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Opinion: Why Is Online Play Becoming A Standard?

What's wrong with a good single player experience?

When did we come to accept that online multiplayer was something that should come as standard? Gaming’s rapidly moved on from the days of playing mostly single player games, and it’s skipped past the point at which we’d all cluster round the same screen, playing in one room.

There’s certainly still room for the latter of those, nights of FIFA and Just Dance confirm this more than any other games I can think of, but online does seem to be becoming a focus for almost all developers. They’ll say that people clamour for multiplayer if you ask them, although they’ve certainly driven some of that demand in an attempt to improve the long term viability of a game’s revenue stream.

Whilst game's like FIFA show that local multiplayer is alive, online does seem to be the focus.
Is this prevalence of online something that’s universally loved? I’m certainly not all that on board with it, and judging by the occasional uproar we see I’m not entirely alone. Remember when Ubisoft announced the inclusion of multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and the outrage it caused? Of course Ubisoft actually did fairly well in the end, implementing a nice set of multiplayer options that complimented the game’s pre-existing gameplay style. It didn’t set the world on fire like the original Modern Warfare, but they managed to craft something interesting.

Sadly I feel like that experience has become the exception rather than the rule. More and more often developers seem to be cramming in multiplayer that doesn’t always fit, with the public and press complaining if it’s “missing” whilst bemoaning poor implementations. It feels like a lose/lose situation for developers, although I do wonder if a poor multiplayer section of a game is better than no multiplayer from a financial.

Personally, I’m perfectly content with shelling out £35 for a good single player experience but it does feel like I’m becoming fairly old fashioned. Look at Assassin’s Creed or Rocksteady’s Batman games though, they’re great experiences that I feel are more than worth their RRP for the single player. Beyond reviews I’ve never felt the need to play Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, or to contribute to leaderboards in Batman Arkham City’s Challenge Mode, yet I count them amongst my favourite games.

Even when playing Call of Duty I’ve never really had the desire to dip my toe into the game’s multiplayer. I’ll sit there and happily blast away whatever vaguely generic enemy they put in front of me in the game’s campaign but there’s no real desire to take myself over to the multiplayer option and start trying to take out my fellow gamers. I’ll admit that with those game I’m not always happy at the price given that I won’t be playing the multiplayer, which is probably why I think I’ve only ever been loaned or given Call of Duty titles past Call of Duty 2, and that only got a look in because it came with my 360.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood may have managed to pull of its multiplayer but its inclusion caused no small uproar.
The problem I have with multiplayer growth, beyond the simple fact that it so often feels like an almost insulting afterthought, is simply one of development resources. I don’t feel that adding multiplayer to a game draws any money or time away from the single player component once development’s been mapped out, but it’s obvious that when a game’s in the planning stages that resources need to be allocated appropriately and that certain aspects of the game may be scaled back at that point in response to resource concerns.

That doesn’t mean that a game would automatically have more poured into the single player if the multiplayer didn’t exist but it does seem a likely outcome. Either that or the resources would be allocated to an existing title or even used to create a new one, opening up the possibility of more games and ideas appearing if everyone wasn’t quite so committed to the multiplayer experience.

Despite the occasional ruckus that the inclusion of multiplayer makes I do suspect I’m in the minority here and that many of you will support the growth of multiplayer gaming and that’s a good thing. If it’s what you enjoy then you should certainly push for it but for me it just isn’t holding my interest. Bring me a game with a great story or some enjoyable gameplay then I’ll be hooked but I’m not going to pick up a game based solely on its multiplayer component, no matter how good it is.

  1. mrfodder
    Since: Nov 2009

    Single player games are more likely to be traded-in shortly after launch. Play through and trade-in. If multiplayer gets gamers to hold on to them longer then it means more new sales.

    Comment posted on 11/11/2012 at 22:31.
  2. Taylor Made
    Since: Oct 2011

    For me multiplayer sucks due to the fact that some idiot decides to turn their mic on, it’s not localised, I always end up playing with foreign people (not in a bad way), the need have an option where you can select just your region or country. Also I’m not good online & I actually buy a lot of games to invest my time in one game just to master online.

    Also I feel that sometimes they just shove MP just to annoy the players I.e uncharted GA & AC vita didn’t need any sort of MP but they knew it would frastrate people like me.

    If MP wasn’t attached to trophies I wouldn’t waste my time playing games with people I don’t know don’t care about that won’t let me win & immature they cut the game off when losing (yes you FIFA fans)

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 00:58.
  3. aerobes
    Since: Aug 2009

    “When did we come to accept that online multiplayer was something that should come as standard?”

    I haven’t and won’t for the for-seeable future.

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 01:48.
  4. Sympozium
    Since: Aug 2009

    Releasing a Japanese game that focused on online warfare was a big mistake, like Armored Core V is easily a good game with friends but no ones hardly online to play against other teams. but damn the versus was competitive, the most fun I’ve ever had. So some games shouldn’t have them but thats because they’re never done right, original or simply shouldn’t be there. Its just a shame that most MP communities die quickly than the popular ones.

