Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Succeeding at Titanfall 2: Game Modes

[NOTE: One in a series of posts on my Titanfall 2 experience. Find the intro article with links to others here.]

Titanfall 2 has a bunch of great different game modes. Some focus on Titan combat, some on pilot combat, some are mixed.
There are game modes in Titanfall 2 that I have zero interest in playing. Those modes are the 100% pilot vs pilot modes including Free for All, Pilot vs. Pilot, Capture The Flag, Marked for Death, Live Fire, and The Coliseum. If you get along well in those modes, great. Happy for you. You are a better pilot than I. Seriously. I’d rather punch myself in the balls while being dragged naked behind a motorcycle through a patch of cactus and broken glass.
My game mode mixtape has (generally) five or six modes on it. These are modes where I don’t end up screaming in frustration and throwing stuff because I’ve been shot in the head or executed for the sixth time in the last 30 seconds. I choose game modes I can succeed in, and have a good time while doing it: Amped Hardpoint, Bounty Hunt, Attrition, Last Titan Standing, and Titan Brawl. The sixth would be the occasional “special” mode Titanfall 2 throws in that’s not a simple pilot vs pilot mode. Sometimes they’ll do variations on modes I can succeed in, and I’ll add those to my mixtape.

Learn How To Win Each Game Mode

In most cases, for the mixtape I run, simply killing lots of pilots won’t win you every game. Several game modes require you to do other things to help your team win.
Bounty Hunt and Amped Hardpoint are two such modes. You need to focus on scoring points by killing Remnant Fleet players (Bounty Hunt) or holding/amping hard points (Amped Hardpoint). It’s totally possible to rack up a lot of pilot kills and end up losing the match because you weren’t taking care of business—as shown below, where in a game of Bounty Hunt I had far more points than anyone on my team, and 1,000 more points than the next highest opponent. And we lost. Because my teammates were out running around killing opponents and not scoring points. If each of those players had simply scored 200 more points each we would have won the game. Dramatic sigh.
Scored Lots of Points, Lost Because Team Was Killing Pilots Instead of Getting Points
Focus on winning. That means understanding the requirements and scoring for the game. At least make an effort to help your team win.

Pilot Kits and Ordinance

I like the Firestar because it’s persistent and an area of effect weapon. It also blinds Titans and does good damage on them. I’ve gotten several “from the dead” kills from flame damage on a Titan that did me in.
Titan Hunter kit works for me because it helps me get a titan faster.
I use Phase Embark because it lets me get into the shelter of my Titan as quickly as possible. He who runs away lives to run away another day.
Hover? Useless for me. Why do I want to float over the battlefield where people can shoot my ass out of the sky?
Stealth Kit seems to work great for others, but I still get killed regularly by electric smoke when I’m rodeoing with it, so I gave up on it.
I used the satchel charge exclusively in Titanfall 1, but only with the perk that blew it up when you died. I got lots of “from the dead” kills that way, but it’s not part of TF2, so I don’t use the satchel. The other ordinance is fine, I just roll better with the Firestar.

Thoughts on Specific Game Modes

Here are a few things that work for me in various game modes.


Goal: Kill as many opponents as you can. Titans are ten points, pilots five. Remember that minion kills can get you serious points, especially if you take out Reapers. As of this writing they’re three points each (they used to be five!), which means they’re good for overall points. They also can kick your ass all over the place if you’re not careful while you’re trying to blow them to smithereens.
Pilot Weapons: I like mid-range weapons like the Hemlock, G2, and Flatline. Again, this suits my style of play. A couple maps like Blackwater and Homestead are great for sniping with the Kraber, too. (I hate the DMR and don’t play well with it.)
Titans: Find what you play well with. I prefer Legion, Monarch, Ion, Scorch. Use kits that help you move faster. When playing Legion I use Hidden Compartment and Extra Dash. Monarch I’ll roll with Overcore, Arc Rounds, Fast Rearm, and Chassis. For Scorch I’ll use the extra thermite and dash.

