What Respawn do when Titanfall’s servers start exploding

Titanfall: a game far more novel than its aesthetic lets on.

Titanfall launched in North America last night, and early PC players – including Rob in his Titanfall review – noticed the problems almost immediately: they couldn’t log onto the lobby servers. A swift patch soon dropped from orbit, but we’re now left with a pertinent question: just how are Respawn going to deal with peaks in server load in the coming weeks?

Titanfall relies on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud for its dedicated servers. While an unusual step, it’s allowed Respawn a “significant amount of CPU power and bandwidth” to play with in developing the game.

“There are other games like Battlefield that have dedicated servers, but they haven’t gone in the same direction that we have with them,” Respawn engineer Jon Shiring told Engadget. “That has obviously let us build a different game than we would have if we’d have gone in with the constraints of it having to be player-hosted. We have all of this AI and things flying around in the world.”

When it comes to planning for how many players will be online at any one time, Respawn simply hand Microsoft their estimates, ask them to plan for any problems, and ensure there are “more than enough servers available”.

There is a contingency plan, however: one that Respawn deliberately put themselves through during Titanfall’s beta.

“The way it ends up working is that peak time in Europe is going to be much ahead of the US,” said Shiring. “[During beta] we moved some Europeans over to East Coast US data centers, which is not ideal, but it at least let them play.

“We don’t look forward to doing that at all, but if we have a bunch of people sitting unable to play the game, then we’re going to make sure that the experience is good enough – maybe not ideal – to get them playing.”

Shiring noted that Respawn do have capacity at other data centres a little further afield.

“If we have a situation like that, that’s going to be my fault,” he said. “If we fill up every data center out there, then we’ll be there at Microsoft – they’ll know the whole time that they need to bring more servers online.”

We’ll sometimes have to live with low ping, then, but should never be left outside the lobby. Fingers crossed.

Did any of you lot deal with server issues last night? If so, did you manage to get playing before bedtime?