Multiplayer Woes

When consoles gained the ability to communicate with the internet and connect gamers across the globe, it changed the face of video gaming forever.  The multiplayer experience was no longer limited to a couple friends in the same living room, and was expanded to include a limitless amount of opponents and partners with whom we are able to connect both socially and through a common love of the same type of digital entertainment.  It was a breakthrough that was embraced worldwide but for me, it quickly became something that looked better on paper than in practice.

My inspiration for writing this piece came from the recent announcement of a multiplayer mode in God Of War: Ascension.  Admittedly, the idea is awesome and the released footage looks great but I can’t help but wonder about development time being taken away from the single player and funds being used for servers rather than added staff talent.  This debate has become increasingly popular across the web and fans of the franchise have been reassured time and time again that the campaign will suffer no sort of negligence.  I hope that this is true, as it would be a tragedy for such a great IP to not reach its full potential because of an online mode that will most likely be mediocre, enjoyed for a few years, and eventually shut down because of non-activity.  The multiplayer will have a finite shelf life whereas the single player is forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that there are certain games that benefit tremendously from an online multiplayer mode.  Games like Call Of Duty and Halo would have never reached their level of popularity had it not been for online play.  Most FPS games would be lackluster shells of their former selves if connectivity ceased to exist.  I also think that a lot of single player games handle an online component wonderfully by incorporating challenge modes with leaderboards.  The magic of the latest SSX title comes from score chasing with friends and in the Batman games, its incredible to look at the top of the leaderboards and rank yourself against the best.  The UGC in Infamous 2 is another example of online done right.

The ‘hours per dollar’ argument:  Last year saw the release of Skyrim, a game that had been commended for a number of features including value.  With games being so expensive, the discussion of time vs. money becomes inevitable.  Is it fair that we are paying the same $60 for Skyrim’s 500 hours of gameplay and God Of War 3’s 10 hours?  Some people don’t think so and this idea is one of the driving forces behind multiplayer modes being added to games that don’t necessarily need them.  My argument is supported by the idea that there are hundreds of theatres across the country that are charging $15 for 2 hours of 3D film.  By that math, 10 hours for $60 sounds like a good deal excluding the fact that the game is ours forever and the movie is just a memory.  For me, the value comes from the gameplay and the experience, not from the time spent on it.

At the risk of relating only to the minority, 90% of my experiences with games online have been ruined by dropped connections, lag, or ignorant gamers that serve no purpose other than to destroy my fun.  This can be remedied by playing with the friends you actually know and I love the idea that online play allows you to game with people that cannot physically travel to your residence, but for me, the magic of playing on the same couch is never be captured.  Furthermore, in games that rely on fast paced action and timing (i.e. fighting games), it is an all too common problem for advanced combo strings to be impossible online.  Even EVO champions have complained of such inconsistency between local and online multiplayer modes.

What do you guys think?  Will the multiplayer mode in God Of War: Ascension hurt the game or make it “worth the money”?  How would you feel about a multiplayer mode being announced for The Last Of Us?  Weigh in with your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

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  • I must admit I’m a bit of an old stick-in-the-mud when it comes to online gaming, I prefer a good strong single-player campaign as for various reasons I’ve never got quite into online play.

    It’s not like I haven’t tried, but if I walk into a pub full of mouthy racist homophobic c**ts I’ll likely finish my drink ASAP and walk out; the same goes for playing a game online.

    It’s not always like that of course, but a lot of the time it can be quite daunting walking into a game people have been playing for weeks, you’re always playing catch-up, and I just don’t have the time to keep pace with the top 20% who tend to dominate online. Single player games don’t present this problem.

    Mass Effect 3 is one where I heard many concerns before release that they were tacking on an online mode, yet it’s received almost universal praise from the community for the Online mode, not something that can be said for the single-player experience! Personally I don’t get it, I found the ME3 online repetetive and got fed up trying to up my Galactic Readiness and just ploughed on with the campaign after only about four hours of online play, for me it got in the way of a campaign I enjoyed immensly, despite being aware that there was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on in the pastier corners of the internet!

    Personally I think Online games should be online games, and single-player campaign-led games should be that, keep the two seperate. I’ll pay £40 for a Red Dead Redemption, a Just Cause 2, or an Infamous 2, but I won’t do it again for a Call Of Duty and I haven’t since MW2.

  • First and for most.  I
    love the God Of War series. I am looking forward to the multiplayer aspect of
    the game. Does it concern me that I might lose single player game play? Games
    have to evolve to the market. At the end of the day they have to make a profit.
    So if I lose some single player game play but gain a game that might not exist
    because of it, I’m ok with it. The most important thing to remember about GOW
    though is that it is very near and dear to Sony’s heart, and for sure there is
    no one I trust more than Todd Papy and his team at Santa Monica Studios. Todd has
    been with the series in one job or another from almost the beginning  , I trust that they will not fail to bring us
    another knock out game.

    When it comes to the pains of online play, we all have
    experienced less then polite players to say the least. There our those who bail
    and leave you to die to protect their kill ratio or win record, those that
    scream obscenities at you, spies and traders from the opposing team that set
    you up to die and fail. There really is no moral code among some. Once in a while
    you meet people who represent  that part
    of us that we all wish we were or could be during our regular lives. Heros , a
    person whom takes a bullet while covering you, the medic who dies to save your
    life, the crazy bastard that runs into a hail storm of bullets and fire so the
    team can gain ground.  Those are the
    moments that make online gaming fun. Finding the good gamers, healthy fun competition,
    and for that perfect moment when despite all odds a group of friends, and strangers
    work as a team..

    Lastly I look at gaming as a growing living organism, it
    will always progress and grow. It posses so much potential, both socially and technologically.
    I day dream about the day when I can walk in to a fully function Hologram deck
    like in the Star Trek series and have a walk around ancient Rome. Assassin’s
    Creed got me closer.

  • Stryfe84

    I think more companies should take what kills one have done as an example. Strip out the multiplayer and do a free to play/try model then just charged bit less for the single player. I’d like the choice, don’t think I could sit through a God of War game but I’d certainly never go near the multiplayer component of it. I’d love to play more multiplayer but for me it comes down to time, just don’t have time to sink into online as well as playing single player stuff. That’s definitely why I don’t really play MMO’s anymore, far too much of a time commitment and too many games to play.