Bounty Hunt

Goal: Kill Remnant forces for their bounty. Cash bounty in at banks in between rounds. Kill opposing pilots to piss them off and steal half their bounty collection.
Tactics: Focus on Remnant forces, kill pilots when they’re around. Remember your points to victory come from bounty, not pilot kills. If you’re going to chase after opposing pilots, go for the ones with large bounties in their pockets—the amount shows over their heads—and make sure to bank your money at the end of the round! Don’t just run around killing pilots and not banking your bounties. 20 kills and 100 points does not help you win the match…
Pilot Weapons: I roll nearly 100% with the Cold War. Splash damage from this is awesome because I can shoot at the door of a landing pod and kill almost all the Remnant grunts/specters/stalkers. The Cold War’s downside is the time to spin up before firing. You’re screwed if a pilot comes at you… Also, I’ve blown myself up a significant number of times by starting a shot, then ducking inside a door to hide from an enemy. Gun goes off, Jim gets blown up. If not the Cold War, then look for a gun that’s got a bunch of ammo and hits hard. Flatline and Devotion are good options.
Boost: Pilot sentry is awesome. I regularly get it 30 seconds into the first round. Drop it in a good spot, then hide from other pilots while blasting Remnants.
Titans: Legion with the extra ammo kit and Overcore kit, because you want Smartcore ASAP. It’s a thing of beauty for laying waste to the Remnants and pilots who are swanning about.

Amped Hardpoint

Goal: Hold the hardpoints and amp them. Prevent the opposing force from doing the same. You do not get points for killing the opponents!
Tactics: At a minimum, stay at a hard point until you see the message flash up “Hardpoint Hold” or “Amped Hardpoint Hold.” This means you’re getting points for yourself and your team. When you respawn, head immediately for the nearest hardpoint, either to hold it/amp it for points, or to try and seize from the enemy. You do not get points for running around the map shooting at opponents. Stick close to the hardpoints to get, well, points.
Keep an eye on the hardpoint status indicators and overall points. Try to keep your own hardpoints amped and the enemy’s unmapped.
Pilot Weapons: My standard is Hemlock (my favorite gun), Flatline, occasionally G2. Sometimes I’ll play the R97 because it sounds cool and it’s good for the close range defense.
Titans: Few hardpoints on any map allow you to hold them in your Titan. You’ll generally need to be dismounted. Ergo, I like Titans with weapons I can shoot into a hardpoint: Northstar (cluster rockets), Monarch (rocket salvo), Scorch (everything: barrels, flame wall, flame core, flame shield, thermite launcher).

Last Titan Standing

Goal: Destroy all enemy titans to win the round. No respawning. Pilots outside their Titans are nuisances, but you don’t get points for killing them. Focus on the titans!
Tactics: As with all titan mode games, stick with a crowd. One on one titan matchups suck. Two on one or three on one means the outnumbered player is going to have a bad day at the office. In short order. Conversely, if you’re outnumbered pop smoke and run the hell away. ABS: Always Be Shooting. Rack up damage on the opponents, even if you’re not going to kill one. Somebody else will.
If your Titan is blown up, PAY ATTENTION! Your job is not to hide and live. Your job is to grab batteries for your team’s remaining titans, damage the enemy titans, and prevent dismounted enemy pilots from harming your titans. Damaging the enemy titans is critical! A round whose time has run out goes to the team with the most remaining titans. If the same number of titans survive for both teams, then the team with the least damage wins. Remaining pilots can save the day by damaging enemy titans, even if they don’t doom or destroy them. I once won a match for our team by rodeoing the opponent’s sole remaining titan and pulling its battery at the last possible moment. Yay, me.
Pilot Weapons: Focus on Titan damage. Great anti-Titan weapon (Thunderbolt is my preferred one) and a good grenade launcher like the EPG or Cold War.
Titans: LTS rounds go fairly quickly, so for me it doesn’t make sense to use the Monarch—she takes too long to upgrade, even with Overcore. I prefer Legion, Scorch, or occasionally Northstar. Ronin can be great, but see my disparaging comments in the Titans post.
A Note On Titan Kits: Take some care with your Titan Kit options for this mode. It makes zero sense to use Assault Chip or Stealth Auto Eject kits for this mode. Zero. Sense. Nuke eject is close behind for poor value, in my experience. Assault and Stealth Eject bring nothing to the table. Use Overcore or Dash. Counter Ready with its 2x smoke may be beneficial if it matches your play style.

