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.[drop]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.[drop2]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.