On Multiplayer

Why do you play multiplayer games? Honest question. Why? Is it because it provides more of a challenge than going up against AI? Is it because you enjoy playing with your friends? Or do you merely enjoy yelling offensive epithets at strangers on the Internet? I ask this because the standards for multiplayer components in games do not always line up with what I expect out of them, and more so now than, say, 6 years ago.

This may or may not be accurate.

I play multiplayer games because I get a kick out of the social aspect. Getting a bunch of friends together, firing up a console, and playing a game together for hours on end is always great, solid fun. Maybe not the kind of fun that occurs in Wii commercials, but there’s usually a fair amount of yelling and dicking around. I would like to imagine that this is the attraction for many other people as well.

So, what happens when a game’s multiplayer doesn’t allow for this? That’s right: I’m bitching about Online play. Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy playing online, I do. I just don’t consider it to be “multiplayer” in most instances. Sure, I’m technically playing against other people, but that usually means nothing other than more challenging (or hilariously non-challenging) gameplay and the occasional teabagging. I’m not talking to these people, I’m not engaging with them any differently than I would with AI, I don’t even pay attention to my own team mates, if I have any. The same can be said for most of the other people playing with me. Playing a game against unseen strangers isn’t multiplayer, it’s competitive single-player.

There are a couple obvious caveats to this argument. You can play with your friends online, even talk with them via headset or the like. Just because you’re playing with strangers doesn’t mean teamwork can’t occur. And what are you even complaining about, Mark?! Most games let you do both online and local multiplayer! This is all true. BUT. But. They don't do them both well.

weeeeeee

Let me clarify by example: In my opinion, the Halo games are the best competitive FPS’s in existence, for one very specific reason: It allows me to play with my friends (3 of them!) locally and against strangers online, simultaneously. Any other major FPS franchise insists on making me choose between one or the other. Even Halo’s system link is better than anyone else’s, allowing for 8 players instead of the standard 4 (but often 2). Black Ops is the sole exception in the CoD franchise, and that only allows 2 players locally during online play. I was watching a friend play Battlefield 3 recently, which he described as fun but “a good game for people who don’t have friends; or at least, friends who can come over and play”. In his eyes, the limited local play not only weakened it, it gave him less of a reason to play it instead of other games. Games like CoD might have local split-screen, but let’s face it: that can get a little lonely after a while. The chaos inherent in games like that doesn’t quite exist in its local play iteration the way it does online. And the online portion doesn’t have the same social element that local does. So what’s so hard about mixing the two?

Not shown: The glorious clusterfuck at the start of every online race in Blur.

Blur, a racing game, attempts to mitigate this issue by allowing local play with bots, which is a nice touch but isn’t quite the same. And that’s still one of the better uses of multiplayer in racing games in the past several years. Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit – two relatively recent and popular games – didn’t even have split-screen play! Let me repeat that: A racing game – that is, a game by its very nature meant to be played competitively – did not allow players to compete against someone else in the same room. That is insane. I may not be a big fan of Mario Kart, but the multiplayer in that will always have a clear advantage over either of those games in that it is focused on local multiplayer – which is to say, multiple players. There’s a reason Kart and Super Smash Bros have such a strong following: they successfully focus on local play as a core game aspect. Can you honestly say that New Super Mario Bros Wii would be half as fun as this if you could only play online?

People complained about Bioware adding multiplayer. In my opinion, they didn't.

The multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 was demo’ed recently. I haven’t had a chance to try it, but people seem to like it. However, there’s no split-screen component to it, which means that, for all intents and purposes, it is nonexistent for me. The same goes for Rayman Origins, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and more. Sure, I could organize a time with one of my friends for us both to be online, for us to join a party, etc. But for me to not even have to option to play with them when they’re at my house, unless they feel like lugging their own console and TV over? That’s absurd, and apparently not even possible in the case of ME3! Hell, The recent Borderlands 2 trailer mentions splitscreen as if it was some big new thing, rather than something you should kind of expect when you've already said 'co-op' (and even that is only 2-player, vs online's 4).

I’m not saying that you can’t have fun with the way online play is presented in most games. You can. But why is it so hard to allow for a stronger local component? It can’t be an issue of making your respective screen size too small, because huge TV’s are kind of a big deal these days. It can’t be because it’s not technologically feasible – Halo’s already proved that it is. The obvious answer is that companies would rather have a group of friends all buy a copy of a game for themselves, rather than just have one or two they can share. But is that really all that’s going on here? How hard would it really be to add at least one, let alone two or more functioning controllers to online play? If anyone knows, I’d love to hear.