Titan Brawl

Likely my most favorite game mode. It’s just insane fun. I once got 14 kills with zero deaths running a Monarch. Screenshot below because, well, I don’t brag often but this deserves a bit of braggery.
14 Kills, Zero Deaths
Goals: Kill as many Titans as you can before the match ends. Constant respawns, no dismounts, no ejections.
Tactics: Stick with your homies. Watch out for flanking enemies. ABS: Always Be Shooting. Rack up damage on the opponents, even if you’re not going to kill one. Somebody else will.
Pilot Weapons: N/A for this mode.
Titans: All Titans are good for this mode. Pick one you do well in and have fun. Monarch is particularly awesome here, especially with Energy Thief, Overcore, Arc Rounds, Fast Reload, and Chassis. Legion is great because you can lay down some serious-assed damage at all ranges. I suck at Tone, but have seen folks wreck with it in this mode. Bully for them. Maybe when I grow up or hit Gen 100…
A Note On Titan Kits: Take some care with your Titan Kit options for this mode. It makes zero sense to use Assault Chip, Nuke Eject, or Stealth Auto Eject kits for this mode. Zero. Sense. You can’t actually use any of those kits in this mode. So Just. Don’t. Use Overcore or Dash. Counter Ready with its 2x smoke may be beneficial if it matches your play style.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Succeeding at Titanfall 2: Maximizing Points

[NOTE: One in a series of posts on my Titanfall 2 experience. Find the intro article with links to others here.]
Leveling up requires Experience Points (XP). You get XP for your performance in a match. Points come from winning a match, meeting your performance minimums, completing a match, leveling up titans or weapons or your faction, happy hour, and elite weapon/titan bonuses.
Read that list again. See anything there about getting points for lots of kills? For being match MVP or top three? No. Nothing there. You can play out your ass and double or triple the points of everyone else in the game and you’ll get the same basic points as the lowest person on the game board, assuming they met the same criteria. Below is a screenshot of a game where I doubled the next highest scorer on my team. I likely got no more points than he or she did if they met minimums.
Doubled the score of the rest of my team, got the same XP
So here’s the thing: focus on meeting your minimums. Focus on helping your team win, or making the evac shuttle if you should lose. Focus on knowing what weapons and titans are near leveling up.

Match Minimums

Each game mode has a different set of minimums. For Attrition you’ll need to kill three pilots without dying. Last Titan Standing and Titan Brawl require you to kill two Titans. Amped Hardpoint makes you earn 1500 attack points or 600 defense points. Bounty Hunt means you’ll need to earn 600 points.
You’ll find the minimums on the menu accessed from the Start/Menu button. Make sure you know what your minimums when you start each match! Check regularly as the match progresses to make sure you’re going to meet them.

Leveling Up Titans and Weapons

Let’s cover that last point in more depth, because it can really help you. You get an XP whenever you level up a weapon or titan. That enables you to potentially get extra XP in a match by switching to a different titan or weapon when you respawn—if that next selection is also close to leveling up. Here’s an example:
At match start I have my Hemlock just two points away from leveling up. My Flatline is three points away. I’ll start with the Hemlock and hopefully kill enough opponents to level it up quickly. When I die after the level up, I’ll quickly check the loadout to see if my Hemlock needs more or fewer points than the Flatline. If more, then I’ll switch to the Flatline and hopefully level that up as well. Rinse and repeat through the game: know what weapons you’re close to leveling up on. The same goes for Titans!
Also, don’t forget your sidearms and anti-titan weapons!


Win or lose, you get zero points for living through the epilogue. Zero.
If you won the match, you already got your XP for winning. If you lost, you have an opportunity to get another point for a successful evacuation. Hiding gets you nothing. Sniping from a distance gets you nothing. Running away from the titan near the evac ship gets you nothing.
If you care about leveling up then you need to embrace your inner Dutch Schaefer and “Get to da choppa!”
If there are titans near the ship, your best bet is to try distracting them on the way to getting into the ship. Use Firestars (my personal favorite) to disrupt their vision. Fire your anti-titan weapon as fast as you can.
Rodeoing a titan likely isn’t a good choice at this point. It may take up too much time, and subject you to Death By Titan Fist (titan melee) if another titan’s paying attention. Or Death By Smoke. Or whatever. Additionally, rodeoing may delay you too long such that you end up missing your ride. That would suck.
If you die on the way to the ship, so what? If you make the evac ship and it's blown up, so what? You lose absolutely nothing.
Shoot for the opportunity to make an extra point. GET TO DA CHOPPA!

Elite Squad Leader Points

You’ll get an extra XP if you bought one of the elite weapons from the store. You share that point with your teammates, which is kind of neat—the team gets a max of one Elite Squad Leader point per match.

Happy Hour Points

Your network has a set happy hour. You’ll get an extra five points playing during this time. That’s awesome! If possible, try and save a Double XP ticket to use when you’re playing Happy Hour games. Ten points versus five points. Epic Win.
Find a network that has a time that works for you. I created my own Sweet Meteor of Death network (because the 2016 election just sucked) and set its happy hour time to 9pm Pacific. Look around in the Browse Networks menu to find a network that fits your needs. Or join me in SMOD. I’m currently the only member and it’s lonely.

