Hitting max level in Titanfall as a mediocre shooter player

I finally did this Saturday night:

(basically it means I'm Generation 10, Level 50, which is the current max level in Titanfall)

I've never "maxed out" in a first-person shooter with levels before and decided early on that I'd try to do that in Titanfall. It took me three and a half months and a little over 200 hours of game time to max out. Here's what my (unimpressive) stats look like at the end of it all:

I'm pretty bad at shooters but after three months of playing I would say I've improved to "okay". I'm occasionally dominant against new players, but against people with similar experience I mostly just hold my own. I find the essential ingredient to getting good at something is to enjoy being bad at it, and I love a good shooter even when I'm not playing so hot.

Playing Titanfall for three months has also, oddly, given me slightly better reflexes in real life, though probably just temporarily. A month ago I opened a cabinet and a container fell out. I immediately caught it with both hands. Normally I'd just smear my body up against the counter and hope nothing breakable hit the floor. In the game I occasionally twitch-shotgun people so fast I don't even really know what I'm doing. It's cool but also a little weird.

The game itself is great. The mobility of your character is absolutely intoxicating. I'm actually a little worried it will ruin me. (I want to enjoy Destiny in the fall!) The titans feel powerful but are still as squishy as you'd want. The levels are fascinating and complex and fun to play and I enjoy them all. Last night, I stumbled into a hallway in Nexus that I'd never seen before, which after ten or fifteen hours on that map is pretty amazing and pretty cool.

Built around the game (and this is how you spend 200 hours playing it) is a regeneration system that requires you to gain experience and complete challenges to "regenerate" to the next generation and start again at level 1. Regenerating doesn't do anything for your character but it gives you something to do. Each generation has specific challenges associated with it, and those challenges become harder and more numerous the higher the generation.

The challenges give you a tour through the weapons in the game ("Kill 75 players with the shotgun"), tactics ("Get 25 execution kills in the Atlas"), as well as general proficiency ("Win 100 games").

Most of the challenges are great because they introduce you to weapons and tactics that you come to love but would not have tried otherwise. Titan executions were a little intimidating (until I'd had to do 25 of them in each chassis) and now I love them, and after using all the guns I found a few unexpected ones that I really enjoy.

A few of the challenges, unfortunately, introduce you to weapons and tactics that you will avoid like the plague thereafter. The worst challenges, for me, were so difficult that I'd essentially be ignoring the game objectives trying to progress and my team would be losing because of my distraction and it would be awful. The three worst challenges that stick out were the two sniper rifle challenges (sniper rifles are not a good idea in any of the retail game modes) and one challenge that had you get 75 kills by dropping your titan on players/titans/NPCs. (Spoiler: aiming titanfalls sucks, suitable enemies are never on hand when your titan is ready to drop so you have to run across the map to find one, and then when you get there those enemies are CONSTANTLY MOVING while your titanfall has a five-second drop timer.)

That dropping challenge, to me, is easiest the most idiotic part of the game. It teaches you nothing except that even the talented developers at Respawn occasionally make catastrophic mistakes.

Good news though, that. BEFORE last week the most idiotic part of the game was the matchmaking. Matchmaking was only used to place you on a team and then, if a team won three matches in a row, to find another team. Teams would not be rebalanced in between games and this not only could make the game very frustrating -- it would make nearly every game frustrating! Matchmaking was just patched last week and it's still not perfect but it is now perfectly acceptable.

Overall though, I really like the game and the regeneration system. I have seen a lot of common critiques of the game. I thought I'd address a few and why they don't bother me personally.

1) Nobody's playing on PC!

I don't know where these people are playing or when they are playing or what their standards are. I've been playing PC shooters for a long time and finding a suitable match can be a huge pain in any game. I certainly had nights back in the day in Natural Selection or TF2 or BF:BC2 where my favorite servers would be down or empty and I'd spend the whole night trying to find one game to play and never succeed. I'd literally spend over an hour trying to play and never get in, or only get to play for a little while and then have to find a new server.

Nothing like that has ever happened to me in Titanfall. Maybe a handful of times I didn't get to play my favorite mode, but in general I spend less time passively waiting for games in Titanfall than I did actively looking for games in other PC shooters I've played.

Maybe these people are in other server regions that are more sparsely populated? Maybe in a world of CoD (which I've never got around to playing) people have higher expectations? I don't know. But I have been satisfied with my PC experience.

2) You don't get a lot of content for $60

This is understandable, though at 200+ hours I personally got my money's worth. Despite that, I'll complain a little anyway : the campaign is minimal, there is no horde or PvE, and I would love to see some sort of "assault" mode.

The lack of content was understandable this time, but I absolutely expect more from the sequel.

3) There aren't enough maps/weapons/etc.

When I played Battlefield : Bad Company 2, there were maybe forty or fifty weapons. Most of them I used as little as possible. I think the weapon variety in Titanfall among the ten weapons is fine. They could have trimmed out the two sniper rifles and the game would have been improved!

The fifteen maps (eighteen now) are all medium-sized and wonderfully detailed, and designed with the movement mechanics in mind. Again, I haven't played many modern shooters, but I think the map variety compares very well with other shooters I've played.

Anyway, this is my farewell post to Titanfall. I enjoyed my time with the game and it's time to move on. Having this much fun with a shooter again gives me great hope for Destiny in the fall, and of course Titanfall 2.


Two Hundred Year-Old Essays about Video Game Violence

Well, not specifically about violent video games, but the equivalents of the times : bows and Penny Dreadfuls. I thought of them when reading this Atlantic piece the other day, about a mom who's reconsidering buying her son Halo 4 for Christmas after the tragedy of Newtown.

There's this G.K. Chesterton essay from 1923 (sorry for the bait and switch, it's only 89 years old) on boys' obsessions with bows and what little could be done to control it:

It is always dangerous to have a little boy. But no other society, claiming to be sane, would have dreamed of supposing that you could abolish all bows unless you could abolish all boys.

And this essay from 1901 (Chesterton also, I'm a fan) defending Penny Dreadfuls:

But it is we who are the morbid exceptions; it is we who are the criminal class. This should be our great comfort. The vast mass of humanity, with their vast mass of idle books and idle words, have never doubted and never will doubt that courage is splendid, that fidelity is noble, that distressed ladies should be rescued, and vanquished enemies spared.

They are both good reads, but if they're a little long for you I'd sum up their relevance to today as this:

Boys have not always played violent video games, but they've always played at violent games. And there's much for a mom to admire in her son's Halo game that is simply not present in most 'sophisticated' culture.


This Is The First Blog I've Written Here

Hello, everybody, this is my first blog on the site.  I have no idea how to browse user blogs so I don't know if anybody will ever see this.  Iif you do feel free to let me know how you found it.

I found the site basically because Carrie Gouskas (sp?) of Mythic mentioned it on her blog.  Then I found the podcast and enjoy that too.

I'm a recovering MMORPG fan.  WAR was my last, best hope, but I eventually got bored.  So for the moment I'm seemingly done with the genre altogether, which is weird, since I've been mostly playing MMORPG's for the last five years or so.

Other than that I like shooters, action games, and strategy games.  I'm in dire need of steam buddies (with which to play Left 4 Dead) and 360 buddies (with which to play Gears 2), so if you're in a similar "boat" feel free to add me to your friends list (Steam ID : Boat, Xfire and Xbox Live ID: Boatorious).