Let me end this with one last question: All 3 of the major consoles of this generation allow for 4 controllers to be used, 4 people to play together. When was the last time you used all of them?

10 Comments
10 Comments
Posted by MarkWahlberg

Why do you play multiplayer games? Honest question. Why? Is it because it provides more of a challenge than going up against AI? Is it because you enjoy playing with your friends? Or do you merely enjoy yelling offensive epithets at strangers on the Internet? I ask this because the standards for multiplayer components in games do not always line up with what I expect out of them, and more so now than, say, 6 years ago.

This may or may not be accurate.

I play multiplayer games because I get a kick out of the social aspect. Getting a bunch of friends together, firing up a console, and playing a game together for hours on end is always great, solid fun. Maybe not the kind of fun that occurs in Wii commercials, but there’s usually a fair amount of yelling and dicking around. I would like to imagine that this is the attraction for many other people as well.

So, what happens when a game’s multiplayer doesn’t allow for this? That’s right: I’m bitching about Online play. Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy playing online, I do. I just don’t consider it to be “multiplayer” in most instances. Sure, I’m technically playing against other people, but that usually means nothing other than more challenging (or hilariously non-challenging) gameplay and the occasional teabagging. I’m not talking to these people, I’m not engaging with them any differently than I would with AI, I don’t even pay attention to my own team mates, if I have any. The same can be said for most of the other people playing with me. Playing a game against unseen strangers isn’t multiplayer, it’s competitive single-player.

There are a couple obvious caveats to this argument. You can play with your friends online, even talk with them via headset or the like. Just because you’re playing with strangers doesn’t mean teamwork can’t occur. And what are you even complaining about, Mark?! Most games let you do both online and local multiplayer! This is all true. BUT. But. They don't do them both well.

weeeeeee

Let me clarify by example: In my opinion, the Halo games are the best competitive FPS’s in existence, for one very specific reason: It allows me to play with my friends (3 of them!) locally and against strangers online, simultaneously. Any other major FPS franchise insists on making me choose between one or the other. Even Halo’s system link is better than anyone else’s, allowing for 8 players instead of the standard 4 (but often 2). Black Ops is the sole exception in the CoD franchise, and that only allows 2 players locally during online play. I was watching a friend play Battlefield 3 recently, which he described as fun but “a good game for people who don’t have friends; or at least, friends who can come over and play”. In his eyes, the limited local play not only weakened it, it gave him less of a reason to play it instead of other games. Games like CoD might have local split-screen, but let’s face it: that can get a little lonely after a while. The chaos inherent in games like that doesn’t quite exist in its local play iteration the way it does online. And the online portion doesn’t have the same social element that local does. So what’s so hard about mixing the two?

Not shown: The glorious clusterfuck at the start of every online race in Blur.

Blur, a racing game, attempts to mitigate this issue by allowing local play with bots, which is a nice touch but isn’t quite the same. And that’s still one of the better uses of multiplayer in racing games in the past several years. Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit – two relatively recent and popular games – didn’t even have split-screen play! Let me repeat that: A racing game – that is, a game by its very nature meant to be played competitively – did not allow players to compete against someone else in the same room. That is insane. I may not be a big fan of Mario Kart, but the multiplayer in that will always have a clear advantage over either of those games in that it is focused on local multiplayer – which is to say, multiple players. There’s a reason Kart and Super Smash Bros have such a strong following: they successfully focus on local play as a core game aspect. Can you honestly say that New Super Mario Bros Wii would be half as fun as this if you could only play online?

People complained about Bioware adding multiplayer. In my opinion, they didn't.

The multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 was demo’ed recently. I haven’t had a chance to try it, but people seem to like it. However, there’s no split-screen component to it, which means that, for all intents and purposes, it is nonexistent for me. The same goes for Rayman Origins, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and more. Sure, I could organize a time with one of my friends for us both to be online, for us to join a party, etc. But for me to not even have to option to play with them when they’re at my house, unless they feel like lugging their own console and TV over? That’s absurd, and apparently not even possible in the case of ME3! Hell, The recent Borderlands 2 trailer mentions splitscreen as if it was some big new thing, rather than something you should kind of expect when you've already said 'co-op' (and even that is only 2-player, vs online's 4).

I’m not saying that you can’t have fun with the way online play is presented in most games. You can. But why is it so hard to allow for a stronger local component? It can’t be an issue of making your respective screen size too small, because huge TV’s are kind of a big deal these days. It can’t be because it’s not technologically feasible – Halo’s already proved that it is. The obvious answer is that companies would rather have a group of friends all buy a copy of a game for themselves, rather than just have one or two they can share. But is that really all that’s going on here? How hard would it really be to add at least one, let alone two or more functioning controllers to online play? If anyone knows, I’d love to hear.

