Sunday, May 8, 2016

Multiplayer-only games

In the 80's game developers were making games for really cheap, often with shoestring budgets, or basically no budget at all. Even the largest game companies had relatively limited budgets to create games. Such games were often created by a team of just a few people. It was really rare for a game to be created by more than ten people. Sometimes some even very good games were created by one single person (who, obviously, needed to not only be a good programmer, but also be a somewhat talented graphics artist and musician; more often, though, these three roles were separated to (at least) three different people, but that's about it.)

Nowadays most triple-A games have budgets surpassing even those of Hollywood blockbuster movies (ie. in the hundreds of millions of dollars). Team sizes are often comparable to those of movie productions, meaning that oftentimes there are literally hundreds of people involved in the creation of such a video game. This includes things that were just completely non-existent in the 80's, such as professional scriptwriters and actual actors performing the roles (both voice and even physical acting for motion capture). Production values are really high, and the demand for a large amount of high-quality content is large.

One umbrella genre that has gained enormous amount of traction in the past decade or so is online multiplayer, thanks to advances in technology and fast and very affordable widespread internet connections. Obviously online multiplayer gaming has existed for almost as long as the internet has, but it wasn't until fast internet connections became a very affordable de-facto everyday product that basically every single gamer has that online multiplayer really got traction.

Especially in the 90's and early 2000's, while some multiplayer-only games did already exist, online multiplayer was most often just more or less artificially slapped on an otherwise single-player game. Most often a first-person shooter. Usually the biggest portion of the budget went to the single-player campaign, and the multiplayer mode was just slapped on top of it with not much effort put into it.

That has changed quite a lot in the last decade or so. Nowadays not only have online multiplayer-only games proliferated quite a lot, but an enormous amount of effort (ie. money) is being put into them. Multiplayer gaming aims to be more than just a simple Counterstrike-style arena shooter with extremely simplistic and repetitive goals. (While this, also, is nothing new to the last decade, as deeper multiplayer experiences have at least attempted to exist as far as the 90's, the demand for a more immersive and story-heavy multiplayer experience is nowadays much higher.)

The problem is, with the production values (and thus price) of modern video game productions, it often reaches a point where as a game developer company you have to choose between making a single-player or an online multiplayer game. It's often not economically feasible to do both. You have to put all your resources onto one. You just can't do what would essentially be two games bundled into one (which is what games with both modes often effectively are).

For this reason nowadays there are more and more big-budget triple-A multiplayer-only games inundating the market. Games that try to innovate, try to do something new, try for a deeper playing experience that goes beyond your average 90's repetitive arena brawler.

And which, unfortunately, I have very little interest in, no matter how exciting and interesting they might seem on the surface.

I really prefer video games to be more like a movie-watching experience. I don't mean that I just want the whole game to be one large cutscene with little to no interaction. What I mean is that I want the game to have a complete story, with beginning, middle and end. An interesting story; an engaging story. The gameplay should of course also be interesting, engaging and even addicting, but the game shouldn't rely on gameplay mechanics alone. And, like a movie, once I have played the game through, that's pretty much it. I'll most probably never play the game again (with a few rare exceptions).

In other words, I want a consumer experience. I "consumed" the game, and then I have seen it, and that's it. I move to the next game.

That might sound like a strange preference to some people, but that's just how it is. I'm really not interested in endless games; games that have little to no story, no (storywise) progression, no conclusion, no ending. Games that just go on and on, doing the same things over and over. Some of such games might be fun to play for a few hours, but I quickly get bored of them, if it's continuously the same thing, and there is no actual progression in terms of storytelling.

And that's the problem with online multiplayer games. They are most usually of the endless variety. Some games may have story-like campaigns, but they are effectively what amounts to side quests in typical single-player games. A side quest in itself can be interesting, but it's not really the full story, the full experience. And, of course, the game doesn't just end after this "side quest" is done. There is no actual conclusion to the overall story.

Many online multiplayer games don't have even that.

While game developers always try to break boundaries, the online multiplayer mechanic severely limits what can be done storywise. It's just unfeasible to make a multiplayer game to be like a single-player campaign. (At the very most what you can do is create what's effectively a single-player campaign that's playable by two or more people in co-op mode. Of course even then, playing the game can be a hassle. Will I find somebody who wants to play? How long will they want to play? What if they leave when I would want to continue? In other words, it's difficult to play the game at my preferred pace and available time.)

Sometimes a game may have really interesting and exciting teaser trailers and promotional material. But then, when I find out that it's a multiplayer-only game, I immediately lose interest and feel disappointment. What promised to be an awesome game turned out to be a boring one. And I don't even need to try it to know.

1 comment:

  1. So what's the problem? :) Just play single player shooter games like Killzone, Wolfenstein, CoD or Doom, there is no shortage of it.

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