Booze, Mechs, and Texas: The Red Herb at Titanfall’s Launch Party
So us members of the Glitch crew gained access to the Titanfall launch party held in Austin. I’d like to send a very warm thank you to Annie and Phil Spencer for making that magic happen, especially on such wickedly short notice. By the way, absolutely lovely meeting you and I hope you enjoy the shirts (they bought them, of course; no one was bribed despite my unwholesome, checkered past of bartering in cloth).
Quite the eventful evening, all in all. After closing up SXSW’s Gaming Expo on Sunday, we were lucky enough to be the last group to get into the Game of Thrones Exhibition held at Austin Music Hall. Fantastic shit. We saw props, wardrobes, and an assortment of art relating to the best show you’ll ever put your eyes to. Didn’t get to sit on the iron throne but that’s okay; Westeros will be mine in time.
Trekking by foot from the music hall to the unexpectedly snug club the launch party was held at, we were met by a half-mile accordion of people lined up around the block. The event was open to the public but I’ll be damned if I can see how much more than those waiting at the tip-top of the line ever got in. The club was filled to the brim with VIP attendees as it was.
Your eyes didn’t have to travel far to spot a who’s who of industry figureheads. Larry Hryb, Xbox Live’s very own “Major Nelson,” was bouncing from conversation to conversation; Bonus Round’s Geoff Keighley was lounging about; and I’m confident I saw Respawn’s Vince Zampella vincing around.
The club was lined by several smooth and bright monitors, each accompanied by a sealed Xbox One unit, a corded headset (a Triton, if my memory doesn’t fail me) that swanky custom controller, and housing a full-on retail copy of Titanfall. You had a few guests lording over some stations – like one kid, who, either insanely or devotedly, spent his day waiting in line from 10 A.M. up until 9 P.M. when the doors opened – but most would throw down a match (or three) and allow the closest spectator to hop on.
It wasn’t long before I got my chance behind the wheel. Before the party, I’ve never played the game. Let me be curt: Titanfall is the truth. If there were ever a game capable of slamming Call of Duty into the ground, Titanfall is qualified for the job. It’s fast, engaging, and once that unfamiliar honeymoon stage learning the controller and the game’s quirks is gotten past, it plays like a goddamn charm.
I logged in two matches, failing terrifically in one and crushing it in the other, before passing the controller to a dude looming over my shoulder, hoping to initiate a chain of playtime equality. It was around this time that I found out my VIP badge meant free drinks the bar. After giving the bartender permission to surprise me with anything equal parts sweetness and alcohol, I dove back into the mech on flesh carnage. I kept my loadouts pretty vanilla, aside from minor tinkering and nudging, so as to pick up the basics; I had enough on my hands figuring out the wall-running and jetpack mechanics. Though I was a ways from perfecting this form of mobility – a necessity in laterally driven maps – I never once felt frustrated or stunted introducing it into my playstyle.
I don’t know how many matches I blew through before I realized I was thoroughly sloshed, but I can tell you it only took one mystery drink and two cups of light beer to get me there. I’m a rare drinker, which is to say I’m a feather-class lightweight. Childish Gambino took to the stage, and instead of gravitating to the sound of his music, I took the opportunity to get in uninterrupted, delightfully tipsy play. I was entirely less magnanimous about sharing the controller by this time. I couldn’t even tell when Gambino’s set ended.
My go-to mode was Attrition, the closest thing to Team Deathmatch I could grasp. A Respawn employee overseeing the demo stations revealed I was competing against both developers back at home base as well as players in the Southern hemisphere that somehow snagged street date broken copies.
I felt gleefully inclined to shake this stranger’s hand and thank him for making something unfathomably awesome. You can snap a man’s neck with the click of a button. You can rodeo a marauding, thirty-foot mech and bring it down in a mess of metal and fire. There’s dinosaurs attacking players in the middle of a firefight. Fuck and yes I wanted to shake this man’s hand, regardless of how little or how much he contributed. Speaking with a subtle British accent over the dull, drunken bustle in the club, he told me people have trouble going back to their standby shooters after playing Titanfall. Thinking back to a moment where, in my own mech, I ripped a titan’s pilot out their cockpit and tossed them away like a dirty tissue, I understood how this could be.
“Hell, after just watching the streams for this game, I was bored of Call of Duty,” I said.
Smiling, he said, “That’s what I love to hear.”
Both the booze and the night’s experiences begin to wear from my mind. What remains is the slight stiffness at the creases of my mouth, no doubt from the dumb, unself-conscious grinning I was doing during the entire party, and a pressing, though errant, need to adopt an Xbox One into my living room family.
All for one game.