The Save Titanfall community is a group of people trying to keep Titanfall and Titanfall 2 alive after years of DDOS attacks. We took some time to have a chat with them and learn about their project.
Titanfall (and its successor Titanfall 2) are first-person shooters created by Respawn Entertainment. A major appeal of these games was the ability to hop into giant mechs called Titans and stomp across the battlefield, obliterating lesser foes with overpowered weapons. Players on foot weren't left out in the cold, though — Titan pilots were fast, agile, and supremely deadly in their own right.
The first two games had their fair share of success, but hopes of a third were dashed with the 2019 reveal of Apex Legends, a battle-royale game set in the Titanfall universe that features no Titans whatsoever. What happened to Titanfall — and what is still happening today — ultimately led to the creation of the Save Titanfall project. I spoke with DirectXeon of the NoSkill Community and p0358 of the TF Remnant Fleet community to learn more.
The Trouble with Titanfall Servers
Titanfall and Titanfall 2 had been out on PC as Origin exclusives for quite some time. It wasn't until a few years later that the trouble with Titanfall servers truly began in the form of DDOS attacks.
"[When] it comes to hacks that are making the game unplayable, Titanfall 1 first started having these issues sometime during 2017," DirectXeon explained. "As for Titanfall 2, people first started reporting these [kinds] of issues around spring 2021."
"We knew that something like this could spread to other games, and we wanted to raise awareness about this issue before it snowballed into something bigger." – DirectXeon
As for p0358, his view is that the Titanfall DDOS attacks started getting more intense sometime in late 2018. Both community leaders, however, agreed that the game had issues with aimbotters and other cheaters since its early days and that the attacks spread to Titanfall 2 earlier this year.
These DDOS attacks are a step above simply cheating in a game — they sometimes render it entirely unplayable. Earlier this month, the problem spread to PlayStation 4 and Xbox according to player reports — and then the party behind these attacks simply gave up with no explanation. The identity of the attacker or attackers is not yet known.
Titanfall and Titanfall 2 both had small player counts on all platforms — Titanfall 2, for example, averaged 1,000–5,000 players on Steam according to Steam Charts. This entire situation would likely have flown under the radar for most people, but then something changed: An unknown party completely took over Apex Legends for several hours.
How the Apex Legends Hack Hurt the Save Titanfall Community
On July 4, 2021, an Apex Legends hack took over the game with a curious message pointing to the "Save Titanfall" community. The hack completely disabled the ability of people to queue for games, replacing the queue with a message to visit "SaveTitanfall.com." Apex Legends was fixed in less than eight hours, but the damage done to the Save Titanfall community lasted much longer.
"The people coming to our server acted like the worst kind of animals," p0358 said. "It's really sad to see."
"We've seen harassment, death threats, all sorts of unkind words (to say the least), people posting porn and gore," he continued. "All 'cause their game is not playable for a moment. Maybe the big games just have the communities like that. But people need to f***ing behave sometimes and think of their actions, because what we've seen yesterday is just unacceptable. Are we supposed to feel any compassion for them when they do [these] things to us? These people were literally attacking any place and person related to Titanfall in any way."
At the time, the Save Titanfall project was a joint venture between two communities. The TF Remnant Fleet weren't the only ones who had to deal with this issue — the NoSkill Community was having trouble with random people coming in and harassing them, too.
"We've seen harassment, death threats, all sorts of unkind words (to say the least), people posting porn and gore. All 'cause their game is not playable for a moment." —p0358
"Unfortunately, the hacker used the website without our permission as a means to promote the issue to Apex Legends players, which led many people to speculate that Save Titanfall, and by extent TF Remnant Fleet and NoSkill, were responsible for the hack," DirectXeon told me. "While that accusation is false, sadly many Apex Legends players still didn’t believe us and raided our Discord server with a surge of new members and spam that we weren’t ready to deal with, which caused NoSkill to go under lockdown. In addition, many new members were acting immature and causing various problems from spam to harassment, both on the server and in DMs."
The Save Titanfall website and announcements on both associated Discord servers denied any association with the hacker. The hacker denied any association with the Save Titanfall project, too, going as far as to update the hacked in-game message to disavow any association with the project. Neither the alleged Apex Legends hacker nor Respawn Entertainment responded to our requests for comment in time for publication.
As DirectXeon said, this was an attempt to get people to pay attention to the problem with the Titanfall and Titanfall 2 servers. Whether or not you believe it was the right move, one thing was clear: It worked.
What is Respawn Entertainment Doing About Titanfall?
Some members of the Titanfall community have the perception that Respawn Entertainment has abandoned its efforts to fix its older games. The issues remained unaddressed for some time until it put out a tweet in early April 2021.