Let me end this with one last question: All 3 of the major consoles of this generation allow for 4 controllers to be used, 4 people to play together. When was the last time you used all of them?

Posted by Video_Game_King

@MarkWahlberg said:

Why do you play multiplayer games? Honest question. Why?

I don't. (Hey, you said it was an honest question.)

Posted by nintendoeats

I am in complete agreement with your thesis. The only online multiplayer games that I have put any real time into are LoL and CS. LoL is inherently social and is best played with a regular group, CS is only really fun when there are a good bunch of guys on headset. playing games against nameless strangers online is not different from single-player.

That said, there are some design limitations to building local multiplayer. You have to design the whole game with it in mind, especially the UI and the rendering engine. If local multiplayer is a less-used feature then it makes sense to change focus and stop supporting the feature. I'm not saying that I'm happy about this, just that there are reasons for it.

Posted by Brodehouse

I don't think choosing online multi over local is absurd. If your seminal multiplayer experience was Goldeneye, then maybe it feels crazy to you. But if your seminal experience was Quake, then it's pretty much standard. If your friends don't play video games, I can understand your frustration. But mine do, and we're not going to choose a half or quarter of a screen over a full one.

I play games because I appreciate gameplay systems that require and reward role playing and teamwork. Same reason I play D&D.

Saying 'the obvious answer is companies trying to make people buy copies of the game' is absolute conjecture.

Posted by natetodamax

One of the reasons I love online multiplayer is because it's often more convenient than local play, at least for me. Yes, local play can and usually does have some pretty amazing moments. I myself have great memories playing with friends on the couch in the same room. But I don't think the lack of local play being integrated into online multiplayer is necessarily a terrible thing. It's great when it's there, but I'm never dissatisfied by regular online play with friends. Plus, having a full screen is always a great thing!

Edited by believer258

A few corrections: Rayman Origins, at least on the 360 demo that I played, does indeed allow local multiplayer, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 allows you to take up to three guests, plus you, online split-screen. Just sayin'.

Anyway, I do strongly agree that split screen needs to make one hell of a comeback. Will I deny the advantages of playing over the internet with my own screen and things? No! But some of my best gaming experiences have been with a friend beside me.

The only reason I can think of not to include it is so people will have to buy their own consoles, their own copies of the game, and (in the case of Xbox Live) their own memberships.

As for why I play multiplayer games? Simply put, I like to play with friends the best. Sometimes it's fun to hop into an online game with strangers, but it can never match playing with friends.

Edited by MarkWahlberg

@Brodehouse said:

I don't think choosing online multi over local is absurd. If your seminal multiplayer experience was Goldeneye, then maybe it feels crazy to you. But if your seminal experience was Quake, then it's pretty much standard. If your friends don't play video games, I can understand your frustration. But mine do, and we're not going to choose a half or quarter of a screen over a full one.

I play games because I appreciate gameplay systems that require and reward role playing and teamwork. Same reason I play D&D.

Saying 'the obvious answer is companies trying to make people buy copies of the game' is absolute conjecture.

I wasn't trying to say it's obvious because it's true, just that that's the easy (i.e. lazy and cynical) way to explain what's happening.

And my friends do all play games, that's my point. I'd like to play more games with them, and not have it be limited to a small corner of the game.

@Video_Game_King said:

@MarkWahlberg said:

Why do you play multiplayer games? Honest question. Why?

I don't. (Hey, you said it was an honest question.)

Moon's throne is a lonely seat, eh?

@believer258 said:

A few corrections: Rayman Origins, at least on the 360 demo that I played, does indeed allow local multiplayer, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 allows you to take up to three guests, plus you, online split-screen. Just sayin'.

Hmm. Everything I'd read said Rayman was 4 player online only. Good to hear though! And I'm relieved to hear that about MW3, but the fact that it took them this long to put that in is ridiculous. Probably only there in the first place because of Blops.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I'm curious as to whether there are emotional/moral dimensions to your inquiry.

Edited by mariokart64fan

if its splitscreen ill play it online -not as much , got bored of that when you have 12 yr olds fighting or arguing youll understand why

and thus why wii is alot better.

the hd twins fail 85 percent of the time if not more to offer local multiplayer options in their games

Posted by MarkWahlberg

@Video_Game_King said:

I'm curious as to whether there are emotional/moral dimensions to your inquiry.

Naw, I just like to imagine you something like this: