Oh sorry I misunderstood, I thought you meant the internet implications. And yeah, I’m pretty sure people just look at the box sometimes ;)

          • Alex Rowley

            Haha yea it’s a distinction I think a lot of people will get confused with.

            I just picked up the latest NAG and I kinda forgot that it was a Titanfall cover. why did they let Nag run a cover for it when they knew they were cancelling it??

          • ToshZA

            Afaik, NAG submits everything a week or 2 before the end of the month to allow for print times. At the time of going to print, Titanfall wouldn’t have been cancelled yet.

          • Alex Rowley

            But surely Respawn and EA knew about the the cancellation since they made the decision? It’s bad form on their part either way.

          • Miklós Szecsei

            Yeah, this. The magazine went to print weeks before the cancellation. The fact that EA South Africa didn’t even bother sending out an official press release regarding the matter is indicative of this being a sudden decision very late in the lead up to the game’s release. All local media was caught off guard.

  • Squirly

    Respawn is not, essentially, online only, because it’s a dev studio.

    *ahem*

    • Tarryn van der Byl

      Emergency Response Editior doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

      • Squirly

        *Editor (can I get a OH SNAP?)

        • Tarryn van der Byl

          OH SNAP.

          xD

      • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

        Can confirm, Squirly clearly insane.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

    EA and Respawn suddenly taking the higher ground doesn’t make sense when they’ve had plenty of data from the Battlefield 4 beta, which many Origin users here also took part in. EA South Africa could have told these guys long ago about the state of the internet here. No, something else caused the cancellation. Its either Microsoft yanking on that leash to wait for the Xbox One launch (whenever that is) or waiting until Azure servers can be deployed…

    Which, let’s face it, has been promised for years. And nothing’s been done since Azure was released. Microsoft has mountains of data on how many businesses here using their products would benefit from Azure.

    • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

      What kind of investment is required for Azure servers? If they decided to put them in tomorrow, how long would it take till they were up and running? Any idea?

      • Tarryn van der Byl

        It’s not the cost, it’s our shitty broadband infrastructure.

        • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

          :( Well, there goes any hope I had.

      • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

        Money-wise, I’m not so sure. Having local Azure servers would at least allow Microsoft to compete against other hosted solutions here as well as Amazon Web Services.

        For Microsoft the investment isn’t too big to make it a bad idea, but keeping up service agreements, accounting for Eskom and Telkom failures and finding space for the data center on a fiber connection are bigger issues to get it running.

        Of course they could have a company with a track record like Hetzner or Dimension Data to have a basic setup for Azure services locally while they work out the finer details, but Microsoft would prefer to have complete control.

        All told, getting it up could take them a year. Then again, I first heard of Azure back in 2010 when attending a Microsoft conference in PE where I saw the first signs of moving to things like Office 365 and buying up Skype. They’ve had plenty of time to mobilise something and try make a profit off of it.

        • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

          Guess we got stuck here at the bottom of the world, forgotten as usual. =/ Looks like we probably shouldn’t be holding our breath for anything then.

  • Evil Coward

    What I find hilarious is the fact that EA/MS/RESPAWN have no problem releasing Titanfall in other countries where there too is a lack of Azure servers (talking mainly about Australia here), the closest available servers for them being in Singapore i believe. This is going to cause a lot of Aussie players to have similar latencies to what us South African gamers will experience on EU servers…so why not cancel the launch there too? Money…thats why.

    I bought a key on EVOpoints and im a little over half way with the pre-load. I would suggest others who want to experience the game do the same. There is literally no good reason to cancel or delay the launch here. All their excuses are just that, excuses.

    • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

      Not sure what I’m missing, but how does not launching it here get them more money?

      • Evil Coward

        The meaning im getting at is they didn’t cancel the release in Australia because there is a larger demographic of gamers there than there is here, thus a greater opportunity to make revenue. Why would they pull the game from SA shores because of the quality of the experience yet let it release in Ausralia where they will most likely face the same issues? Because they would be missing out on that sweet, sweet cash.

  • Delano

    EA’s “logic” (or perhaps lack thereof) is inconsistent. We all know about the SimCity 2013 debacle and how they insisted on making the game online-only; a decision which left many customers angry, annoyed and gameless, myself among them. Now suddenly they’re concerned about everybody’s connectivity, and seek to “solve” it by denying some of their customer base completely? It makes about as much sense as Telkom solving line problems by preventing people from buying telephones in problematic regions.

    You’re quite right about 200+ ping rates keeping a game playable. I’ve had extensive experience with this, even with slower-placed games like Minecraft, even on local servers.

    And what about LAN play? What about modding and the possibility of making offline bot modes? The more you think about it, the less sense it makes… not that it made sense to begin with.

  • Timothy Radue

    Look, In my honest Opinion, I can fully understand the reason behind cancelling the game, ( if their reason is in fact true). My Biggest problem with this whole fiasco is the fact that they announced the cancellation exactly 1 week before it was meant to go live here. I mean, they had Months to do this, why wait until after all the hype was built up, just to disappoint us so. I Find it VERY unprofessional…

    • Johannes Conradie

      +1

  • Erich du Toit

    Thank you apartheid.

    • Squirly

      Is that our version of ‘Thanks Obama?’

    • FanieNel

      The internet barely existed back then, and as always, they blame apartheid for everything.
      It was only after apartheid that when there was a breakthrough with anything internet related, “they” ignored it and said it wasn’t necessary , and thanks to that ignorance, we are far behind.

  • PicklePod

    Maaaaannn there were even South African voice actors and a robot from District 9 :'{

  • Rick de Klerk

    Nice piece, Chris.

    Like you say, they’re well within their rights to cancel the release. EA certainly don’t have an obligation to offer their products in every territory. People complain when they release games with shoddy online services like SimCity and Battlefield 4, then complain when they don’t. I would have liked the choice, but they’re not obligated to deliver on that want.

    I think the worst thing here was how it was cancelled (A week before the launch), and how that cancellation was communicated.

    In all likelihood, I think Titanfall will arrive here at some point. Keeping the faith. Until then, Dark Souls II should keep me occupied :D

    • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

      Thanks Rick! i think a lot of people seem to share your opinion on the nature of the cancellation and how it was handled.

      I don’t know, i think I’m just so jaded at this point by poor treatment from video game devs. If it’s not a broken game it’s something like this, and it just doesn’t seem like a trend that’s going to end anytime soon.

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