Exploring Monarch’s Theme
The very beginning of Monarch started off with a desire to increase the diversity of Titan playstyles and bring a Vanguard Titan into multiplayer. The first step in doing that was figuring out a theme that art and design could rally behind. We started off asking ourselves: what makes BT unique? From a mechanics standpoint, BT’s hook is the ability to change between loadouts to match whatever scenario he’s up against. However, for someone playing multiplayer, that doesn’t accomplish the goal of increasing playstyle diversity, so we scratched ideas related to using existing loadouts. But thinking more abstractly, BT’s ability to adapt to different scenarios was something we could use. Additionally, the bond between BT and Jack stood out as something we could try to reproduce in multiplayer. These two elements from BT lead to the idea of Monarch’s Upgrade Core.
Designing Monarch’s Upgrades and Abilities
Defining what separates good abilities from bad abilities can be difficult, because fun is subjective. With Upgrade Core in mind, we had three primary considerations in designing abilities: creating a web of interesting choices, team feedback, and player feedback.
Once we committed to the theme of an upgrading Titan, the foremost challenge for abilities would be making sure that choices were meaningful and options were balanced. So, we designed Abilities and Upgrades to synergize with each other in an effort to reinforce player choice. For example, we knew Overcore was at risk for becoming a mandatory choice, so we created Maelstrom to make Counter-Ready a more compelling choice. Additionally, we made Rearm reset Dash to improve the value of Turbo-Engine.
Internal team desires drove the idea that Monarch would have a path of support upgrades. Our audio director, Erik, has long wanted support playstyles in our Titan combat, and Monarch’s Upgrades gave us the first opportunity to explore support mechanics.
Since Titanfall 2 launched, players have debated the pros and cons of changes to Titan customization. We wanted Monarch to be a Titan for players who desired more customization, and show how greater customization isn’t incompatible with selecting specific Titans. Additionally, we brought the XO-16 back into multiplayer based on feedback from Titanfall 1 players.
Lastly, Monarch’s kits were designed to reinforce Upgrade Core. Upgrade Core was making players care about keeping Monarch alive. So, It just felt natural that all of her kits provide different ways to survive and try to reach her peak power. That said, not every kit was a home run. Originally, Shield Amplifier increased the max capacity of Monarch’s Shields. This seemed fine with Energy Siphon, but became abusive and unfun to fight against due to Upgrade Core providing a full shield.
Getting the details right
So far this discussion has been centered mostly around game design, but Monarch works because of all the work other departments did to sell the fantasy of an Upgrading Titan.
Modelshop created new bodygroups to visually communicate when Monarch has Upgraded.
Monarch’s Upgrade icons not only show the Upgrade itself, but help make the tiers of Upgrades easier for players to understand.
SFX and FX evolve with Upgrades to communicate the shifts in the gameplay and, for the most part, sound badass. Here you can see Energy Siphon’s color shift to indicate its ability to shield friendly Titans.
Animation making an extra execution for Energy Thief changed a passive kit into one of her most signature moves.
QA did an amazing job giving feedback to help Monarch come out the gate balanced.
All-in-all, Monarch took the team around 5 months from concept to completion. By the end of that time, we started to feel like we achieved our original goals. Monarch’s Upgrades create a strong bond between you and your Titan, inspired by BT and Jack, and her upgrades have expanded the playstyle choice to include support gameplay, which makes for deeper and personal Titan combat.
We can’t wait to see how players use Monarch and what strategies are formed to make the most of her potential. We hope you all enjoy Monarch’s Reign!
– Senior Game Designer, Steven DeRose