Double XP

Double XP are awesome. They, like, double the points you get!
Pay attention to the multiplayer game lobby. Occasionally you’ll see special game modes that have 2XP for them. Sometimes those modes suck (see my disclaimers about modes I avoid because I suck at them) and sometimes they’re awesome. If those modes meet your style, then definitely jump in.
Double XP awards are also awesome. In the first six or eight months of play I never received a single one. Bastards. I then bought three “Elite Weapons” from the store for a total of $15USD. This gives me a 30% chance every match of getting a 2XP award. (10% per weapon to a max of 30% total.)
I’m careful about which game modes I spend those 2XP tokens in. I do not spend them in Titan Brawl or Last Titan Standing, because those modes generate (generally) fewer points than things like Attrition, Bounty Hunt, etc. where I can get points for leveling up weapons too.

Grinding It Out

Regenerating up means you’ll have to grind through something like 473 experience points (XP) per Gen. Levels 1-8 ramp up from four to ten XP per level, then it’s ten per level until you hit regeneration after 49. Matches last ten to 15 minutes depending on the mode; say an average of 12 minutes per match. (I’m totally throwing out feasible but not proven numbers here.) Here’s the basic breakdown of possible points:
Base Points
  • Match Completion = 1
  • Good Performance = 1
  • Match Victory / Successful Evac = 1
    Potential Points
  • (possible) Elite Squad Leader = 1
  • (possible) Level Up Weapons = 1 per level
  • (possible) Level Up Titans = 1 per level
  • (possible) Level Up Faction = 1
  • Happy Hour (once per day) = 5
Ergo, on a basic match were you met minimums, and won or escaped you’re looking at three points. Throw in one or two XP for weapons level ups. I’ll semi-arbitrarily use an average of six points per match based on faction levels up and matches where you do an awesome job and level up a couple weapons/titans.
473 points per Generation divided by six points average is 78.8 rounds per Generation. If an average match is 12 minutes you’re looking at 15.7 hours of play PER GENERATION. That’s a seriously exhausting grind. (Note this is without any 2XP tokens. If you manage to get 2XP tokens for 30% of your matches, and you won’t because Titanfall’s algorithms for awarding these SUCK, then you’re looking at roughly 49 matches which is still nine hours of play per Generation.
No matter what way you cut it, it’s a grind.

What Game Modes Give The Best XP For Leveling Up

Remembering that I don’t any of the modes that are solely pilot-versus-pilot, I’ve found Attrition and Bounty Hunt give me the fastest rise in XP for the way I play. Those two modes give me the best chance at leveling up multiple titans and weapons, which means I’m getting the best points above the “base” points per match.
I did a rough bit of data collection and played around with some tables in Excel. My data and conclusions are not rocket science and very well could be off. Frankly I don’t want to go too deep into the data because at some point it becomes much less fun. These are sort of guidelines that let me have fun while still trying to level up somewhat quickly. Use these figures and do a bit of your own data collection. Please, don’t start a purse fight in the comments about my data collection, math, or whatevs, OK?
Mode Avg Points Per Match Avg Match Time Points Per Minute Points With 2x 2x PPM 2x + Happy Hour PPM
Attrition 6 12 0.5 12 1 22 1.8
Frontier Defense 13 35 0.37 26 0.74 36 1.02

Keep Your Eye On The Prize: XP

Go into your matches with a plan for how you’re going to try and earn XP. Think about what weapons and titans you might swap between. Don’t lose sight that the game is FUN, but still think about how you can play to maximize what you earn.

Succeeding at Titanfall 2: Intro

I’ve been playing Titanfall 2 around a year now. It’s been my go-to brainless activity when I need distraction from the rotten places life has been this last year. At the time of this writing I’m at Generation 48 working my way up to Gen 50. (Titanfall “Regeneration” is the same concept as Call of Duty’s “Prestige Up.”) I’ve played over 3,000 games, been top three around 2100 of those, and MVP 950-ish times. I’ve just passed 15,000 kills (other players) and am near having earned 30,000 credits “net worth.”
Overview stats for Titanfall 2
Along the way I’ve picked up a few opinions on how to play, and I thought I’d share them. First, please understand my “disclaimers”, as this series is completely aligned with how I play, and that totally may not match how you play. Moreover, this is not a detailed guide or walkthrough of Titanfall 2. You can find that stuff elsewhere. Still, I hope you’ll find this series useful. If for nothing else but to see how a 54 year old guy grinds through gameplay against kids who are a lot younger, quicker, and way more betterer. Or something.