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 05:33.
  5. psychobudgie
    Since: Nov 2009

    It’s all about the DLC. If the include MP, the chances of you either buying MP content or holding onto the game long enough for them to sell you SP DLC are increased. They can also fleece the 2nd hand users for a network pass.

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 07:18.
  6. KeRaSh
    Since: Nov 2009

    I don’t mind a shift towards multiplayer as long as it’s local coop we’re talking apart. I couldn’t care less about any other for of MP…

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 10:32.
  7. Roynaldo
    Since: Nov 2008

    I rarely ever venture online. Quite happy to sit there enveloped in a world and to come and talk about it with you guys either here or on twitter. I could quite happily live with no dev/pub ever to think about online gaming ever again. It’s not why I love gaming and it’s sure as hell not why I part with £40 of my money for each disc I buy.

    I want a story, something to take my mind elsewhere not to frustrate myself with a win or lose shootout vs people i don’t know. Coop however is a completely different thing. I enjoy taking part in teamwork games and have a full and real sense of achievement to have done my bit in making a session a successful one.

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 15:19.
  8. Galgomite
    Since: Oct 2010

    Just about every factor seems to push game developers toward online play: the desired “bullet point,” the impetus to upgrade with the crowd, and enforceable DRM. Online isn’t really my thing (I tend to die instantly!) but obviously most gamers are enjoying it.

    Comment posted on 12/11/2012 at 18:09.
  9. Toffee91
    Since: Nov 2012

    Personaly I would like to see ofline MP return. I mean TV’s are huge now, I could handle a 4 screen split. God I miss timespliitters :( . And one more thing screw resident evil MP a good game totally violated by pointless useless shit MP

    Comment posted on 13/11/2012 at 11:09.
  10. Forrest_01
    Since: Jun 2009

    My feelings on the matter are thus; some games really benefit from its inclusion, some games suffer a little.

    The examples given in the article are good ones for me too as it happens – I really like Assassins Creed a lot, but my interest has never been with the multiplayer. In fact, I find that the multiplayer does nothing for me than lead to a hell of a lot of confusion, often sparking comments such as “if I have a specific target to kill & get told off for killing the wrong person, why are some others seemingly permitted to kill at will?”. Personally, I don’t think that title ever needed multiplayer, as the singleplayer campaign is so lovingly crafted & generally well done. I have actually stopped buying them & instead wait to see if I am bought them as a gift instead, as I prefer not to pay out for modes I will likely never touch.

    In fact, I would have much preferred that they brought out the singleplayer games & the multiplayer offerings separately – If you like AC & want to stab your friends, go ahead & do so by buying the different game. Of course nothing says that you HAVE to play the included multiplayer as it is now, but it is an annoyance if a percentage of the trophies are of course dedicated to it. I actually rate AC2 of the best I have played, purely because I didn’t feel forced into anything to get the most out of the game.

    On the other hand, I regularly have fun at the multiplayer meets I partake in (& host) & it’s nice to get together with a few others for some likeminded carnage. Although, when you look at the games I am playing (Max Payne, Dirt, Ridge Racer, Tony Hawk etc), these are more driven to a sort of half & half experience in most cases & in some cases, multiplayer is even seen as more important than singleplayer (more than a year after its release, I still haven’t touched the singleplayer of BF3 for example), purely down to the game.

    The only real shock in my listed examples was Max Payne that has had a multiplayer added that is actually of some worth (when it wants to work of course!) – I didn’t expect that it would be good (again, another strictly single player experience with a mp seemingly unnecessarily bolstered on), but I am happy to say that I was wrong & it actually has a really good 3rd person shooter multiplayer that I have probably spent more time on than the singleplayer if I am honest! There are just two titles that I can think of that fall into this camp & the other is Bioshock 2. Never needed a multiplayer offering, but the one that was presented was actually pretty well done & ridiculous amounts of fun.

    So as far as I am concerned, it has its place, but at the same time, devs really shouldn’t worry as much as they do that people won’t pick up the title if it offers nothing in the way of a multiplayer mode. I certainly still value a strong singleplayer experience & was pleased when Dishonored recently didn’t fall into this trap of adding a crappy multiplayer just for the sake of it.

    Binary Domain, Blood Stone, Bodycount, Dead Space 2, Neverdead, Ninja Gaiden, Pixeljunk Shooter 2, Rage, Red Faction Armageddon are all games that i have owned that had multiplayers added that I haven’t bothered with & which weren’t really needed (or any good in some cases) imo. This fact is usually made evident by just how little players are playing them online.

    Alternatively, it was a bit of a shame Cars 2 didn’t have an online mp offering, as that could have been good! & if SSX had have shipped with a ‘proper’ multiplayer (including hitting other players) that would have been the tits.

    Comment posted on 13/11/2012 at 12:43.

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