"We're aware of ongoing DDOS attacks affecting [Titanfall]," read the tweet. "To the Titanfall community: Help is coming ASAP."
"On the DDoS front, we WILL solve this. When we do, I promise you it won't be because hackers 'made us aware' by ruining a holiday." —Ryan K. Rigney, Respawn Entertainment's Director of Communications
Things were mostly quiet until the Apex Legends hack earlier this month. The perception that the Titanfall games were abandoned wasn't helped by the discovery that Respawn Entertainment only has "one or two people" working on the problem as the rest of the studio is dedicated to Apex Legends.
However, Respawn Entertainment's Director of Communications Ryan K. Rigney had some choice words for people who are doubting their efforts to fix the problem.
"The team has never stopped working on DDoS solutions, and anti-cheat is just a never-ending war of whack-a-mole," Rigney said in a tweet. "On the DDoS front, we WILL solve this. When we do, I promise you it won't be because hackers 'made us aware' by ruining a holiday. They achieved nothing of value."
Three Years of Problems — and Sales
The numerous issues with the Titanfall servers and hackers have been a problem for roughly three years according to the Save Titanfall community representatives. Aside from raising awareness, both DirectXeon and p0358 took issue with the fact that EA and Respawn Entertainment were continuing to sell a game that had serious problems with its online components.
"Up until April 2021 they refused to ever acknowledge anything is wrong, ever," p0358 said. "They put the game on Steam meanwhile and on numerous sales. Fun fact about [the] Steam release: They didn't even test the install script, everyone installing the game from Steam had [broken] audio for two weeks (you had to go on forums to learn of a workaround)."
"In my opinion, EA’s response, and by extent Respawn’s, has been poor," DirectXeon stated. "As I mentioned earlier, this issue has been around for over three years, and for most of that time, [Respawn] has never publicly mentioned that they are working on a fix for the problem, or that they’re even aware of it. However, they did acknowledge the problem about two months ago.
"To make matters worse, during the 2020 Holiday season, Respawn published Titanfall 1 on Steam for €19.99 [$19.99 US], even though the game is completely unplayable. And to this day, the game is still being sold for that price (disregarding occasional discounts) both on Origin and Steam, all while they are completely aware that the game is unplayable."
DirectXeon pointed out that the Steam reviews for Titanfall are filled with player complaints about the game. Indeed, it has a "Mostly Negative" rating for all reviews and an "Overwhelmingly Negative" score for the recent reviews at the time of publication. The situation is much better on Titanfall 2's Steam page, but there are still quite a few complaints scattered throughout the thousands of reviews.
The Save Titanfall Project Raised Awareness, But Will Respawn Fix the Games?
The situation has calmed down somewhat, but the fundamental issues with Titanfall and Titanfall 2 remain. The Save Titanfall project wanted to raise awareness about the issue. Its efforts — along with the added publicity of recent attacks on Apex Legends and Titanfall 2 — have certainly brought the DDOS issue into the spotlight.
The TF Remnant Fleet has left the Save Titanfall project to focus on its own efforts following the most recent wave of attacks on Respawn Entertainment's games. The NoSkill Community continues to run SaveTitanfall.com and its own gaming community. What remains to be seen, however, is if Respawn will actually be able to fix the problem.
"[We] got many positive words and people defending [the Save Titanfall project] and I think that's very wholesome. I'd like to thank all the people standing on the side of [truth and reason]." —p0358
Titanfall and Titanfall 2 publisher Electronic Arts certainly isn't shy about shutting down old games. It has a long list of games that are no longer supported, and it's difficult or impossible to legally purchase many of these older titles. Pulling both Titanfall games from sale remains an option if the DDOS problem cannot truly be solved, and yet Respawn presses on with trying to find a permanent fix.
Why are they doing it? Solving the issues with the Titanfall games certainly isn't going to bring in boatloads of cash. I'm not sure if it's pride, integrity, or sheer stubbornness, but Respawn continues to search for a solution. Personally, I like to believe that they're doing it for the same reason that the Save Titanfall folks have spent so much time trying to raise awareness of the issue: for the love of the game.
"One memory that comes to mind is when I was playing a public match in Titanfall 2 which our team lost, during the epilogue, both teams came together and escorted us to our dropship and allowed us to leave as a sign of respect and friendliness to each other," DirectXeon told me. "That wasn’t a pre-made party. We were all playing solo. I think this story shows just what kind of community we, as Titanfall players, are."
"We are small in numbers but we all have respect for each other and all we are asking is for Respawn [to] fix the game."