Me and Titanfall

I have a long love/hate relationship with Titanfall 1 and 2. I’m not a great player, especially when having to play solely against other humans. Therefore, I avoid modes like Pilot vs. Pilot, Capture The Flag, etc.
Why am I not great? Let me list the ways…
  • I’m slow on the controller when trying to get a quick lock-on against opponents, which means I die a lot.
  • I have poor aim, especially when someone’s aiming at me, which means I die a lot.
  • I am awful when someone gets in melee range, which means I die a lot.
  • I don’t shoot well while wall-running or mid-air, which means I miss kill opportunities.
My play style is to work from mid-range, both as a pilot and a titan. I’m not great at close up (see points above). As a pilot I’ll spend a fair amount of time on top of various obstacles. Most of the folks playing aren’t thinking in 3D, so it’s a good tactic for me. On the downside, I also tend to go Leeroy Jenkins and run into battles likely best avoided. This is part of why my Kill-Death-Ratio (KDR) against other players is around 0.7 after 3,000+ games. (Note: I’ve been above 1.5 for the last few months, occasionally as high as a ten-game average of 2.5; however, it takes a LONG time to raise that particular statistic up—and frankly I just don’t care about KDR. I know others care a lot. I don’t.)

Some Things I Dislike

Quality and Clarity. Titanfall 2, like Titanfall 1, has some serious quality and “WTF?” problems. There are regular crashes, and lag can be awful at times—especially if you’re playing over wifi and not a hardwired connection. Some of the algorithms in TF2 are complete WTF issues: differences between stated minimums for rounds and what’s reflected on your progress. Eg several times I’ve not met minimums on the scoreboard, but have seen a checkmark for completion in the game stats. Additionally it’s unclear what’s meant in Attrition Mode by “Kill 3 pilots without dying.” Is that kill three pilots consecutively? Kill one pilot and then don’t die for amount of time? I’ve dug around various TF2 boards and FAQs, but can’t figure that one out. I’ve given up.
Graphics Don’t Match Algorithms. Particularly with titan melees. I’ll be working a rodeo on a titan, flying toward the titan’s head. The graphics will show me either inside the titan’s arm span or even starting to mount the head, and BAM! I’m dead from a big titan punch. It’s frustrating because according to the graphics it looks like I should have been successful. The same thing happens with through-the-wall shot glitches, where I thought I’m behind a wall and I get shot. Titans can also melee you even when you’re well inside a room. Whatevs.
Regeneration Grind. I badly miss the unique regeneration challenges from TF1. Those were well-thought out and fun. And a pain in the ass at times. With TF2 you’re in for nothing more than a long grind. More on leveling up and points later.

Some Things I Love

Movement. The movement in TF2 is freaking wonderful and fun. Skilled use of a grapple, bunny hop slides, and wall running make getting around the map just a crapload of fun. (It also makes it miserable when the other team is really good at those things and can shoot on the fly.)
The Campaign. One of the best campaigns in any game I’ve played. Ever. Loved the story, loved the chapters. I know others aren’t so enamored. That’s OK.
Regular Updates. I liked this about TF1 as well. The producers regularly roll out patches that fix issues, and they regularly roll out small and not-so-small new features. A whole new Titan (the Monarch) was rolled out. They added a third weapons slot so you could have anti-titan weapons and sidearms. New maps get added. Entire new game modes get added! I do software delivery for a living, and I love seeing a company that takes this approach of constantly adding new value.
It’s. Just. Fun. Even when I’m getting my face beat in by some of the pros I’m still having a fairly good time. Yes, I get frustrated, yes, I cuss. A lot. It’s still fun.
You Always Get A Titan. No matter how poor a player you are, or how bad a day you’re having, you’ll always get a titan to roll around in. Every. Single. Match. This means one of the funnest parts of the game is available to every player regardless of their skill or lack thereof.

This Series

I’m not sure how long this series will last. At a minimum I’m going to cover the following topics, either as separate posts or parts of others.
This series is pretty late to the game. Titanfall 2 has been out for quite some time. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed outlining and drafting some of the content, so it’s as much for me as it is for you. Hopefully someone finds it useful. :)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Interview on LeanPub Podcast

The folks at LeanPub, the online publishing service, were kind enough to have me on their Frontmatter podcast. Len Epp chatted me up for roughly an hour on my background, my book The Leadership Journey, and how I came to write it.
You can find the podcast here, with a complete transcript if you’d rather read. Len’s a great interviewer, and I really enjoyed being on the show!

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